With Dale Ratzlaff
We continue our study in Romans 7:1-6
Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
In Romans 3, after Paul taught on justification, redemption and propitiation he stated:
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law (Rom 3:28-31).
Then, in Romans 4, Paul used the examples of Abraham and David to prove the gospel message of justification was in harmony with the Old Testament revelation. Now for the sake of his Jewish readers, Paul will come back to the topic of law. Some Christians believed that one should focus on the law as a means of producing righteous living. This idea is still alive and well in some sub-groups of Christianity. Their reasoning goes like this: “We want to please God by our obedience; therefore, we need to meditate on the law and examine our daily walk to see if we are living the obedient life.” The motive for this is good, but is it right? That, I believe, is the issue in Romans 7.
Paul starts this section with the illustration of marriage. His points of logic are as follows:
• The law only has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives. The reach of the law ends at the tomb.
• A married woman is bound to her husband as long as they both live.
• If this woman is joined to another man while her husband is living, then she is an adulteress.
• If her husband dies she is then free to marry another man.
Paul now applies this illustration to a Christian’s relationship to both the law and Christ.
Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.
• Christians were made to die to the law-husband.
• So that we might be joined to the new Jesus Christ-husband.
• Our new husband was raised from the dead that we might bear fruit to God.
As Paul describes our relationship to Christ in Romans 7, we are not to forget the teachings of Chapter 6. There we learned that we died with Christ, we were buried with Christ and we were raised from the dead with Christ. This is all symbolized in Christian baptism. Further, we are to consider ourselves to be dead to sin.
In His death, Christ died to the curse of the broken law. It was our disobedience to the law that He took upon himself so that we could be free from the law’s curse. Paul reasons, if Christ died to the law, then we Christians, who are “in Christ” also died to the law. Now we come to one of the most insightful statements.
For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.
The purpose of the law was to magnify our sin. When we read all of the do’s and don’ts of the law, often it only arouses our sinful passions. When we read, “Wet paint, don’t touch”, it arouses the thought in our mind, “I wonder if it is still wet,” and we touch just the tip of our finger on the paint to test it. Paul is not saying that the law helped us control our passions; rather the law rouses the sinful passions of the heart. The bottom line in Paul’s teaching is that gazing into the law is not the mechanism to promote holy living; rather he says the law arouses our sinful passions that bear fruit for death.
We now read, “But now”, indicating a major change.
But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
“But now we have been released from the law”. “Have been released” is aorist passive. The passive voice emphasizes the fact that this was a work of God and not our activity. The law lost its grip on us the moment we were placed “into Christ”, because the reach of the law ends at the tomb.
“So that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter”.
In the above statement “serve” is present, continuous. The “oldness” in the reference above according to my Greek program can be translated, “obsoleteness.” Nothing could be clearer. We are not only free from the condemnation of the law because we died with Christ. We are also free from the tutelage of the law because the law, as proved by the nation of Israel, cannot produce righteousness. We are to look away from the law into the truth of the gospel. We now continue to serve in the newness of the Spirit. This is the way to develop a life of love and holiness.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:22-25).
Lest there be any misunderstanding, Paul is not saying we are to be disobedient to the moral principles of the law. Rather, walking in the Spirit, free from the condemnation and tutelage of the law, we actually accomplish obedience to the moral principles of the law in a greater way than we could if we focused on the law.
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:3-4).
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).
If we are to experience true sanctification, we must internalize the truths brought out in these powerful verses in Romans 7.
• We died to the law in Christ and now the law cannot condemn us.
• If we continue to monitor our behavior by looking at the law two things will happen: (1) we will often get discouraged (more on this in the next several lessons) and (2) it will arouse our sinful nature leading to death.
• But now, we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. This, in turn, will help us bear fruit to God.
Father, thank you for the insights gained in the section of Scripture. May I learn to serve you every day in the newness of the Holy Spirit and not in the obsoleteness of the letter of the law.