Grace For The Journey
We will be studying Romans 7 verses 1-6 in today’s blog. Let me briefly remind you of the context of this passage.
The book of Romans is Paul’s
Presentation of the Gospel message
To the believers in Rome who were
A mixture of both Jews and Greeks.
- Paul begins his presentation in chapters 1-3 by demonstrating man’s need of the gospel concluding in 3:10.
That verse says, “There are none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.” Man is condemned under God’s wrath because of his sin and therefore in desperate need of salvation, but . . .
Man has no means within himself by
Which he can gain that salvation from sin.
Paul presents the Gospel itself in chapter 3 by telling the good news that . . .
Man can be justified from his sin
Through faith in the person and
Work of the Lord Jesus Christ
Who lived a sinless life and
Then paid the penalty of sin
On our behalf and
Then rose from the dead.
This idea of being justified by faith apart from works seemed radically new even though it is a concept that actually comes from the Old Testament.
- Paul spends chapters 4-7 explaining salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
In Chapter 4 Paul uses Abraham as the example of the faith that results in justification. In Chapter 5 Paul explains some of the benefits of being justified by faith including having peace with God and an ability to face any circumstances of life with joy because of the absolute assurance of God’s love for us as demonstrated in Jesus Christ dying for us while we were yet sinners. Another benefit is that though we were born with Adam’s sin nature, we gain a new nature through faith in Jesus Christ.
The radical nature of this change is explained by Paul in Chapter 6 through the meaning of the ritual of baptism. In water baptism by immersion, the believer identifies himself with Jesus Christ and the new nature he has received. As the believer goes under the water they identify with Jesus Christ’s death and burial. This signifies the death of their old self. As they are raised out of the water they identify with Jesus’ resurrection. This signifies their being raised to newness of life (6:4). This being so, we are to consider ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God. This is another benefit. Sin is no longer our master for we have gained a new master, Jesus Christ, so Paul calls on us to quit obeying sin as if it was our master and instead present ourselves slaves of righteousness.
Paul continues here in Romans 7 in explaining . . .
The new standing we have because of
Being justified by faith in Jesus Christ.
He also explains both our relationship
With the law and the conflict we
Continue to have with sin.
We will be looking at that in depth when we get to verse 14 in a couple of days.
Paul says 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, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God. 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. 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.”
From these verses we learn about . . .
The Jurisdiction of the Law – Verse 1.
In verse 1 Paul explains the jurisdiction of the law. Now we, as Gentiles, might wonder why Paul is giving so much attention to the law if we, being justified by faith, are no longer under it. We must remember that Paul is writing to Jews. They had grown up with the highest respect for God’s law. Notice Paul’s parenthetical statement that he is “speaking to those who know the law.” They took to heart that the Law was from God and represented the revelation of His will for them. They also took seriously the many warnings in the Mosaic law about the curses that would come upon them if they did not obey it (cf. Deuteronomy 27-28). They needed to have a thorough explanation of how the Gospel affects the law and why. Paul’s opening phrase, “Do you not know, brethren” is a gentle, rhetorical question that is designed to challenge them to think through this issue with someone who is one of them.
The simple principle is that the law only has jurisdiction over those who are alive. If a person is dead, the law has no power over him. Consider the homicide bombers attacking Israel or the terrorists that have attacked our country. The police have been able to figure out who they were, but there is nothing that can be done to them because they are already dead. Some have suggested gathering whatever pieces of their bodies could be found and burying them with a pig since that would desecrate them according to Islam and prevent them from sharing in the resurrection, but the truth is that once a person has died you can do whatever you want to the body and it does not affect the person who once inhabited that body. Even estate laws cannot affect the person who is dead, only the heirs. The law only has power over a person while they are alive.
The Analogy – Verses 2-3.
In verses 2 and 3 Paul brings up an analogy to illustrate the point. Marriage only lasts as long as both partners are alive. That is why in the marriage vows it is “until death do us part.” If a woman starts living with another man while her husband is alive, she is an adulteress. The same is true for a man that lives with another woman while his wife is still alive. If your spouse dies before you, then you become single again. You are no
longer married. You might choose to remain single for a variety of reasons including respect for the memory of your spouse, but you are free to marry someone else in all holiness. In 1 Timothy 5:14 Paul even tells younger widows that he wants them “to get married, bear children, keep house, [and] give the enemy no occasion for reproach.”
Now some have gone to this passage to support their position of no divorce or no remarriage under any circumstances. That is not what Paul is stating here, for Paul is not in any way referring to divorce, remarriage, or even separation. He is simply using this as an analogy to illustrate his point about the jurisdiction of the law only applying to the living. We will come back to this later in our study and talk about separation, divorce, and remarriage.
Released by Christ – Verse 4.
In verse 4 Paul applies this principle to the believer’s relationship to the law, “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God.”
Died to the Law. The believer has died to the law through the body of Christ. This is one of the wonderful aspects about being justified by faith. Recall what I said yesterday about justification. It has a two-fold nature)
1) Justification is the judicial action of God who accepts the death of Jesus Christ as the substitute payment for your sin so that you stand acquitted of your transgressions of God’s standards.
2) It then attributes to the sinner the righteous standing of Christ. When Jesus died on the cross for our sin, the requirements of the Law were met and we died with Him to the Law. We are acquitted of our transgressions against the law. We are no longer under its condemnation and penalty. When Jesus was raised from the dead, we were raised to newness of life. Our relationship to the law was changed according to the principle that Paul stated in verse 1. The law only has jurisdiction over those who are alive, but we have died to the law. It no longer has jurisdiction over us.
Note here that the text states, “you also were made to die to the Law.” This is an aorist passive verb meaning that this is something that happened to you and not something you did yourself.
You did not make yourself die to the Law
For you could not do that even if you wanted to.
The law applies to all who are in sin and
You were in bondage to sin and
Could not overcome it by will or effort.
Jesus took care of our sin problem
Through His atonement and put us
To death concerning the Law when
We were justified by our faith in Him.
Joined to Christ. This was not done so that we could be autonomous to do whatever we wanted. I pointed this out yesterday. Here Paul brings out the same idea in stating that we were made to die to the law “so that we might be joined to another” whom He then states specifically is “Him who was raised from the dead.” That is Jesus Christ. To use the analogy Paul used in verses 3 & 4. We had been married to the law, but Jesus put the Law to death concerning us so that we are now married to Him.
To Bear Fruit. Paul points out that another purpose of our being made to die to the law is that, “we might bear fruit for God.” What fruit? Well, certainly the fruit of the Spirit given in Galatians 5:22-23, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” But that is fruit related to the Holy Spirit changing your character, and He changes your character so that you might bring glory to God through your life. That includes both your words and your actions. Recall Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:16 that you are to “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Paul said in Ephesians 2:10 that we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” In 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul said that God, “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Paul said in Ephesians 1:4 that God, “Chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”
You cannot get around the fact
That the reason that we are saved
Is for God’s own purposes
In having us bring glory
To His name through
Our becoming holy
In our manner of life
And serving Him.
We do not do
To get saved.
We do good works
We are saved.
John MacArthur gives a good quote from theologian Charles Hodge on this issue. It is worth repeating here too, “As far as we are concerned, redemption is in order to produce holiness. We are delivered from the law, that we may be united to Christ; and we are united to Christ, that we may bring forth fruit unto God” . . . “As deliverance from the penalty of the law is in order to [produce] holiness, it is vain to expect that deliverance, except with a view to the end for which it is granted.”
We should be praying for one another, as Paul did for the Philippians, that we should be, “filled with the fruit of righteousness which [comes] through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
The Weakness of the Law – Verse 5.
Verse 5 says, “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.” Paul uses the phrase “were in the flesh” to refer to the time before we were justified by faith in Christ. We were spiritually dead then and therefore controlled by our carnal nature.
Though the law is holy, righteous, and good,
As Paul states in verse 12,
The actual effect of the law upon
The non-Christian is condemnation.
Because the law does not restrain sin.
It only sets the standards which
Reveal the sin that is there.
The sinful nature that resides in the unregenerate heart is at its base proud and rebellious. The result is that when law is given, the sinful passion of rebellion takes the commandments given as just another opportunity to disobey. That is what Paul describes here. The sinful passion within those who are in the flesh is actually aroused by the Law to rebel against it resulting in the accomplishing of sin. And the wages of sin is death, as Paul has already pointed out in 6:23.
All of us are familiar with this idea. How often is it that when you give your children instructions, it is like you suddenly gave them new ideas of how to disobey you. Every parent has times like that with their child. It is that desire that suddenly arises when you see a sign that says, “Do Not Touch, Wet Paint.” The sign is there to protect you from getting paint on you, but as soon as you see it, there is a sudden urge to touch something you would not have even thought about touching otherwise. Or how about speed limits? No matter what the speed limit is set at, the average speed will be slightly higher. When the speed limit on the interstate was 55 MPH, people were happily speeding along at 60-65 MPH. Now that the limit is 70 MPH, people are happily speeding along at 75-80 MPH.
Released to Serve – Verse 6..
We were under the law and in bondage to sin, but Christ has released from that. Verse 6 states, “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.” Again, Paul goes back to his premise of verse 1. The law only has jurisdiction over those who are alive. Since we who were at one time bound by the Law have been made to die to the Law through being justified by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, then the law no longer has jurisdiction over us. We are released from the Law.
Paul points out that this is for the specific purpose of serving the Lord in the newness of the Spirit.
Salvation from sin does not make us
Autonomous to do whatever we want.
Freedom from the law does not mean
That you can now do what the law forbids
Or ignore what the law commands.
Note the contrast Paul makes here between serving in the newness of the Spirit and the oldness of the letter.
The idea of serving here is not that of a hired servant who can leave his employer if he does not like the working conditions or pay. The term here is from “douleuo” which applies to a slave. Prior to faith in Christ, we were under bondage to the law. We have been released from that bondage to serve a new master, Jesus Christ.
Our old master was a taskmaster
Whose dictates we could not meet
Because we did not have the ability.
The Law revealed God’s standard, and that is good. The problem is that our bondage to our sin prevented us from keeping any of those standards. Try as we might, we would fail. All our righteous deeds were as filthy rags before our holy God. We remained condemned.
Being justified by faith in Christ, we have a new master who has given us new ability.
The Law still reveals God’s standards,
But it no longer condemns us.
First, we have been made righteous through Christ so that the law can longer condemn us. Second, through the power of the Holy Spirit we can now serve the Lord according to those standards.
It is no longer a gritting of our teeth and steeling of our will to keep the law in order to win God’s favor. We no longer approach God’s law as a taskmaster who continually beats us down. It is no longer a high wall that we continually crash into because we cannot scale it. We no longer exam the minutia of the law like a lawyer trying to find the loopholes that would get our case thrown out of court.
Instead . . .
We already have God’s favor because of Jesus Christ.
God’s law is no longer a taskmaster,
But a friend who helps us on our way.
It is a high wall that has already been scaled,
So that we are on the other side.
We do not keep the law because we have too,
But because we want to out of our love
For our Savior who has even
Empowered us to be able to do it.
Any concern we have about the minutia of the law is only because we desire to better please our Lord. We now serve the Lord in the newness of the Holy Spirit and no longer in the oldness of the letter.
The following is a poor analogy in some ways, but perhaps it will help you at least understand the difference between obedience out of duty and obedience out of love. When your children are young, you set the standards for their life and enforce them with discipline. Children are naturally rebellious, but you have a responsibility to teaching them to conform to the standards you have established for your home. To the children, the rules are unfair and you are cruel for enforcing them. They do not understand that you do it because you love them. As you continue to raise those same children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they grow in so many ways including their understanding of your love for them and their own love for you. By the time they are adolescents, their living according to the standards of your family should no longer be marked by obedience because they have to, but rather by submission because they want to do so out of their love and respect for you.
The Christian no longer obeys the Lord
Because they are forced to do so,
But rather they submit themselves
To do His will out of their own love for Him.
The Christian has died to the law and now serves the Lord in the newness of the Spirit. This is one of the wonderful benefits Christians have because of being justified by faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!