The Apostle Paul tells
about a person who was married to a demanding
perfectionist. He laid the law down to her day after
day. He made insistent demands on her behavior.
There was no escaping his cruel guilt trips. No
matter how hard she tired nothing she ever did was
good enough to please him. It was impossible to live
up to his standards of behavior and conduct. No
matter how hard she tried, she was a failure.
Because of his persistent
attitudes her feelings altered between fear of his
exacting demands and judgment to a sense of complete
failure, guilt, resentment and hostility. Her
situation was hopeless. He was perfect and she was
just the opposite. Living with him was impossible.
How long could she go on
in this situation? Secretly she wished he were dead.
Nevertheless, he was in perfect health and strict
moralist. He wasn't going to go away. He wasn't
going to die and, of course, divorce was out of the
Then would you know it,
she met another man. This man was everything she
ever wanted. Yes, he was perfect, but his perfection
was balanced with love. There was grace about him.
She found it impossible to resist his powerful
unselfish love for her. Moreover, she wanted an
intimate love relationship with him!
In time, he asked her to
be his. Oh, yes, he was aware of her present state.
She belonged to another man. She was married.
Moreover, the law was very clear about adultery.
"The law has jurisdiction over a person as long as
he lives." When a person dies that is the end of the
authority of the law. However, after he dies she is
free to marry anyone she pleases.
Remember, this old man
was not going to die, and he would never consent to
divorce so there was only one alternative. She would
have to die! Then the law could have no effect on
her. She could marry whomever she pleased and be
I know. You are asking
the question, "But if she were dead, how could she
possibly marry her suitor?"
There is only one way.
She would have to die and rise from the dead!
(Illustration by Hal Lindsey adapted from
Liberation of the Planet Earth, p.179).
The Apostle Paul tells us
that is exactly what happened to us. "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" (Romans 7:4).
Remember, "we have become united with Him in the
likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in
the likeness of His resurrection, knowing that our
old self was crucified with Him, that our body of
sin might be done away with, that we should no
longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is
freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we
believe that we shall also live with Him" (6:5–8).
This truth is so crucial
to the believer's daily walk with Christ that Paul
reminds us to "consider (reckon, count upon the
fact) yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God
in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11). God's solution to
our sin problem was to crucify us with Christ. As
far as God is concerned we were there in the grave
with Christ and we rose into newness of life with
Him. Now we are joined in an intimate union with our
Lord and Savior. Paul develops this idea and applies
it to the believer in Romans chapter seven. Our
understanding of this great chapter is vital to our
abiding in Christ.
Please keep in mind the
context of Romans chapters five and six. The apostle
Paul has stressed "the believer has died to sin
(6:2) and to law (7:4). He is free from sin (6:18)
and from law (7:3). He is 'justified from sin' (6:7)
and discharged 'from law' (7:6). He walks in newness
of life (6:4) and serves in newness of Spirit (7:6)"
(Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, p.
"For Christ is the end of
the law for righteousness to everyone who believes"
OUR POSITION WITH
REGARD TO THE LAW (7:1–6)
The principle (v.
Death settles all scores.
You cannot prosecute a dead man. "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?" When life ceases, law
no longer has power over that person.
Paul's use of the word
"law" refers to a standard of conduct that is
generally agreed to and expected of men in society.
We are expected to live up to the laws of the land
which is a standard of conduct for our behavior. The
Law of Moses in the Old Testament expresses this
kind of law. In a much wider sense it is that
unspoken standard of behavior that people hold
universally. In every society there is an unspoken
standard of conduct to which is referred to. No
matter what his background, every person in a
society accepts a standard of conduct. Romans
chapter two describes such a standard of behavior.
All laws lose their power when a person dies.
Paul uses an illustration
on marriage to declare a general principle about our
spiritual marriage to Christ. The law only has
authority over a man for as long as he lives. Death
of either spouse ends a marriage and the hold of the
law over that relationship. A second marriage is
legitimate only if death has terminated the first.
If the husband dies, then she is free to marry
again. See Matthew 5:32; I Corinthians 7:15, 39.
The Apostle Paul
summarizes the Law of God regarding marriage in
verses two and three. "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."
What is the purpose of
the law? It is to hold the person guilty who breaks
it. It condemns the lawbreaker. The law never says,
"Hey, you are doing a great job. Keep it up!" It
does not come along side and give you the power to
obey it. All it can do is point its finger and say,
"You are guilty!" The married woman who lives in a
marriage relationship with two men is guilty of
adultery. However, if the husband dies she is free
from the law. It no longer has power over the
relationship because he is dead. The purpose of the
law is to set a standard and bring condemnation and
guilt to those who do not live up to it. Moreover,
it proves to us that we cannot please God by
fulfilling the law. No one is capable.
Now that is just where
the good news comes in. What we could not do, God
does in His marvelous grace.
Don't get side tracked
with the woman in this illustration. Marriage is
just the explanation. The point of Paul's
illustration is not that the woman has two husbands.
The point Paul is making is what the death of the
first husband does to the woman's relationship to
the law. Legal obligation is terminated by death.
The death of either spouse dissolves the marriage.
If either chooses to remarry there is no blemish
attached to the new relationship. Therefore, just as
death ends the marriage, so death has ended our
bondage to the law. The law simply said, "The two of
you must stay together because you are married." The
woman who is married is helpless to change her
situation until her husband dies. Any attempt on her
part to do so beforehand only violates the law and
makes matters worse.
"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" (v. 4).
Who died? Paul changes
characters in his illustration. "You" died. We
believers in Jesus Christ are portrayed in the
woman. When did you die? When you believed on
Christ. Freedom didn't come by doing away with the
law. It came by the law being fulfilled. "The soul
that sins will surely die." "The wages of sin is
death." Through Christ's vicarious substitutionary
death, all the law's demands were fulfilled. As my
representative, He died my death. He paid my death
penalty. "He who knew no sin was made sin for us" (2
Corinthians 5:21). Don't miss it. "He was made sin
for us" (emphasis mine). When Christ became what we
are, He became our old husband and He died. When
Christ died, our old man, self–centered ego, Adamic
nature died, and we were set free. Therefore, when
we believed on Christ we were released from the law
by becoming dead to the law "through the body of
Christ." It is we who are "crucified with Christ."
Observe how closely we are identified with Christ.
Believers are one body with Christ, therefore, when
His body died, they also died. The law cannot
condemn the believer because he who was made a curse
for them redeemed them from its curse. He died to
sin, and to the law having fulfilled it by His
obedience and death, so that it has no further
demand upon Him. By His death, they are dead to the
law, freed from it, and done with it. This death
dissolves our marriage obligation to the law. Now we
are free to be joined to another, the Risen Christ.
This great truth is ours from the moment we received
Christ Jesus into our life as Lord and Savior.
Who is the first husband?
The context indicates the first husband is Adam, the
old life in which we were born. We were related to
Adam. It is our old man, our old self, our old life
we received from Adam. It is what the Scripture
calls "sin." We were married to old Adam's nature
and we could not get away from it. Sin inhabited
man's spirit at the fall and has been passed down to
every human being ever since. It has reigned there,
undisturbed and unchallenged until Jesus came. He is
the only exception to this rule. It is like a young
beautiful woman who is married to an old, cruel,
mean tyrant. While she is married, she is tied to
him. There is no legitimate out. When her husband
dies she is free from the condemnation of the law
and can marry again. When she gets married to her
new suitor, the law is absolutely silent. It has
nothing on her. It is dead.
Remember Romans 6:6–7
says, "knowing this, that our old self was crucified
with Him, in order that our body of sin might be
done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves
to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin."
Now we are freed from the
old husband, and we are free from the law that bound
us to him. Now we are free to marry another. It is
our own death (in Christ) which sets us free to
marry again. Christ is now our lawful husband.
Believers are married to Him, and are one with Him,
in His resurrection.
We who were bound to the
law have now died to it. Now we are free to be
joined to Christ, with whom we not only died, but
rose again. In our unsaved life we were "married" to
the law, obligated to obey it; now we have been set
free to marry Christ. Just as Christ once became our
old self on the cross and died, now He is free to
live His life through us. He frees us to become our
true self. The Holy Spirit is working in us to
present us complete, mature, and perfect in Christ
Jesus. The Spirit of the living Christ is free to
live that same wonderful, holy, perfect, beautiful,
mighty life through us. Sin must leave when He takes
up His residence within us. Am I abiding in Christ?
Is He abiding in me?
Christ bore the penalty
of the law on our behalf (6:23), and rose from the
dead. The moment we were born again we were
identified with Christ's death and resurrection. We
are no longer under the law, but under grace (6:14).
Romans 6:11 reminds us to
call this to mind. "Even so consider (reckon, count
upon the fact) yourselves to be dead to sin, but
alive to God in Christ Jesus." As our representative
Christ became our first husband, that Adamic nature
to which we were married, and when He became that,
He died. Moreover, when He died, we were set free.
Because of his death and our death in Him, the law
has nothing to say to us anymore. We are now free to
marry another––the risen Christ. Our first husband
is Christ crucified on our behalf; our second
husband is Christ risen form the dead. Because of
our new identification with Him, we share His name,
His power, His experiences, His hope, His position,
His coming glory. All that He is is now ours. We are
now married to Christ the risen from the dead and
the law has nothing more to say to us.
Luther observed, "It is
impossible for a man to be a Christian without
having Christ; and if he has Christ, he has at the
same time all that is in Christ. What gives peace to
the conscience is, that by faith our sins are no
more ours, but Christ's, upon whom God has laid them
all; and that, on the other hand, all Christ's
righteousness is ours, to whom God has given it.
Christ lays His hand upon us, and we are healed. He
lays His mantle upon us, and we are clothed; for He
is the glorious Savior, blessed forever."
Verses 5 and 6
contrasts two marriages.
Our life before Christ is
described with the words "flesh," "sin," "law,"
"death." I was married to Adam and all that
relationship produced was death. My human nature as
it is controlled and directed by sin stood guilty
and condemned. "Flesh" here signifies man in his
ruined condition or the total corruption in which
all the children of Adam's race are born. The law
exposes our solidarity with Adam. Sin takes control
of the flesh. It is a life dominated by our lower
human nature. F. F. Bruce said, "to be 'in the
flesh' is to be unregenerate, to be still 'in Adam,'
in a state in which one 'cannot please God' (Romans
8:8)." Death is the consequence or end secured by
our sins. It is the logical outcome. We deserve the
death penalty because we are sinners. We stand
guilty because we are guilty.
"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" (v. 5).
The new life
married to Christ (v. 6)
"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" (v. 6).
The death is the
believer's death through union with Christ. We died
to the law through the death of our first husband.
When Christ was crucified the first husband died.
Now we are tied to Jesus. He is our life and we are
now acting according to our true nature.
"As far as the law is
concerned we have been made null and void. There is
no link between the believer and the law. Our
salvation is not due to the law. We are delivered
from the law because we have died to that by which
we were held down" (Leon Morris, The Epistle to
the Romans, p. 275).
"But now . . . we serve
in the newness of the Spirit." The Holy Spirit is
the author of this new state of mind. Emancipation
from the law does not mean we are free to do as we
please. Freedom from the law is not a license to
sin. We are free from the law––but free to serve
Christ, not to sin. It is not a life free of
responsibilities; we are still responsible to serve
righteousness. Cf. Galatians 5:1, 13–14. We now lean
back upon the mighty, refreshing, indwelling,
conquering life of Christ within us. We now in the
newness of the Spirit quietly count on Him to live
and work in and through us to do all that He wants
to do. We allow Him to be Himself in us.
THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW
The law defines sin
for us (v. 7b).
The law cannot deliver
the sinner. It is powerless to do so. It only makes
the bondage bitterer. Does that make the law sinful?
No, it merely exposes sin wherever it finds it.
Remember how Paul had gloried in his works until the
law convicted him of covetousness? (Philippians 3:3,
4). Paul's conviction of sin came with the
realization that the law condemned the secret
desires of his sinful heart. In its cutting and
convicting power it brings healing because it opens
us up to Christ. Only when Paul understood the law
in its full extent, did he become self–condemned.
The tenth commandment makes the law keeping
impossible and makes the sinner hopeless.
"What shall we say then?
Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I
would not have come to know sin except through the
Law; for I would not have known about coveting if
the Law had not said, 'You shall not covet.'"
The law exposes our
depraved sinful nature (v. 8).
We want to do what is
forbidden. Our real problem is indwelling sin, not
the law (vv. 5, 8–9).
"But sin, taking
opportunity through the commandment, produced in me
coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin
is dead" (v. 8).
The law has a way of
exposing us like when we see the signs that say:
"Speed Limit 55," or "No fishing," "No walking on
grass." The law brings out the worst in us. It seems
to dare us to do it. It exposes our sinful nature.
We learn what the law is and we want what is
Several years ago a
beautiful hotel was built in Galveston, Texas which
jutted out over the water in the bay. It had large
plate glass windows that captured the Gulf of
Mexico. The balconies on each room made an ideal
fishing peer! Right after it was opened a daring
anxious fisherman cast his reel from a patio and
knocked out the windows below in the dinning room.
The administration quickly put up signs in every
room of the hotel that read: "No fishing from
patios." The idea caught on quickly! People thought
that is a great idea! Everyone decided to try it!
Even those who could care less about fishing joined
in. They kept knocking out windows. Finally, one
bright administrator came up with the idea of
removing the no fishing signs. Guess what happened.
People quit fishing!
Sin found a base of
operations for war on our soul. John Murray is
correct when he says, "The more the light of the law
shines upon and in our depraved hearts, the more the
enmity of our minds is roused to opposition, and the
more it is made manifest that the mind of the flesh
is not subject to the law of God, neither can be"
(John Murray, Principles of Conduct, p. 185).
The law doesn't cause
sin; it discovers it and reveals our sinful nature
to us. It strips away our disguises and deceit and
brings it to light. "If we say that we have not
sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in
us" (1 John 1:9).
The law brings
condemnation for sin (vv. 8b–13; 6:23).
"Apart from the law sin
is dead." Paul had no conviction about his sin until
the law aroused within his heart every sort of
sinful desire. It exposed his heart for what it
Before he met Christ on
the road to Damascus Paul thought keeping the law
would bring eternal life and please God, but instead
he fell under its judgment. The proud self–righteous
Pharisee was "alive" in his own self–esteem and
religious feelings. However, when the Holy Spirit
applied to his heart the law he lost that good
opinion of himself and he "died." The law revealed
Paul's hopeless nature. Instead of making him feel
good about his self–righteousness, it only condemned
The power of the Law
brings conviction of sin. We see ourselves for what
we really are and we die. It kills our arrogant
pride. It exposes the seriousness of our sin and
unbelief. It is my sin, not someone else's. "Against
Thee, and Thee only have I sinned." "Oh God woe is
me!" is the cry of the sinner exposed to the Law of
God. The purpose of the law is to reveal my
desperate need for God's abundant grace in Jesus
Christ. It cannot save. It was never intended to
save us. It cannot even sanctify the Christian.
There is no power in it to produce its demands.
Charles Hodge notes, "How
vain therefore is it to expect salvation from the
law, since all the law does, in its operation on the
unrenewed heart, is to condemn and to awaken
opposition! It cannot change the nature of man."
Sin blinds the human
heart to the reality of its true condition. The
deceitfulness of sin led Paul to expect one thing
while he experienced another. "He expected life, and
found death. He expected happiness, and found
misery; he looked for holiness, and found increased
Here is Paul's testimony
as to the power of the law. "I was once alive apart
from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin
became alive and I died; and this commandment, which
was to result in life, proved to result in death for
me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the
commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is
holy and righteous and good" (vv. 9–13). When used
correctly that is what the law always does. It
strips us of our pride and arrogance and brings us
to our knees so we can trust in the only one who can
save us. The death we died in our union with Christ
is a saving death. It is "a death that frees us from
our bondage to sin." We die a spiritual death when
we come to realize that we are not good and decent
people in God's sight. We are sinners and we are
lost without Christ. It marks the end of our
self–confidence, self–satisfaction, self–reliance
and self–esteem. It brings death.
Paul makes the purpose of
the law clear in Galatians 3:22–26. "But the
Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that
the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given
to those who believe. But before faith came, we were
kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the
faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore, the
Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so
that we may be justified by faith. But now that
faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For
you are all sons of God through faith in Christ
PRINCIPLES FOR BELIEVERS TODAY
What is my attitude
toward the law?
What is your attitude
toward the law? The law is not evil. It is "holy,
and just, and good." Sin is the true source of all
evil. The law is our friend because it reveals our
true self and points us to Jesus as our only hope of
salvation and life. God is the author of the Law and
it reveals His holy and perfect character. It
reflects the transcendence and purity of God. It
promotes only the highest well–being and goodness of
God. In verses-7–13, Paul has given us his life
before conversion. He demonstrates for us how the
law of God brought conviction to his heart.
Charles Spurgeon said,
"An unchanged life is a sign of an unregenerate
heart." We no longer have any excuse. As long as we
make excuses for our sin, we are slaves to it.
The Legalist fears the
law. He is a man in bondage to the law. He is proud
of his law keeping and imagines he can be justified
and sanctified by keeping the law. The law produces
failure. No man can live up to its demands.
Legalists are critical of other people. It is a
defense mechanism. They are guilty of the same
faults. They don't want to admit their sins. There
is a sense of defeat and failure. That is the
purpose of the law. It shows us just how desperately
evil we are. It reveals our arrogance and pride.
The Antinomian or
Libertine hates the law and blames man's moral and
spiritual problems in the law (vv. 7–13). He fails
to realize we are free from the law––but we are free
to serve Christ, not to sin. In the eyes of those
who hate the law, everyone does what is right in his
However, the Law abiding
believer loves and delights in law and seeks by the
power of the indwelling Spirit to obey it (8:3).
Calvin said this freedom "is not from the
righteousness which is taught in the law, but from
the rigid demands of the law and from the curse
which follows from its demands." Morris adds, "It is
not the law that dies, but the believer. The law
still points to the kind of living that is pleasing
in the sight of God. But the believer is dead to all
forms of legalism. He will engage in upright living
as the result but not the cause of his salvation"
(Morris, p. 272). "The believer's death with Christ
. . . is a death to the law. Salvation by grace, by
trusting Christ, means a complete end to trust in
the law" (Morris, p. 273).
I am not capable of
keeping the law by myself. The Holy Spirit enables
me to do what I cannot do by myself, even as a
Christian. I love the law and delight in it. I
meditate on it. It provides guidance into what God
is like, and what He wants me to become in Christ.
As a law–abiding believer I now fulfill the law
because I want to, not because I want to merit
acceptance with God. When I fail, I don't have to
believe that God is unhappy with me because He has
made provision for this. I have His forgiveness and
His grace and strength. I don't have to live in fear
of the law.
Romans 8:1 says I am no
longer condemned by the Law. "Therefore there is now
no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
Why do we serve?
We are motivated by love
for Christ. I want to please Him because I love Him.
Our marriage to Christ is not an end in itself. It
is in order that we might have fruitful lives. We
have been united to Him for the purpose of producing
the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). He
wants to see us producing love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, self–control, etc. Salvation leads to
obedience to the law. We are free to serve a new
Master. We have a new Husband. My allegiance is now
with Christ. When you are in love you want to live
in a manner that pleases the person you love. That
takes care of the obedience and the "want to"
problem. If I love Him, I will obey Him.
How do we serve?
The whole purpose of
Paul's argument is that we might belong to another
person. We now have an intimate love relationship
with "Him who was risen from the dead." We serve the
risen Savior in the power of the indwelling Holy
Spirit. We cannot live the Christian life without
the Holy Spirit. We are free to serve Christ and His
righteousness. We are free from the condemnation of
the law. We are now married to Christ, who is risen
from the dead, and we have a new identity. We are
free to do what we were designed to do. The only
life that is fruitful in God's eyes is the life of
Jesus Christ in you and me. The only life God will
accept is the risen life of Jesus lived again
through you and me. All other effort is carnal and
fruitless. All we can produce in the flesh is the
fruit of death.
Title: Law--What Law?
Series: The Exchanged
Life in Romans