“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.” (Romans 7:1-6)
Interestingly, each year as I read through Romans I find myself sort of skimming over these verses. I get excited about the Romans 6 “dead to sin/alive to Christ” stuff. Then I’m ready to hop past verses 1-6, hurry through verses 7-13, and plunge eagerly into verses 14-25 and the conflict of the two natures. This morning I am finding myself hitting the brakes on these first 6 verses and seeing some things I’ve never seen before. Particularly seeing how they are connected with what has gone before and joined to what will follow. I'm also very personally seeing how much they apply to me and this place where I’ve found myself during the past month!
Romans 6:14 declared “for sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.” Romans 7:6 fortifies that reality by stating “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.”
We are released from the harsh and impossible taskmaster of works righteousness. In Christ we have died to it. We are under its drudgery no more. Now we are under grace and serving in newness by the indwelling power of the Spirit. I’m free! I don’t have to do this myself. I’m free! I can do this in Christ.
Matthew Henry points out that “we are delivered from that power of the law which condemns us for the sin committed by us. The law says, 'the soul that sins shall die…'" Oh, but Christ says, 'I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. Come to Me. all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you shall find rest for your souls. for My yoke is easy and My load is light.'”
Christ gives new life. The law rightly declares me guilty. The Living Logos declares me not condemned in Him. Christ has done for me what I could not do, He has given to me what I don’t deserve, and He daily grants me the strength that I do not have. “Jesus what a friend for sinners!” “He breaks the power of reigning sin, He sets the prisoner free, His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me.”
Mr. Henry also points out that “we are delivered from that power of the law which provokes the sin that dwells in us.” I’ve never noticed this before. Without Christ the law provokes the sin within. This is what the law, apart from the Spirit’s working does - it arouses our rebellion. “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 law, apart from Christ, just makes us mad. It makes us mad because we CANNOT do it. We CANNOT keep it. Therefore, it ticks us off and we rail against its commands! Boy, if that's not the picture of my life before Christ.
These words from Henry's commentary are incredible. He writes, “The law, by threatening, corrupt and fallen man, but offering no grace to cure, did but stir up the corruption. We being lamed by the fall, the law comes and directs us, but provides nothing to heal and help our lameness. We are under grace, which promises strength to do what it commands, and pardon upon repentance when we do amiss.” 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. We are not under law, but under grace. Oh, how amazing that Christ has come to us with grace enabling us to walk in obedience to the Law with newness of life rather than with chains of death!
In Romans 6, Paul showed the difference between life in the land of law and life in the land of grace by comparing two masters. In Christ, we are under a new master. In Romans 7, Paul portrays this same thing by comparing two husbands. We were first married to the law. He points out that marriage is binding until the death of one of the parties. “For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living…” While her husband is alive she is not free to marry another. If she does, she is an adulteress. “So then if, while her husband is still living, she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress….”
“Thus we were married to the law. 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. We were carried down the stream of sin, and the law was but as an imperfect dam, which made the stream to swell the higher. Our desire was towards sin, and sin ruled over us. We were under the law of sin and death, as the wife under the law of marriage; and the product of this marriage was fruit brought forth unto death. Lust, having conceived by the law, brings forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death. This is the posterity that springs from this marriage to sin and the law.”
This is our natural marriage. But remember the words of Romans 6. “Knowing this, 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.” “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin.”
Our first husband has died! He was a harsh tyrant and we are now freed widows. God has taken the life of this abusive spouse and He has raised up Himself as the kinsman redeemer!! Our second marriage is to Christ! We are no longer married to the law which we can’t keep. We are now married to the Logos – the Word made flesh and dwelling among us. We are one with He who has kept the law perfectly in our stead and who’s grace is sufficient, who’s strength is perfect, who’s presence is ever with us to enable us to obey out of gratitude rather than out of servitude! O Christ – how glorious You are and how marvelous are Your works for the sons of men!!
“We are married to Christ. We enter upon a life of dependence on Him and duty to Him. As our dying to sin and the law is in conformity to the death of Christ, and the crucifying of His body, so our devotedness to Christ in newness of life is in conformity to the resurrection of Christ. We are married to the raised and exalted Jesus!” (Matthew Henry)
Here’s the result of this wondrous union:
1. That we might bear fruit for God. "...that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God." (vs 4).
“One end of marriage is fruitfulness. Now the great end of our marriage to Christ is our fruitfulness in love, and grace, and every good work. As our old marriage to sin produced fruit unto death, so our second marriage to Christ produces fruit unto God. Good works are the children of the new nature. Whatever our professions and pretensions may be, there is no fruit brought forth to God till we are married to Christ.”
2. That we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. "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."(vs 6)
We were obliged to serve before, we just weren’t able. We are still obliged to serve – our Husband makes us able. The former was absolute drudgery. The new- the now- is perfect freedom. In Him we are fully equipped for every good work. Zacharius cried out that the Messiah had come “to grant that we, being delivered form the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.” That is what Christ has done. That is one of the things He is doing in me right now.
My Great Husband is doing for me in the midst of this trial. He gave Himself up for me. He is sanctifying me and cleansing me with the water of His word. And why? That He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.
I've been married to Christ for 20 years now but these things are, in many ways, new to me. I suppose you could say that I have been committing adultery with the old, dead spouse. I have continued, at times, to be enslaved by the weight of his old ways and have not walked in the freedom that comes from this newness of life, this new marriage, this glorious Husband.
May God forgive all of us for cavorting with the dead and make us to be a devoted spouse to Christ. May we serve Him with gladness. May we, in utter reliance upon Him, bear much fruit for His kingdom. May good works be the offspring of our relation to our Husband - the Lord Jesus Christ.
Renewing my vows,