My brothers and sisters, in the same way, you have died when it comes to the law because of your connection with the body of the Anointed One. His death—and your death with Him—frees you to belong to the One who was raised from the dead so we can bear fruit for God. As we were living in the flesh, the law could not solve the problem of sin; it only awakened our lust for more and cultivated the fruit of death in our bodily members. But now that we have died to those chains that imprisoned us, we have been released from the law to serve in a new Spirit-empowered life, not the old written code.
-Romans 7:1-6 (The Voice)
"It is a wonderful day in the life of the Christian when he or she discovers that the old nature knows no law and the new nature needs no law" (1)
"To run and work the law commands, yet gives me neither feet nor hands; but better news the gospel brings; it bids me fly and gives me wings" (2)
"What is really at fault is the conception of religion as law-keeping, the idea that by painstaking conformity to a law-code one can acquire merit in God's sight." (3)
"We now learn that the Gospel is man's liberation, i.e., his liberation from the law." (4)
The Christian is under no obligation to keep the Mosaic Law, because of our union with Christ. We are under grace and not under law. The backdrop of Romans 7, is Romans 6. Let's look at Romans 6, that deals with sin, before looking at the similitude in the beginning of Romans 7
We are dead to sin, in Christ (Rom. 6:2). Sin no longer dominates the life of the believer, as it does the non-believer (Rom. 6:3-10). We must live in Christ, reckoning or considering ourselves dead to sin (Rom. 6:11). We must live a life of presenting ourselves to God, or dedicate ourselves to God as slaves to righteousness, rather than slaves to sin (Rom. 6:12-14). We must live a life of obedience to God, that brings sanctification, or we will, even as Christians, fall back into a life of sin (Rom. 6:15-23).
The four practical steps, that we are commanded to do, for our sanctification, laid out in Romans 6, are:
- We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We Know that we are no longer slaves to sin. We know that when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. We know that since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We know this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. (Rom 6:3-10)
- We live, under the consideration that we, ourselves are dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. (Rom. 6:11)
- We do not let sin control how we live. We do not give into sinful desires. We do not let our bodies become instruments of evil, to serve sin. Instead, we give ourselves completely to God, letting our whole bodies be used as instruments to do what is right, for the glory of God. We live a life of freedom, under grace rather than under the law, and we are no longer slaves to sin. (Rom. 6:12-14)
- Whereas, we were once, as slaves to sin, in bondage to sin, following sin as our master; we are now as-it-were, 'slaves' to God, in obedience to living in Christ, set free from the law, by grace. (Rom. 6:15-23). (5)
This is the backdrop for Romans 7. We died, or our sinful nature died on the cross, with Christ. We are dead to the power of sin and alive to the power of Christ (Rom. 6:11). We are also no longer under the law and grace has set us free from the law (Rom. 6:14-15). We can become slaves to sin, as Christians, again, if we yield to it and give it a place in our lives (Rom. 6:15-23).
We are no longer under obligation to keep the Mosaic Law, because we are in union with Christ (Rom 7:1-6). If we put ourselves back under the law, we can become slaves to our own self-lives (Rom 7:7-25).
We desire to follow the law of God, because it is a way to measure our progress in life as believers. But obeying the law did not get us saved, nor will it make us holy, or better people.
There has always been a tendency to receive Christ, but then add to Christ or blend the old covenant with the new. The good news, The Gospel message is Jesus Christ, is Jesus plus nothing. It is all Christ.
Sin died and the law died, on the cross with Jesus. Before we knew Christ and outside of relationship with Christ, we know sin and God's law. That is the non-Christ life. When you come into union with Christ and are born from above, the law dies in your life, and sin dies too. When sin pops up, we put it to death on the cross of Christ, where it belongs (Rom. 8:13, Col. 3:5).
There are two extremes that we Christians want to avoid, that will be temptations for us, that Paul addresses. On the one side is licence, that says that since we are under grace, and not law; we can live any way we please. The answer to this is, "no" (Romans 6:15). The 4 steps outlined above are the answer to how then shall we live the non-sinful life?
The other extreme, we want to avoid, says that we are saved by grace, and we want to live a righteous life before God, so we must live under the law, if we are to please God. That sounds really good and very sincere, but the answer to this proposal is also, "no". We are dead to the law (Rom. 7:6), just as we are dead to sin (6:5), through the cross. We are now alive to Christ (Gal. 2:20, Col. 3:3).
The NET Bible, Romans 7, Constable's Notes, states:
The Mosaic Law was a unified code that contained moral, religious, and civil regulations that regulated the life of the Israelites (Exod. 20—Num. 10). God has terminated the whole code as a regulator of Christians’ lives... Christians have received a new code that Paul called the Law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). It contains some of the same commandments as the old Mosaic Code, including nine of the Ten Commandments. The one that Jesus did not carry over was the fourth commandment about Sabbath observance. Nevertheless the Law of Christ is a new code. Thus Paul could say that God has released us from “the Law” of Moses. The Law of Christ consists of the teachings of Jesus Christ that He communicated during His earthly ministry that are in the New Testament. It also consists of teachings that He gave through His apostles and prophets following His ascension to heaven. (Charles C. Ryrie, “The End of the Law,” Bibliotheca Sacra 124:495 (July-September 1967):239-47.)The law of Moses does not regulate the believer's life. Jesus does. The Mosaic Law does not have binding authority or power over the believer. We are freed or delivered from it in the death of Christ.
However, we could argue that Paul is not speaking of the whole OT, but just the Mosaic Law, as a system or organizing body of rules for life that have binding force (6). The law is still a witness (Rom. 1:2, 3:21). We now under the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). It now matters that we keep God's commands (1 Cor. 7:19). We can live under the law, but not be under it (1 Cor. 9:20). We are allowed to not follow the Jewish law and live apart from it, but that does not mean we ignore it as we obey the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21).
Now, imagine someone who's spouse has died. In their next season of life, they meet a new person, and have a new marriage. It is one thing to honor your deceased spouse, as well you should. But devotion to your first spouse, who is gone, is out of order, when it goes beyond honor, for what was and perhaps the children that you bore with them.
Imagine someone who is following or seeking nurture, even from the memories, of their deceased spouse. Imagine someone who is a widow or widower, and has remarried, but is still serving their first spouse? We would call all that, dysfunctional and unhealthy. Unfair and neglectful of their new spouse, also comes to mind.
This is the picture, the similitude, that Apostle Paul, is painting in the beginning of Romans 7. He is saying that Christians are married to Christ. Remember that we are the bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2). We have one husband, one person we are devoted to, who takes care of us.
Outside of Christ and before you met Christ, you were a sinner or a person who tried not to sin, and live a good life, outside of Christ. The law of God regulated your life. Most of us, were not Orthodox Jewish people, trying to obey the mosaic Law. We who are Gentiles, outside of the mosaic Law, still had the law in our lives, on our hearts.
We were either guilty for not measuring up, or we were self-righteous for our accomplishments. That relationship, with that thing, with the law, that was a picture of a woman with her first husband, is dead. D-E-A-D, dead. When you receive Christ, you die to sin and you die to the law. Being in Christ, being Christ's bride is about obedience, death to self, and sanctification; but it is never though legalism. It is through a person, and with the help of the Helper, the Holy Spirit.
The law of Christ does involve righteous living, but it is not about you measuring against something that is an authority, but about you living in someone who can live it out, who has the authority to do it. he also makes provision for every mistake and misstep of ours. It's all in him and through him and to him (Rom. 11:36).
1. Quoted by Warren Wiersbe, Expository Outlines of the NT, p. 386
2. Meyer, Jason C.. The end of the law: Mosaic covenant in Pauline theology. Nashville: B&H
Publishing Group, 2009
3. Bruce, Romans, p. 143
4. Barth, A Shorter Commentary on Romans, Romans 7, p. 45
5. These 4 steps are from, Chafer, Systematic Theology, 2:351-54
6. Moo, The Epistle To The Romans, p. 416