Romans 7:4-6 (NKJV) 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another–to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
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We have been looking at the book of Romans in light of the power of God’s grace manifested in our salvation through Jesus Christ. We have learned many things. First that everyone born is in the same situation. We are all under the power of sin. Second, we learned from Abraham that it is faith in God that frees us from the power of the law. .
In Romans 5 we learned that what Jesus did by obedience was more powerful than what Adam did by disobedience. Through Adam’s disobedience and sin, death came upon all people. They had no choice. Through Jesus’ obedience that death was paid for. Anyone could choose to accept what Jesus did as payment for their sin nature and be born again. Grace is what gives us salvation. Grace is more powerful than sin. We must choose grace by an act of our will.
In Romans 6 Paul wants it very clear that this does not mean those under grace are free to sin. Just the opposite is true. They are free not to sin. We are slaves to what we allow to reign over us. If we choose to yield our members to sin, we remain slaves to sin. It does not matter if we are saved or not. If we choose to accept and yield to the Lordship of Jesus and yield our bodies to righteousness, we will have a new kind of life that will revolutionize how we relate to both God and the word.
This brings us to chapter seven. This chapter can be very confusing. It helps to fit it into the emerging story of Romans. We are not under law. We are under grace. Grace does not excuse us from sin, it gives us the power to overcome sin. The question is how it does that.
We have seen that we have been given a new kind of life. We have seen that walking in that life means not giving our members, or body and soul, over to sin by serving it. What is the process that enables me to do that consistently? Romans 7 and 8 unlock the answers to these questions.
In the first part of this chapter Paul makes it clear that we are not under Law. However, it is important we understand how we are not under the law. Paul uses the example of marriage. A woman is married as long as she and her husband are alive. If she leaves him and goes to another when he is alive, except for certain clear conditions the bible calls that adultery. If the husband dies she is free to marry anyone she wants.
To be free from the law, something must die. In todays section of scripture Paul tells us that we died to the law. Praise God! When I received Jesus as Lord and savior there was a very real death and rebirth that occurred. Paul makes it clear in Galatians 2:20-21.
Galatians 2:20-21 (NKJV) 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
Paul tells us that he was crucified with Christ. Crucifixion always kills the victim. By being identified with Jesus’ death Paul died. Nevertheless, by identification with Jesus’ resurrection, Paul was raised from the dead as well.
What he says next is an important key. “It is no longer I who lives but Christ within me. Paul recognizes that accepting death in Christ means that the life he lives from then on cannot be lived according to the desires of the flesh. It must be lived as Christ lives through him.
Verse 21 says clearly that Paul is not going to lean on the law to be right with God. That comes by the salvation given to us through grace. If the law could make us right, Jesus’ death has no point. Taken out of context this could mean that I no longer have any need to obey the law. I simply walk in grace. Again, I ask, how?
Something must die. I am already dead according to heaven by identification with Jesus’ death. I a have been raised according to heaven by identifying with Jesus’ resurrection. That is my legal standing. However, if I obey what the flesh wants, I am not living “by the faith of the son of God who gave himself for me.” My legal position in heaven and my earthly experience become two different things.
That is the story of Romans 7. We are dead to the law. We are married to Jesus. That is how Paul starts this chapter. I think it would be valid to say that this can describe the life of a good person who is not saved. However, Paul sets the parameters in the first two paragraphs. We are already married to grace. We are already dead to the law. He is talking to people who are saved.
This letter is written to the church at Rome. I certainly believe the Roman church was not exclusively Jewish. It is likely that it was dominated by Jewish believers. That is implied by verse 1 of the chapter.
Romans 7:1 (NKJV) 1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?
These were people who knew the law. They had been raised under it or had been taught by those who had. It was only natural for them to assume that Christianity was no different than Judaism. If you were a believer, you lived according to God’s will and God’s ways. Israel had always been told they were different from the rest of the world. Keeping the law is what defined them. Therefore, Christians must also live according to what the law taught. They were right! It was why and then how Christians lived according to God’s ways that changed.
Paul does not say the law is no longer valid. He says that were delivered from the law by dying to it. We are no longer bound by the letter of the Law that brings death. We are to serve God according to the Spirit which brings life.
We no longer simply keep laws. Now we live according to our Spirit that inward man that was born again in Christ. This does not mean we do away with living according to God’s will and ways. We live according to the spirit of God’s will and ways written inside us (Jerimiah 31:31-34.) We keep the Law because it is written on our hearts as part of our relationship with God through Jesus.
We live according to what the law means not just what the words say. We live by knowing the author of the law not by simply keeping the written commandments or letter. That said, we still must live according to God’s ways or we become slaves to sin and death manifests in our living here on earth. The rest of Romans 7 describes exactly where most of us find ourselves today. We will look at that in our next post.