Identification with Christ Frees us from the Law’s Dominion
The Law. Often new believers who are trying to find practical deliverance from sin will look to the Law for deliverance. This is a big mistake. In Rom. 7 Paul writes to show the folly of this, to describe the experience of a soul under law, and the solution in Christ. Three things that the Law cannot do:
- It does not give us life.
- It does not give us strength to perform according to its demands.
- It does not give us an object for our hearts.
Since the Law can’t do any of those things, it is a great misunderstanding to think that the Law was given to help a person walk in holiness. Are Jewish believers still under the Law? Paul answers that in Rom. 7:1-6.
Freedom from law. In the previous section, Paul showed that a Christian has freedom from sin because he is identified with Christ in death. Now Paul speaks to Jewish believers. The doctrine previously expounded showed that freedom from sin could not be enjoyed by those who were under the Law, but under grace (Rom. 6:15). The question naturally arises: “If I am a Jew, I am born into a legal relationship with God. How can I escape my obligation to the Law in order to live under grace alone?” The answer is: identification with Christ in death frees a person from the claims of the Law, as well as from the power of sin!
Difference between the Law and sin. Jewish believers needed to be free from the Law as well as sin; but there is a great difference between sin and the Law: sin is an evil thing, while the Law is a good thing (“holy, just, and good”, v.12). However, even though it is good, it does need to be used for its intended purpose.
¶ Are ye ignorant, brethren, (for I speak to those knowing law,) that law rules over a man as long as he lives? v.1 The principle is clearly given: laws only apply to people before they die. The parenthesis in this verse tells us that Paul now addresses himself specifically to his Jewish brethren. However, these things are still important for all Christians, not just converted Jews, because many come to Christ from a legal Christian background, and often someone seeking deliverance will put themselves under a self-imposed law.
An Illustration of the Principle with Regard to Marriage (vv.2-3)
2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband so long as he is alive; but if the husband should die, she is clear from the law of the husband: v.2 If a woman (Jewish) gets married to a man (the Law), and he turns out to be strict and hard to get along with (like the righteous requirements of the Law) it’s too bad. She is stuck “til death do us part”. The expression “the law of the husband” refers to the legal principle of marriage. But death is something that breaks the marriage bond, and it frees her to be married to a new, nicer husband. NOTE: this is not teaching that the Law has died (see v.4) but simply the principle that death breaks the force of the Law.
3 so then, the husband being alive, she shall be called an adulteress if she be to another man; but if the husband should die, she is free from the law, so as not to be an adulteress, though she be to another man. v.3 It is moral adultery to take a second husband while the first lives, and it is spiritual adultery to try to be under Christ’s headship and the Law’s dominion at the same time. This is a strong argument, and one that the Judaizing teachers would do well to understand. It isn’t just that it doesn’t work practically, but it is spiritually wrong. Once again, death results in freedom. In this case, freedom to remarry in good standing with God. The word “married to another” (3X) is not in the original. It should be translated “belong to another”, because marriage to Christ is still future (Rev. 19:7-10)!
Applying the Principle to Deliverance of Jewish Believers (vv.4-6)
4 So that, my brethren, *ye* also have been made dead to the [Mosaic] law by the body of the Christ, to be to another, who has been raised up from among the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. v.4 In the illustration (vv.2-3) the husband dies, but in the application of the principle (vv.4-6), it is the wife who dies. It is not the Law that dies or is done away with, but the Christian. Remember, the Law has dominion over a man so long as he lives (v.1), not so long as it lives. We have died “by the body of the Christ” or by identification with Him in death, which has broken the Law’s claim over us. Who are we espoused to now? The very one that set us free. The question might arise, “is my new husband going to eventually die?” No. he has been raised in a manner that puts him beyond the reach of death. What is the purpose of this great change? That we might bear fruit. We couldn’t bear fruit under law (v.5). Note that it doesn’t say we are risen, but that we are espoused to one who is risen.
¶ 5 For when we were in the flesh the passions of sins, which were by the [Mosaic] law, wrought in our members to bring forth fruit to death; v.5 Instead of the Law controlling the flesh, it did the opposite: it aroused the flesh. If we put some restriction on the flesh, it immediately rebels against that restriction (Rom. 8:7, more follows in the rest of Rom. 7).
6 but now we are clear from the [Mosaic] law, having died in that in which we were held, so that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in oldness of letter. v.6 A summary of the principle in application to deliverance. The relationship with the new husband is far different from the relationship with the old. Jews were held under the Law, but died by identification with Christ. They now serve Him from the response of their hearts (“newness of spirit”), not because they are afraid of the consequences of a broken law (“oldness of letter”). Remember the illustration of the housemaid who becomes the bride; no longer needs a list of commandments!