About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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An Illustration From Marriage (Ch. 7:1 – 6)


In chapter 7 verse 1 Paul is reminding the reader that he is speaking to them as those who know the Law of Moses.  Therefore, he is going to proceed by using an analogy from the Law of Moses to back up the point he has been making. This would tell me that there were a sufficient number of Christian Jews in the Roman community of Christ for some kind of knowledge of the Law of Moses to be known among the Gentile believers.  It is just unknown how many Christian Jews there actually were in the church at Rome .


Paul says in verses 1 that the law only has authority over a man as long as a man is alive.  When a man dies, the law is meaningless to him.  This is simple logic and common sense but he is building a point that is based on this piece of common sense.


In verse 2 Paul takes one example from the law to help clarify what he is about to say about the law.  The Law of Moses stated that a man and woman who are married are married for life.  The woman, or the man, must not leave the marriage.  This is the law of marriage as seen in the Law of Moses.  Now, once the wife's husband dies she is free from the law of marriage as seen in the Law of Moses.  She is free to remarry, and when she does, she is not breaking any law.  In verse 3 Paul repeats this once again, but this time he adds that if a woman leaves her husband for another man then she is committing adultery.                 


As an aside, many Evangelicals in the past have taken this verse to build their doctrine of divorce and remarriage on, but that is a mistake.  They say that if a woman remarries when her husband is still alive, she commits adultery.  This is a complicated issue, but a complete study of the whole Bible on this subject will show us that there is more to this issue that what Paul says here.  We must remember that Paul is not addressing marriage.  He is simply using the law of marriage to help explain a point and, therefore, we must not zero in on marriage at this point.  


In verse 4 Paul now equates this law of marriage and the husband and wife relationship to the relationship between the Law of Moses and Jesus, something that is still not understood in today's Evangelical world.  In the same way that when a husband has died the wife is free to marry another, so the Law of Moses had died in order for those under the law to be married to another, who is Jesus.


Verse 4 says that those to whom Paul was writing has died to the Law through the body of Christ.  In other words, when we died on the cross with Jesus, as Paul has already talked about, the Law of Moses also died.  Paul says this in other places as well, as seen in Colossians 2:13 to 15.  All 613 laws within the Law of Moses have been nailed to the cross for the purpose of salvation.  I say for the purpose of salvation because salvation is by faith and not by any works of the Law.  That being said, the Law still exists until all aspects of its prophetic parts are fulfilled.     


In verse 4 Paul also states one reason why the Law died.  It is so we can be united to Jesus, because only then, can we really produce godly fruit in our lives.  Fruit, or acts of love, can only be produced by Jesus' Spirit in our lives.  A law can never produce the way of life that is acceptable to God.  Only the Holy Spirit can do that for us.     


In verse 4 Paul says that we've died to the Law so we can live for Christ so that we can bear fruit to God.  The Law of Moses was never meant for us to bear fruit.  It was to show us our sin and provide temporary measures to have our sins forgiven.  Only Jesus, through His Spirit, can we produce good fruit in our lives that is pleasing to God.  Paul elaborates further on this in Galatians 5 in his discussion of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in relation to the fruit of the flesh.     


Let's think about Paul's analogy of marriage here.  Paul is telling us that the Law of Moses has died.  That means we are free to marry another.  That another is Jesus.  Now consider the marriage analogy further.  If a woman's husband dies, and if she remarries, and if she keeps all the photos of her husband on the walls, and if she always talks about her late husband, and if she wants to live her new married life under the influence of her late husband, how do you think her new husband would feel?  I think it's clear.  He would not be happy living with a woman whose life was all about her late husband.  This is how much of the Evangelical world lives today.  The Law of Moses has died.  We are married to Jesus, but, throughout much of Evangelicalism we still live as if we're still married to the Law.  The preaching tithing is just one way in which we live by the Law while we're married to Jesus.


In verse 5 Paul says that when we were controlled by our sinful nature our sinful passions were aroused by the law that told us not to sin.  We were controlled by our sinful nature that caused us to sin.  Paul talked about that back in chapter 5, verse 20, when he told us that the Law made us sin even more.  The fruit of this passionate sin is death.  Part of what Paul is saying here is that being a slave to our sinful nature is now a thing of our past lives.  He has already stated that the true believer is a slave to Jesus, not a slave to our sinful nature.  That being said, as we will see in the next half of this chapter, we still struggle with sin even though we don't serve sin.  This is a difference that many Christians have never made clear in their thinking. 


Once again Paul equates sin with death.  Sin leads to death on many fronts.  It's destroys the presence of the Lord in our lives.  That's clear.  I'm sure we've all experienced that.  The idea that sin produces death clearly goes back to the beginning of time when God told Adam that in the day he disobeyed, he would die.  It's my thinking that the molecular structure of every atom of every aspect of creation changed in such a way the death became central to creation.  


In verse 6 Paul clearly says that we have been released from the Law of Moses.  This would have surely irritated the Jews of Paul's day.  It's also something that many Evangelicals simply don't grasp.  We pick and choose what laws from the Law of Moses we want to obey.  We pick tithing but not the animal sacrifices.  The fact of the matter is that the Law itself did not permit us to pick and choose.  The confusion over this issue has caused much misunderstanding how New Testament Christians should view the Old Testament law.  Subsequently, many Christians live a mixture of both Old Testament and New Testament, thus watering down the gospel of Christ and making it of little effect.         


This is now the third time Paul mentions the Holy Spirit in his letter to the Romans.  This time he makes a clear statement.  He says that there is a new way in which we serve God.  The old way of obeying the Law is gone.  The new way is by the Holy Spirit‘s enabling.  This is the crux of the whole New Testament.  This is what the Old Testament people were waiting for, that is the Holy Spirit living within us, enabling us to obey God.  The Law could never help us obey God.  It only made us sin more.  It told us that we were sinners.  It could not help us in living right. 


Many churches, at least in the past, that were very legalistic in nature often downplayed the place the Holy Spirit played in the life of the believer.   Paul basically says that the Holy Spirit replaced the Law.  Other churches who do promote the activity of the Holy Spirit and are legalistic as well, confuse the issue by trying to combine living by rules and living by the Spirit.  This does not work.  The tendency in the church has always been to help God out by adding our rules and regulations.  If God laid aside His Law for a better way, then we should lay aside our laws for the same better way.


In speaking in terms of God laying aside the Law of Moses, we need to note that the Law has not been destroyed.  It still holds much prophetic significance, and Jesus Himself said that the Law would not be destroyed until all of its prophecies were fulfilled.  The Law of Moses in relation to salvation is dead, but in relation to prophecy is very much alive.      


The simple point that Paul is making in this section is that in the same way a wife is free to remarry once her husband dies, so a believer is now free to be united with Jesus because in one real sense of the word the Law of Moses has died for the purposes of being united with God.            


Verse 6 says it very clearly when it says that "we are released from the Law" that once bound it.  Can it be more clearer than that?  If we are released from the Law, why do so many Evangelical pick and choose parts of the Law of Moses to obey?  Why do we say that Christians must tithe when the Law of tithing is dead; when it no longer exists for us to obey.  The simple fact is that most Evangelicals have not studied these issues through sufficiently enough to understand these things. 


We need to think about this.  If your spouse dies, and if you remarry, and if you carry things over from your first marriage into your second marriage, it severely weekends your second marriage.  It's the same with your marriage to Jesus according to Paul.  If you are married to Jesus and if you carry things over from the dead Law, you weekend your relationship with Jesus. It's only common sense.       


In addition to what I've already said, I insert an article that I wrote to sum of this section of Romans.       


     Released From Law


June is a 55 year old widow.  She had been married to Brian for 35 years until a massive stroke unexpectedly struck him down and ripped him from her life.  She now sits across a table in a coffee shop from James, a 57 year old contractor and a widower of 10 years.  There's no doubt that James has been a source of recent joy, but he has complicated things.  Even after his passing 3 years ago, the memory of Brian lingers in June's heart. 


"I can't let James slip from my grasp", June tells herself.  Her 55 year old heart now pulsates as if it was 16 years old again.


As James sips his coffee he can't help but notice June's smile.  He slides his hand across the table until their fingers tips touch.  "She's just too hard to resist", he thinks.  The throbbing of his heart makes it clear that new love at the age of 57 is just as intoxicating as it was at the age of 27. 


The emotion is overwhelming.  June is lost for words.  "How can I say no?" she asks herself.  


"Well June", James nervously inserts after a prolonged period of silence.  "Do you need more time?"


"No James", June replies with a sigh of resignation.  "I don't need more time.  I've rehearsed this moment over a million times."


Six weeks, 5 days, 4 hours, and 38 minutes later, the pastor's voice is heard saying, "You may now kiss your bride."  Things could not be better for June and James.  


The decision was made for James to move into June's house upon returning from their honeymoon.  James soon realized that it was no easy task for June to get 35 years with Brian out of her heart.  It didn't help that Brian was plastered all over the place.  He was above the fireplace in a wedding picture.  His tools were in the basement.  His prized 57 Chevy was parked in the two car garage.  His fishing trophies were on the mantel in the family room.  James couldn't escape Brian.  Even though he was dead, he was everywhere.  


Things came to a head when James finds himself struggling to fix a leaky bathroom faucet.  "That's not how Brian fixed it", June sheepishly insisted.  


Sheepishly spoken or not, that did it for James.  In total frustration he snapped.  "Our relationship suffers because of your inability to let go of Brian.  Brian is dead.  He's long gone.  I'm alive.  I stand right in front of you.  You can't have us both."    


This story helps explain the Apostle Paul's teaching concerning how a New Testament Christian should relate to the Old Testament Law of Moses, something that most Evangelicals don't seem to understand. 


Paul says "by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not the old way of the written code (Romans 7:6 NIV).  Paul says we have died in relation to the law (Law of Moses - the written code) that once bound us.  He says that we have been set free from the Law to serve God in the new way of the Spirit.  Let's backtrack to verse 1 to see why Paul makes this assertion.    


In verse 1 Paul says that "The law has authority over a man as long as he lives.  That's easy to understand.  A law can't be applied to a dead man.  In Paul's terminology, the dead man has died to the Law.


In verse 2 Paul says that "By law (Law of Moses) a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage."  Paul uses the law of marriage found in the Law of Moses to support what he is about to say.  This too is easy to understand.  When a husband dies, the widow is released from the laws that once bound her to her husband.  She is free to marry another.  As Paul puts it, she has died to the Law.   


Verse 4 reads.  "You also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another."  Just like the dead man in verse 1 and the widow in verse 2 who have died to the Law, so the Christian has died to the Law of Moses.  In all 3 cases the relationship to the Law has ended, or died.  For this reason, in verse 6, the verse we began with, Paul says that "we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, not the old way of the written code.    


Here's my point.  The dead man in Romans 7:1, the widow in Romans 7:2, and June in my story, were free from the Law because death provided the means by which they could escape the Law's bondage.  Like the dead man, the widow, and June, a Christian is free to be united with Jesus because of the death of his sinful nature that took place on the cross of Christ.   See Romans 6 for a further explanation of the death of our sinful nature.  In other words, our relationship to the Law has died.  We have died to the Law, as Paul puts it.  I know this is hard to grasp, but our lack of persistence to understand these things has led to our misunderstanding concerning how Christians should relate to the Law of Moses.       


James' and June's relationship suffered because of June's inability to let go of her dead husband.  A Christian's relationship with Jesus suffers because of his inability to let go of the Law of Moses.  It's sad to see a Christian not enjoying his relationship with Jesus because he is bound by the Law that no longer applies to him.     


One example of how Evangelicals have been unable to let go of the Law of Moses is seen in their insistence on tithing.  If the Law of Moses no longer applies to the believer, we have no obligation to the laws of tithing, which by the way, Evangelicals don't obey as they are specifically stated in the Law.  We are, however, obligated to follow the new way of the Spirit concerning the issue of giving.  


I believe that as James was frustrated with June's inability to let go of Brian, so Jesus is frustrated with the Christian's inability to let go of the Law of Moses.  When we're in bondage to the Law, we can't appreciate Jesus to whom we are now united, or so I believe.



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