Romans 7-Our Relationship to the Law God Gave Israel

our relationship to the LawConsequences for our Salvation by Faith – Our Relationship to the Law God gave to Israel                         ROMANS 7

Moving ahead in exploring the ramifications of salvation by faith. Previously we studied the implications of our salvation for our spirit. (See Romans 6) We learned that our spirit has been made new in Christ. You now share His perfect spirit and you have the Holy Spirit indwelling you. So as you live today, you are alive in Christ, spiritually new and forever changed. There are still many more profound consequences of having been born again spiritually. Paul is moving to explain those consequences. Now, Paul covers two more of those consequences of having been made new and alive in Christ.

  1. First, Paul looks at the consequences for our relationship to the Law God gave to Israel. 
    1. How does salvation by faith and the new spirit that comes change your relationship to the Law God gave Israel?
  2. Secondly, Paul looks at the consequences for our relationship with our own flesh.

And as it turns out, these two ideas – the law and our flesh – are closely related. Let ’s start with our first topic, Law, which runs from verse 1 to verse 6 –

Romans 7:1-6 (NKJV)

Freed from the Law

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? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. 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. 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. 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.

The opening of the chapter begins with a conjunction (or) so we know we’re dropping into the middle of a thought that began at the end of chapter 6. That chapter ended with Paul saying –

Romans 6:22-23 (NKJV)

22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit (sanctification) to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In the last section of chapter 6, Paul was contrasting two forms of bondage. First, there was our previous bondage to sin. We were born in the nature of Adam and that nature was fallen, sinful and incapable of acting contrary to its nature. It did what it was programmed to do. It sinned. So in that sense, we were in bondage to sin prior to coming to faith. We could compare it to someone born with a physical birth defect, something like blindness. We might say such a person is in bondage to blindness because they cannot escape from it. Similarly, you are born with a spiritual defect, a fallen spirit and you are in bondage to its limitations, to its sin because you cannot escape it either. Not in your own power. But when you were born again by the Spirit of God, your old enslaved spirit was taken away and as a result, you were given a new spirit that is enslaved to God, Paul says.

The Lord gave us a new spirit and He placed in us His own Spirit. Our new spirit is formed in the likeness of Christ and shares His perfect nature with us. The Holy Spirit living in us assures us, what God has begun in each of us He will complete one day, bringing us a new body. Now as a result of all that we’re enslaved to God, Paul says. What he means by that is we’re enslaved in the same sense as we were previously enslaved. Today by faith you have a perfect sinless spirit, and like Christ, it cannot sin. And furthermore, the Holy Spirit living in you will not leave you nor forsake you. So you cannot escape those things any more than you could escape your sin nature before you came to faith. In that sense, you are in bondage. Before you came to faith, you didn’t choose to be a sinner…it’s all you knew how to do. And when you came to faith, you didn’t choose to receive Christ’s Spirit…it was given to you by God resulting in your sanctification and eternal life, Paul says. We move from one state of bondage so to speak to another state of bondage by our faith in Christ.

To explain this change in our relationship to the Law, Paul now begins with another analogy in chapter 7. So what does it mean that I am now enslaved to God when previously I was enslaved to my own sin. He uses an analogy in chapter 7 to make this application and explanation sensible by saying, or do you not know… We could say it this way: “As you already know…” And he goes on to say, look I’m speaking specifically to those who know the Law. Which tells us this consequence, our relationship to the Law of Israel, the consequence of coming to faith, changing that relationship is something unique to Jewish believers because only Jews were under the Mosaic Law. Paul says that the Law has jurisdiction over a Jewish person as long as he lives.

The concept is simple to understand for a Jew. The law that God gave to Israel came as part of a covenant, the Mosaic Covenant. Obviously, only those who were party to that covenant were bound to what’s in that covenant and the Law is in the covenant that God gave to Israel through Moses. You could compare it to the way a man or woman enlists in the military. As a recruit enlists, he or she enters into a contract with the government. And the recruit then becomes subject to military laws and regulations. Before he/she entered into that contract those laws did not apply to him/her. After they entered into that contract they are bound to those laws. Only someone who has enlisted is required to follow those laws. And when the enlistment contract expires, the person is freed from those laws.

Similarly, when Israel entered into the Old Covenant at Mt. Sinai, they obligated themselves and future generations of Israel to follow the Law given through that covenant. But in the case of a covenant, the terms are binding until death. Covenants do not expire and cannot be canceled. You cannot quit a covenant, because Biblical covenants by Biblical definition are for life. So in order for a covenant to end, a death is required. And Paul builds on this principle to explain how our relationship changed to the Law when we became believing. He is using the example of a covenant of marriage in this case.

In verse 2 Paul says that if while a woman’s husband is living she is joined to another man (i.e., remarries), then she shall be called an adulteress. A marriage is a covenant, and like all covenants, it can only be broken by death. Because nothing else ends a covenant. Not even the breaking of the covenant by someone else. It just brings the penalty of breaking the covenant on that individual. So the penalties of breaking the covenant become the necessary response, it doesn’t end the covenant. And the penalty of breaking the covenant is death. So literally, a death one way or the other is the only way you end the covenant. So if while our spouse is living and we marry another, we are committing adultery. That’s why Jesus said this, in speaking of marriage and divorce:

Luke 16:18 (NKJV)

18 “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.

So Paul has to build on this principle. Keep in mind, if the principle Paul is embracing has any exceptions then the application he is making to our relationship to Christ would seem to have a suggestion of exceptions as well. This principle, he would not have used this analogy if the analogy had exceptions because the point he is trying to make by it is that there are no exceptions. Paul goes on to say that if a husband dies, the woman is free to remarry.  His death has ended their covenant and makes possible a new covenant without worry of adultery. This is why marriage ceremonies still include the declaration that what God has joined no one may separate. Society may prescribe legal ways to dissolve a marriage but God doesn’t submit to the decisions of our local county judge. That a marriage didn’t end until death.

 

 

“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”

 

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