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A New Way of Service (7:1-6)

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Most people agree that the way to please God is to live a holy and blameless life. They are right. However, the problem we face is that we are not holy and blameless. All of us have violated God’s standards and become sinners. In this way, God’s Law which was supposed to direct us and show us how we ought to live, condemns us instead. As soon as we violate God’s Law, we are liable for the penalty of breaking it.

How can we free ourselves from the condemnation the Law places us in? Some would say that the answer to the Law’s condemnation is to get rid of the Law. As the Apostle Paul himself pointed out, where there is no law sin is not taken into account (Romans 5:12). Human courts do this all the time. They declare laws invalid and, thus, declare that those who have violated the law are, in fact, innocent. However, this solution is not available to us in regard to God’s Law. We humans cannot declare that what God has said is invalid. His Law remains in force regardless of what we want.

If we cannot free ourselves from the condemnation and penalty we have incurred from breaking God’s Law by overturning the Law, then what is the solution? The answer to freeing ourselves from the Law’s penalty is to pay it. We cannot be held liable if we have already paid the price the Law demands of us. Since the wages of sin (that is violating God’s standards) is death, we must die in order to free ourselves from the penalty.

In writing to the church at Rome, the Apostle Paul explains it this way. In chapter 7 of his inspired letter, verses 1 through 6, he says, “Or don't you know, brothers (for I speak to men who
know the law), that the law has dominion over a man for as long as he lives? For the woman that has a husband is bound by law to the husband while he lives, but if the husband dies, she is discharged from the law of the husband. So then if, while the husband lives, she is joined to another man, she would be called an adulteress. But if the husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brothers, you also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you would be joined to another, to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were through the law, worked in our members to bring forth fruit to death. But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that in which we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.”

In this illustration, Paul compares each of us to a married woman. In order to fully understand the illustration, please keep in mind that Paul is writing to people living in Rome. They were under Roman law in which marriage took place between one man and one woman. If you come from a culture which allows a woman to have more than one husband, or a man to have more than one wife, the principle Paul is explaining is still valid but you will have to make allowances for your own marriage laws.

Paul points out that a woman is bound to her husband by the covenant of marriage. The marriage covenant defines what she may or may not do, both in relationship to her husband and to other men. As long as she is married to her husband, the covenant or law of marriage is in force. She is not free to marry someone else, regardless of how much she might love him or enjoy his company. Similarly, the other man is not free to marry her, or to give her a home, regardless of how much he might wish to do so.

Suppose a married woman does marry another man? In the eyes of the law the second marriage is invalid. It is not a marriage at all. Instead, it is an act of adultery. Why? Because the woman has been unfaithful to the terms of her marriage covenant with her first husband. She is not free to arbitrarily overthrow the terms of that covenant. In the same way, we are not free to ignore or overthrow God’s Law. We are bound by it.

How can a woman become free from her covenant of marriage? The covenant is in force only as long as her husband lives. If her husband dies, then the covenant is no longer in force and the woman is free from its requirements. If she wishes to marry another man, she may do so. If she does, her marriage is valid. She is not an adulterous, but a legitimate wife.

It is the same with us and the Law. The Law has rule over us only as long as we live. The Law has no power over dead men. In chapter 6 of his letter, Paul pointed out that when we are baptized into Christ, we are baptized into His death. We die with Christ so that we can also be resurrected with Him. Our old person is dead and we rise from the waters of baptism a new person.

One of the effects of dying with Christ is that we also die to the Law. Since we are dead, the Law no longer has any hold on us. We are free from it and the penalty which comes from violating it. Like the woman whose husband is dead, we are free to enter a covenant relationship with another. And, in fact, we do so when we rise with Christ at our baptism. We are now in a covenant relationship with Him.

Paul points out that married couples produce offspring. In the same way, our lives also bear fruit. But what kind of fruit? When we were under the Law we bore fruit for death. Why? Because the Law aroused sinful passions within us. However, once we died to the Law, God’s Holy Spirit came to live in us. As a result we no longer bear fruit which results in death. Now the outcome of our lives pleases God and is for His glory.

The question each of us has to face is whether we are free from the Law or whether we are still bound to it. Have we died with Christ so that we are no longer under the rule of the Law? Does God’s Spirit live in us?

If the result of living under the rule of God’s Law brings death, then some might question whether God’s Law is good. How could something which is good and just have such an undesirable outcome? If you would like to know the answer to these questions, then listen to our next program.