Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Big Difference 4 - Under the Law vs. 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? 2 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. 3 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. 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. (Rom 7:1-6 NKJV)

The first thing I want to point out here is that I've heard this passage used time and time again in the context of rules for Christian marriage, but yet it has nothing to do with that! Paul was using an example from Jewish Law to make a point about our need to be freed from the Law in order to be "married" to Christ.

The Law was given to charge the world with the guilt of sin. Rom 5:13 says that sin was in the world before the Law, but without Law sin could not be imputed (charged) to man. That was the purpose of the Law, to charge sin to man's account. The Law was never given as a way that man could get right or stay right with God, and it wasn't given as a "moral compass." If it was meant to be a moral compass... it didn't work!
Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded , grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 5:20-21 NKJV)
Through the Law, sin abounded. The Law never has and never will curb sin. It produces exactly the opposite of what the carnal mind logically thinks it should.

And so the problem, as presented in the first passage above from Romans 7, is that if we are under the Law, we cannot be joined to Christ. The Law only leaves us guilty, and through it sin abounds. Even a little Law will do this. Speaking in the context of the Law, Paul warned the Galatians that "a little leaven leavens the whole lump" (Gal 5:9). Paul had just finished speaking about the bondage of the Old Covenant (Gal 4). The Law can never and will never set us free. It only keeps us in bondage. That's it's "job," so to speak. That's it's purpose.

So... how do people who are "married" to the Law gain freedom from the Law? According to the example in Romans 7, one of two who are bound in marriage has to die in order to legally be unbound (freed) from the other. Well, the Law wasn't going to die. The Law is holy and perfect and has no obligation or need to die! So... the only solution left is that we had to die! Only when we died to the Law, were we able to be raised again with Christ. We are now dead to the Law. Having been freed from the Law through our very own death, we have been made alive together, once and for always, with Christ.

Paul exhorts the Galatians, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Gal 5:1). He is speaking to believers who have been set free from the Law and have been made alive together with Christ. I'll paraphrase what he goes on to tell them. "If you think the Christian life has anything to do with keeping the Law, then you are obligated to keep the whole Law. If this is really what you think it's about, then Christ is of no benefit to you!" (see Gal 5:2-4)

In this life in Christ, we must stand firm in our freedom! We don't keep going back to the Law (that we died to!) in order to improve our performance in our Christian life. That's bondage! A little leaven means bondage for the whole lump of dough.

Our guide, our "moral compass," our way of living is no longer found in Laws but is found in a Person with whom we've been made alive together! This Person resides in us. He is not a set of external rules, principles or laws. He is freedom personified! We have been made alive together with Him. He (Jesus, the person who dwells in us) is the way, the truth and the life!

*For an explanation of this Big Difference series, see the original post.*


  1. Great teaching and reminding!
    Those verses from Romans 7 leaves no room for 'little' law. We are to die (not even divorce!) to the law so that we can be a bride of Christ! It's amazing!

  2. Yes... that is so very true! It's not that we get a divorce from the Law. The only legal way out of the contract is death. Even in divorce, both parties are still living, and the Law would still have dominion. We could still not "be married to Another," since the Law itself says that that is adultery.

    We had to die to the Law. The Law no longer has dominion over us because we are dead to it and alive to Another! Makes me wanna shout and sing! :)