Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
July 14, 2002
Released from the Law
Turn with me to Romans 7. We will be studying verses 1-6 this morning. As you
are turning there, let me briefly remind you of the context of this passage.
The book of Romans is Paul’s presentation of the Gospel message to the
believers in Rome who were a mixture of both Jews and Greeks. Paul begins his
presentation in chapters 1-3 by demonstrating man’s need of the gospel
concluding in 3:10 that "There are none righteous, not even one; There
is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God." Man is
condemned under God’s wrath because of his sin and therefore in desperate need
of salvation, but man has no means within himself by which he can gain that
salvation from sin. Paul presents the gospel itself in chapter 3 by telling the
good news that man can be justified from his sin through faith in the person and
work of the Lord Jesus Christ who lived a sinless life and then paid the penalty
of sin on our behalf and then rose from the dead.
This idea of being justified by faith apart from works seemed radically new
even though it is a concept that actually comes from the Old Testament. Paul
spends chapters 4-7 explaining salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus
Christ. In Chapter 4 Paul uses Abraham as the example of the faith that results
in justification. In Chapter 5 Paul explains some of the benefits of being
justified by faith including having peace with God and an ability to face any
circumstances of life with joy because of the absolute assurance of God’s love
for us as demonstrated in Jesus Christ dying for us while we were yet sinners.
Another benefit is that though we were born with Adam’s sin nature, we gain a
new nature through faith in Jesus Christ. The radical nature of this change is
explained by Paul in Chapter 6 through the meaning of the ritual of baptism.
In water baptism by immersion, the believer identifies himself with Jesus
Christ and the new nature he has received. As the believer goes under the water
they identify with Jesus Christ’s death and burial. This signifies the death
of their old self. As they are raised out of the water they identify with Jesus’
resurrection. This signifies their being raised to newness of life (6:4). This
being so, we are to consider ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God. This
is another benefit. Sin is no longer our master for we have gained a new master,
Jesus Christ, so Paul calls on us to quit obeying sin as if it was our master
and instead present ourselves slaves of righteousness.
Paul continues here in Romans 7 in explaining the new standing we have
because of being justified by faith in Jesus Christ. He also explains both our
relationship with the law and the conflict we continue to have with sin. We will
be looking at that in depth when we get to verse 14 in a couple of weeks.
Paul says in Romans 7:1-6,
1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law),
that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? 2 For the
married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her
husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3 So then if,
while her husband is living, she is joined to another man, she shall be called
an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is
not an adulteress, though she is joined to another man. 4 Therefore, my
brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that
you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we
might bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions,
which were [aroused] by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear
fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to
that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not
in oldness of the letter.
The Jurisdiction of the Law (vs. 1)
In verse 1 Paul explains the jurisdiction of the law. Now we, as gentiles,
might wonder why Paul is giving so much attention to the law if we, being
justified by faith, are no longer under it. We must remember that Paul is
writing to Jews. They had grown up with the highest respect for God’s law.
Notice Paul’s parenthetical statement that he is speaking to those who know
the law. They took to heart that the Law was from God and represented the
revelation of His will for them. They also took seriously the many warnings in
the Mosaic law about the curses that would come upon them if they did not obey
it (cf. Deut. 27,28). They needed to have a thorough explanation of how the
gospel affects the law and why. Paul’s opening phrase, "Do you not
know, brethren" is a gentle, rhetorical question that is designed to
challenge them to think through this issue with someone who is one of them.
The simple principle is that the law only has jurisdiction over those who are
alive. If a person is dead, the law has no power over him. Consider the homicide
bombers attacking Israel or the terrorists that have attacked our country. The
police have been able to figure out who they were, but there is nothing that can
be done to them because they are already dead. Some have suggested gathering
whatever pieces of their bodies could be found and burying them with a pig since
that would desecrate them according to Islam and prevent them from sharing in
the resurrection, but the truth is that once a person has died you can do
whatever you want to the body and it does not affect the person who once
inhabited that body. Even estate laws cannot affect the person who is dead, only
the heirs. The law only has power over a person while they are alive.
The Analogy (vs. 2,3)
In verses 2 & 3 Paul brings up an analogy to illustrate the point.
Marriage only lasts as long as both partners are alive. That is why in the
marriage vows it is "until death do us part." If a woman starts
living with another man while her husband is alive, she is an adulteress. The
same is true for a man that lives with another woman while his wife is still
alive. If your spouse dies before you, then you become single again. You are no
longer married. You might choose to remain single for a variety of reasons
including respect for the memory of your spouse, but you are free to marry
someone else in all holiness. In 1 Timothy 5:14 Paul even tells younger widows
that he wants them "to get married, bear children, keep house, [and]
give the enemy no occasion for reproach"
Now some have gone to this passage to support their position of no divorce or
no remarriage under any circumstances. That is not what Paul is stating here,
for Paul is not in anyway referring to divorce, remarriage or even separation.
He is simply using this as an analogy to illustrate his point about the
jurisdiction of the law only applying to the living. We will come back to this
later in the sermon and talk about separation, divorce, and remarriage.
Released by Christ (4)
In verse 4 Paul applies this principle to the believer’s relationship to
the law. Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through
the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised
from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God.
Died to the Law. The believer has died to the law through the body of
Christ. This is one of the wonderful aspects about being justified by faith.
Recall what I said last week about justification. It has a two-fold nature.
Justification is the judicial action of God who accepts the death of Jesus
Christ as the substitute payment for your sin so that you stand acquitted of
your transgressions of God’s standards. It then attributes to the sinner the
righteous standing of Christ. When Jesus died on the cross for our sin, the
requirements of the Law were met and we died with Him to the Law. We are
acquitted of our transgressions against the law. We are no longer under its
condemnation and penalty. When Jesus was raised from the dead, we were raised to
newness of life. Our relationship to the law was changed according to the
principle that Paul stated in verse 1. The law only has jurisdiction over those
who are alive, but we have died to the law. It no longer has jurisdiction over
Note here that the text states "you also were made to die to the
Law." This is an aorist passive verb meaning that this is something
that happened to you and not something you did yourself. You did not make
yourself die to the Law for you could not do that even if you wanted to. The law
applies to all who are in sin and you were in bondage to sin and could not
overcome it by will or work. Jesus took care of our sin problem through His
atonement and put us to death concerning the Law when we were justified by our
faith in Him.
Joined to Christ. This was not done so that we could be autonomous to do
whatever we wanted. I pointed this out last week. Here Paul brings out the same
idea in stating that we were made to die to the law "so that we might be
joined to another" whom He then states specifically is "Him who
was raised from the dead." That is Jesus Christ. To use the analogy
Paul used in verses 3 & 4. We had been married to the law, but Jesus put the
Law to death concerning us so that we are now married to Him.
To Bear Fruit. Paul points out that another purpose of our being made to
die to the law is that "we might bear fruit for God." What
fruit? Well, certainly the fruit of the Spirit given in Gal. 5:22,23 – "love,
joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
self-control." But that is fruit related to the Holy Spirit changing
your character, and He changes your character so that you might bring glory to
God through your life. That includes both your words and your actions. Recall
Jesus’ statement in the Sermon on the Mount that you are to "Let your
light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and
glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Mt. 5:16). Paul said in Eph.
2:10 that we were "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God
prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." In 2 Cor. 5:21 Paul
said that God "made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we
might become the righteousness of God in Him." Paul said in Eph. 1:4
that God "chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we
should be holy and blameless before Him."
You cannot get around the fact that the reason that we are saved is for God’s
own purposes in having us bring glory to His name through our becoming holy in
our manner of life and serving Him. We do not do good works to get saved. We do
good works because we are saved. MacArthur gives a good quote from theologian
Charles Hodge on this issue. It is worth repeating here too. As far as we are
concerned, redemption is in order to produce holiness. We are delivered from the
law, that we may be united to Christ; and we are united to Christ, that we may
bring forth fruit unto God. . . . As deliverance from the penalty of the law is
in order to [produce] holiness, it is vain to expect that deliverance, except
with a view to the end for which it is granted."
We should be praying for one another, as Paul did for the Philippians,
that we should be "filled with the fruit of righteousness which [comes]
through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."
The Weakness of the Law (vs. 5)
In verse 5, Paul points out the weakness of the Law. 5 For while we were
in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were [aroused] by the Law, were at work
in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. Paul uses the phrase
"were in the flesh" to refer to the time before we were
justified by faith in Christ. We were spiritually dead then and therefore
controlled by our carnal nature. Though the law is holy, righteous and good, as
Paul states in verse 12, the actual effect of the law upon the non-Christian is
condemnation. Why? Because the law does not restrain sin. It only sets the
standards which reveal the sin that is there.
The sinful nature that resides in the unregenerate heart is at its base proud
and rebellious. The result is that when law is given, the sinful passion of
rebellion takes the commandments given as just another opportunity to disobey.
That is what Paul describes here. The sinful passion within those who are in the
flesh is actually aroused by the Law to rebel against it resulting in the
accomplishing of sin. And the wages of sin is death, as Paul has already pointed
out in 6:23.
All of us are familiar with this idea. How often is it that when you give
your children instructions, it is like you suddenly gave them new ideas of how
to disobey you. Every parent has times like that with their child. It is that
desire that suddenly arises when you see a sign that says, "Do Not Touch,
Wet Paint." The sign is there to protect you from getting paint on you, but
as soon as you see it, there is a sudden urge to touch something you would not
have even thought about touching otherwise. Or how about speed limits? No matter
what the speed limit is set at, the average speed will be slightly higher. When
the speed limit on the interstate was 55 MPH, people were happily speeding along
at 60-65 MPH. Now that the limit is 65 MPH, people are happily speeding along at
Released to Serve (vs. 6).
We were under the law and in bondage to sin, but Christ has released from
that. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by
which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in
oldness of the letter.
Again Paul goes back to his premise of verse 1. The law only has jurisdiction
over those who are alive. Since we who were at one time bound by the Law have
been made to die to the Law through being justified by faith in the person and
work of Jesus Christ, then the law no longer has jurisdiction over us. We are
released from the Law.
Again, Paul points out that this is for the specific purpose of serving the
Lord in the newness of the Spirit. Salvation from sin does not make us
autonomous to do whatever we want. Freedom from the law does not mean that you
can now do what the law forbids or ignore what the law commands. Note the
contrast Paul makes here between serving in the newness of the Spirit and the
oldness of the letter.
The idea of serving here is not that of a hired servant who can leave his
employer if he does not like the working conditions or pay. The term here is
from douleuvw / douleuo which applies to a
slave. Prior to faith in Christ, we were under bondage to the law. We have been
released from that bondage to serve a new master, Jesus Christ.
Our old master was a taskmaster whose dictates we could not meet because we
did not have the ability. The Law revealed God’s standard, and that is good.
The problem is that our bondage to our sin prevented us from keeping any of
those standards. Try as we might, we would fail. All our righteous deeds were as
filthy rags before our holy God. We remained condemned.
Being justified by faith in Christ, we have a new master who has given us new
ability. The Law still reveals God’s standards, but it no longer condemns us.
First, we have been made righteous through Christ so that the law can longer
condemn us. Second, through the power of the Holy Spirit we can now serve the
Lord according to those standards.
It is no longer a gritting of our teeth and steeling of our will to keep the
law in order to win God’s favor. We no longer approach God’s law as a
taskmaster who continually beats us down. It is no longer a high wall that we
continually crash into because we cannot scale it. We no longer exam the minutia
of the law like a lawyer trying to find the loopholes that would get our case
thrown out of court.
Instead, we already have God’s favor because of Jesus Christ. God’s law
is no longer a taskmaster, but a friend who helps on our way. It is a high wall
that has already been scaled, so that we are on the other side. We do not keep
the law because we have too, but because we want to out of our love for our
savior who has even empowered us to be able to do it. Any concern we have about
the minutia of the law is only because we desire to better please our Lord. We
now serve the Lord in the newness of the Holy Spirit and no longer in the
oldness of the letter.
This is a poor analogy in some ways, but perhaps it will help you at least
understand the difference between obedience out of duty and obedience out of
love. When your children are young, you set the standards for their life and
enforce them with discipline. Children are naturally rebellious, but you have a
responsibility to teaching them to conform to the standards you have established
for your home. To the children, the rules are unfair and you are cruel for
enforcing them. They do not understand that you do it because you love them. As
you continue to raise those same children in the nurture and admonition of the
Lord, they grow in so many ways including their understanding of your love for
them and their own love for you. By the time they are adolescents, their living
according to the standards of your family should no longer be marked by
obedience because they have to, but rather by submission because they want to do
so out of their love and respect for you. (Let me quickly add here that the fact
that so many teens rebel now instead of submit to their parents out of love is a
reflection of the parents failure to properly train them. We will be again
teaching a parenting class starting in September. Details will be given out as
we get closer to the starting date).
The Christian no longer obeys the Lord because they are forced to do so, but
rather they submit themselves to do His will out of their own love for Him. The
Christian has died to the law and now serves the Lord in the newness of the
Spirit. This is one of the wonderful benefits Christians have because of being
justified by faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Review of Marriage
Let me know go back to the subject of the law and marriage that Paul used as
an analogy back in verses 2 & 3. It is never proper to take a passage such
as this and develop a whole theology from it. All Scripture passages must be
understood within their context first, and then compared with other passages
that speak to the same subject in order to build a comprehensive theology on
Again, the context of Romans 7:2,3 is as a simple analogy of Paul’s stated
premise that the law only applies to the living. In order to understand what God
says about marriage, separation, divorce and remarriage you have to examine a
lot of other passages. We have done that before here so there are audio tapes
available. I also have several papers on the subject and there are several books
in the library. But let me give you a brief synopsis on what the Bible says
about marriage, separation, divorce, and remarriage.
Marriage. First, understand that marriage is the creation of God, not
man. Jesus makes this point in Matt. 19:5,6 when He quotes from Genesis 2:24, For
this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his
wife; and they shall become one flesh, and then Jesus adds, "Consequently
they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together,
let no man separate."
God’s plan for marriage is that it is one man and one woman joined together
for life. Ephesians 5:31,32 strengthens this idea when Paul also quotes from
Genesis 2:24 and then adds, "This mystery is great; but I am speaking
with reference to Christ and the Church." Marriage is to glorify God by
picturing the loving relationship that Jesus has with the Church.
Separation. But the reality is that people are sinful and do not follow
God’s design. Jesus refers to this in Matthew 19:8 as "your hardness
of heart." In 1 Cor. 7 Paul deals with singles, marriage and
separation. He does not use the word for divorce in the passage. In verse 10 -14
he sets out God’s basic standard that the wife should not leave the husband
and the husband should not send the wife away. In verse 11 Paul adds, "but
if she does leave, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her
husband." Paul does not give specific qualifications for the
separation. There are good reasons for separation including protection from
physical and mental abuse of the wife or children. However, this separation is
not divorce. The marriage is not ended. The hope is for an eventual
reconciliation. In verse 15 Paul does deal with the specific case of an
unbelieving spouse who leaves. In such cases the believing spouse is not
required to try to reconcile with them. They can let them leave.
Divorce. Divorce is more serious than separation because it does end the
marriage. The first thing to understand about divorce is that God hates it
(Malachi 2:15-16) and the example of Hosea demonstrates how much even the
offended party should be seeking to restore the relationship. Divorce is not the
best in any situation, but because of the hardness of men’s hearts (Matt. 19)
there is Biblical grounds for divorce, but those grounds are very strict and are
given in Matthew 5:31,32 and Matthew 19:8,9. There has been much spilt ink over
what Jesus meant by lovgou porneiva" (logou
porneias) "except for the cause of immorality" NASB or "saving
for the cause of fornication" KJV or "except for marital
unfaithfulness" NIV. What must be kept in mind is that Jesus is speaking in
contrast to the self-righteous teachings of the Scribes and Pharisees in these
passages. The Scribes were teaching that Deut. 24:1-4 allowed a man to be
divorced for any unpleasing thing he might find in his wife. There are many
today that teach nearly the same thing about divorce.
Without going into all the different views on divorce, the least strict view
that would still be correct lexically, grammatically, and contextually is that
Christ allows for divorce only if there has been some type of sexual sin. This
would include pre-marital and extra-marital affairs, incest, homosexuality,
bestiality. These are things listed in Leviticus 18 as abominations to the Lord.
This view also has the strongest support of lexical, grammatical and contextual
studies. There are stricter views which for all practical purposes eliminate the
possibility of divorce.
The issue of remarriage is simply assumed within the text. Jesus does not
give reasons to divorce, but rather the exception in which adultery does not
occur for "innocent party" if there is divorce. If divorce occurs
apart from the cause of sexual immorality, then neither party can remarry
without committing adultery. If sexual immorality was the cause of the divorce,
the "innocent" party would be able to remarry without committing
adultery. The "guilty" party is in sin and needs to repent. But in all
cases of divorce, it would be best to be like Hosea and seek reconciliation with
the former spouse until there is no possibility of that happening, which would
be either their death or remarriage.
Let me add that divorce has become common in our society and it affects many
in the church. Regardless of the offense, Christ offers forgiveness to those who
truly repent. We should do no less. Those that look down on those who have been
divorced are in danger of the same self-righteousness that existed in the
Scribes and Pharisees. In 1 Cor. 6:9-11 Paul lists a number of sins that once
described the people in that church, but he adds that they were washed,
sanctified and justified by Jesus Christ. When a person comes to Christ, they
become a new creature. In a sense, there is a fresh start.
And then finally, eggs cannot be unscramble. In whatever position you find
yourself at this moment, live it totally for the Lord. If you are a Christian,
thank Him for His forgiveness of your sin. You are no longer what you were and
you have been given the Holy Spirit by which you can seek His will and His glory
above all else. If you are not a Christian, then what is holding you back. Talk
with myself or one of our church leaders and let us introduce you to Jesus
Christ, that you to may walk in the
newness of life in the Spirit and no longer under the mastery of sin.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s
lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something
you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older
Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word
"law " is mentioned. 2) Discuss with your parents your relationship to
the law of God.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the
context of Romans 7:1-6? Who is Paul specifically addressing in this passage?
How do you know that? What is the premise of verse 1? Give your own examples of
this axiom demonstrated in life. What is the point of the analogy given in
verses 2 & 3? What do these verses tell us about divorce and remarriage? How
is the premise of verse 1 applied to the believer’s relationship the law? How
is this possible? How did this change our relationship to Christ? What is the
purpose of our being "made to die to the law"? What is the fruit being
referred to in verse 4? What conclusions must be made about someone who bears no
fruit? What is the weakness of the Law? How is that weakness manifested? How
have you seen this weakness manifested in your own life? What does it mean that
we are "released from the Law" (vs. 6). What are we released to do?
What is the nature of the "serving" in verse 6? What is the difference
between serving in the "newness of the Spirit" and serving in the
"oldness of the letter"? What is God’s design for marriage? What are
the parameters of separation? What does the Bible teach about divorce and
Sermon Study Sheets
Sermon Notes – 7/14/2002 am
Released From the Law? – Romans 7:1-6
The Jurisdiction of the Law (vs. 1)
The Analogy (vs. 2,3)
Released by Christ (4)
Died to the Law
"Made to die to the law"
Joined to Christ
To Bear Fruit
We do not do good works to get saved. We do good works because we are saved.
The Weakness of the Law (vs. 5)
In the flesh
Arousal of sinful passions
Released to Serve (vs. 6)
Freedom from the law does not mean you can now do what the law forbids or
ignore its commands
Serving in the Oldness of the Letter
Serving in the newness of the Spirit
Review of Marriage
Marriage is the creation of God.
Separation . 1 Corinthians 7:10-16
Separation has the hope of reconciliation.
Divorce ends marriage. God hates it, but because of "hardness of
hearts" allows it.
lovgou porneiva" (logou porneias)
Jesus does not give reasons to divorce, but rather the exception in which
adultery does not occur for the "innocent" party if there is divorce