Day 15 - Headed in the Right Direction
1 Do you not know, brothers--for I am speaking to men who know the law--that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? 2 For example, by law 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.3 So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man. 4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were controlled by the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, 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 in the old way of the written code. 7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet." 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
Peter Potterfield has hiked over 10,000 miles of trails on six continents. In his book, Classic Hikes of the World, he shares some of his favorites. Among them is Kungsleden, Sweden, the Kings Trail. Potterfield hiked 65 miles through birch forests, open tundra, beside big glaciers, and then over the shoulder of Sweden’s highest peak, Mt. Kebnekaise towering 6,926 feet above sea level. This trail lies 100 miles inside of the Arctic Circle, so it definitely qualifies as a far north trail. On his tips to fellow hikers, Potterfield said that this trail can be hiked in either direction, but he advised traveling from north to south because it keeps the sun on your face, which is no small consideration in the Arctic!
In Romans, Paul wrote to believers about the trail of life. He acknowledged that we can hike this trail in either direction, toward grace or toward law. He strongly recommended that we hike this trail in the direction of grace, because only then does the path lead to life and only then can we daily enjoy the Son before our face.
Paul has been communicating through a series of questions (6:1,14) and he continues using that literary device throughout chapter 7 (7:1,7, 13).
MARKING THE TEXT
Underline the phrase you also died to the law (7:4) and put a number 1 beside it. Underline the phrase that you might belong to another (7:4) and put a number 2 beside it. Underline the phrase in order that we might bear fruit to God (7:4) and put a number 3 beside it. Highlight the phrase through the body of Christ (7:4).
Don’t You Know that Death Releases Us from the Law?
Paul continued his discussion about how grace affects sin. He stated that sin would not be our master because we are not under law but under grace (6:14). We have a new master and have been freed from the tyranny of the law. In chapter 7, Paul used several illustrations to drive this point home. The first illustration was a simple story of how the law works and is directed at those who know the law (7:1). The word “law” can be used in several different ways. Paul most often used it to refer to the law of God, the 613 commandments contained in the Mosaic law, including the Ten Commandments. In 7:1-4, the word is used in a broader sense about the laws of society, particularly those that regulate marriage.
In the illustration a woman was married to a husband. Under law, she was bound to that husband legally in the relationship of husband-wife. If she married another man while her husband was still living, she became an adulteress. However, if that husband died, she was freed from that law and allowed to marry another husband and was not considered an adulteress. Death freed her from the law of marriage. The explanation of the illustration is found in verse 4.
First, just like the woman was bound to her first husband by the law, we were bound to sin by the law. The righteous standard of the law held us in a place of condemnation, it bound us. Remember the discussion throughout the last part of chapter 6 stated that we used to be slaves (bound) to sin. But sin died, just like the first husband died. How did sin die? Through the body of Christ (7:4)! We were in Christ when he took on the sin of the world and died (6:8) and so we are dead to sin (6:11). Since sin died, we are released from the law just like the wife was released from the law by the death of her first husband. Now we are free to belong to another. We are now married to Christ and instead of being bound to sin, we are bound to righteousness (6:18) not by the law, but by grace.
Consider this chart as you work through the illustration:
When a woman is married to a man, she is legally bound to him. She is not free to do as she pleases according to the law. But if the husband dies, the law is not binding her to anything so she is free from the law of marriage.
Because I was born with a sinful nature AND born under the law, the law keeps me bound to sin. The commandment is impossible for me to keep so I am bound to sin which leads to death.
However, Christ’s death was also the death of sin (Romans 6). My sin died with Christ on the cross. Therefore, just like the death of the husband freed the wife from the law of marriage, so the death of sin in Christ frees me from the law. Christ replaced my sin with His righteousness. Now I am bound to His righteousness, not by law, nor by my own behavior but completely by His grace. This is why in Romans 6:13 Paul urges us to yield our bodies to the righteousness to which we are now bound (slaves). What is the result? We will bear fruit (7:4). This fruit is not obedience to the law. In Philippians 1:11, Paul spoke of the fruits of righteousness and in Galatians, he speaks of the Fruit of the Spirit. So once we are freed from the law, what flows out of us? Sin? By no means (6:1, 15)! The grace of God produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23).
Having explained the illustration, Paul then emphatically stated his point in 7:5-6. The law did not really lead to righteousness. In fact, the law stirred up our sinful passions and produced more sin that eventually leads to death (bound to death). But now (7:6) because of His death, we are released from the law. We still serve God but not by a system of rules and regulations. Now we serve God by the Spirit that lives in us by the grace of God and produces fruit, fruit toward life. We are on the trail, and we are headed in the right direction, feeling the effects of the Son on our face!
MARKING THE TEXT
Circle the phrase, Is the law sin? (7:7) and the law is holy (7:12). Highlight the phrase through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful (7:13).
Is the Law Sinful?
Paul continued his series of questions (6:1, 14) with a question that arose out of the preceding illustration. If the law is what bound me to sin, is the law itself sinful? Paul’s answer again was a definite no! Paul used a hypothetical illustration of the role of the law, a role he had already taught in Romans 2 and 3. Let’s picture Paul saying it this way:
Imagine I was filled with covetousness (7:7). I couldn’t take my eyes off of your new house, the swimming pool in your back yard or your gorgeous wife! Before I knew anything about the command that says, thou shalt not covet, I was free to enjoy my covetous ways. However, once I was introduced to the law, I realized how sinful my covetousness was and I tried to stop coveting. The law was God’s righteous standard and righteousness was required for life. But instead of my obedience to the law bringing me life, I found the law to be impossible to keep so it brought me death instead. It wasn’t the law that put me to death, it was sin. The law is and always has been God’s holy and righteous standard (7:12). However, because of sin in me, it cannot make me righteous, it can only show me how utterly sinful I am so that I fall at God’s feet and beg for mercy and grace!
Now we may be reading this and thinking that it doesn’t really apply to us. After all, how many of us are still trying to please God by obeying the Ten Commandments? We know we were saved by grace, not by works. I wonder though if the church hasn’t replaced the Ten Commandments with a list of “rules for spirituality” by which we judge, condemn, and criticize ourselves and others. Having a daily quiet time, sharing the Gospel with others, generously giving toward the Kingdom of God, and faithful church attendance are all very good things. But have we made them the law? Do we get life out of obeying them and feel condemned when we let them slip? Do we look down on others who don’t keep the “laws”? According to this passage, I am free from the law of daily quiet time. I don’t have to have a daily quiet time to follow Christ, and I don’t have to feel guilty because I didn’t have my quiet time today. That being said, as I follow Christ, His grace through His Spirit in me produces a desire to spend time with Him. That desire may lead me to have a quiet time today, actually it already did!