Romans 7:1–6 (NKJV)
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.
Notice what Paul is not saying. He’s not saying that our new life in Christ enables us to master the law by obeying it. In fact, Paul doesn’t say anything about new abilities. Our delivery from the law comes by an entirely different mechanism—death.
And it’s not the law that dies; we do. 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? … 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.
Paul is just finishing up the point he started in Chapter 6.
For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, … Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 6:7–8, 11 (NKJV)
Instead of being dead in sin, we’re now dead to sin. Just as death ends the marriage covenant, so our death and rebirth into Christ ends our covenant with the law.
The bond is broken. The laws are still there, and they’re still good laws, and we’re still not good enough to keep them.
But we’re no longer in that club. Its by-laws don’t apply.
There are two opposite errors to avoid here: paying too much attention to the law and paying too little. Legalism is wrong because it treats the laws as ruling over us, thus denying grace.
But the laws still deserve study and respect. They’re not stupid; they just don’t own us. God’s laws display his will. Praise God for our deliverance, but still honor Him by respecting His will. That means we shouldn’t stop trying to obey His laws—and that gets frustrating.
“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.” — John 14:21a (NKJV)
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