Paul closes out this section dealing with the ethical power of salvation with an analogy to drive home his point. He uses the analogy of marriage to illustrate the new position of the Christian. Saying that natural death ends the obligation of the woman to her husband and so spiritual death abolishes the claim of law and sin on us.
Do you not know, brothers and sisters —for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? 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 that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with 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 if she marries another man.—7:1-3
Chapter 7 is very closely connected to chapter 6 and continues the sequence of illustrations in Romans 6:19-23. After Paul’s opening question, he employs an illustration from marriage to show that the law no longer has authority over the dead. The law of marriage is the legal bond between a husband and wife, but if the husband dies, the legal bond that united them is dissolved. After that the wife is free to marry again. The meaning of the analogy is this: The wife is believers, the old husband is our old self, and the new husband is Christ. The bond of law, which united us to the old body of sin and death, is dissolved so that we can remarry and be united to Christ.
So, my brothers and sisters, 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 for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 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.—7:4-6
Paul explains 7:1-3 in more direct language. The old husband represents the realm of the flesh (v. 5), which used the law to stir up sinful passions. But the law that connected us to the sinful realm has been severed, and so we are released from it to serve Christ by the Spirit.
Here is what Paul has been trying to say for all of Chapter 6 and these first 6 verses of Chapter 7: Living a Christian life is much more than merely avoiding sin. It is a positive yielding of ourselves to God as tools for his use. The sinlessness of Jesus was never described in negative terms in the New Testament. His sinlessness was positive. He was a man approved of God; he went about doing good. Christian righteousness must be of the same nature. When we let God use our lives in the promotion of righteousness we can be said to be living a truly Christian life. And that is where we will pick up tomorrow as we move into Paul discussion of the futility of legalism.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Isaiah 30:12-33:9, Galatians 5:1-12, Psalm 63:1-11 and Proverbs 23:22
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