An Example From Marriage

A man decided to join a monastery and one of the rules of the group was that you were only allowed to speak two words every ten years. At the end of ten years he said, “Bad food!” Ten more years went by and he said, “Hard bed!” Finally, on his 30th anniversary … More

Rules

In this chapter Paul explains that “You were not justified by keeping the Law and neither can you be sanctified by keeping the Law.” Laws only have power over people who are alive (v. 1). To illustrate this truth, Paul uses an illustration of the marriage relationship (vv. 2-3). When a man and woman marry they are united for life, and this relationship can only be broken by death (not by divorce). As long as they live, the husband and wife are under the law of marriage. If the woman leaves the man and marries another man she commits adultery. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry someone else. It is only death that breaks the marriage relationship, and not all the things people are trying to say today. When we trust Christ we die to the Law. As a wife is no longer married to her husband when he dies, so a Christian is no longer under the Law.

The Law cannot exercise authority over a dead person (vv. 4-6). We died to the Law that we might be “married to Christ.” To say that I can only become holy and please God by obeying the Law is legalism. This means that spirituality would be measured by a list of do’s and don’ts. It merely judges the outward and not the inward. If it had not been for the law I would not have known what sin is really like (v. 7).

When there is no law, there is no sin, because people cannot know that their actions are sinful unless a law forbids those actions (vv. 8-10). God’s law makes people realize that they are sinners who are doomed to die, yet it offers no help. Sin is real, and it is dangerous (vv. 9-13). It is like a sign at the beach that says, “No swimming because there are sharks in the water.” The law is like the sign; it is essential, and we are grateful for it, but it does not get rid of the sharks.

Application

Do you know of any group that will not have anything to do with anyone who does not live by a list of do’s and don’ts just like they do? It is so easy for me to fall into this trap. This doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t have any rules to live by. It simply means that salvation and sanctification are not obtained by keeping a list of rules.

Romans 7:1-13 (English Standard Version)

Or do you not know, brothers--for I am speaking to those who know the law--that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

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