An Illustration from Marriage, Rom. 7:1-6
In Romans chapter 6 Paul made it quite clear that Christians have been set free from sin, both from the guilt of sin and continuing servitude to sin. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:22-23). Remember there were no chapter or verse divisions in the original New
Testament manuscripts. These were added centuries later to aid in locating Scripture references. Paul’s thought at the end of chapter 6 continues into chapter 7.
Israelite scholars deeply revered both the Law and the traditions that were attached to it. Although Jesus made it clear that he would fulfill and replace the Law, the Jewish nation as a whole did not accept this fact (Matt. 5:17 -18; Eph. 2:14 -16). At times the Jews were quite hypocritical in their application of the Law, but they still held onto the Law for dear life. A frequent Jewish charge against Christian evangelists was disrespect for the Law (Acts 21:27-28). We understand that preaching the New Testament gospel as the successor to the Law is exactly what God wants us to do (Acts 12:38-39; Rom. 1:16-17).
Paul uses the simple example of the law of marriage to illustrate that we do not serve the Law. He began by stating that he was certain they understood the principles of law. The Law was for the living, not the dead. Husband and wife are bound by the law of marriage as long as both live. The marriage ceremony often includes the words, “until death do us part.” The exception that Jesus taught regarding fornication, divorce and remarriage is not included in Paul’s brief illustration (Matt. 19:1-6). Death ends marriage, and the survivor is no longer bound by the law of marriage. A widow is free to remarry. As a surviving marriage partner is emancipated from the marriage bond, so the convert to Christ is free from servitude to the Law. We hardly think of being bound by the Old Law today, but this was a huge issue in Paul’s day.
“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” (ch. 7:4). Those who had lived under the Law died to that connection through Jesus’ sacrifice and through their union with Jesus’ death in baptism. Those who truly understand the significance of gospel baptism will want no connection to the Law. The Law gave opportunity for sin to run rampant. Law does not save; it only defines right and wrong and prescribes penalties for those who break the Law. The believer is freed from the Law and united to Jesus Christ.
The difference between the Law and the gospel is the difference between death and life. John wrote, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Jesus came to make all things new. The Law is no longer able to condemn the Christian. It has no hold over us. In baptism we died to sin and to the law that first defined sin. The gospel operates by grace and brings out the best in us. We live to bear fruit to God. We are not controlled by the sinful nature, or flesh, but by the Spirit of God.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.