Released From the Law, Bound to Christ
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? 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 that binds her to him. 3 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.
4 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.5 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. 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.
Paul uses a married woman as an example of how we are in our natural state. We are naturally sinful – married and bound to that rebellious nature – serving it, and knowing right from wrong because of God’s laws but unable to control our evil desires. So we produce lust for those things we know are wrong and that in itself is sin. This woman who lusts after another man is producing bad fruit (her sin), because she is bound to the man she married to but desires another. But if her husband dies then she is no longer bound to him and is free to remarry. This is true of us as well. If we could put to death our sin nature, and no longer be bound to it then we could be free to be righteous (and do good for good’s sake, not ours).
Paul explains that this is exactly what has happened to those of us in Christ. We have died to the bondage of our sinful nature (that was made apparent by the Law) and now are free to belong to Christ. When Christ died on that cross we died with Him spiritually, and when He rose to new life, we raised with Him. We died to flesh (sin/death/Adam’s curse/the Law revealing our sin) and we can now live for righteousness. We have been given God’s Spirit so that we no longer wish to disobey but to obey and accept all the gifts that accompany this new spiritual life. We are still living ‘with the law’ – we will not be totally free until our physical deaths because the law is for things of flesh – but we are no longer bound to the sin that is exposed by the law. We can now decide whether or not to remain in bondage to that sin or be empowered by the Spirit to change.
The truth is, we will belong to someone – either sin or righteousness. So we can bear bad fruit for sin or we can bear good fruit for God (who IS righteousness). Life or death?
The Law and Sin
7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the 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! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
**Example of $5 bill on the ground
- When I place the money on the floor it is no big deal – you probably didn’t have the desire to take it.
- Now, I will tell you that this is where I desire to keep my money forever, and it is mine, you can’t have it. If you take it you will be in trouble.
- Now I leave the room.
- Do you want it? Do you have any desires of taking it?
So I gave you a ‘law’ in that you could not take my money. The law I gave was not sinful – it was my money and I could do with it what I wanted. But the thoughts that came into our minds because of that law WERE sinful. You already knew that the money was mine before I told you not to take it. But once I told you not to take it, you wanted to take it. You get the idea.
This is what Paul is explaining about the law. Prior to the law man knew there was a difference between right and wrong. He has an inner consciousness – as opposed to a conscience that tells us whether or not to do the right or wrong (this is a subject for another time). Paul says that he would not have known what coveting was without the law. Even if you do not know what to call it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist – and once you DO know what to call it, it exists all the more.
Think about Adam. He was created perfect without blemish and lived peaceably in the garden until… God gave him 1 rule: Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Do you think Adam ever really thought about that tree before God said that? Maybe, maybe not.. but one thing we know – he never messed with it until it was off limits. “Once the commandment came, sin sprang to life and he died.”
Back to the money: did my rule (which was good in itself) cause you to sin? No. You are naturally inclined to take the thing you want, to be sinful – thus the overarching desire to do bad. So the law is not what causes death, but it does expose the sin that leads to death. God uses the law to expose the sin to show us that we are desperately in need of an outside source of help because we are naturally sinful.
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
We’ve already touched a bit on the ‘human consciousness’ and I want you to see how it plays in here. Paul says the law is ‘spiritual’ but we are ‘unspiritual’ – sold as slaves to sin. Prior to having any laws a human has 3 duties: eat, sleep, and protect his stuff. The difference between the man and the dog is the inner consciousness that makes him aware that if he eats too much he will be sick. This consciousness also makes man aware that he is not the only thing alive. A dog will go about his business totally unaware of a person watching them. A man has an idea that he is always being watched. This is our base form. We do what we can to provide for ourselves – we are flesh just like dogs but created with the knowledge of ‘something is out there’.
Why are we like this?
We were created for more than just being animals. We were created to have a relationship with our Creator. He gave us the ability to process ideas and emotions and an internal consciousness about our surroundings and standing in the universe. He wanted us to think about Him. However, when He gave the perfect man who never knew sin a rule that was not ‘natural’ to his instinct of ‘do whatever you want’ he decided he would still do whatever he wanted even though that rule was meant to protect him from spiritual death. To be spiritual is to be able to discern right from wrong and always make a choice for the good. We do not live spiritually; we live in the flesh, until God gives us His Spirit – the beginning of bringing us back to the place we were meant to be.
So until then, we are caught in this place of knowing there is a right and wrong but not being able to control what we do by ourselves (even if we think we can). Now let’s read Paul’s statement again and think about some sin (past or present) in your life that you found yourself doing even after you thought you mastered it:
I do not understand what I do.
For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
(He wants to do good but he always ends up doing bad.)
And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.
(If you know the law is right because it tells you not to do that thing but then you do it anyway, you are in effect agreeing with that law.)
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
(Now as a person who has been given the Spirit, he has the ability to be empowered by the Spirit and decide to do right or wrong. But there is a war between his old self and the Spirit inside him.)
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
(Paul explains that apart from the Spirit there is no good in him. He really wants to do good but is powerless against the sin that binds him.)
Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
(Again we see the war going on between his flesh and the Spirit. Because he has been given the Spirit and he is in agreement with the Spirit, when he does evil there is this new hatred of what he is doing and an awareness that it is wrong.)
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
(Paul admits that he wants to obey God but by his flesh alone he is unable.)
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
(This is the climax of this entire chapter. We are naturally sinful and cannot change it. But with God all things are possible!)
Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
(The ONLY way to be free from the chains of our flesh and sin is through the power of Jesus Christ who paid the ransom for that bondage. He laid down His own life so that we could place all of that sin on Him and reap the benefit of having His Spirit in us to be able to say NO to sin. He did this willingly, and for His own glory.)
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
(Paul reveals the state of every Christian waiting for their turn in eternity: our hearts have been set free from sin but our flesh still desires it’s filth.)
The Christian’s agony comes from realizing that our sinful flesh refuses to respond to the requirements of God’s Law. Those things which we as Christians despise we find ourselves doing. Those things which we as Christians desire we fail to accomplish. No matter how much we may wish to serve God in our minds, we find ourselves sinning in our bodies. But Paul does not dwell on the weakness of our flesh in order to discourage us. Rather, Paul exposes the weakness of our flesh as the root problem which prevents Christians from living the kind of lives God requires. If Romans 7 takes the Christian to an all time low, Romans 8 takes us to a refreshing high. Let us welcome these words of encouragement as a revelation from God, for these verses are God’s good news for sinners. – Bob Deffinbaugh (Bible.org)