Paul wrote, “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. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet“” (Romans 7:4-7).
In Romans 7:4-7, Paul uses the illustration from the marriage law to explain the experience of the believer. His main point is that death releases the legal obligation. Therefore, as death liberates the wife from the duty of the marriage law, so that she may marry another, so the believer’s crucifixion with Christ frees him from the rule of sin and law, so that he may enter into a new spiritual relationship with Christ.
The purpose of the law is to reveal and identify sin in the life of the sinner so that he can go to Christ for cleansing. It is a great mistake to blame or condemn the law for achieving this necessary purpose. Paul does not in any way minimize the importance of the moral law (Exodus 20:3-17). On the contrary, his gospel magnifies the law.
One of Paul’s main concerns is that people need to understand the right relationship that exists between the law and the gospel, and his good message is that sinners must not rely on law to do for them what can be done only by the grace of God through Christ. An understanding of this basic truth of salvation does not belittle respect for God’s law; rather, it has exactly the opposite effect upon the believers (Romans 3:31).
Believers who have died to sin and are risen to a new life in Christ (Romans 6:2, 4) live a new spiritual life. Their obedience to God’s law is not legalistic, as if righteousness was merely external obedience to rules without conversion of the heart. True obedience is not a surface obedience to the letter of law but a matter of the mind and heart (Romans 7: 14; 2:29). Through abiding in Christ, Christians learn to have heart obedience. Such service is possible only through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Is the law a sinful thing, whose only purpose is to reveal sin? Paul answers by explaining that the law itself is “holy, and just, and good” (v. 12). And since sin is “lawlessness,” or “disobedience to law” (1 John 3:4), it is only logical that the work of law in a man’s life should be to expose his sin to him in its true nature.
The illogical thinking toward law is to see it as an enemy for having made this right exposure. A mirror is not an enemy to a person because it reveals spots on his face. Nor is a physician an enemy to someone who is sick because he reveals his sickness. In a similar way, God is not the cause of the sickness and spots of our sin because He shows it to us in the mirror of His holy law and by the divine Physician, who came to heal our sin.
In His service,
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