Dead to the Law
THE END OF AN ERA (ROM 7:1-6)
This morning we continue our study of Romans by looking at Rom 7 which explains how the gospel has changed our relationship to the Law forever.
Rom 5-8 is a section explaining the fruit or results that flow from our justification, the hope that God has given us through faith in Jesus Christ. It’s a hope which is not just for tomorrow, but for today. The gospel is not just good news that one day we can go to heaven and be with God, it’s good news for today, that today, we can now know and serve God in a whole new way.
As Christians and Christian churches seek to live out the gospel in daily life, we can easily fall into one of two traps:
· We can either go liberal, become licencious and downplay the seriousness of sin – or we can become legalistic, fall prey to dead, formalism consisting of a rigid set of do's and don'ts and not much more.
· We can adopt the view that the gospel frees us from the penalty of sin, so we have been freed from condemnation. Grace gives us a license to sin. We can now sin with immunity and impunity. We can receive God’s grace in Christ and then go back and live for sin, live in sin, just the way we used to….except that now the penalty of sin has been removed.
· In Rom 6 Paul corrects this wrong way of thinking. Rom 6:1 “What shall we say then? (in the light of God’s grace in Christ_ are we to continue to live in and for sin so that God’s grace may abound even more?....By no means (shock and horror)! That you would even dare to think that way about the gospel. Rom “We have died to sin, how can we still live in it?” and the rest of the chapter explains how we are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
· The power and controlling influence of sin has been broken through our union with Christ. Rom 6:17-18. The power, the rule and reign of sin has been broken and we are now slaves of righteousness, united to Christ.
· But we can fall prey to an equally dangerous perversion of the gospel. We can adopt the view that the gospel has freed us from the penalty of sin, so we are free from condemnation. We receive God’s grace in Christ and then go back and live under the law, live by the law, as if the gospel has changed nothing. Paul corrects this wrong way of thinking in Rom 7. Rom 7:4 “Likewise my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, so that you may bear fruit for God.”
· The gospel has not only changed our status before God, it has not only changed our eternal destination, it has changed how we live and serve God today. God’s gift to us in Christ means that you can’t go back and serve sin anymore – you’ve died to sin and are alive in Christ. God’s gift to us in Christ means that you can’t go back and serve God by means of the law anymore, you’ve died to the law and live by the new way of the Spirit.
For the most part, Christians haven’t grasped the impact of justification on sanctification, or how the gospel changes the way we live. We tend to think of salvation as freedom from the penalty of sin, freedom from condemnation – but we have no idea how the gospel changes the way I live today and every day. We receive Christ and then want to go back and live just the way we did – in licentiousness or legalism and neither are an option for the Christian.
So I’ve called this message “The end of an era” to emphasize how the gospel has brought an end to the old era, the old way of living and ushered us into a new era which gives us a new standing before God and a new way of serving Him.
Read Rom 7:1-6
As we try understand this passage in context – we need to consider 3 important topics which underly this text – righteousness, law and Spirit.
· You have a new righteousness (for today) (Rom 3-7)
· You have died to the Law (7:1-3)
· You have been married to Christ (7:4-6)
A New righteousness for today (3-7)
We must see this passage in context, as the climax of an argument that Paul has been making since Rom 1. The Law as it relates to righteousness.
· Rom 1-3 we are all sinners who rightly deserve God’s wrath. Rom 1:18. Both Jew and Gentile are likewise guilty before God.
· Rom 3:9-10 – none are righteous
· Rom 3:19-20. The law has rendered everyone guilty as charged and by the works of the law, by human effort and achievement – no human being will be justified in God’s sight. The law condemns all.
· Rom 3:21-24 but now, God has provided a new way of righteousness. It’s not a way of law righteousness, but a way of grace righteousness. Righteousness is God’s gift through faith in Christ. His death for our sin, His life for our righteousness.
· That’s justification. Rom 3:28. God’s views us in union with Christ so that our sins are paid for by His death and His perfectly righteousness life is regarded as our righteousness.
· Rom 4 expands on this faith – the need to look away from personal merit and performance under the law and instead trust in what God has provided in Christ. Rom 4:13-16
· Rom 5 begins to explain the fruit or results of this new righteousness, this new justification. It gives us a new hope, a new confidence, a new standing before God. Rom 5:1-5. The term “justified” means, to be made righteous, as some translations even put it. To be justified is to be made righteous before God, it’s the same root in Greek. That has been the thread running through the whole argument up to this point. We stand in grace, we rejoice in hope – because we have been justified or made righteous.
· But notice how closely this text links our position with God and our daily walk. We have peace with God, the hope of glory, but we also have hope in present sufferings. Hope for today.
· Justification, or our new righteousness which comes as a gift through faith in Christ – not only effects our position or standing before God, if effects our daily life. It not only changes our tomorrow, it changes our today.
· The righteousness that we have been given as a gift not only frees us from the condemnation of the law, it frees us from the law as a way of life. It not only ushers us into a new legal standing before God, it ushers us into a new way of living for Him.
When Paul said in Rom 3:21 that the gospel has given us a new way of righteousness, a way that is not based on the law but is a gift through faith in Christ – he wasn’t only talking about our legal standing or status before God, He was talking about practical, daily righteousness as well.
Rom 6:14-15 “Sin will have no dominion over you because you not under law but under grace.” Grace is now the controlling influence, the defining feature, the dominating characteristic of our lives, rather than law. Grace frees us from sin and from the law.
So this is the paradigm shift you and I must get. When we believe in Christ and are justified as a gift, we not only enter into a new standing or status before God, we begin a whole new way of living for Him. We can’t receive Christ and then go back and live like we use to – in sin, under sin, for sin or by the law, under law, for law.
Our new righteousness through faith in Christ – changes our destination from eternal death to eternal life, but it also changes the way we get there.
The life controlled by sin and the life dominated and controlled by law – both lead to death. Christ leads us to new life and a new way of living.
Justificiation ushers us into a whole new way of living. Grace is on the one side and sin on the other – these 2 are incompatible. But now Paul puts grace on the one side and Law on the other – these 2 are also incompatible.
2: You have died to the Law (7:1-3)
We are no longer under the law as the principle of life, as the means by which we serve God and live out practical righteousness.
The first thing we must settle in our minds is what law Paul is talking about here?
· The term “law” can refer to any rule or principle of life, but normally then it is qualified, so we know what rule or principle is being referred to – as in Rom 3:27 or 8:2.
· In the opening chapters of Romans Paul repeatedly refers to the Law without further qualification and almost without exception he is referring to the Jewish law or Mosaic law. The 10 commandments and expansion of those.
o Rom 2:14-17 – The Gentiles didn’t formally receive the Law, yet the principles of the law were written into their DNA. The Jews boasted about knowing and having the law, but they didn’t keep it.
o 3:19 the Law didn’t bring righteousness, but showed people’s sinfulness. God’s way of righteousness couldn’t be through the law.
o 4:13-15 God’s way was a way of faith, rather than by law-keeping. The law brings only wrath
o 5:12-14 Sin and death were in the world even before the law was given, even in that interim period between Adam and Moses – so again, Paul clearly has the Mosaic law in mind.
o 5:20-21 – the law was given, not to increase righteousness but to increase trespass. To show people how sinful they really were. If God said go left, sinful people would want to go right. If God said up, our sin would want to go down. Sin and the Law were like terrible twins always sowing death, always working together to produce death rather than life.
o So already in chapter 5 Paul is beginning to put law and sin and death on one side of the equation and grace and life and righteousness on the other.
We must understand how radical this view was to Jews. They thought the Law was God’s gift to them to provide a way for them to be righteousness. So for Jews, the Law was Grace and life and righteousness here Paul is saying -no, sin and death go with the Law – God’s grace sets us free from the Law so that we might know true life and righteousness.
Paul’s view is so radical that he has to clarify in 7:7 the Law is not itself sin and 7:13 the Law is good and didn’t itself produce death. But because of sin, the law became an instrument of death.
So God had to provide a way for us to be freed from the tyranny of the law. Free from the Law, not only from the condemnation of the Law, but from the Law as a way of life! The only way someone could be released from their obligations to the law was through death.
Illustration from marriage
To illustrate his point, Paul takes a specific instance of the law. In the Mosaic law, a woman was not permitted to divorce her husband. She was bound to her marriage covenant for life. If she broke her marriage covenant, she was a lawbreaker, an adultress and subject to the punishment of death. But if her husband died, she was released from those obligations and was free to marry another man and in that case was not regarded as an adulteress or lawbreaker.
So death was the only way out of her obligations under the law.
Which is why God has provided for our death in the gospel.
Vs 4 We died together with Christ so that we could be freed from our obligations to the Law, so that we could be freed to belong to another. The Greek verb is in the passive, showing that this was done to us and for us. In this case – God is the one who put us to death, He killed us together with Christ as we saw back in Rom 6.
· Rom 6:5-7. In Rom 6 we died with Christ in order to be freed from sin and bear fruit for God.
· Here in Rom 7:4 we died with Christ in order to be freed from Law. Note the purpose statement in vs 4 – this was necessary in order that we might bear a new kind of fruit, fruit for God. The fruit of our obligation to the Law produced only condemnation and death. We needed to get out of that marriage and the only way out was through death.
You have been put to death with Christ and thus freed from your obligations to the law.
Illustration: free to love
This is a bit hard for us to understand and accept, so perhaps an illustration will help.
If I’m married to Megan and we’re in a terrible marriage and I have no desire to love her or honour her, or be with her – but all I have are these obligations and Megan holds me to them with the constant threat of punishment. You need to buy me flowers once a week, to the value of R200 Rand (or else) and kiss me every morning and evening, and take me out to dinner once a month, and and and. Every time she forces me to do all these things out of mere obligation under threat of punishment – my love for her dies. You can’t build a happy healthy marriage that way. If I have to buy her flowers out of fear, I’m never free to buy her flowers out of love.
I have to be freed from the tyranny of marriage ruled by law – so that I can have a marriage ruled by love – one in which I want to buy her flowers and take her out to dinner and I enjoy doing that for her. One in which I invent creative and romantic ways to do even more than what I was obligated to do under law – because my delight is to delight her. If I really loved Megan from my heart, with my whole heart – then I would willingly and joyfully do all those things and more….
So the idea here is not that we have been free from the law to live lawlessly, but freed from this obligation to law so that I can be married to another.
3: You have been married to Christ (7:4-6)
Notice in vs 4 there are two purpose clauses….
· You have died to the Law – so that you might belong to another.
· We have been widowed from the Law so that we might legitimately be married to Christ.
· The second purpose clause is in the second half of vs 4 – so that we might bear fruit for God.
· Both death to sin and marriage to Christ is necessary for us to bear righteous fruit.
· Again we have that contrast – dead to sin, dead to law – union with Christ, life in Christ. We have put off the old and put on the new.
Vs 5 explains why we had to die to the Law – because the Law was used by sin to produce death.
The law does not restrain sin (5)
Let’s not overlook how shocking and radical Paul’s perspective is here.
· The law doesn’t restrain sin, it arouses it.
· Our sinful passions come through, or are ignited by or aroused by the Law.
· Law is not like a fence, that holds sin back and keeps it from breaking out. The law provides the tracks so that the train of sin can speed ahead to its final destination which is death.
· This is a radically different view of the purpose and function of the Law.
· So again, let me use an illustration from life to bring out just how different this view of Law is.
Parents set rules
· As parents, we set rules in our home for our children, thinking that by these rules we are restraining sin, protecting our children from the folly of their sinful choices. We think that by our rules we are building a fence to protect our children from sin.
· Really, by this view here, we are building a railway which leads to rebellion.
· Then we bring in punishments or different kinds, consequences for breaking the rules in our home. That doesn’t teach our children to love what is right – but to hate it.
Apart from the gospel – this is the way Law operates – it ignites rebellion, it stimulates sin.
If you allow you children to consume any amount of alcohol they want from any age, watch anything they want on tv, spend as much time on social media or video games as they want and skip school whenever they want – there is much less cause for conflict in the home.
But the minute you lay down the law – you have invited war into your home….And that war, according to this text, doesn’t restrain sin in the least, it doesn’t protect our children from the folly of their sin – it provides railway tracks for the sin to speed along toward rebellion and death.
Except for the good news of the gospel which changes everything….
What Paul is here beginning to explain is that the Law is not a fence which restrains sin, its not railway which leads to righteousness. It’s a railway which leads to sin and death – or Christ and life.
The Law cannot restrain sin – but it can show us our need of Grace and grace alone can restrain sin.
· The fear of punishment doesn’t teach our children to delight in God’s law – only the gospel can do that.
· By this view, we set rules in the house, not to restrain sin – but so that our children will see more clearly how sinful they really are, how much and how often they desire to sin – so that they will realize they need God’s grace in the gospel.
· The law lays down tracks that either lead to sin or to Christ. The law never leads to righteousness of any kind.
· The gospel provides for a new way of righteousness, which gives us a new standing before God and a new way of living for Him.
I hope you are beginning to sense how different and radical this view of the Law really is because it’s going to form the basis of the rest of the chapter and an essential to our sanctification.
Serving in the Spirit (6)
Vs 6 We needed to be freed from the tyranny of the law so that we could serve God in a new way.
· Here you can see that Paul is talking about a new way of living, a new way of serving God, a new practical righteousness.
· This discussion is not just about being free from legal guilty and the condemnation of the law. Its about being free from the law so that we can bear fruit, so that we can serve and worship and walk in a completely new way.
· The Spirit provides tracks that lead to a new destination – life and peace and righteousness.
· The whole of chapter 8 will expand on this new way – which is here set in contrast to the old way of the law.
Before He gets there, he’s got to spend the rest of the chapter killing this view that the Law sanctifies because it is so ingrained in all of us. We either want to receive the gospel and go back to sin or receive the gospel and go back to legalism as a way of life and neither are an option for a believer.
So let me close with one or two illustrations
Application: The Law cannot sanctify
The question I get asked very often is – how much must I tithe and should that be on my gross or net pay? The Law required tithing for the upkeep of the temple and it defined clearly when and where that tithe was to be given and incidentally it required more than just the 10% which was given to the Temple.
· In the gospel we understand how much God has freely given us and the more we understand God’s grace to us, the more the Spirit makes us want to be gracious toward others. The effect of the gospel is not to make us live selfishly and sinfully, only looking out for number one. Neither is it to make us live legalistically, merely fulfilling the obligations of the law – but it changes our hearts so that we desire to be generous and it frees us from the stipulations of the Law so we can find creative ways to express that generosity and what we give as a fruit of the gospel – goes way beyond what was required by the Law. People have given us holidays and cars and bicycles and meals and clothes and washing machines. These things are not required by any law, but grace leads us beyond the Law, to a joyful, sacrificial generosity that the Law could never lead us to.
The law cannot and does not sanctify. We must get this….Rules and boundaries and accountability – which is externally imposed – don’t sanctify, don’t restrain and hedge sin in. In fact, just the opposite – they ignite the sinful desires within. We don’t grow in the Christian life by legalism….but by grace.
Yet so much of our Christian life and so much of the way church’s operate is really an attempt at sanctification by law rather than by gospel grace.
Gal 3:24 “The law is a guardian which is meant to lead us to Christ so that we might be made righteous by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the guidance and tutoring of the Law.”
Sanctification is by faith and faith looks upon and lays hold of Christ. That is how we grow in Christ- likeness, by looking upon and laying hold of Christ more each day.