Released from the Law

In Romans 6 Paul discusses how the believer has died with Christ and thus died to sin.  In vs 14-15 Paul states that believers are no longer under the law, but under grace.  This concept is fleshed out by Paul in Romans 7.  The child of God has been released from the bondage of the law.

He begins in vs 1-3 with an analogy to illustrate how the law no longer has authority over one who has died.  Paul uses the law regarding marriage to make his point.  A woman is freed from the law of marriage when her husband dies, that is she is released and is free to marry another in good conscience.  The death of her husband frees her to be joined to another.

Likewise, the believer is freed from the Mosaic Law when he dies “through the body of Christ” (vs 4).  The idea of dying through the body of Christ, speaks to Christ as our representative.  He physically died for us, thus we died in him.  Having been freed from the law, the believer is now free to be united with Christ; just as the woman in the previous analogy was free to marry another.  The purpose of this union with Christ is that we would belong to him and as a result bear fruit for God (vs  4).

In John 15 Jesus talks to his disciples about abiding in him and bearing fruit.  He makes it clear that we cannot bear fruit unless we abide in, or are joined to, him just as the branch must be joined to the vine.  So our death through the body of Christ, which releases us from the Mosaic Law and frees us to belong to or be in union with Christ, is essential to our fruitfulness.

When we were “living in the flesh” (vs 5) our sinful passions were aroused by the law.  As Paul makes perfectly clear in vs 7 he is not stating that the law was sin but rather aroused his sin nature.  The law did not cause sin, but by pointing out sin it aroused our sinful nature to sin.  Paul uses the example of coveting, but we know that whenever we are told not to do something it becomes the very thing our rebellious nature desires to do.  In this way the law not only revealed sin, but in so doing aroused our flesh to sin producing fruit that lead to death.  So the law is good, but because it did not empower us to overcome the sin it pointed out, it lead to death.

The believer has now, by their death through Christ, been released and is no longer in bondage to the law (vs 6).  Christians do not serve God in a legalistic manner seeking to obey the law to please God.  Rather, having been raised with Jesus they serve God in the “new life of the Spirit” (vs 6).  In chapter 6, Paul talks about this as becoming “obedient from the heart” (vs 17).  Indeed, as prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34, the law is written upon the heart of the believer.

In light of all of this, how is the believer supposed to view the Mosaic Law?  Is being released from the law a license to sin?  While the Christian is no longer in bondage to the law, seeking to slavishly yet powerlessly obey it, the fact remains that the law is good and reveals God’s will for man.  Christ stated that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17).  Likewise, the Christian, walking in the new life of the Spirit, will fulfill the law.  He will not do so by legalistic works but from obedience that flows from the heart.  By the power of the Spirit and motivated by a heart of gratitude for the grace of God our release from the law insures our obedience to it.

The idea being communicated in vs. 1-6 is interrupted by a parenthetical section in vs. 7-25.  The thought is picked back up in Romans 8:1.  Our release from the law and its penalties means that believers are now under “no condemnation” because they live the new life of the Spirit and thus obey from their heart.