Death Did Us Part: Dead to the Law to Serve in the Newness of the Spirit (Romans 7:1–6)

By | June 12, 2024

Romans 5:12–21 teaches an amazing reality—as Christians, we are no longer under sin and death but under grace and have eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:1–14 then explains that, since we are united to Christ who died to sin and now lives to God, so also we should no longer sin but live unto God as well.

These concepts don’t always stick with us the first time we hear them. So, Paul gives two pictures to help us understand. First, Romans 6:15–23 uses the analogy of slavery. Whereas we were once slaves to sin, now we are slaves of God. Second, Romans 7:1–6 uses the picture of a woman who is widowed and remarried to picture our death to our old way of life in order to belong to Christ and serve in the newness of the Spirit. What follows is a closer look Romans 7:1–6.

Like Romans 6:1, 6:15, and 7:7, Paul begins a section with a question in Romans 7:1. He appeals to what his readers “know”—the principle “that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives.” Paul’s question recalls his statement in Romans 6:15 (“we are not under law”) in order to explain it further. In short, his explanation is this—we are not under the law because we died to the law and now belong to Jesus Christ.

Paul gives his illustration in Romans 7:2–3. The important points of analogy are that a woman whose husband dies “is released from the law of marriage” and “is free from the law.” Released and free, she does not sin “if she marries another man.”

So, Romans 7:4–6 uses this picture to explain our relationship to the law. In Romans 7:4, we see that (1) we died to the law through the body of Christ; (2) we died to the law in order to belong to Christ; and (3) we died to the law in order to bear fruit for God (cf. Romans 6:22).

Paul elaborates on Romans 7:4 in Romans 7:5–6. In our old way of life, we lived in the flesh, captive to the law that aroused our sinful passions. As a result, these passions were at work in us to produce fruit worthy of eternal death. However, thanks to being released from the law in Christ, we serve in the newness of the Spirit (cf. Romans 6:4). Implied here is that this type of service bears fruit in us that leads to eternal life (cf. Romans 6:22).

Interestingly, if Paul were one-to-one with the details of his picture, the law would die so that we could then belong to Christ. However, the break from the picture is that we died to the law through the body of Christ who died for us in order for us to belong to Him.

Image by ScienceGiant from Pixabay