Reading through Romans
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory. You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.
A reading from Romans: Romans 7:1-6 (NLT)
Now, dear brothers and sisters — you who are familiar with the law — don’t you know that the law applies only while a person is living? For example, when a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, the laws of marriage no longer apply to her. So while her husband is alive, she would be committing adultery if she married another man. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law and does not commit adultery when she remarries.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.
Reflection: Romans 7:1-6 (John Stott, The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World)
God’s law and Christian discipleship (7: 1– 25)
What is the place of the law in Christian discipleship, now that Christ has come and inaugurated the new era? In summary: three possible attitudes, the first two of which Paul rejects, and the third of which he commends. We might call them ‘legalism’,‘antinomianism’ and ‘law-fulfilling freedom’.
- Legalists are ‘under the law’ and in bondage to it. They imagine that their relationship to God depends on their obedience to the law, and they are seeking to be both justified and sanctified by it. But they are crushed by the law’s inability to save them.
- Antinomians (or libertines) go to the opposite extreme. Blaming the law for their problems, they reject it altogether, and claim to be rid of all obligation to its demands. They have turned liberty into license.
- Law-fulfilling free people preserve the balance. They rejoice both in their freedom from the law for justification and sanctification, and in their freedom to fulfill it. They delight in the law as the revelation of God’s will (7: 22), but recognize that the power to fulfill it is not in the law but in the Spirit.
Thus legalists fear the law and are in bondage to it. Antinomians hate the law and repudiate it. Law-abiding free people love the law and fulfill it. Directly or indirectly Paul alludes to these three types in Romans 7.
(vs 1-6) Release from the law: a marriage metaphor
a. The legal principle (1)
Paul lays down the principle which he assumes his readers know: the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives (1)…. Death brings release from all contractual obligations involving the dead person…. So law is for life; death annuls it. Paul states this as a legal axiom, universally accepted and unchallengeable.
b. The domestic illustration (2–3)
As an example of this general principle Paul chooses marriage, and in applying it extends it…. By law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive (or ‘until death parts them’), but if her husband dies, she is released from her marriage vows. The contrast is clear: the law binds her, but his death frees her…. Only death can secure freedom from the marriage law and therefore the right to remarry.
c. The theological application (4)
As death terminates a marriage contract and permits remarriage, so we also died to the law through the body of Christ, so that we might remarry or belong to another (4a)…. Death has secured our release from the law and our remarriage to Christ…. The purpose of our dying with Christ to the law is that we may now belong to Christ… and that we might bear fruit to God (4c)… i.e. holy living.
d. The fundamental antithesis (5–6)
In our old life we were dominated by that terrible quartet — flesh, law, sin and death (5). But in our new life, having been released from the law, we are slaves of God through the power of the Spirit (6). The contrasts are striking. We were ‘in the flesh’, but are now ‘in the Spirit’. We were aroused by the law, but are now released from it. We bore fruit for death (5), but now bear fruit for God (4). And what has caused this release from the old life and this introduction to the new? Answer: it is that radical double event called death and resurrection.
The Christian life is serving the risen Christ in the power of the Spirit.
Christ, as a light illumine and guide me. Christ, as a shield overshadow me. Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me on my left and my right. This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful. Be in the heart of each to whom I speak; in the mouth of each who speaks unto me. This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful. Christ as a light; Christ as a shield; Christ beside me on my left and my right.
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen