In the preceding chapter Paul said that believers are "not under the law but under grace." He knew that this would be an offense to the believing Jews who still retained a high opinion of the law. Therefore, at the beginning of Chapter 7 he explains his meaning. The law to which Paul refers in this chapter is not the ceremonial law but THE MORAL LAW OF GODthe whole will of God manifested to all mankind.
1. God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience by which He bound him and his posterity to obedience (death being the result of disobedience). All men were placed under that covenant and that law (Gal. 3:10; Rom. 2:14-15).
2. This same law written on the heart continues to be the perfect rule of righteousness and pronounces a curse upon all who fail in the smallest measure (James 2:10). This law was delivered by God upon Mt. Sinai in ten commandments.
3. It is only when the believer is united to Christ that he is freed from this covenant of law. The language of the law is, "do and live," or, "if thou would enter into life, keep the commandments." But remember, the law not only reaches THE ACTS of men but also THE ATTITUDEnot only THE MANNERS of men but THE MOTIVE (Gal. 4:21; Matt. 5:21-22; 5:27-28; 5:38-39). We are bound to that law, married to it, and under it as a covenant until we are freed in Christ.
(Vs. 1) Death frees a person from the obligation of any law to which he is rightfully subjectnothing else can. Law, as a principle of justification and sanctification, has dominion over a man until (by union with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection) he becomes as a dead man in reference to the law! (Rom. 6:7.) He is then free from the guilt, curse, and dominion of the law.
(Vs. 2-3) The apostle gives an illustration in which death dissolves legal obligation. The woman referred to becomes dead to the law of her husband, not by her own death but by his death. If her husband dies, she is no longer bound to him in any sense; she is free to marry whom she will.
(Vs. 4) The believer's freedom from the law as a covenant of life and death (as a principle of justification or condemnation) is as complete as a dead man is free from the laws of the state or a woman is free from the law of a dead husband.
This freedom from the law is not by our death but by the death of Christ. However, spiritually considered, as we are in Christ and Christ in us, it was our death (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:6-8). The death of Christ was a death that answered all the law's demands. As the law has no further demands on Him, it can have none on us (Rom. 8:1; 8:33-34).
We are no longer married to the law but to Christ. OUR DEPENDENCE is on Him; OUR HAPPINESS is wearing His name; OUR JOY is sharing His love and fellowship. To believers this is so comforting. We are as completely and as blamelessly free from the covenant of the law as if we had never been under it. When Luther discovered this, it gave such relief to his mind that he considered himself at the gate of paradise. He said, "Our sins are ours no more but Christ's, for God laid them all on Him. On the other hand Christ's righteousness is ours" (Col. 1:22). Works that are the results of our marriage relationship to Christ, that are done in faith, and which spring from love are the only true and genuine fruits of righteousness.
Deliverance from the law in Christ is not only necessary for justification but also for sanctification. Men cannot be justified by the law in their natural state, and they cannot be sanctified by the law in the regenerated state (Gal. 3:1-3). The law cannot make an evil man good and it cannot make a saved man holy!
(Vs. 5) When you were in the flesh, what was the effect of the law on you? Did it make you holy? No! Instead of subduing sinful passions and thoughts, it irritated them. We were filled with displeasure toward the law and the law-giver.
(Vs. 6) But now we are discharged from the law and have terminated all intercourse with it, having died to what once restrained us and held us captive. We serve Christ, not under obedience to written rules and regulations, but in newness of life and love. The forced obedience of a man under the law is the obedience of a slave. The obedience of a man set free and adopted is the obedience of a son. The obedience of a wife is the obedience of love (II Cor. 5:14).