Read Romans 7:1-6
The Great Breakup
When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down
with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to “marry” a
resurrection life and bear “offspring” of faith for God.
~Romans 7:4 (Message)
Going Deeper… They say that breaking up is hard to do. Whoever “they” are, they’re right. Whatever else, good or bad, painful or pleasurable, comes out of a breakup, one thing it does is to release those involved from the responsibilities of the relationship.
In this opening section of Romans 7, Paul uses the illustration of a marriage breakup—in this case, a breakup caused by the death of a spouse—to illustrate the Christ-follower’s release from the obligations of the Old Testament law. Now keep in mind that Paul’s primary purpose is not to establish a theology on divorce and remarriage—so don’t go there. What he has to say about that must be considered in the light of the rest of scriptural teaching on the matter.
Rather, Paul is using this marriage breakup illustration to make a different point. And the point is that when a marriage relationship is broken apart by death, the living partner is morally, emotionally and physically free to pursue another relationship. What bound the person before—which would include all the bad baggage that often attends human relationships—is now null, void, and ineffective. In principle, the living spouse is completely free. Any leftover obligation the living spouse carries is empowered only by the credibility they, and only they, voluntarily place in that obligation.
So as it relates to the Old Testament law, when Christ died those old obligations were completely canceled. His death is representative of our death to the law, and therefore our death to the sin the law revealed and empowered. In Christ, we have gone through a painful, but good breakup with the law that leads to sin and death.
Paul’s illustration here, and the teaching that follows, wonderfully explains the profound contrast between that impossibly burdensome life under the law with the new and life-giving relationship made possible by grace. Through Christ’s death, we have been divorced from the old and are now married to the new—hallelujah! Watchman Nee describes it well in his book, The Normal Christian Life:
Grace means that God does something for me; law means that I do something for God. God has certain holy and righteous demands which He places upon me: that is law. Now if law means that God requires something of me for their fulfillment, then deliverance from law means that He no longer requires that from me, BUT HIMSELF PROVIDES IT. Law implies that God requires me to do something for Him; deliverance from law implies that He exempts me from doing it, and that in grace He does it Himself.
Now keep in mind that the law, itself, was not evil. (Romans 7:14) In fact, the law was “holy, right and good.” (Romans 7:12) What Paul is revealing is simply that the Old Testament law cannot deliver people from their sin. And the whole purpose of the law was to remind people under its demands of that very impossibility. God, the Lawgiver, would have to step in himself and do what we, ourselves, couldn’t do through our efforts to obey the law.
So what all of that means for you and me is that if God’s own law cannot rescue us from sin, how much less can any other human law or religious demand or personal effort rescue us! Only grace from the Lawgiver that comes through his Son, Jesus Christ, can get that job done for us.
And best of us, under grace we are divorced from the obligation of even trying to live up to the impossible standards of the law. Rather, by that great breakup we are free to simply enjoy what God has provided. And that, my friend, is life!
“The greater perfection a soul aspires after, the
more dependent it is upon divine grace.”
This Week’s Assignment:
- Read Romans 7:1-25
- Memorize Romans 7:24-25, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
- Throughout Romans, it seems as if Paul has been pounding on the law. So was the law bad? Obviously not! So if the law is not bad, yet it doesn’t lead to true righteousness before God, what is its purpose then? Do a word search in Romans and Galatians (www.biblegateway.com is a good source), and read each context in which law is mentioned and see if you can come away with a better understanding of the purpose of the law that was revealed in Old Testament scripture.