Death to Legalism – Romans 7:1-13
Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only during that person’s lifetime?2 Thus a married woman is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies, she is discharged from the law concerning the husband.3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress.
4 In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.
The Law and Sin
7 What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived 10 and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.
13 Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
What does the Passage Say?
Paul is continuing to make his case to explain the Sanctifying Grace.
V. 1-6 Paul uses an analogy to describe our relationship with the Law. He says, “a wife is legally tied to her husband while he lives, but if he dies, she’s free” (v. 2 The Message). He continues saying since we died with Christ and united, in the resurrection, we are released from the law, by the invitation to live a spiritual life.
V. 7-13 Does this mean that the Law is evil? Paul explains why he thinks the law exists. He says that the law has it ‘perfect legitimate function.’ Without the law, we would not know between right and wrong. However, he says, being legalistic – bounded by the law, instead of freed from the law – can lead us to a life that is close to death.
He compares how the law can be distorted to function as the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
“The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of ‘forbidden fruit’ out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in that finery, I was fooled. So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead. But the law code itself is God’s good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel” (v. 8-12 The Message)
What does this mean to us?
One of the reasons we have a hard time understanding Paul’s assertion is because he is using Hellenistic philosophy, which we are not used to. Another reason is when we lose what point he is trying to make. He is continuing his thoughts on saying, “we should be wholly subjected to God.” In continuation, he is saying we can’t be submitted to the Law. Of course, he is not abolishing the law; he is making sure we yield to God first, making sure the law doesn’t take the place of God in our life.
“What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of “forbidden fruit” (V. 8 The Message).
In our legalism, sin can creep in and pervert our way of life. Instead of striving for spiritual holiness, we can fall into a hole. That is one reason we have to fix our eyes on God, instead of the ‘forbidden fruit.’ The ‘forbidden fruit,’ as it was in the garden of Eden, can be a marker stone between good and evil, but never take the place of our Lord.
Lord, sometimes we lose focus. Instead of seeing you, we see the world and others in our own legalism. Help us to focus on you alone. In Christ Name, Amen.
What are your thoughts?
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