What Shall We Do With The Law - Part II
|“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”—Romans 7:4
In the last issue of The Evangelist, we began our study entitled, “What Shall We Do with the Law?” I encourage our readers to glance back over that article, if at all possible. In it, we attempted to show that every believer has to arrive at a biblical conclusion as to what his relationship should be with the Old Testament Mosaic law. To be honest, the believer has to determine whether or not he or she will live by law or by grace; and modern-day rules of religion or the ethical standards of any society are as binding and as spiritually unprofitable as attempting to produce righteousness by Mosaic law.
In our first article, we established that all men are born under the law and are subject to its righteous demands. If they fail to accept Christ as their Saviour, they will be judged by the law, that is, the Word of God. We introduced the terminology of the government of grace which is a system of attaining righteousness by faith. And we introduced a terminology of the government of law which is a system of attempting to attain to righteousness by man’s efforts or works.
Death Changes Relationships
In Romans 7:1, the Bible states that the law has dominion over a man as long as he is alive. This means that only death could separate an individual from accountability to the law. However, if an individual passes from life to death, the law becomes an inconsequential factor. Paul illustrates this in Romans 7:2-3. These particular verses are easy to misunderstand. Christian authors and commentators oftentimes try to make more of these two illustrations than is necessary. Paul is simply establishing the truth as to how a legal and binding relationship is properly ended.
In Romans 7:2, Paul declares that a married woman is bound to her husband until death. Thus, death changes relationships. In Romans 7:3, Paul declares a second and separate illustration. In this illustration, he states that a man or woman married to each other cannot legally marry someone else unless their first partner dies. Death changes relationships! If a woman, while still married to a living man, legally joins herself to a second partner she is an adulteress. But if her first husband dies, the one to whom she was legally joined and accountable to, she is freed from all the legal trappings that joined her to her first husband, and she is then free to join herself to a new husband. Simply put, death changes relationships.
So the only way for a human being to come out from underneath the legal requirements of law as the means to righteousness is for either the law to be eliminated, which will never happen, or for the individual to experience death himself. Death would bring him out from under the authority of the law. Simple faith in Christ will place him in a new system by which righteousness might be pursued and attained. But in order to be freed from the law, the individual will have to die. This is true because death changes the legal standing of relationships.
Dead To The Law By The Body Of Christ
Since law is the first government or system of works that governs the route to righteousness, Paul’s marriage analogy indicates that every human being is legally married to the law and must meet its righteous demands or pay the penalty for failure to do so. We all start life’s journey married to law as the means of righteousness.
But Paul then states in Romans 7:4 that all believers have become dead to the law by the body of Christ. This statement simply means that my relationship to the law has experienced a definitive change. To be dead to the law does not mean that the law has been eliminated. Neither is it true that I no longer exist as a legitimate person. But what has been broken and what has been changed is my relationship to the law. How did this occur? When did this happen?
In Romans 6:3-5 we find the answer. The believing sinner, when first coming to Christ, is baptized into Christ. This union causes him to become one with Christ. In Galatians 2:20, Paul declares that he has been crucified with Christ.
Therefore, being baptized into Christ and being baptized into His death establishes the legal requirement of death that frees me from the authority and righteous demands of the law. The relationship to righteousness by the law has been legally severed by my union with Christ at the moment of salvation. The law still exists and the government of law still exists, but I am no longer accountable to the law as the means of righteousness. I have become dead to the law by the body of Christ.
Bringing Forth Fruit Unto God
The believer’s righteousness is not established by his works, but rather his righteousness is established by simple faith in Christ. At the moment of conversion, the believer is brought into a new government relative to the means of righteousness. He is planted firmly into the government of grace and is now accountable to the concepts and precepts of that system. It is only under grace that a believer might experience both imputed righteousness and the reality of righteousness in his everyday life.
Now we are no longer accountable to law as the means of righteousness, being justified by faith, but yet the righteous requirements of law, living right, is to remain a product of the salvation experience. The believer is justified at salvation. He is sanctified in the sense that he is set apart for God. And he is ready to make heaven his eternal home. But being free from the law as the means of righteousness does not mean that I am free to disobey the moral codes of God. In fact, a new creation man is more accountable to live righteous under grace then he was under law.
We plan to deal with this concept in our next article.