Summary: This is the 12th of 30 studies on the Book of Romans and talks about the fact that we've been freed from the law.
1Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
In Romans 6:15-23, Paul talked about our being freed from sin as the second reason to not continue in sin - now that we’re under grace and not under the law. The first reason he gave was in Romans 6:1-14, where he earlier explained that since we are now dead to sin, we should therefore not live in it any longer.
He now goes on to use the analogy of marriage to explain that we are no longer controlled by the law but are rather led by the Holy Spirit. He begins with a question to the Christians who were from a Jewish background, and asks if they don’t know that a man is bound by the law only as long as he lives. He seems to be saying that as long as they were under the law (alive to the law), they were controlled by the law, but now that they are under grace, and not bound by the law any longer, they are no longer under the control of the law.
He then begins his analogy of marriage where he says that a woman is bound to her husband as long he is alive, meaning that she doesn’t have the freedom to remarry while he is still alive. However, if he dies, then she is free to remarry. He then goes on to say that if she remarries while he is still alive, she is guilty of committing adultery. But if her husband dies, she would not be considered an adulteress even if she marries another man.
He then makes the connection to the Jewish believer’s relationship to the law, and refers to them as being dead to the law, on account of their faith in Jesus. While they tried to follow the law, they were ‘married’ to the law, as it were, but now that they believe in Jesus, they’ve been married’ as it were to Jesus, who was raised from the dead, meaning that the one who freed us from the law through His death, is alive again. He’s alive to help us live the life we could not live earlier – a life pleasing to God. Now we can live such that we can reflect God’s nature / character / image in our lives. That’s what he means by bearing fruit to God.
He goes on to say that when we were in the flesh (led by our sinful nature), we were busy fulfilling our sinful desires that were actually aroused by the law. (We already looked at how the law made us more aware of what sin really was, and that created in us a greater desire to sin, and therefore we could not stop sinning. In fact, the more we tried to keep the law, the more we sinned). At that time, we used the parts of our body to commit sin that led us to death. Sinful living eventually leads to death (eternal separation from God in hell).
He goes on to say that we have now died to what we were held in bondage to. We wanted to live good lives, but could not do so earlier and we became more enslaved to sin. But now we are able to serve God in a new way, being led by His Holy Spirit, rather than being controlled by the written law.
The same rings true for us as Christians, who are not from a Jewish background. If we go back to trying to live a sinless life, by merely obeying the commandments; we fail miserably. But when we choose to be led by the Holy Spirit, then we find that we are able to do more than what the law expected. If you notice the law was mostly about what we shouldn’t do and very little about what we should do. God knew that mankind was so sinful at the time that they were not ready yet to please Him, so He progressively revealed His holiness to them. He began by telling them what they should not do, and it was mostly through Jesus that we learnt all that we should do. The amazing thing about us is that the more we focus on what we should not do, the more we want to do it, and the more we focus on what we should do, the less we do what we should not do. That’s why Paul says in Galatians 5:16 – “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”