Summary: We can try to live by a code of rules or we can live by a relationship. We could put it this way: True release comes from a relationship with Jesus, not from rules.
Belonging to Another
1 Do you not know, brothers-- for I am speaking to men who know the law-- that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. 3 So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.
4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
Intro: Some of these verses have been used to support doctrines or teachings about marriage. Let me say right from the start that Paul did not intend for his words to be used for that purpose here. He was speaking to those who were already familiar with the law and he used a very logical example of a married woman not being free to marry anyone else as long as her husband was alive. Several things come into play in the discussion about divorce and remarriage. First, a woman could not divorce a man in those days. She belonged to him and only he could terminate the marriage – or of course – death, as Paul so aptly illustrates.
-Paul uses this example of marriage and death to illustrate how we should be in relation to the law. The Jews in Rome no doubt knew the law very well and were overly proud of the fact. Most Gentiles were light years behind them in their knowledge of the Law, and were deemed inferior. But Paul wants to make it clear that the Law is not what saved the Jews or the Gentiles. In fact, it served to show the weakness of our own efforts. We don’t belong to the Law; We belong to Jesus! We’ve been bought with a price, and our bride price was the ultimate price – the lifeblood of Jesus!
-The main point of this passage is that we can try to live by a code of rules or we can live by a relationship. We could put it this way: True release comes from a relationship with Jesus, not from rules.
1. Released from the Law (1)
-Amazingly, in just this one chapter of Romans the word “law” is used 28 different times. Let’s look at verse 1:
“Do you not know, brothers-for I am speaking to men who know the law-that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?”
The “law” refers to the Old Testament law, or specifically, the 10 Commandments. Actually, if you were to count up all the laws and rules, there are 613 of them! Paul is assuming that there is general knowledge among his readers about the nature of law – that’s what he means when he writes, “Do you not know…” that the law has absolute authority or jurisdiction over us? The problem is that none of us can live out the law completely, and when we try to do so some bad things can happen.
-Here are some characteristics of those who live under the law. See if any of these find traction in your actions and attitudes (David Hoke, www.horizonsnet.org).
* Pride. Even though we know we cannot meet all the standards, it’s very easy to boast about our own accomplishments. A focus on performance always leads to pride.
* Critical spirit. Another way to recognize people who live under the law is that they become very critical of others. Have you noticed that there’s just something about the law that makes us judge others? We can be blind to error in our own lives and yet we often have our eyes wide open to the faults of others.
* Hypocrisy. Because there is an inherent tension in trying to live by the law, and we know we’re not meeting the standards, there’s a temptation to act as if we are meeting them. This leads to hypocrisy.
So how do we get out from under the law? The only way to break the bondage is through death: “…the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives.” The question becomes this: Have you died to the law? The law can be one’s lord but that ends when death dissolves the dominion. As we’ve already established from chapter 6, believers have died with Christ, and therefore the law is no longer master.