Summary: Freed from the Law
Knowing that his readers-especially Jewish ones-would have many questions about how the law relates to their faith in Christ, Paul sets out to explain that relationship (he refers to the law 27 times in this passage in Romans 7). In a detailed explanation of what it means not to be under law, but under grace (6:14-15), Paul teaches that: 1) the law can no longer condemn a believer (7:1-6); 2) it convicts unbelievers (and believers of sin) (7:7-13); 3) it cannot deliver believer from sin (7:14-25); and 4) believers who walk in the power of the Spirit can fulfill the Law (8:1-4).
Romans 7:1, “1 Or 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?”
Paul’s audience is here to the Jews. The Jews would know the Law having grown up under its culture and influence. Many people want to say that they are bound by Torah (the Law), but this is a faulty understanding. Many have tried to willingly use this Scripture to somehow overstate what Paul is saying here. Paul is addressing an issue of rule and practice of the Law by way of analogy. Paul is including here God’s written law, he is not referring to any specific law code, but to a principle that is true of all law-Greek, Roman, Jewish or biblical.
Torah (Law observance) is an issue that we must stop here to address. Many in the Messianic community are greatly confused. What must I do? Observe Torah? If one observes all the Laws and stumbles in one they have broken all (James 2:10). Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of the Lord, but the good news is that we are under the New Covenant not under the Old. This means that we do not have to obey the demands of the Torah. We will naturally as we abide in the Spirit obey the Law. The Law can only have its dominion for as long as a person’s life after that it goes away. Yet the eternal law of the Lord will always have dominion and rule over a person no matter if they are living or dead, for that is what we shall be judged by, for a believer according to what He has done, and for a non believer with how he/she did not receive the Lord into their life. The issue then of observing Torah becomes the issue of this: If one obeys the Law yet stumbles they would be falling back into the Old Covenant. Yet the liberating truth is that when one comes to know the freedom that they have as a believer to live in and abide in the Lord through the New Covenant hope; a believer comes to realize that they are no longer bound to the Law, but to the law of love in Him. This frees the believer to worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth knowing that they can live freely from their hearts, because He gave them life from His life.
What is being said here between the Old and new covenant needs to be explained in further detail. The Old Covenant leads us to salvation while the New Covenant leads us through the door to salvation. After salvation a believer grows in obedience as the Spirit of Truth resides within them. We are freed from the Law in relation to the OT to live in grace, which is freedom. Obedience is a direct outgrowth as the New Covenant leads us to grow in Old covenant obedience. Their is therefore no separation between the two covenants because each one is instructive in teaching us essential aspects of what salvation is. Salvation is by grace through faith, through the shed blood of the Lord. The Law leads us to the blood, but the New Covenant leads us through the door of the OT law. The Old covenant serves its standard in drawing us to Christ through the Holy Spirit, but after that the Holy Spirit then uses the Old Covenant to lead us to obedience through the New Covenant.
Romans 7:2-3, “2For 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. 3So 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.”
These two verses are not a complex allegory, but a simple analogy, using marriage law to illustrate the point Paul made about the law’s jurisdiction (v.1). This passage is not teaching that only the death of a spouse frees a Christian to remarry; it is not teaching about divorce and remarriage at all. Both Christ and Paul have fully addressed those issues elsewhere (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-12; 1 Cor 7:10-15).