The NASB entitles chapter seven:
Released from the Law
The translators opted to put the Bible into chapters; I suppose for the sake of clarity. The reality is, as most of you know, that Paul wrote this letter to the Church in Rome from Corinth. He never made it to Rome until he went in “chains.” (I am well aware that he may not have been in chains, but it makes a point, doesn’t it?
The church in Rome was comprised of a group of Jewish followers of Christ, and, an unknown number of Gentile believers within their assembly and anyone with a simple understanding can start at the first chapter of Paul’s letter pick up on the idea that this letter is centered around Jewish understanding, tradition, and culture issues.
Assuming that you for some reason decided to start in chapter seven, a chapter that opens with, “Or do you not know?” You, as the reader should be adequately lost, because you have entered mid-thought and have no idea what the conversation was about, nor do you know, who specifically he is talking to.
do you not know, brothers and sisters (for I am speaking to those who
know the law), that the law is lord over a person as long as he
(Romans 7:1 NET.)
- The phrase, “Or do you not know,” has no explanation without a context.
- There are a variety of translations and the NET version chose to refer to them as “brothers and sisters.” Language such as this is mere “church speak” for fellow believers, and obviously a mix of men and women. In reality, the translation is merely trying to not offend anyone by including women. However, Paul was a devout Jew and women, by tradition and earlier training, would not have been his focus in a conversation. So a version like the NASB, which simply says “brethren” leans more toward the Jewish attitude, and adds to the argument that his focus is on speaking to Jews who are having an attitude problem. (This attitude problem is spelled out in the earlier chapters of this letter. An example of Paul’s attempt at addressing their bad attitude can be seen as Paul opens this letter with, “I Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ.” The Jews, on one occasion, screamed back at Jesus with, “we have NEVER been slaves to anyone.” Really? Did you merely throw four hundred years of history out with the trash? What happened there in Egypt? There is also an attempt, on Paul’s part, to get these followers of Christ, to lay off the high minded attitude that you are better than the Gentile believers who have joined you.)
- Note how the verse above says, “for I am speaking to those who know the law,” this is further evidence that Paul is addressing a crowd with a Jewish emphasis. Do not think for a moment that this letter that Paul wrote to the church in Rome is not meant for us, it is. The letter had both an immediate context and an extended and intended impact on you and I. If you read the previous posts on Romans six, then you would have seen life-changing terminology such as We were joined with Christ; baptized into His death; Raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives; Crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives; We are no longer slaves to sin.
- The NET translation that used above ends with, “the law is lord over a person as long as he lives.” It would appear that we, especially since we are reading this, are quite alive. The obvious fact is that dead people don’t have to worry about laws anymore; or do they? Now I have to consider, or understand that the soul is eternal – made in the image of God, (Genesis 1:26) and never dies. But what then is death? Eternal separation from God. The law is primarily a Jewish orientation. Thanks to Jesus and the cross, the law was satisfied, but we are still required to love God and treat people decent. (That is my short version of the law.) The NLT translation says, “those familiar with the law.” Again, that would have been the Jews. Doesn’t that imply my exclusion? Sorry, but no, for the law, Paul argues, is written on our hearts.
Romans chapter six ends on this note: a transition, from slavery to sin, where your only reward is some form of death; to a life that is made holy because of, and through Christ.
I used several translations to build the paragraph below.
(Romans 6:20-23 ) In the past, you were slaves to sin, and you did not even think about doing right. (ERV) Well, what did you gain then by it all? Nothing but what you are now ashamed of! The end of all that is death; (Moffatt ) However, now, freed from sin and enslaved to God, you do get the benefit—it consists in being made holy, set apart for God, and its end result is eternal life. (CJB) The payment for sin is death, but the gift that God freely gives is everlasting life found in Christ Jesus our Lord. (GW)
This new life has no payment, but it does have a gift – eternal life which is found in Christ Jesus. Having found and received this gift of eternal life, Paul poses the next question.
“Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?” (Romans 7:1 NASB)
Why would Paul make such an apparent statement as “the law only has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?” This is what I talked about just moments ago when I asserted, “The obvious fact is that dead people don’t have to worry about laws anymore.” But therein lies the problem. There are two kinds of death, but our heads only seem to focus on one of them – the cessation of breath.
To be dead here on earth is nowhere close to spiritual death, and that is what we were without Christ. Oh sure, the benefits of the cross, like forgiveness, were applied to the whole earth, but you still have to receive the gift, and the gift was and still is Jesus Christ.
Paul, knowing full well what the Jewish attitude is about divorce (God hates divorce,) speaks in a manner that Jewish believers would understand.
For example, a married woman is bound by Torah to her husband while he is alive; but if the husband dies, she is released from the part of the Torah that deals with husbands. (Romans 7:2 CJB)
It’s not just the law she is bound to, it is the Torah. To simply say “the law,” as many translations do, pushes us to look at this statement through Gentile eyes. In the world I understand, you don’t need a reason to get divorced anymore. You can simply be annoyed with the way they hold their toothbrush. So in my Gentile world, we are only bound by the law for as long some court document says we are. In the Jewish world, the man could merely abandon the woman. If he did that she would then be stuck between a rock and a hard place, but if he dies, then she is free to possibly remarry. Considering there was no social security or welfare, this was a brutal way to live.
Here is where the law makes the married couples’ life complex.
“Therefore, while the husband is alive, she will be called an adulteress if she marries another man; but if the husband dies, she is free from that part of the Torah; so that if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress.” (Romans 7:3 Complete Jewish Bible)
Fortunately, the story doesn’t end here.
Thus, my brothers, you have been made dead with regard to the Torah through the Messiah’s body, so that you may belong to someone else, namely, the one who has been raised from the dead, in order for us to bear fruit for God. (Romans 7:4 CJB)
And this statement, “you have been made dead with regard to the Torah through the Messiah’s body,” is exactly the focus of Romans chapter six. We don’t just get to be forgiven; we get to bear fruit for God. The saddest part of this is that many, learning of this freedom, will simply abuse it.
“For when we lived according to our human nature, the sinful desires stirred up by the Law were at work in our bodies, and all we did ended in death.” (Romans 7:5 GNB)
If a Doctor were to look at your genetic chain, they would see a marker at some spot, just as they do in everyone else, and they would declare you, no matter the impact it has on you, to be normal. This concept is a little easier to comprehend if think about Adam’s act of eating the fruit, as something that changed him genetically. Is that so impossible anymore? I don’t think so, as most of what we eat is genetically modified. Therefore, if a man can do it, then so can God.
So, when Paul says something like, “For when we lived according to our human nature,” he is talking about a permanently broken human nature, that drives us to fulfill our lusts, and a few of Satan’s as well. Now, as for that permanently broken aspect. Is that a hopeless cause for us? No, because there is something amazing that will happen to us.
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
(1 Corinthians 15:52 NASB)
That piece that is broken, will be fixed. I know this because I have an assurance that I am spending eternity with my Father, and that He will let nothing that pollutes into His kingdom.
I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:22-27 NASB)
Can you see why God had to have a plan in place from the very beginning?
But now we have been released from the law because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code. (Romans 7:6 NET bible.)
Let’s take this apart backward, sort of.
- “Because we have died to what controlled us.”
I am jumping ahead, but only because I have a point to make. Paul had the same problem I am now having, I keep missing the mark (Missing the mark is a derivative from Medieval archery, where an archer would miss the bullseye or mark. Our life is filled with opportunities to hit the mark, the only problem is, that the target, mounted on a bail of hay, could be well over 91.44 meters away. At this point, the mark, or bullseye, may look the size of a very small coin.)
How then do I come to understand that I have died to what controlled me?
Since everything we do has to have some faith attached to it, let’s start there. Symbolically, our understanding, and or, our act of putting ourselves in water before a crowd of people, demonstrate our faith in Jesus Christ. What did He do for us? He died for us so that we might live, and that association is our death along with Him. As I said earlier, dead people don’t have desires, and so I have to remind myself occasionally, that I am dead. Keep in mind that we don’t merely die, we live as well, but we live together with Him. And He is not bothered with sin in His condition either.
- “But now we have been released from the law.”
You want to know what you were released from? The bondage that the law brought with it. The law brought a fear of death, and, even worse, the law was only a temporary fix.
Our relationship with Jesus Christ brought us the gift of God, which is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let’s focus on the term law for a moment. Jesus told us plainly,
“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.” (Matthew 5:17-18 NLT)
So the law, and it’s practical side – civility will be with us until Jesus is finally seated on the throne in the New Jerusalem.
Another, possibly more restrictive alternative is already in place.
When Paul opened his letter to the Romans, he introduced himself as a slave to Christ Jesus. Slaves have no rights and certainly no room or permission to an opinion. I suppose there are always exceptions to every rule, but in general, you do what you are told. So for Paul to make this statement about slavery was powerful, and it surely made a point to the Jewish readers.
In case you don’t know, slavery at this point in time was so common, that one in four humans was a slave.
At least, as our twisted minds see it, we had more options under the law for we, supposedly, could ignore the law.
“Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.” (Romans 6:19 NLT)
“so that we
may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old
Such a pleasant word, serve, unfortunately, it is the Greek word douleuō and means to be a slave, or, to be in bondage. Rewritten, the verse could easily read like this: “so that we may be in bondage to the new life of the Spirit.”
Do you still believe that you are not guided by the law? Certainly, we are not oppressed by the bondage and fear associated with the slavery of the law. But here, the law is written upon our hearts; it is a part of who we are now.
And, we have the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us, if we will listen to His voice.