Shackles of a Saved Soul - Page 1 of 6 (series: Lessons on Romans)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Shackles of a Saved Soul

Romans 7:1–14

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?
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.
7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the Law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the Law had said, “You shall not covet.”
8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the Law sin was dead.
9 I was alive once without the Law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.
10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.
11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.
12 Therefore the Law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.


Introduction
To understand the seventh chapter it must be read as a development of the teaching of the fifth and sixth, and also as introductory to the eighth. The fifth chapter showed what grace has done in bringing us into justification and life. The sixth chapter defended this new position against the presumptuous argument as to the possibility of continuing in sin, and showed that, as we are under grace and not under Law, our newness of life both demands service to God and empowers us to render it. The seventh chapter proves the truth of this position, first making clear, by an illustration from nature, how it is that we have been set free from the Law. Then he continues his teaching on the sanctified life, but thoroughly changes his analogy. Although the slave market is an appropriate analogy for our former relationship to the Mosaic Law, an even better analogy to depict the justified man’s relationship to Christ is that of the bonds of marriage. This is because the marriage relationship involves a response of the heart and emotion. Paul draws upon it to show the proper correlation between our sanctified lives as believers and that of a wife to her husband. The believer’s life in Christ is likened to widowhood and a second marriage.


1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the 1Law), that the Law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?

Or do you not know brethren. This phrase shows how closely this chapter is joined to the last, and its meaning is the same as before; there is something that we ought to know, and Paul is going to tell us.

(for I speak to those who know the Law). The passage refers to the Law of the state (Roman Law), and the Law of God (Mosaic Law), which had over a thousand years trial with God’s chosen people. Both divine and civil Law maintain a hold on a man for as along as he lives. There is nothing wrong with the Law, it was good; the problem was that Israel did not keep the Law. Remember, that Stephen in his defense said that they had “…received the Law by the disposition of

angels, and have not kept it’ (Acts 7:53). Peter calls it a yoke “which neither our fathers or we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10). On the occasion that this letter was written, the apostle is talking to those who, whether Jews or Gentiles by birth, were acquainted with the principles of Law, and so were familiar with what is conveyed in the following statement.

That the Law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? This verse is connected with 6:14: “You are not under Law but under grace.” The connection is this, “You should know that you are not under Law—or are you ignorant of the fact that the Law has dominion over a man only when he is alive?” Paul is speaking to those who are familiar with the fundamental principles of Law, and who therefore should know that the Law has nothing to say to a dead man. The phrase “as long as he lives” stresses the permanent claim of the Law, up to the time of death.


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.

For the woman who has a husband is bound by the Law to her husband as long as he lives. The Laws relating to marriage strikingly illustrates that the authority of the Law is binding as long as life lasts. Both the Jewish and Roman Laws, required that a woman remain with her husband until the death of her husband; if she married another man while he was still alive, she was considered to be an 2adulteress—“And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mk 10:12).

But if the husband dies, she is released from the Law of her husband. To illustrate the only way one can be freed from the Law, Paul shows how death breaks the marriage contract. A woman is bound by the marriage Law to her husband as long as he lives. But if he dies, she is released from that Law. Only if her husband should die was a woman free to marry another without publicly being branded an adulteress—“A wife is bound by Law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39).

The phrase, “the Law to her husband,” means the Law concerning the husband. The basis for this Law was given in Eden—“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24); in a legal sense it became Law when God gave the seventh commandment—“You shall not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14). The death of a woman’s first husband makes null and void her status as a wife in the eyes of the Law.


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.

If a woman marries another man while her husband is living, she is guilty of adultery. If, however, her husband dies, she is free to marry again without any cloud or guilt of doing the wrong thing. The phrase rendered “so that she is” can also be rendered “so that she may be.”

Some folk insist that divorce and remarriage is not permitted under any circumstances, according to this verse. But to understand this verse we need to thoroughly understand the background. What would happen under the Mosaic Law if a man or woman were unfaithful in marriage? Suppose a woman is married to a man who is having an affair with another woman. What happens? He is stoned to death. When the old boy is lying under a pile of stones, she is free to marry another, of course. In our day, we can not apply the Mosaic Law—we can’t stone to death someone who is unfaithful. And Paul is not giving us instruction on divorce and remarriage here; he will do that elsewhere. The point that Paul is making here is that when a woman’s husband dies, she is no longer a wife; she is a single woman again. I think this is a universal principal among all civilized people. There are heathen people who put the wife to death when the husband dies, but civilized people have never followed that practice.

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