Released from the Law
Yesterday, Paul used the ancient institution of slavery to show us that we are slaves to the master we serve—there being only two possible masters: Either sin and self which leads to death or Christ Jesus which leads to liberty and life. Today we see how Paul uses the institution of marriage, returning to the topic of law and how the believer has been freed from servitude to it that he may be wed to a new spouse, the Lord.
Using the analogy of married life, Paul shows that the law, which is binding, is only so as long as a person lives. Thus, a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives (and vice-verse, naturally). But when her husband dies, she is free to remarry; this is because she is free from the law that bound her to her now deceased husband. Likewise, believers have “died to the law through the body of Christ” that they may belong to another spouse—the one who was raised from the dead, the purpose being to “bear fruit for God.” So whether we call him our Lord and Master or our husband, he has set us free from the law.
And it is at this place that Paul introduces another role of the law. Until now, he has discussed the law as that standard which no one can fulfill, which condemns us before God, and which is the reason that if we shall be justified (made right) before God at all, it can only be so by faith in Christ and not by works of the law. Now Paul turns to the role that the law plays in driving us to Christ. You see, before coming to Christ, the law works in our “flesh” (our sinful nature) to arouse our sinful passions (e.g., lust, greed, jealousy, etc.) which bears “fruit for death.” In other words, the law excites our sinful nature by forbidding or commanding us to do something (just put a sign on the wall saying, “Don’t touch—Wet paint,” and watch people touch a wall they would have walked past before—simply because the “law” said, “Don’t”). We will see later that this is the fault of our sinful nature, not the fault of the law. But you can see why the believer in Christ Jesus must be freed from the law since it only arouses his sinful passions. In this way, Paul places law, sin, and death, on one side, and Spirit, righteousness, and life, on the other. He will speak more about the Holy Spirit in chapter eight but for now, we see why we must be set free from the law—it is a sin-arousing slave-driver that only makes us more culpable for our sin. But here is the good news: The law works in us to drive us to the cross as people who are desperate for forgiveness and a new husband, to the One who conquered sin, death, and hell—and sets us free to serve Him.