The Bible often uses earthly analogies to help us understand deep spiritual truths. The farming metaphors of sowing and reaping, for instance, are famous and used throughout the New Testament to explain the ministry of the gospel and how it produces salvation. The potter (God) and the clay (us) and the sheep (us) and the shepherd (God) are two other very well-known illustrations for helping us see God’s loving authority over us. God knows that using what we know to help us grasp what we don’t is a highly effective teaching strategy.
In the beginning of Romans 7, God tells us through the apostle Paul that our relationship with His Law and His Son are a lot like marriage in one very specific way. Before salvation, we tried to justify ourselves in God’s sight by how well we had kept His commands. The Law was our husband to whom we were spiritually bound as long as we tried to “live” or make it to heaven by obeying it (Romans 7:1-2). But as we have seen, that relationship did not work because we could never perfectly follow God’s commands. In fact, the more we became aware of what the Law really required of us, which was a pure heart and not just right outward behaviors, the more we realized how bad our sin problem truly was (Romans 7:6). No, we could never find life by trying to please God with our good works. We needed another way to salvation.
Well, that other way came by dying to the Law and instead wedding ourselves to Jesus Christ by faith (Romans 7:4). When we accepted Christ’s death as payment for our sins and His resurrection as the hope for our resurrection, the Law lost all its power to condemn us. We were forever released from the impossible task of trying to earn God’s approval by our efforts. A woman whose husband dies become a widow becomes free to marry another if she chooses. In the same way, Christians who have died to a salvation by works mindset have been set free from the death of spiritual failure and instead been given life in Jesus by faith (Romans 7:3). Empowered by the Holy Spirit who now lives within us, we can truly love and obey God out of thankfulness for His mercy and grace rather than the fear of punishment for our sins (Romans 7:6). What a better spiritual husband is Jesus who saves us than the Law that condemns us! May we all rest our souls in Him and Him alone.
The Text (Romans 7:1-6)
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.
Questions to Think About
- Does the marriage analogy help you to better understand your relationship with the Law (the Ten Commandments) and Jesus? Why or why not?
- Do you agree with the old observation (similar to Romans 7:6) that, “People want what is forbidden to them”? Can you think of a time when you wanted something specifically because you knew that you were not supposed to have it? How does Romans 7:6 reveal to us the power of sin and our inability to overcome it through our own efforts?
- What do you think it means to serve God “in the newness of the Spirit” rather than “the oldness of the letter”? Can you give an example of how you have experienced this difference in your own life since becoming a Christian?