20 March 2012Romans 7:1-12
"You have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God ... But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held is captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit." (vv. 4, 6)
Paul writes of God's grace, to the Christians in Rome. They
comprised Jews who believed that Jesus was indeed the promised
Messiah, and Gentiles who had converted from idolatry. This letter
addresses problems arising between the Jews' insistence that the
Gentiles live under (ie are obedient to) the Jewish Law, and be
In the first six verses of today's passage Paul uses the idea of marriage, contrasting between living an old life bound to the law and the new living life by the Spirit of God that begins when a person accepts Christ. No longer slaves or in bondage, we are free to belong to another, to be Christ's bride, the Church. The struggle with sin may still be evident, but Paul states we have no obligation to it. If we live by the Spirit, then we will produce good works for God. These will flow naturally, out of love and gratitude for God, from our new nature.
In the second part Paul then answers his own rhetorical questions (v. 7): "What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means!" All people have some sense of right and wrong. People who do not have the law may well know that they have done wrong. But without God's law they do not see wrongdoing as sin against God. While intended to lead us toward a relationship with God (Galatians 3:24), God's law touches our pride, as we often resist on the basis of self-determination. God's loving purpose is that the law would make us understand how bad sin is, in order that we recognise the need for forgiveness from Jesus Christ.
Paul clearly shows that the law is necessary, holy, righteous and good. Without God's saving power, grace and mercy, it simply exposes our weaknesses; but in Christ we are set free from the bondage of sin, and able to draw strength to live daily for Jesus.
As you examine your thoughts, and recent actions, in the light of God's holiness and word, what will you ask of God: to forgive? to set free? to reconcile? Or will you just give thanks?
What does it mean to you, to live in step with the Spirit? You may like to meditate on the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25)?