11 February 2014

Romans 7:1-6

“But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code by in the new life of the spirit.” (v. 6)


Following on from yesterday's passage the apostle Paul now turns to another illustration from life; that of marriage. However in this instance his concern is not primarily to talk about freedom from sin, but freedom from the law. For Paul there is a close link between the law and sin in which he believes that for those who live in the realm of law, sin and death; the law itself provokes sin within us, which ultimately leads to death. For him the relationship between sin and the law is very close - a very controversial thing to say as he is talking about the Law of Moses.

Returning to the illustration from marriage, just as we need to understand slavery in Paul's time, we also need to understand marriage from his perspective. And in essence the illustration from a woman's point of view is not terribly different from that of slavery. The woman is according to verse 2 "bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives". In other words, the woman in marriage comes under the authority, realm or sphere of her husband.

It is at this point that we realise that this is a rather limited analogy by Paul even within his own context because the parallel breaks down. In the analogy it is the husband who dies, thus freeing the woman from his authority over her. However, the point he is illustrating is the idea of an individual dying and rising with Christ to a new life so that they are free from the authority of the law. This is the meaning of the phrase "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...' (v. 4). This is a key concept for Paul; that of dying and rising with Christ as distinct from Christ dying and rising for us. In order to move from one sphere to the other it is not simply that Christ died and rose for us, but that we are invited to die and rise again with him.

To Ponder

  • The illustrations of slavery and marriage used by Paul are both about relationships but are very bound to his context. What illustrations from today's world would you use to illustrate his ideas?
  • Baptism reminds us about dying and rising with Christ. If you are baptized, what does your Baptism mean to you today?
  • What does "the new life of the spirit" mean to you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jonathan Mead

Jonathan is a Methodist minister, who works part time in the London NW Mission circuit and part time as a learning and development officer in the London District. He enjoys keeping fit, reading history and visiting Mediterranean destinations..