Our Relationship To The Law Has Changed; We Are No Longer Under Its Authority; We Are Able To Serve God In The New Way Of The Spirit; The Law Is Not Sinful – We Are; The Law Reveals Sin Is Living In Fallen Human Beings; We Can Be Freed From The Power Of Sin Only By Becoming Loyal To Yeshua
The Jewish people are very special. We are the Chosen People. For century after century after century, we were the only nation that knew the true and living God who alone can save human beings from the things we need saving from the most – Satan and the fallen angels; sin and the sin nature; death and Hell. The Jewish people were the recipients of the law, which is an amazing gift – full of divine revelation and wisdom and truth.
Over the centuries, and especially after the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians, the Jewish people became enamored of the law, but not always enamored in the right way. We started believing that the law and law-keeping was the way of salvation. But the law and law-keeping can’t save human beings from the things we need to be saved from.
What saved people who were under the law was the same thing that saves people today – God’s grace which is given to those who have faith and who offer a God-ordained sacrifice. Those Jewish people who were under the under the authority of the Sinai Covenant and had faith and offered their God-ordained sacrifices were saved. They used the Law as their guide for right actions – but the law itself and their law-keeping didn’t save them.
The Lord’s Representative is trying to help people who were familiar with the law and people who were under the law understand the limits of the law; what the law was designed for; what the law can do for us and what the law can’t do for us – especially when it comes to fallen people being saved.
In chapter 6, the Rabbi taught the Christians and Messianic Jews in Rome that because of Messiah, and His death and His new life, if we are connected to Yeshua because of our faith, we experience a spiritual death and we experience a new kind of spiritual life.
Because of that, some of our most important relationships change. We die to our old master, sin; we become alive to our new master – God. We die to the law. We are no longer under its authority. We are under the authority of a new operating principle – grace.
The Rabbi continues his teaching on our relationship to the law in chapter 7. He teaches us that death changes a person’s relationship to the law. He uses the example of the law that governs the relationship of husband and wife. Do you not know, brothers and sisters – for I am speaking to those who know the law – that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man. The death of the husband frees the wife from the law that she is bound to her husband and must not have a sexual relationship with a man other than her husband.
The principle that death frees a person from law applies to those who are joined to the Messiah. So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Messiah, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. When we are united to Messiah because of our faith, we are united to the great events that happened to Him, like His death. We experience a spiritual death. That spiritual death changes our relationship to the law. It frees us from the authority of the law. As a system, the law no longer has control of us. We are no longer under its authority. We no longer belong to that system. We belong to the risen Messiah, who redeemed us, who bought us, who paid the price to remove us from the demonic slave market of sin and death.
And, the Rabbi wants us to know that there is a great benefit that comes from not belonging to the law and belonging to Messiah. We are able to bear fruit for God. We are able to produce good things that come from the combination of having Yeshua as our Lord; and having new life and a new nature; and having the Holy Spirit living in us and empowering us and enabling us to have right beliefs, right desires and being able to consistently do the right things.
Those who are not united to the Messiah are not able to bear fruit for God they way they need to. They don’t have Yeshua as their Master. They don’t have a new, godly nature; they don’t have the Holy Spirit living in them and empowering them; they don’t believe the right things; they don’t have the right desires and motivations; they don’t consistently engage in the right actions.
For when we were in the realm of the flesh (here, the flesh does not mean the body. It means the old nature, the sinful nature we are born with), the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death.
One of the purposes of the law is to make sin increase by stirring up the desire in our fallen nature to rebel against the law. Often, when we are confronted by a law, our natural reaction, which comes from our sin nature, is to oppose that command. If someone tells me – don’t touch that, I want to touch it. Don’t look at that – I want to look at it. Don’t do that – something in me responds: Who is he to tell me what to do? I’ll show him who is in charge. When that inner rebellion against law happens, I should think: why do I want to look at that or touch that when I have been told not to? There must be something deep within me that wants to rebel against law and authority. That’s not good. Something needs to be done about that.
Giving into the corrupt desires of our old nature, which are stirred up by the law, offends God, who is holy and righteous and who has given us the law. Giving into the sinful desires of our old nature which are stirred up by the law, results in death. However, that no longer needs to be us. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
By having faith, we are united to the Messiah, and to His death, and our spiritual death changes our relationship to the law so that we are no longer under its authority; and because we are no longer under its authority, it no longer has the ability to stir up sinful desires in us. Instead, we have a new master – the risen Messiah; and we have a new nature; and we have the Holy Spirit living in us, helping us understand the things that God wants us to understand and empowering us to do the things that God wants us to do; and empowering us to not do the things God doesn’t want us to do. The Spirit of God helps us serve God in a new way.
The Spirit of God living in us frees us from trying to serve God in the old way of the written code. When the Rabbi was writing this, the vast majority of people who were under the law couldn’t see the forest because of the trees. They knew the law was from God; that it was very important; that it was necessary to obey it. And so they became fixated on the law and law-keeping and Torah-observance; doing mitzvot. They became fixated on the written code and lost sight of their need to have faith in God like Moses, the law-giver, did; of their need to have a close personal relationship with God like Moses did, a relationship based on God’s grace, and not works, effort, performance. The law and law-keeping became their focus – not having a personal relationship with the living God, and loving Him from their hearts.
Law is not designed to save people. It is designed as a guide for saved people to follow. Law is not designed to restore our broken relationship with God. It is designed as a guide for those whose broken relationship with God has been mended.
When we understand that we have died to the law, that we are no longer under its authority, and when we have the Spirit of God living in us, the Spirit of God gives us a different perspective. He enables us understand that the foundation, the basis of our actions, our deeds, our good works, our efforts flow from the souls of those who are right with God; those who have been saved. They live for God and try to meet His standards out of gratitude for their salvation – not to earn their salvation. Their motivation for trying to keep the law is entirely different from those who are trying to keep the law in order to be saved.
Understanding the difference between serving God because He has saved us and we are right with Him, and we want to please Him and live according to His standards – or trying to serve God by keeping the law so that He will be pleased with us and save us – is very important to understand. It’s a matter of life and death.
It is impossible to please God by serving Him in the old way of the written code, by focusing on fulfilling the letter of the law; emphasizing law and law-keeping, mitzvot and Torah-observance in the hope of gaining salvation. Yet, so many of the Jewish people through the centuries, and still, to this day, are trying to serve God in that way.
And, so many people who think they are Christians do the very same thing. Their approach to Christianity is not about loving God from their hearts and giving themselves to serve Him. No, it is about keeping laws – being baptized; going to church; keeping the Ten Commandments; observing important rituals and ceremonies and holidays.
Thanks be to God that we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code!
One of the purposes of the law is to increase sin. That raises an interesting theological question – which the Rabbi asks, and answers. What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not!
Paul wants us to understand that even though the law stirs up sin in us, the law itself is not sinful. Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting.
Coveting isn’t just wanting what you don’t have. It’s wanting what you have no right to have. You can want to marry someone, but not if that person is married to someone else, like David who coveted Bathsheba. You can want a property to own, but not if it belongs to someone else who is unwilling to part with it, like Ahab who coveted Naboth’s vineyard. You can want a nice house to live in, but not if it means depriving someone else of that house who has the right to live there.
The law against coveting makes us aware that it is wrong to covet. The law against coveting stirs up coveting in us. The law against coveting helps us understand that we are engaged in coveting. The law against coveting helps us understand more about sin, and more about our sinful nature.
The law stirs up sinful desires in our old, fallen, sin nature. For apart from the law, sin was dead. When they are not stirred up by the law, many of our sinful desires seem like they don’t exist. The truth is many sinful desires exist in us, but they are inactive; they are dormant; they are in a state of hibernation. But the law comes like the spring and wakes them from their hibernation. The law makes them come alive, and when sin comes alive in it, it kills us. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. When our sinful desires spring to life, and we yield to them, our sins drive us farther from God; our sins corrupt us, harms us, diminish us; ruin us; kill us.
Life in a fallen world is full of ironies. Perhaps my favorite: The Son of God was in the world, and although He made the world, the world did not know Him. Paul gives us another irony here: even though the law stirs up sin in us, the law itself is not sinful. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.
One of the ways that God helps us understand that we are sinners is by the law and the way it interacts with our old nature. The law, which is holy and righteous and good, stirs up sin in us. There is something in us that is so utterly sinful in us that when it encounters law, it wants to oppose it.
When you realize that has happened to you, don’t blame the law for being sinful. Blame yourself and your sin nature. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. When something that is holy, righteous and good stirs up the desire to sin in us, the proper conclusion to arrive at is that we are utterly sinful; we are creatures with a corrupt nature. The fault lies with us – not the law.
And the law reveals that we are not insignificant sinners, but very significant sinners. In order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. We don’t need to be a drug dealer, rapist, career criminal or murderer to realize that we are sinners. When something deep within us responds to any good and holy law with contempt and the desire to violate that law, it shows that something is going on in us that is very wicked, very evil, very rebellious. It shows that our sin nature is utterly sinful.
I love this next section. Paul masterfully describes the inner struggle of a person who is not saved; who is not born-again. He is aware of God. He wants to please God. He knows the law. He is aware of right and wrong. He wants to do what is right and not do what is wrong; but life has taught him that he is incapable of consistently doing what is right and avoiding doing what is wrong.
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Messiah Yeshua our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
We know that the law is spiritual. The law comes from God, who is spiritual. It is good and right and holy. The law is not the problem.
I am unspiritual. I am disconnected from God, who is spiritual. I am not good, not right, not holy. I am the problem.
I am sold as a slave to sin. I am not a free moral agent. I have been co-opted by a superior force, and alien force – sin.
I don’t understand why I can’t live the way I know I should live. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. I know right from wrong. I want to do what is right and not do what is wrong, but my knowledge of right and wrong isn’t enough. I don’t have the ability to live in a way so that I consistently avoid evil and do what is right.
The law is good and teaches what is right and what is wrong. When I do something I know is wrong, I am acknowledging that I am the problem – not the law. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. The law is not to be blamed. I am to be blamed.
Part of my inner self, the part that knows what is right, the part that wants to please God, has been co-opted. It has been taken over by a dark, sinister force, and I am powerless to change it. It’s like I am a prisoner in my own body. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
Because of this struggle between my knowledge of right and wrong, and my inability to consistently do what is right and avoid doing what is wrong, I am able to understand that my nature is not good. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. I am weak. My nature, all too naturally, cooperates with evil. Yielding to my evil desires comes easily and naturally to me. Consistently doing what is good is hard for me. I am not good. I don’t have a good nature like God and the good angels. I have a sinful nature.
I have a dark, deadly force inside of me which is able to control me. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
The law of sin is at work in me. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
Fallen human beings who know the law, and who are under the law, and who have a sin nature can want to know God and do what the law commands – but they are unable to do so. They are like a prisoner who is controlled by an evil warden who forces the prisoner to do his bidding. That fallen nature is weak and is incapable of breaking free from the evil warden and living according to the law the way it wants to.
Knowledge about God is not enough to rescue me from the power of sin and my sinful nature. The law is not enough. I am not enough, no matter no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I know about God or religion. I am a pathetic, weak, helpless, sinful wretch. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death (not just the body, but also our nature)?
If the law, which is spiritual and comes from God, can’t save the Chosen people, how much less can any other religion or ideology or human beings trying to be good. But, there is a way I can be rescued from my body and my nature that are weak and corrupt and subject to death. Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Messiah Yeshua our Lord! I can overcome sin, and my sinful nature; and the death of my body and soul by knowing who Yeshua is and giving my allegiance to Him.
Thank You for helping us understand the limits of the law; what the law was designed for; what the law can do for us and what it can’t do for us.
Thank You for the law, but prevent us from becoming fixated on law and trying to serve you in a legalistic way, in a letter of the law, not a spirit of the law way.
Help us know You and love You and serve You from our hearts and give ourselves to You and Your service.
Thank You that we are able to serve You in the new way of the Spirit, so that we can produce fruit for You. Help us live in such a way that we are full of Your Spirit and producing much fruit.
Lord, the law working with our sinful nature reveals to us that we are sinners; not insignificant sinners, but very significant sinners, and very significant sinners can’t save themselves. Very significant sinners are in need of a Very Significant Savior – whom You have provided – Yeshua the Messiah!
Thank You that You have set us free from sin and the sin nature – by revealing to us that Yeshua is our risen Messiah. Help us tell others about Him so they can be set free.