Read Romans 7:1–6
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? 2 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. 3 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.
4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 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.
New International Version (NIV)
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“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (Eph. 5:25,26).
In chapter 6 Paul addresses sin as an integral and controlling part of our old
life in Adam. Now he turns to another, surprising part of the matrix of life apart from God—the Law of Moses. He has referred to it briefly in each of the four preceding chapters, but here he contrasts “the old way of the written code” and “the new way of the Spirit” (6), which he will explore into chapter 8.
Although it seems counter-intuitive, God’s Law is part of the problem. It points out right from wrong in God’s eyes, but it cannot empower us to act accordingly. It is like a nagging spouse, who informs me when I am wrong and what I ought to be doing instead, but cannot help me to change. In a culture with no divorce, there can be only one way out: the death of one of the partners. The Law is “holy, righteous and good” (12), so that leaves only one alternative—I die “to the law through the body of Christ” (4). Being united with Christ in his death frees me from both sin and the jurisdiction of the Law. Then, because of my new life through Christ’s resurrection, there is nothing to prevent my second marriage, this time to Christ the bridegroom and serving him by living a godly life via his Spirit.
In fact, the old marriage was worse. Because of sin, a fallen human’s reaction to the nagging spouse is to do the opposite of what the spouse is nagging about, even when it is right. The “sinful passions aroused by the law” (5) operated as a bridgehead for sin. Neither conscience nor a deep knowledge of the Bible can enable human beings to change. Only Christ’s death and resurrection make that possible.
Many of us are educated to believe that knowledge is power, that change comes through having right understanding. How much does this undermine our dependence on God?