“But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” — Romans 7:6
One big question that Jews and those who “know the law” (v.1) might have after they are saved is, ‘What about the law of Moses (i.e. the ten commandments and all the other commands God gave the nation of Israel in Exodus through Deuteronomy)? Do we still have to keep those? Do we still have to avoid eating pork and prawns?’
‘What about those commands that seem to be universal and emphasized before and after the law of Moses such as not killing or not stealing? Are those still binding on the believer?’
Romans 7 offers some insight.
First, we learn that the law is no longer binding on the believer (7:1-6). The reason is that, in Christ, the believer has died. Just as a woman is no longer bound by the law to a husband who has died, so we are no longer bound to keep the law if we are dead in Christ.
This is referring to the entire law of Moses, which was a complete package put together for the governance of the nation of Israel (James 2:10; Galatians 3:10). It wasn’t meant to be divided into moral, civil, and ceremonial sections and applied to Christian. For any Christian, Jewish or otherwise, the law of Moses is no longer binding on them; they are free.
Freedom from the law is freedom to live a life of service to God, on that brings forth fruit unto God (v.4). It is freedom to serve in the newness of spirit not the oldness of letter (v.6).
What this means is that rules have been replaced with relationship. Instead of there being laws that tell us what to do and what not to do, there is a new desire that motivates us to want to do what will please our Lord and Saviour. It is a totally different way of living!
Second, we learn that the law’s purpose is to reveal sin, to show how impossible it for us to save ourselves, and to point us to the Saviour (v.7-13). From this standpoint, the law is good as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). It teaches the valuable lesson of how sinful we are. But once we have learned that lesson from the law, it is of no more power, because it cannot make us righteous or good.
Third, we learn that any attempts to live righteous in our own power will fail (v.14-25). We see this illustrated in Paul’s frustrations of Romans 7:14-25. Even after salvation, when he had a new mindset and new desires, he was still frustrated by his sinful flesh (sin nature) that hampered his desire to do right.
This of course sets up the need to realise that, though we cannot live holy lives in our own power, we can live holy lives through the power of the Spirit. More on this from Romans 8 later.
So, here are a few ways the believer in Christ can apply the chapter:
- Stop worrying about keeping the law. You don’t have to. You are dead to the law. You are free from its bondage and curse.
- Rejoice in your freedom. Thank God for the fact that Christ has set you free. Now you are free to serve the Lord without fear of failure or condemnation. You cannot fail because you are in Christ.
- Realise that sin will still try to control you and frustrate your desires to serve and please the Lord. You can overcome the remaining sin nature, but it will not be through your own efforts. The harder you try, the more frustrated you will become. The key is to trust the Lord and depend on God’s Spirit.