February 25, 2024


Passage: Romans 7:1-6

1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also 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. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
— Romans 7:1-6, ESV

The key word in Romans 6 is “sanctification” (vs. 19, 22).  The key words in Romans 7 are “law,” “flesh,” and “Spirit.”  Sanctification is freedom from the law, a struggle with the flesh, wrought by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Sanctification frees the Christian from the pressure of keeping God’s law as a means of salvation; yet, sanctification is also the desire and struggle to keep God’s commandments.  Once the Holy Spirit regenerates us with faith and repentance unto justification, He remains in us for sanctification, indwelling us with holiness, even though our mortal bodies still have a propensity to sin.

Freedom and struggles ensue.  Romans 7:1-6 talks about our freedom, which is our topic for today.  Later we will look at how Romans 7:7-25 describe our struggle.

Freedom from the Law

Paul continues to speak to “brothers” about the gospel and our great salvation by grace through faith in Christ.  All who have been justified by faith will be sanctified by the Spirit and the word, while awaiting to be glorified in death or at Jesus’ second coming.  Remember, if you are not being sanctified, you have not been justified, and you cannot expect to be glorified.

Now the question comes as to what “the law” has to do with sanctification?  “The law” is virtually always a good thing.  It usually refers to inspired Scripture as a whole, or some of its parts, like the Pentateuch, or the Ten Commandments.  “The law of the Lord is perfect,” wrote David in Psalm 19.

Yet when Paul mentions “the law” in this context, he does not seem to be writing with a smile.  “The law” is “binding,” even deadly.  He seems to be celebrating the fact that Christians “are released from the law.”  So what gives?

Let’s reflect back on some things we have already learned from Romans.  When God made mankind, he established a covenant of works.  Laws were given of things to be done, and not to be done.  In this covenant, perfection to the perfect law of God was required.  Of course, man broke God’s law, died a spiritual death, and became totally depraved.

Then God offered a covenant of grace, which forgives sin and gives eternal life.  Sinful pride refuses it, saving grace accepts it.  The law hangs in the balance.

Lost people still live under God’s covenant of works with the mandate to keep all of God’s law.  It is a demanding, dangerous, and deadly proposition.  Most mistakenly believe if they can keep more laws than they break, God will judge them kindly.  But the perfect God of the perfect law demands perfection in this covenant of works, and one wrong step invokes the penalty, not the promise, of Romans 6:23.

Saved people, sanctified people, have crossed over from death to life.  We have failed the covenant of works but received a covenant of grace. We have “died to the law” and “are released from the law,” meaning we do not have to be perfect to be saved, just forgiven.

Now, if this freedom from the law motivates you to sin all the more since all sins will all be forgiven, then you understand neither law nor grace.  Please refer back to Romans 6:1-2 and 6:15.  People who profess Christianity without practicing Christianity, who claim to be justified but are not being sanctified, are out of their ever-loving, cotton-picking, pea-sized, chitlin-slinging minds!

As for Paul’s illustration of marriage, it is a bad one.  Not that Paul is bad for using it, but it implies a bad marriage.  When the bad husband dies, the good wife marries another, this time a very good one.  This is law, grace, and sanctification.  Christians are free from law and married to grace.  We are the bride of Christ, the most excellent husband.  And all who belong to Him are being sanctified.

Sanctification is enjoying this glorious freedom from the penalty of the law, while seeking to be faithful to its every jot and tittle.  Sanctification brings the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to live in you to “bear fruit for God.”  The best way to “bear fruit” is by accepting, living, and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Freedom for the Gospel

Our transition from death to life, from law to grace, from justification to sanctification is owed to “the body of Christ.”  In this context Paul is not talking about the church, although we are the body of Christ (ref. 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12).  He is not talking about the sacramental bread we break in Holy Communion (ref. 1 Corinthians 10:16), although we confess this each Lord’s Day.

When Paul brings “the body of Christ” into this picture, “raised from the dead,” he is speaking literally and historically of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The is the gospel!  By the gospel we are justified, and for the gospel we are sanctified.  We are Spirit filled and set apart to “bear fruit for God” in our gospel worship and witness.

Sanctified, spiritual worship is found in a gospel-centered church.  It is not entertainment hour, with thunderous drum beats, spine tingling bass riffs, and stunning light shows which bring “living in the flesh” into the church.  Likewise, it is not a time to gather for a secular lecture series on how to gratify your flesh by grabbing for your best life now.  Sanctified worship is a time to preach, pray, sing, give, and symbolize the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sanctified, spiritual witness is found in a gospel-centered life.  To “bear fruit for God” means many things.  It means putting on display the fruit of the Holy Spirit (ref. Galatians 5:22).  It also means fulfilling the Great Commission by sharing the gospel and bringing people into the church (ref. Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 1:13).

Only Sanctified Christians can say, “we serve in the new way of the Spirit.”  Serve is the sanctified slavery of the doulos, which requires complete commitment to Christ.  The new way is Christianity, which requires complete commitment to Christ, His word, and His church.  Lack of sanctification is the worst witness of the gospel.  Real sanctification is a bold witness to the gospel, and can draw people to the real freedom in Christ we have found, freedom from the law and freedom for the gospel.

Freedom for the Fight

Do not use your freedom from the law to live in sin.  Fight against sin with all your sanctified might.  For sin can keep you from worship and sin will make you a bad witness.  Do use your freedom for the gospel to help set others free.

Lost people are being dragged down with a big chain of law tied around their neck.  Show them love by showing hem grace.  Show them the justifying grace of the gospel, with the sanctifying grace of your genuinely Christian life.

Sanctification is Christian freedom.  But, it is also a Christian fight.  Enjoy your freedom and get ready for the struggle.

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