Chapter seven begins with Paul asking the rhetorical question (for a third time) Are you ignorant? or Don’t you already know?! So just in case you still don’t “get it,” he then states and explains a basic truth about the law. The statement is that the law has jurisdiction over a person only as long as they live. Paul then (verses 2-3) gives an illustration with the marriage relationship. In his example a woman is bound to her husband by law. If the husband dies, then she is free to marry another man. What point is Paul making? Douglas Moo answers:
“View the story as an illustration of a simple truth: a death must take place if one is to be released from the authority of the law.”
Paul now applies this truth in verse 4. We died to the law through the body of Christ. Paul also gives us the purpose of this sacrificial death. He states two dependent clauses: in order that we 1) can be joined to the resurrected Christ, and 2) may bear fruit to God. The gospel message according to Paul is that God has provided a way of escaping death so that we can have life in Christ and bear fruit to God. Our death through the body of Christ ends our obligation to sin and begins our new life in Him.
Paul is describing a change in the way we relate to God. We are no longer bound to the law. We are no longer obligated to comply with the “letter” of the law. Now we are truly free to serve in newness of spirit (verse 6). This frees us from religion – human attempts to relate to God. So many people remain enslaved to their religion, as F. F. Bruce describes it:
“What is really at fault is the conception of religion as law-keeping, the idea that by painstaking conformity to a law-code one can acquire merit in God’s sight.”
God gave the law to make it clear that man can not measure up to His righteousness on our own. Grace is the way He has provided to a restored relationship with Him. Paul wants us to understand that we must stop (death) attempting to earn God’s love so that we can be free to accept His grace. Even the good we try to do on our own becomes another from of rebellion against the will of God. The death of our selfishness allows us to be truly free to serve God.
next: Romans 7:7-13