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.
Paul concludes this point with an interesting illustration; marriage. When a marriage partner dies, their covenant is dissolved and the remaining partner is free to marry again; I don’t know about you, but I find this an interesting point. If I remember correctly, Jesus blew the minds of the Pharisees one day when they brought this up. It seems they couldn’t deal with the thought that in heaven a woman might have more than one husband, if her husband died and she remarried, so they asked Jesus about it. To be fair, on this particular occasion, they weren’t trying to trap Jesus; their real targets were the Sadducees. Anyway, Jesus told them that in heaven, we will be like the angels who do not take partners in marriage. When I read those verses, I always smile at the rivalry between the Pharisees (who did believe in resurrection) and the Sadducees (who did not)… and at the same time, I have a chuckle at the expense of some of our romantic notions about heaven.
Back to Paul’s point, it would seem that Paul didn’t share any romantic notions about husbands and wives in heaven either. When the husband dies, the widow is free to marry another because she… and her husband for that matter… are released from the bonds of matrimony. In the same way, just as Jesus’ body died on the cross, so did we, and we are thus set free from the Law.
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. 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. 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.
Having been released from the Law, we reap significant advantages such as freedom from sin, freedom from fear and freedom from death; yes indeed, this is a really big deal. Before this, we were caught up in a system that didn’t lead us to a good place, for under the Law, we could only be condemned. It would seem that there is something deep in human nature that the Law could not repair: “…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.”
What is it in us that drives us to sin in the face of divine law?
Have you ever told a 2-year-old not to do something? If so, what do they do?
Yep, the very thing you told them not to do!
I think that answer to the question comes down to what the nature of sin really is. It isn’t merely the violation of a rule; it’s a spirit of rebellion. When Adam ate the forbidden fruit, his problem wasn’t just that he did a “no-no” it was that he wanted to be like God; he rebelled. Law defines what it is to rebel, it makes rebellion clear to us and what do we do?
Things are different now, for through Christ we died to the Law and are released from its written code; obedience to God is not longer a matter of mastering our own will, for now we have a whole new life within us, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit. The presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit changed everything; there is only one thing we have left to do, and that is to make a choice: Follow the old way or follow the new way.
The sad truth is that most of us never actually make a choice, and suffer repercussions as a result. What is the repercussion? Without making a choice, our “settings” remain “default settings” and therefore we follow the old ways. When a person is still following the old ways, they tell everybody around them of their status; can you guess what they say? Yes, that’s it! They say…
“But it’s too hard…”