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.
A contract is only active as long as both parties involved are still alive. When one party dies, so too does the contract. In the previous chapter of his letter, Paul said that if one is alive to Christ, he is dead to sin (Romans 6:11). He also related the human state as being a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness (Romans 6:15-23). So, if we have died to sin, then we are no longer bound to it, just as if our spouse were to die, we would no longer be bound to him or her. If a contract has obligated us to slavery and we die, then we are no longer slaves. We died with Christ, we died to sin. That is what Paul was talking saying in Romans 6:2b-7.
How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin
Believer, not only have you died to sin but that death means you have died to the law. Verses 4-6 read,
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.
You, like the readers of Paul’s letter may ask then what good is the law? Did it and does it have any purpose? He answered that query in verse 7,
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.
The law gives us an awareness of our sin. If the Mosaic Law were not there, you would still sense it is wrong not to kill another person, but the Law says it straight out, “Do not kill” (Exodus 20:13). Would you know that it is wrong to be envious? Possibly, but the Law makes it clear. The Law gives us God’s expectations of us and in the end makes it clear that it is impossible to keep the law perfectly. Praise Him, He made a way for those who wanted to be justified, but it was not through the law, it was through faith. Tht is what we have been studying in Romans so far. The law makes us aware of sin, but it also increases sin. How? Paul described it this way in verses 8-11,
But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
Does that make sense to you? Picture yourself in a room, you may do whatever you like. There is a gaming system, a refrigerator, a treadmill, a couch, a chair, and a computer in that room. Now imagine that there is also a row of buttons, a green one, a blue one, a red one, and yellow one. You may do anything you wish to do until a sign appears on the wall reading, “Whatever you do, do not press the red button! If you press the button, you will surely die.” Now you have a rule. What is it you’re thinking? It probably isn’t “I think I’ll walk a few miles on the treadmill”, “I wonder what Thanksgiving recipes are on Pinterest, or even “Great, I’m gonna binge that TV show.” Chances are you’re wondering what happens if you press the red button and speculating about the reasons you can’t press it and how it could cause you to die. Until the rule appeared, the red button held no more interest to you than any of the other buttons. Before the rule appeared, pressing the red button was not a sin, but now it is. You are now aware that you should stay away from the red button, yet it is calling to you. The more you think about it, the more you want to press it. You might even talk yourself into believing the death warning is just a threat to avert you form doing what you really want to do, which is press the red button. Who is this rule maker to say what you can and cannot do? Is this His room? There is no evidence of that and even if it was, He gave it to you. It is your room and your button and so now this sin is lying to you about who the room-maker is, the purpose of His rule, and who you are in relation to Him.
That is how the law affects most of us, it doesn’t stop us from sinning, it causes sin and grows it. It cannot justify us (Romans 3:20, Galatians 2:16). Does that make the rule bad? No! The rule was for our good; pressing the button would kill us. It was listening to the lies of the sin that would lead us to commit the sin. It was the pride of our humanity in the face of submission to the rule that lead to death. Was it the commandment not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil which lead to Adam’s death or was it the sin of breaking that commandment? Verses 12-13 read,
So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
We are born in the flesh. Our flesh is filled with desires which lead to mortality and feed the sin which rules it. That is why we so often use the excuse that we are only human. That excuse tells us, we couldn’t help ourselves, the desire was too much and the temptation too great. Paul talked about how we as humans deal with sin we know is sin in verses 14-23.
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Are you one of the people who use this passage or even the spirit of this passage as a reason your deliberate sins are okay? Paul didn’t use this passage as a pardon for our sin. He used it as an example about how the law and therefore sin rules our carnal bodies. We are not merely human! Believer, we have flesh, yes, but are spiritual beings who have the Spirit of God and the mind of Christ 1 Corinthians 2:13-16 tell us,
And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
We do not rely on our flesh, earthly wisdom, or bodily desires. God doesn’t let us use that as a justification for our sin either. 1 Corinthians 10:13-14 read,
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
We don’t give in to a miserable excuse for sin, we flee from it sin. We deliberately choose not to sin. We have a Deliverer, a Savior who chose not to leave us in the pitiful state of slavery to sin. Verses 24-25 reads,
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Believer, “I’m only human” is an excuse that might work for those slaves of sin, condemned to sin and the death it brings, but not for us who have been freed from the law and sin. To say we cannot help but continue sinning is to choose slavery to sin and to call Jesus a liar and His work on the cross, futile. Would Jesus have said, “Go and sin no more” if He knew we could not overcome the flesh? (John 8:11). Galatians 5:16-24 in The Message reads,
I advise you to obey only the Holy Spirit’s instructions. He will tell you where to go and what to do, and then you won’t always be doing the wrong things your evil nature wants you to. 17 For we naturally love to do evil things that are just the opposite from the things that the Holy Spirit tells us to do; and the good things we want to do when the Spirit has his way with us are just the opposite of our natural desires. These two forces within us are constantly fighting each other to win control over us, and our wishes are never free from their pressures. 18 When you are guided by the Holy Spirit, you need no longer force yourself to obey Jewish laws.
19 But when you follow your own wrong inclinations, your lives will produce these evil results: impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, 20 idolatry, spiritism (that is, encouraging the activity of demons), hatred and fighting, jealousy and anger, constant effort to get the best for yourself, complaints and criticisms, the feeling that everyone else is wrong except those in your own little group—and there will be wrong doctrine, 21 envy, murder, drunkenness, wild parties, and all that sort of thing. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
22 But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control; and here there is no conflict with Jewish laws. 24 Those who belong to Christ have nailed their natural evil desires to his cross and crucified them there.
Cherished, you are dead to sin and alive in Christ! Sin and flesh have no power over you because you have God’s very own Spirit within you and He is Almighty!