“Death and darkness have now left packing, nothing to man is now lacking. Satan’s triumphs have ended, what Adam marred is now mended.” The fall plunged man into death and pain, but now through Christ, life eternal, we gain! “Pluck the harp and sound the horn, do you not know, tis Easter morn! Crowded may His worship be, praise the Holy Trinity! Hope has returned for man in his sinful plight through Christ’s powerful resurrection might! “Where is hell’s once dreaded king? Where O death is your sting? Hallelujahs to Christ we now sing!”
Today is a grand day. A day for the Christian, no doubt, that stands above all other days in the calendar. To make much of this day we usually pause our current sermon series and focus entirely on the resurrection, as is fitting. But today there’s no need to pause because of where we now find ourselves in our current series. For those of you who don’t know, we’ve been going through Paul’s letter to the Romans for some time now and today we’ve arrived at the beginning of chapter 7 where Paul leans into the resurrection to not only tell us why it matters for us, but what it produces in us! So if you’re not already there, turn with me to Romans 7:1-6.
Now, as we enter into Romans 7 I’d remind you that when Paul wrote this letter he didn’t divide it into chapters and verses, no. He wrote one ongoing letter. We were the ones who added the number divisions later on to help in locating passages quickly and aid in memorization. That’s how these divisions help us. But they can work against us by creating a tendency to see each chapter as its own free-standing section. We need to remember this. That, in Romans 7:1 Paul still has the first six chapters in view. So, chapter 7 should never be taken on its own terms, but should be seen as it is in truth, the next part of Paul’s flow of thought as he teaches us about the gospel and what the gospel brings to bear on our lives. So look back at what Paul said in Romans 6:14, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” After writing this Paul spent the rest of chapter 6 clarifying the grace of God and what it means for our lives to now be under grace. As 7:1 begins Paul returns to Law and describes our relationship to the Law. What does it mean for us to no longer be under the Law? How did we become free of the Law? What does this freedom lead to? And what is this freedom to be used for? All this and more, is centered on, addressed in, and driven home to us in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Truth Stated (v1)
“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?”
The question in v1 is very like Paul. We’ve seen this many times from him before, most recently in 6:3 and 6:16. When Paul asks, “Do you not know…” it indicates he’s about to say state something his readers should already know. In other words, Paul isn’t saying anything new here in v1. He adds a detail which confirms this afterwards, “…for I am speaking to those who know the Law…” Some take this to mean Paul’s speaking to Jewish believers only. That could be in view here because the Jews certainly would’ve known the Law, but I don’t think that’s the case. Rather, I think Paul has both Jews and Gentiles in mind when he refers to those who know the Law in v1. This is, after all, Paul’s letter to the Romans, a largely Gentile congregation. So while the believing Jews in the Roman church definitely would have had more background with the Law, the Gentiles within in the Roman church – who’ve been saved by Christ and who are growing in the knowledge of God through the Scriptures – would’ve had some understanding of the Law. So whether one is a Jew or Gentile, Paul aims to help, by clarifying how the Law now relates to them.
He begins doing this by stating a general proposition, the law binds a person only while they live. Which implies the opposite. If the Law binds a person only while they live, that person is freed from the Law when they die. But doesn’t that raise another question? If one dies, sure they might be free from the Law, but wouldn’t they then be dead and unable to enjoy being freed from the Law? Paul anticipates this, so as the master teacher he is, he moves on to give an illustration to help us understand him.
Truth Illustrated (v2-3)
“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. 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.”
So the truth he stated in v1, he now illustrates in v2-3. But why choose an illustration about marriage? Did it just pop up in Paul’s head at this moment? I don’t think so, there’s more purpose present here than that. I think Paul chose the relationship of husband and wife within the bond of marriage to illustrate v1, because in marriage we see something of the picture of the relationship of mankind to God’s Law, both before and after conversion. Let’s lean into this and see it for ourselves.
v2 begins with another general statement. A woman is bound to her husband, by law, while he lives. But if the husband dies she is no longer bound but free. This is why many marriage vows include the phrase ‘Till death do us part’ because death severs the bond. v3 continues the illustration and points out that a woman would be an adulterer if she were to live with another man while her husband is alive. Only the husband’s death can free her to marry another man. That’s the illustration.
Now, I’d like to add a caution here. This illustration should not be pressed to be the one defining text on marriage in Scripture, as if to teach the only way a marriage can be dissolved is by death. Death does indeed dissolve the marriage covenant, but Scripture shows us there are a few other grounds for dissolving the marriage covenant. Paul’s speaking in broad terms to make a point about the Law, he’s not speaking to the sad realities of marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
So, how does this illustration help us understand v1? Just as a married woman is bound to and under the authority of her husband, so too all mankind from birth is bound to and under the authority of the Law of God. But we can go further. Death breaks the bonds of marriage. It severs and dissolves it. So while the woman was once bound to her husband, upon his death she becomes free. And it’s implied that for the sinner bound to the Law, only death can bring freedom. And going further, once the husband is dead it’s now possible for the woman to enter into a new relationship, a new covenant, in which a new bond will be created. She is free to do this and in doing it she won’t be an adulteress. And again it’s implied that the same is true for the sinner now freed by death.
This is the illustration Paul gives us to understand v1. But thankfully Paul doesn’t just state the truth and illustrate the truth here, he goes further and applies the truth.
Truth Applied (v4-6)
Just v4 for now, “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.”
When we come to v4 we come to see why Paul gave us the illustration he did in v2-3. He did so because he wanted to show us not only what we once were but who we are now. We once were bound to the Law of God, but a death has occurred. Not the death of a spouse, it’s our own death that has occurred. See that? “…you have also died to the Law…” But there’s more about this death of ours in v4, “…you have also died to the Law through the body of Christ…” Now we see it. When we believe in Jesus we’re united to Jesus, such that His death becomes our death. And remember what death does? Death severs and dissolves bonds formerly made. So here in v4 we see that we have died to the Law, and in the freedom this death brings we enter into a new relationship and make a new bond. A new relationship and a new bond with who? “…to Him who has been raised from the dead…” We were once married to the Law of God but in Christ we have died, so we’re now free from the Law, free to belong to Him who has been raised from the dead! For what purpose? That we may bear fruit for God.
Or we could put it like this, to become a Christian is to undergo the most profound change possible. Before our relationship to God was through the Law, but a death severed that bond, now our relationship to God is through Him who not only died but was raised from the dead, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Or we could put it like this. For men and women bound to the Law of God and dead in sin, Christ came, born under the Law, born in our very position, why? So that through His death we would die to the Law, be married to Him, belong to Him, and bear fruit for Him! Church, a death has occurred and severed our old bond to the Law…this means we never have to fear the ‘old husband’ of the Law again. Yes the Law calls us out, lays us bare, and reveals our sin, but we now belong to One who has not only fulfilled the Law in all its demands, but One who died for us and was raised for us! How glorious then, that this risen Savior then fills us with His Spirit, and the Spirit bears His fruit in us and through us.
In case we’ve missed it, Paul repeats all this again in v5 saying, “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.” That’s what the Christian used to be…see v6 though, “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.”
Married to the Law, captive, and bearing fruit for death… see the contrast…but now, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone we died, were released, and freed to be married to Christ. See the result of this new union in v6? The result of this new resurrection union changes everything for us because now “…we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” The old way was external, the Law of God written on tablets of stone – this Law is our old husband who abused us in every way possible, but a death has occurred, our death in Christ that severed that bond so decisively that it can never be remade. What then? Not only has a death occurred, but a resurrection has occurred. And we now are married to Him who has been raised from the dead, and we walk in the new way of the Spirit who fills us with resurrection life and resurrection fruit, for all our days!
This truth Paul has stated, illustrated, and applied changes everything. Has it changed you? Who is your husband? The Law, who ever presses us down and calls out our sin and makes demands of us? Or are your married to Christ, who meets every need we ever have in His life, death, and resurrection?
Church, know this. In an ancient, arid city, one singular event occurred this day, unleashing a movement so compelling, so enduring, so influential, so unstoppable that two thousand years and billions of adherents later, it still grows, faster than ever, while the mighty empire that witnessed its birth lays in ancient ruins. This movement has shaped nations, spanned oceans, birthed universities, launched hospitals, transformed tribal peoples in the world’s remotest places, and is now spoken, read, and sung about in more languages than any other movement on the planet. That singular event? The body of Jesus Christ walked out of his tomb…Love it or hate it, the world has not seen nothing like it.
Some of you don’t believe this. I’m not unaware of you. Easter, like Christmas, is a time when many kinds of people come to church. I wonder, do you see the resurrection as a made up tale that a group of people manufactured to start a religion using Jesus’ teaching? Do you think the resurrection’s as fanciful a story as the Easter bunny? You may be among us as a guest, or you may be visiting for the first time yourself. Here is what I have to say to you now. Think on the resurrection honestly, thoughtfully, and try to answer one question: did Jesus really walk out of the tomb? The more you look at it, the more you’ll see the truth. That something astonishing really did happen that day, and that after every attempt to refute it or squash it, whatever it is, it is not the stuff of legends nor lies. It is historical objective fact witnessed firsthand by many.
Coming to this conclusion prompts a new thought, ‘Since Jesus did walk out of the tomb, everything He said must be true, and since everything He said was true, He must be who He said He was, and since He is who He said He was, I must no longer continue in unbelief, I must believe.’
The empty tomb, after all these years, is more influential than ever. It refuses to leave the stage of world attention. Ponder the angels’ words, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:5-6).
 Henry Vaughan’s Easter Hymn, quoted in R. Kent Hughes, The Pastor’s Book, page 120.
 Thomas Scott Angels, Roll the Rock Away, quoted in R. Kent Hughes, The Pastor’s Book, page 118-119.
 R.C. Sproul, Romans, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2009), 205–206.
 Douglas Moo, Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2018), 436.
 Robert W. Yarbrough et al., ESV Expository Commentary: Romans-Galatians, ed. Iain M. Duguid, James M. Hamilton Jr., and Jay Sklar (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2020), 106.
 like Paul’s teaching on abandonment (1 Cor. 7) and Jesus’ teaching on adultery (Matt. 5).
 Sproul, Romans, 206.
 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans – The Law (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth, 1985), 30-31.
 Jon Bloom, The Single Most Important Day in History, accessed via desiringgod.org, 4/31/18.