For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.(Romans 7:5-6)
The Christian is delivered from being “under the law”, by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Though the Law is true, beautiful, righteous,Holy and good, it is not the means of Salvation, nor of sanctification.
Beautiful and prefect as it is, it can only condemn us because it’s function is to reveal the “sinfulness of sin”. In fact the Law actually agitates and heightens our sin. A rebel needs boundaries to rebel against, a “thou Shalt not” to act upon, in order to express his rebellion.
We are not saying that the Law causes us to sin, (God forbid such a thought!). What we are saying is that the Law of God brings our God rejecting, sinful natures into stark relief. Law is a wonderful thermometer, but not the cure for our disease.
Let’s unpack this important passage:
* When we were in the flesh-This is a reference to the Adam Christ dichotomy which runs all the way through Romans 5 through Romans 8. When we were in our unregenerate state, when we operated out of Adam, and the nature that we inherited from Adam.
* The motions of sins which were by the law-The Law only stimulated the rebellious principle of sin that was already in our members, it didn’t put it there. With the more precise knowledge of what sin is, and where the lines of transgression lie, indwelling sin has a field day! Law exposes but doesn’t empower.
* To bring forth fruit unto death-This is why we said in the marriage allegory, the law is a barren husband. The goal is “bearing fruit unto God”, and what is that fruit? Nothing less than to”Love the Lord our God with all of our heart and all of our soul and all of our mind and all of our strength”- Law alone cannot produce this.
Only the Gospel makes it possible to Love God supremely because it puts us on God’s side in a way that we could never do for ourselves. “We love Him because He first loved us..”is the gospel confession. It was God himself who was” in Christ reconciling the World unto himself…”.
God’s Law is impossible to keep without love-love is the fulfilling of the law. The first table defines what it looks like to Love God, and the second is the definition of love for my fellow-man. But most of the commandments are put negatively, because God knows we don’t love Him or haven’t loved Him, let alone anyone else other than self.
But how can an already condemned sinner love God, and love God’s law ,which condemns him to the core of his being? The Gospel of Jesus’ substitution on the cross as a satisfaction for our sins, is the answer to this dilemma . A truly God initiated solution for a God sized problem!
Now, as having died with Jesus and In Him, and passed out from under the demands and requirements of the Law, and being raised unto newness of Life, by the Holy Spirit, we can Love God in return for His saving love for us.
* That being dead in which we were held – This is why he contrasts letter with Spirit here. The Letter alone, not even graven on the heart, but on cold, lifeless stone, objective to us, the children of Adam,cannot give us what we need the most, Life. We have to admit that it is true, and yes beautiful and right, but we are alienated from it by the fall.
* We should bring forth fruit unto God, not in oldness of letter but in newness of Spirit-But now the Spirit has come, in the light of Calvary, and written the law on our hearts, enabling us to bear real fruit, that is holy Love for God and others. Not as a craven, fearful obligation in light of judgment, but as free and redeemed people, ipso facto, after the fact, that,
“He made Him who knew no sin for us, that we might be made the Righteousness of God in Him”(2 Corinthians 5:21)