In Romans 6.2, Paul writes, â..We died to sin.â. In Romans 7.4, he goes on to say, â..you also died to the law.â. I think we all understand what it means to die to sin, for the second half of Romans 6.2 asks, â..how can we live in it any longer?â. But what does it mean to die to the law? Does it mean we no longer have to obey the commandments? Was Paul an antinomian after all?
To answer these questions, letâ..s take a closer look at Romans 7.1-6. Paul begins with a statement of legal principle in verse 1: â..Do you not know, brothersâ..for I am speaking to men who know the lawâ..that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?â.
In verses 2-3, he offers an illustration of that legal principle at work: â..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 of marriage. So then, if she marries 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, even though she marries another man.â.
Finally, in verses 4-6, he draws out the application of that principle to Christian faith and practice: â..So, my brothers, 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 to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, 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.â.
Now, it is clear from verses 4-6 that being dead to the law does not mean being free to sin. Paul is not an antinomian in terms of moral behavior. Rather, as Christians, we died to the law â..that [we] might belong to [Christ]â. and â..that we might bear fruit to God.â. The result of dying to the law is that â..we serve in the new way of the Spirit.â. As I said, the opposite of being dead to the law is not being free to sin. Rather, it is being alive to God so that we take on the moral character and activity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So, then, what exactly does it mean to be dead to the law? Notice three key words: â..controlled,â. â..bound,â. and â..released.â. Before Christ, we were controlled by our â..sinful nature,â. literally, â..flesh.â. We were natural born sinners, so to speak. The law indicted us and â..boundâ. us over for judgment before God. But Christâ..s death for our sins and in our place â..releasedâ. us from the judgment we deserved. To be dead to the law in this way is the only way to be truly and eternally alive.