Romans (Part 07) - Chapter 7
Romans 7 begins with an analogy. Paul has just argued in Romans 6 that those who belong to God, although not under the Law, are nevertheless servants of Christ and righteousness. Paul's analogy in the first 6 verses of chapter 7 is meant to drive the point home. But there may be some confusion as we look into it.
Paul starts with an illustration. He says that a woman is bound to her husband by the law. If the husband dies, the woman is free to marry another. Okay, in the example, then, figure A (the woman) is bound to figure B (her husband). If death occurs to figure B, figure A is free to marry figure C (another). Then Paul applies the illustration starting in verse 4. He says "you" (the Roman Christians and, by extension, us) have died to the law, and therefore you (or we) may be bound to another. Now, match that up with the illustration. In the illustration, figure B (the husband) dies. In the application, figure A (you) die. Read the verses over again. Why does Paul ignore symmetry between the illustration and his application?
I think the problem is that we read this without the covenantal aspect or way of thinking that, I believe, was dictating Paul’s thoughts. All through Romans so far, Paul was making covenantal applications. Remember, that the end of a covenant is signaled by death. So, then, in the illustration, Paul's point is not who dies. His point is that a death occurs ending the covenant of marriage. While the marriage covenant was in effect, the woman was bound to the man. When death occurred ending that covenantal relationship, another relationship could be formed. This thought, then, is what should be tied to Paul's application. Our covenant relationship with the law bound us to it. But death signals the end of covenant relationship. So when we died (through Christ), the covenant with the law ended.
Paul is telling us that although the covenant law had governed our actions, now the covenant law has ended for us because of our death in Christ. We are joined to another (Christ) and we no longer must face the penalty for acting contrary to the old covenantal law that governed that now-ended covenant relationship.
From this, we can see how the deaths Paul mentions all fit together. In Romans 6:2 he says we died to sin. In Romans 7:4 he says we died to the law. In Romans 6:3 he says we have been baptized into Christ's death. Understanding the covenantal terminology Paul has in mind, we see that we died to sin—covenantally. We died to the law—covenantally. We died in Christ—covenantally. The meaning is that Christ’s death for the penalty of my sin ended the covenant obligation I had under the old covenant. So, dying to sin means the same thing—covenantally, I am no longer obligated to the old covenant because the failure and death payment of a broken covenant has been completed. I have died to the law—that law which obligates my actions and dictates the consequences is over based on the covenant’s brokenness and the consequential death result performed by Christ for me.
But on the other hand, Christ fulfilled the covenant and applied or imputed His righteous fulfillment to me. I have the righteousness of Christ—not in that I no longer sin, but in that His righteous fulfillment of the covenant renders me not guilty to its consequence for breaking the covenant.
Paul seems to sense that his analogy, taken at face value (e.g., died to the law 7:4 and died to sin 6:2) may tie, in his readers minds, sin to the law. This, then, he argues against starting in verse 7. The law is not sin; the law is good. Additionally, in verses 13 and 14 Paul makes sure we understand that the law did not cause death. It was sin. In verse 15 Paul begins a discussion of the dichotomy of his human condition. He is alive in Christ, yet as he remains in the flesh, he constantly sins. But notice that the guilt for that sin no longer condemns him. In his mind he delights in the law of God, but in practice he finds himself still warring with sin. But, as verse 25 proclaims, Christ will deliver him from even this fleshly practice of sin.