Dying to the Law through Christ

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” (v. 4).

- Romans 7:4-6

Paul’s teachings on the law of God may be his most difficult instruction to understand. Some of the difficulty is due to the Apostle’s use of the term law in different ways. Often, he means the Mosaic law given to Israel (Gal. 3:19). At times, he means the universal moral law of God found on the consciences of all people (Rom. 2:14). Paul also uses the word law when he has both the Mosaic law and God’s universal moral law in view (3:19–20).

For our purposes, we need to remember that the universal moral law and the Mosaic law are not identical. The Mosaic law contains regulations that are part of the universal moral law (for example, the Ten Commandments), but not every statute in the law of Moses is found in God’s universal, eternal moral law. Some rules, such as the food laws and the sacrifices, were only temporary and given to point Israel to Christ (Heb. 10:1–18). Such laws do not reflect the Lord’s unchanging character, and would have been unnecessary apart from the fall. The universal moral law, however, was present even before Adam’s sin.

With all that in mind, and knowing that Paul originally wrote his epistle to an audience containing Jewish and Gentile believers, his notion of bondage to the law and sin in Romans 7:1–6 focuses on the Mosaic law but not to the exclusion of the law on the conscience. After all, though the Gentiles did not have the Mosaic law, the Apostle says they are bound to the law (vv. 1–3). Sin perverts God’s law, whether we receive it from Moses or have it written on the conscience, and it uses the law to increase sin. But since the law is God’s law, its demands must be met. In the complex relationship between the law and sin, sin uses the law to arouse transgression and make us more guilty of rejecting the law’s authority (5:20; 7:7–12). Thus, we are rightfully cursed and brought under the law’s condemnation (Gal. 3:10).

The only way to be set free from the law’s authoritative pronouncement of guilt and sin’s use of the law to increase transgression is for the sentence of the law to be executed. This occurs in Christ. United to Christ, upon whom the sentence of God’s righteous wrath for our sin was executed, we can no longer be condemned by the Lord. There is no double jeopardy in God’s legal system—the same crime cannot be tried and punished twice. Jesus bore the punishment for our crime—our sin—so the law can condemn us no longer (Rom. 7:4; see 3:21–26). Since we have been declared righteous in Christ, the law can no longer rightly condemn or crush us, and the power of sin is broken in our lives.

Coram Deo

Sin’s use of the law to increase transgression and the crushing sentence of the law go hand in hand, though Paul does not fully delineate how. If the sentence of the law has been satisfied, however, we are free from sin’s power and are no longer in captivity to transgression (Rom. 7:6). Therefore, we can look to the law as our guide without having to suffer from the increase of sin via the law. In Christ, the law is satisfied and the Spirit enables us to resist sin.

Passages for Further Study

Proverbs 5:22; 20:9; 21:10
2 Corinthians 3:6a
James 2:10

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