Do you not know, brothers (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?
I. THE RELATION OF THE LAW TO THE CHRISTIAN.
1. he Christian's union with Christ involves his freedom from the Law.
(1) From the Law as condemning him. "Ye are become dead to the Law by the body of Christ" (ver. 4). The Christian, by faith in Jesus Christ, becomes a participator in his death. "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus."
(2) From the Law as a motive-power. "But now we are delivered from the Law, having died to that wherein we were held [Revised Version]; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter" (ver. 6). The Authorized Version is here misleading when it translates, "that being dead wherein we were held." The apostle does not speak of the Law as being dead, but of Christians as being dead to the Law. The Law is not dead, but we are dead to it. We have a higher and a better life.
2. But this union with Christ and freedom from the Law do not imply that he is free to commit sin. The principles of the Law remain, though the power of it is gone, so far as justification or condemnation of the Christian is concerned. The Law was powerless to give fife. Through the sinfulness of our nature it brought forth fruit unto death (ver. 5). But our very freedom from the Law is in itself a reason for holy living. Christ implants in us a new principle. We now "serve in newness of spirit." Professor Croskery ('Plymouth Brethrenism') deals with this subject very fully in a chapter on "The Law as a Rule of Life." "If Old Testament saints," he says, "could be under the Law cud yet not under curse, because they were under the promise - that is, under the covenant of grace - why should not New Testament saints, saved by grace, be under Law likewise, as a rule of life, without being overtaken by the curse? What difference was there between David's sin and Peter's sin, in relation to the Law? If David was bound to keep the ten commandments, including the seventh, are not New Testament saints similarly bound? Does not James settle this point when he says, 'He that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill' (James 2:11), and says this, too, to Christians? The passage [ch. 6:14] means, 'Ye are not under the Law as a condition of salvation, but under a system of free grace.'" The Law still remains as the rule of life, the standard of obedience. St. Paul himself says in this same chapter, "With the mind I myself serve the Law of God" (ver. 25). And our Lord himself said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil"(Matthew 5:17).
II. THE RELATION OF THE LAW TO THE SINNER.
1. The Law reveals to him the depths and power of his own sinfulness. After the apostle has shown how, in the unregenerate nature, "the motions of sins, which were by the Law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death," he asks, "What shall we say then? Is the Law sin?" (ver. 7). That is to say - Is the Law therefore in itself sinful? does it encourage sin? Far from it, he says. "Nay, I had not known sin, but by the Law." That is - I had not known the force or power of sin but by the law. "Sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful" (ver. 13). Some would condemn the Bible because it describes sin, and pictures some of its best characters as falling into sins of gross description. But this, so far from being a defect of the Bible, is at once an evidence of its truthfulness, and an element in its purifying power upon humanity. The Bible does not describe sin to make us love it, but to turn us from it. So it is with the Law of God. It may awaken in our minds suggestions of sins that we would not otherwise have thought of (vers. 7, 8), but conscience at once recognizes that this is due, not to the Law itself, but to the sinfulness of our nature.
2. The Law remains as the standard of right life. "The Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (ver. 12); "The Law is spiritual" (ver. 14). Here is the answer to those who regard the Law as abrogated. The Law is still binding as the rule of life, the standard of morality. It therefore condemns the sinner. Thus still it becomes our schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ. - C.H.I.
I. THE BELIEVER'S FORMER CONNECTION WITH THE LAW.
Know ye not, brethren...how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?I. ALL MEN ARE, NATURALLY, UNDER THE LAW AS A COVENANT OF WORKS.
1. As men. God made man capable of moral government; he was naturally bound to obey the will of his Maker. The moral law: perfect obedience to this law could never entitle him to any greater degree of happiness, yet God was pleased to superadd a promise of everlasting life upon obedience, to which He annexed His awful sanction, "In the day that thou sinnest, thou shalt surely die." This is what we call a covenant: as such it was proposed on the part of God, and it was accepted on the part of man. Now as this covenant was made with Adam as the federal head, so all men are naturally under it.
2. As sinners. In this view sinners are under the law as a broken covenant, which therefore can afford no relief to them that seek salvation by it (Galatians 3:10-12).
II. TO BE UNDER THE LAW, AND ESPECIALLY AS A BROKEN COVENANT, IS A MOST DREADFUL THING.
1. The law requires perfect, universal, and everlasting obedience of all that are under it. Now this law is not abolished or made void, either by Christ or by any of His apostles. "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil; for verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matthew 5:17, 18; Romans 3:31). How dreadful then is such a state, since no mere man can thus keep it. And while the Christian betakes himself to the mercy of God in Christ, as his only hope, the sinner supports his vain confidence in the supposition that God will not insist on His claim.
III. MANY HAVE OBTAINED A GLORIOUS DELIVERANCE OUT OF THIS DREADFUL STATE. In Christ they are made brethren: "Know ye not, brethren."
IV. THEY WHO ARE DELIVERED FROM THIS STATE ARE TO BE DISTINGUISHED FROM OTHERS IN THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD. Addressing himself to believers, Paul appeals to their spiritual knowledge and judgment, "Know ye not."
1. There is a knowledge peculiar to the saints, whereby they know the things that are excellent; they have judgment to distinguish betwixt truth and error; an inward principle (1 John 2:27; 1 John 5:20) which teaches them the knowledge of every truth necessary for consolation or salvation.
2. One great reason why many know not the truth, is not merely owing to their ignorance of it, but often to their prejudice against it.
3. Sound and saving knowledge hath respect not only to the truth itself, but also to the use we are to make of it.
4. It is no inconsiderable part of our happiness when we are called to minister unto such as know the truth as it is in Jesus.Conclusion:
1. If all men are naturally under the law as a covenant of works, who can wonder if they seek life by that covenant? Natural light, natural conscience can discover no other way of salvation.
2. If all are miserable who are under the law, especially as a broken covenant, this calls upon men who are under a profession of religion to examine themselves as to their state before God.
3. If believers are delivered from the law as a covenant, yet still let them remember, "They are under the law to Christ."
4. If true believers are to be distinguished from others in the ministry of the Word, let them distinguish themselves, not only by a public profession, but also by a becoming walk and conversation.
1. The law, considered in the figurative capacity of a husband, had a right to full and implicit subjection. But alas! all mankind had violated the authority of this first husband; they had abused his rights, resisted his claims, and thus exposed themselves to the fatal consequences of his just denunciations.
2. Yet, miserable as this state is, men in general are insensible of it. They still show attachment to the law, despite their disobedience; and place, as a wife does on her husband, infatuated dependence. As God said to Eve, "Thy desire shall be to thy husband," so it is with the sinner as to the law.
II. THE DISSOLUTION OF THIS CONNECTION. This consists in the sinner's deliverance from the obligation to obedience as the condition of life, and from the curse attending disobedience.
1. When and how does this take place? The answer is — "The law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth."... "Ye are become dead to the law." Here is the decease of one of the parties, by which the union is dissolved.
2. This decease refers to the death of the believer in Christ (Romans 6:7, 8), who bore the curse of the law in his stead (Galatians 3:13). Thus the effects of the first husband's displeasure cannot reach them.
3. And not only is the curse of the law removed, but our connection with it, as a condition of life, is forever done away, as effectually as the relation between husband and wife is dissolved by death.
1. To this new husband all believers are subject. They feel his authority as that at once of rightful claim and of tender affection. They delight in obeying Him who loves them. And in Him they are truly blessed. He smiles upon them, and enriches them with a dowry of spiritual treasures.
2. This connection, being with "Him who is raised from the dead," is indissoluble (Romans 6:9). The Husband never dies; nor do they ever die to whom He stands thus related. "Joined to the Lord, they are one spirit;" and the spiritual union is lasting as eternity.
IV. THE CONSISTENCY OF THIS NEW CONNECTION WITH ALL THE RIGHTS AND CLAIMS OF THE FIRST HUSBAND. These claims were just, and had a right to be fully implemented. The believer has not satisfied them in his own person; but his Substitute has by His obedience and death "magnified the law and made it honourable." Hence the law's claims upon him cease as completely as the claims of a husband when dead on the surviving wife.
V. THE ABSOLUTE NECESSITY OF THE DISSOLUTION OF ALL CONNECTION WITH THE LAW, IN ORDER TO A SINNER'S BEING JOINED TO CHRIST. The two connections cannot subsist together. The sinner who is joined to Christ must die completely to the law. While he retains any connection with it, in the way of seeking or expecting life from it, he is not united to Christ. As the worship of idols was styled adultery, when practised by that people whom Jehovah had espoused to Himself — so all such connection with the law is unfaithfulness to our Divine Husband. He must be "all our salvation, and all our desire." Let no one, however, think that we are pleading for freedom from the law as the rule of life. Its obligation in this sense remains immutable (Romans 3:31; 1 Corinthians 9:21, etc.).
VI. THE BLESSED EFFECTS OF THE DISSOLUTION OF THE CONNECTION WITH THE LAW, AND THE FORMATION OF THE UNION WITH CHRIST. The "bringing forth fruit unto God." The fruit meant is, no doubt, holy obedience and service (Romans 6:22). Such fruit is as naturally the effect of union to Christ, as the fruit of the womb is the expected result of the marriage relation. No fruit acceptable in the sight of God can be produced while the former connection continued (ver. 5). They who are "under the law are in the flesh"; and can bring forth no fruit but "unto death." All is devoid of the only principle of acceptable service — "faith working by love." There is no true fruit unto God produced till the connection with the law has been dissolved, and that with Christ has been formed (ver. 6). The fears of the law, uniting with the pride of self-righteousness, may produce considerable outward conformity to the precepts of the law; whilst there is no true principle of godliness within. There may be much in the eyes of men that is amiable; while in the sight of God all the service is rendered in the "oldness of the letter" — under the influence of the principles of the old, is service in "newness of spirit," i.e., to serve God in sincerity, under the influence of those principles and views and dispositions which constitute a mind renewed by the Spirit of God (Ezekiel 36:26).
(R. Wardlaw, D. D.)I. FREEDOM FROM THE COMPULSORY ACTION OF LAW. It can neither —
3. Become a source of bondage.
II. THE FREEDOM OF DEVOTED LOVE TO CHRIST.
1. Who has won the heart;
2. Constrains our service;
3. By His death and resurrection.
(J. Lyth, D. D.)1. The apostle has illustrated the transference that takes place at conversion by the emancipation of a slave whose services are due to the lawful superior under whom he now stands enrolled. The apostle now turns to those who know the law, and deduces from the obligations which attach to marriage, the same result, i.e., an abandonment by the believer of those doings which have their fruit unto death, and a new service which has its "fruit unto God."
2. There is a certain obscurity here arising from the apparent want of sustained analogy. True, the obligations of marriage are annulled by the death of one party; but Paul only supposes the death of the husband. Now the law is evidently the husband, and the subject the wife. So that, to make good the resemblance — the law should be conceived dead, and the subject alive. Yet, in reading the first verse, one would suppose that it was on the death of the subject, and not of the law, that the connection was to be dissolved. It is true that the translation might have run thus, "The law hath dominion over a man so long as it liveth"; but this does not suit so well with ver. 4, where, instead of the law having become dead unto us, we have become dead unto it; so that some degree of that confusion which arises from a mixed analogy appears unavoidable. It so happens, too, that either supposition stands linked with very important truth — so that by admitting both, this passage becomes the envelope of two important lessons.
I. THE LAW MAY BE REGARDED AS DEAD; and he our former husband, now taken out of the way, has left us free to enter upon an alliance with Christ.
1. The death of the law did indeed take place at the death of Christ. It was then that He blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us. It was then that the law lost its power as an offended Lord to take vengeance of our trespasses. Certain venomous animals expire on the moment that they have deposited their sting and its mortal poison in the body of their victim. And thus there ensues the death of both sufferer and assailant. And on the Cross there was just such a catastrophe.
2. Without Christ the law is in living force against us. Men under earnestness, who have not found their way to Christ, stand related to it as the wife does to an outraged husband: a state of appalling danger and darkness from which there is no relief, but in the death of that husband.
3. The illustration of our text opens a way for just such a relief as would be afforded by the death of the first tyrannical husband, and by the substitution of another in his place, who had cast the veil of oblivion over the past, and who admits us to a fellowship of love and confidence. Christ would divorce you, as it were, from your old alliance with the law; and welcome you, instead, to a new and friendly alliance with Himself. He bids you cease from the fellowship altogether.
4. And to deliver this contemplation from any image so revolting as that of our rejoicing in the death of a former husband; and finding all the relief of heaven in the society of another, you have to remember that the law has become dead — not by an act which has vilified the law or done it violence, but by an act which has magnified the law and made it honourable.
4. When a sense of the law brings remorse or fearfulness into your heart, transfer your thoughts from it as your now dead, to Christ as your now living husband.
II. THE BELIEVER MAY BE REGARDED AS DEAD. The other way by which marriage may be dissolved is by the death of the wife. And so the relationship between the law and the subject may be dissolved by the death of the subject (ver. 4). The law has no more power over its dead subject than the husband has over his dead wife.
1. This brings us back to the conception already so abundantly insisted on, that in Christ we all died in law; so that the law can have no further reckoning with us, having already had that reckoning in the person of Him who was our Surety and our Representative. And just as the criminal law has done its utmost upon him whom it has executed, so the law can do no more in the way of vengeance with us, having already done all with Him who was smitten for our iniquities.
2. After our old relationship with the law is thus put an end to, the vacancy is supplied by Him who, after having removed the law through His death out of the station it had before occupied, then rose again and now stands in its place. The wife owes a duty to her second husband as well as her first. It is true that with the former the predominant feeling may have been that of obligation mixed with great fearfulness; and that, with the latter, the predominant feeling may be sweet and spontaneous affection. But still it is evident that there will be service, possibly much greater in amount and certainly far worthier in principle. Under the law we are bidden to do and live; under Christ we are bidden to live and do. In working to the law it is all for ourselves that we may earn a wage or a reward. In working to Christ it is all the freewill offering of love and thankfulness (2 Corinthians 5:16).
(T. Chalmers, D. D.)1. The dissolution of the former marriage.
2. The new marriage.
3. Its fruits.The believer, released from the law by dying in fellowship with the death of Christ, is free to enter into a new union with the risen Christ, in order to bring forth the fruits of holiness to God's honour.
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