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Dead to the Law (Pt. 1)
Romans 7:1-4
April 15, 2018

We have a love-hate relationship with the law.

When a criminal is caught and then brought to justice, we are grateful. When someone recklessly speeds past us and then we see him stopped by the side of the road with a police car behind him two miles down the road, we do a little inward cheer (as I did a few weeks ago when I saw that happen). When we think about how the laws of the land provide order and structure (if you’ve ever driven in a third-world country, you know what I mean) and protection (most of us don’t have to worry about our safety at night), we are thankful and even love the laws that serve to restrain much evil.

But we also dislike the law. (Do I even have to say that on April 15?) We dislike the law when it is against us — when we have to pay taxes, when we are the ones who are stopped by the police officer, when we see judgments from courts that defy common sense, and when the law restricts what we want to do (and what we think is logical and reasonable to do).

We might even say that we have a love-hate relationship with biblical law. We love the law and how it leads us and guides us. Consider what the Scriptures themselves say:

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. (Ps. 19:7-10)

  • I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word. (Ps. 119:16)
  • Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law And keep it with all my heart. (Ps. 119:34)
  • O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. (Ps. 119:97)
  • Those who love Your law have great peace, And nothing causes them to stumble. (Ps. 119:165)
  • Let my tongue sing of Your word, For all Your commandments are righteousness. (Ps. 119:172)
  • The Lord was pleased for His righteousness’ sake To make the law great and glorious. (Is. 42:21)

But we also hate how some have taken the blessings of the Law and claimed that they are self-righteous by means of perfectly keeping the Law. In spite of clear statements like Rom. 3:20 — “by the works of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight” — many have still sought to claim self-righteousness by obedience to the Law. Consider the Pharisees in Jesus’ day —

  • “For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders…” (Mk. 7:3)
  • [Jesus, telling a parable:] “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ (Lk. 18:11-12)
  • [Jesus] “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.…” (Matt. 23:23)
  • “The Holy One created man’s evil inclination but created the Torah [the Mosaic Law] to overcome it.” [Rabbi Raba, in the Babylonian Talmud; quoted in MacArthur, 357.]

But the self-righteous law-keeping of the Pharisees was inadequate: “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven” (Mt. 5:20). It is impossible to keep the law and avoid God’s judgment and receive Heaven and its rewards.

So what is the value of the Law? Or is there value in the Law and what is the believer’s relationship to the Law? That is the question Paul is addressing in Romans 7. You are likely familiar with this chapter because of vv. 14-25. But in the first part of the chapter, Paul explains our relationship to the Law. He does this because he is defending the gospel, and specifically the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. In 3:24-26 Paul asserts that salvation is only in Christ. In 3:28, 4:5 he explains that salvation is only through faith. And in 5:20-21 he reminds that salvation is only by grace. And it is this last statement particularly that becomes so important, because some will attempt to abuse the grace that produces justification (that’s his discussion in 6:1ff and 6:15ff). But he will again assert in 6:14 that, “we are not under law but under grace.” And that is the statement that Paul returns to defend in chapter 7. We are not under Law. We have life by grace, not Law. And we live daily by grace, not Law.

Here is Paul’s premise in the opening verses of Romans 7 —

If you are in Christ, you are dead to God’s Law.

Paul identifies three realities the believer should remember to keep himself living obediently under grace and not rebelliously under sin.

  1. The Statement of the Principle: the Law has a Limit (v. 1)
  2. The Illustration of the Principe: the Law of Marriage (vv. 2-3)
  3. The Application of the Principle: the Believer is Dead to the Law (v. 4)
  • What dead to the Law means
  • How we died to the Law
  • Why we died to the Law

Download the rest of this sermon on Romans 7:1-4.

The audio will be posted on the GBC website tomorrow morning.