In Romans 7:1–6, the marriage relationship is used to illustrate the power of Jesus Christ to change the human heart. “A married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage … you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another” (vv. 2–4). Let me give you two statements that go to the heart of this application:
We died to the law
We are now married to Christ
The point of this passage is not just that we traded husbands—the law for Christ. Its real point is that we have traded a bad marriage for a good one. When we were under the law, we were in a relationship that could never satisfy. It’s like being married to the most demanding husband in the world. Nothing you do pleases him.
Nothing is ever good enough. Nothing is ever clean enough. You work to fix a nice meal—and because it’s not perfect, he doesn’t like it. He’s on your case day and night. He wakes up every morning with a list of things you need to do today. And no matter how hard you work, you can never finish the list to his satisfaction. He’s picky, he’s demanding, he’s a perfectionist, he’s critical, and to top it all off, he’s right all the time.
That’s what it was like living under the law. You know the law is good. It’s “right all the time.” You do your best to live up to the Ten Commandments, but “nobody’s perfect.” However, perfection is what the law demands. God doesn’t grade on a curve. It’s not good enough to keep most of the commandments most of the time. That will only condemn you. It can never save you. You end up beaten down, discouraged, frustrated, feeling like a failure all the time. You can never be good enough no matter how much you try.
Out With the Old, In With the New
Verse 6 declares that now we “are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” The “old way” was the way of the law—“Do, do, do. Work harder, keep on trying, push harder.” You were bound to fail. The law guaranteed it.
What’s the “new way?” It’s the way of the Spirit. It’s an inner change wrought in your heart by the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:5 tells us “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The new way is love. We serve God now out of love and gratitude, not out of fear or guilt.
If you’re still trying to please God enough so that He’ll forgive your sins, it’s not working, is it? You’re frustrated, aren’t you? God seems far away, doesn’t He? I’ve got good news. If you are ready to die to the law, you can have a new relationship with Jesus. You’ve got to give up any hope of ever pleasing God on your own merits. That means turning away from your dream of being good enough to go to heaven. If you are willing to die to those fantasies, you can be quite literally born again into a brand-new life.
—Ray Pritchard, adapted