Gordon E. Johnson


Dead to the Law and Married to Another – The Risen Christ

Romans 7:1-6 (NKJV)

Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute


Until now in Paul’s treatment of sanctification or personal holiness, he has laid out for us the truth of our position in Christ. His treatment has been thorough and basic:

1. Our MUCH MORE position in Christ, no longer in Adam Romans 5:12-21
2. Our death to sin and our being raised to walk in newness of life Rom. 6:1-6
3. Our appropriation of his life grounded in Faith and Obedience Rom. 6: 7-14
4. Our new Master and our new gift of righteousness in practice Rom. 6:15-23

But additional truths are needed in our personal walk. The Spirit of Truth promised by Christ in John 14:17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-11 will now be introduced. Until now God through Paul has laid out the TRUTH. Access to God’s Holy Spirit is ours only on the basis of truth. Jesus said it well: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free . . . Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8: 31.32, 32). This is a most important truth to lay hold of. The Holy Spirit, the new personal dynamic of the victorious life in Christ is, after all, the Spirit of Truth promised by Jesus (John 14:17). Paul also calls him the Spirit of Christ. (Romans 8:9; 2 Cor. 3:17, 18)

The Role of Truth, Grace and the Holy Spirit A Divine Trio

The key to the fullness of Christ in the life of the believer is the balance and the unity of these three truths.

First, comes the liberating truths of what God did at the Cross, forgiving our sins, Christ for us (Col. 2:13) and then our resultant union with him, Christ in us and our death to sin at the Cross (Rom. 6:6).

Second, comes a deeper understanding that he has raised us up and seated us in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-6). His grace eliminates our striving, our doing. It has been forever his doing once and for all.

Third, the Holy Spirit now is in a position to do his liberating work. He will do it faithfully and on his terms of time and place. In brief this is what it means to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18) or spiritual maturity (Heb. 6:1). The Christian life is both an act and attitude of faith and a process. “The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17).

Paul Illustrates for Us the Work of Grace at the Cross Rom. 7:1 – 3

Notice carefully Paul’s review of TRUTH. He is about to illustrate our new point of departure to live the Christian life, that is, our death to sin accomplished once for all Rom. 6: 2, 6. That truth unfolds; we are to reckon or count ourselves dead indeed and alive to God (6:11), not letting sin reign (6:12) nor continuing to present our members by default to the old way of life (6:12 a) but rather a decisive presenting of our heart and will to God (6:13b). Now comes the affirmation of the new spiritual reality: “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace (6:14). Here is the TRUTH of the cross and the fact of GRACE being God’s modus operandi (mode of working).

Paul illustrates our absolute break with sin by the simple fact that death breaks any human relationship (Rom. 7:1-3). The widow is free to marry again, but only in the Lord. Before such a death she would be an adulteress, but after death she is fit to enter another intimate relationship. What altered her status before the law? Simply the fact of a death.

Grace in Action: We Died and Now Can Enjoy a Spiritual Relationship Rom. 7:4

If we can call Romans 6:6 The Magna Carta of our identification with Christ, then Romans 7: 4,6 is the second Magna Carta of our participation in his risen life. {The Magna Carta was signed by King John of England in 1215 establishing the basis of our democracy or the right of the people to rule themselves} Hear our Magna Carta: “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.” (7: 4) Here is a divine fact to be grasped by faith which begins a totally new relationship, a spiritual marriage, our participation in his risen life grounded in grace and the work of the cross. This is the «lost chord of evangelical preaching» as Dr. F. J. Huegel (my mentor 1957-68) was wont to say.

The law demanded perfection and we could not give it in the power of our best endeavor. The old life may persist and still rule areas of the believer’s life, as Paul will illustrate shortly in his own sad personal experience (Rom.7:7-25). But we are not shut up to that endless burden of struggle and striving. “We are not under law but under grace.” (6:14). But we must remember that that truth was stated so clearly in 6:14 which in turn is followed by the paragraph (6:15-23) that reminds us that grace can never be a partner with sin. On the contrary, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves to sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered and having been set free from sin, you became [past tense] slaves to righteousness” (Rom. 6:17, 18).

From the fact that the woman (we) died “through the body of Christ” when he died, it follows that when he arose, the woman (we) arose now to be married to him who “was raised from the dead”. Ours is now a relationship of love and not of duty to the law. A whole new world of love and freedom becomes ours. This is a total transformation of the Christian life. It is a relationship to be honored, deepened, not by doing and duty but by being and sharing risen his life.

The richness of this thought is yet to be followed up with the truths of the Holy Spirit and the reality of the old life still in us. We need to wait to see the whole picture as Paul unfolds it for us in the rest of chapter 7 and culminating in chapter 8. These amazing truths will be expounded in the next study (18b).

Powerful Points to Ponder
1. The richness and depth of the Christian life are seen in the interaction between Truth, Grace and the Holy Spirit.
2. Paul needs the full scope to Romans 5:12 to 8:39 (99 verses in all) to cover the wonders of the work of the Cross. Rapids deductions should not be made until we see the whole picture of victory now in a Risen Christ.

Yours in the Message of the Cross
Dr. G. E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
Edinburg, Texas