Gordon E. Johnson


Dead to the Law and Married to Another – in the Person of the Holy Spirit

Romans 7:1-6 (NKJV)

Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute


Paul has introduced a hitherto new concept to the Christian life in Romans 7:1-6. The illustration of death that breaks the bonds of a legal relationship is now shown to mean through our union with Christ in his death and resurrection that we are now married to another (Rom. 7:4). The grace of God, the truth of the Cross and now the person of the Holy Spirit brings to fruition a love relationship. A whole new dimension has been added that transforms our daily walk.

What does Dead to the Law Mean? Rom. 7: 4, 6

At first reading this divine truth of our being dead to the law is a difficult concept to grasp. The law is after all the transcript of God’s holiness. It appears to be God’s answer to the sin question. Paul had stated earlier: “for you are not under law, but under grace” (Rom 6:14). He follows it up in Rom. 7 with the illustration of our death in Christ having loosed the marriage relationship to the law; then he states clearly on two occasions: “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law (aorist passive-a fact, not a process) through the body of Christ . . . but now being delivered (katargeo-annulled, loosed), from the law, having died to what we were held by so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter”.

We must be clear that the law did not die to us; it remains intact and the sinner must respond to it; rather we died to the power of the law in the body of Christ. Just as in Rom. 6: 2 sin did not die to us; its presence remains in the believer, but rather we died to sin. It becomes a question of our being released from the demands of the law to please God in the person of the Holy Spirit.

God’s Purpose for the Law and His view of our Law Keeping

The heart of the matter is that in God’s plan the law was never meant either to save us or sanctify us. The law demands total absolute compliance with no exception ever granted.“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them’ . . . Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us ‘for it is written, cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’” (Gal. 3:10, 13).

God, the giver of the law, purposed to so convict and convince the sinner of his sin that in total desperation the sinner would respond to his mercy and grace in the offer of forgiveness and salvation. The law was added for transgressions (Gal. 3:19); the law would be a tutor to bring us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). Paul makes is clear that the Jew misused the law: “For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God ” (Rom.10:3). The correct role of the law was to reduce us to repentance and/or reveal our total inability to keep the law, shutting us up to Christ’s offer of his grace.

The Believer Who Accepts the Law as His Norm

The fleshly carry over for even the sincere believer has been to attempt to respond to the law hoping in some way to build merit or to establish his own righteousness. Paul attempted precisely to respond in good intention to the law—not to covet (Rom. 7: 7-24). He utterly failed to accomplish the impossible, as will everyone who puts himself/herself under the impossible demands of the law for personal holiness.

The flesh or the self life has an incessant desire to respond, to strive to produce self righteousness. Almost any attempt can be justified by the good intention. Christian service can be an outlet for self righteousness, the worthy disciplines of the Christian walk: reading the Bible, time in prayer, sacrificial giving can become devices to impress God or others. Even our efforts toward holiness, any outward effort or inner pride of grace, race or face not grounded in his grace become our filthy rags in this holy presence. (Isa. 64:6).

Absolutely nothing that originates from the flesh or self, whatever it may claim, can ever please God. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63); “ . . .for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). This is a hard lesson to learn. We so often crave some recognition, some right for ourselves, some justification, some status based on our achievements, academic, missionary, family or success. We justify our failures, excuse our faults, blame others. These are the devices of the flesh that may appear to assuage our sins but never will impress our holy God.

We often set up for ourselves artificial norms of conduct, dress, pedigree, standards of our unique group. When we comply with these to our satisfaction, we are proud of our achievements, none of which were God’s original norms. We compare ourselves with ourselves and are not wise.

Only the Cross is God’s answer for Law Keeping

The very essence of the flesh is pride, independence and selfishness. Our manipulations of the law only reveal our baseness. On that basis one cannot build a Christ-like life. The Old and New Testaments are proof positive that God must demolish that fleshly pride. Job defended his integrity and pride of grace but finally said: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see You. Therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job. 42; 5 ,6); Jacob wrestled with the Angel of Jehovah before God gave me a new name, Israel (Gen. 33:30); Moses failed miserably and needed forty years in the wilderness to undo his proud education (Exodus 4:10); the prophet Isaiah saw the Lord and said: “Woe is me, for I am undone” (Isa. 6: 5). Peter denied his Lord only to weep bitterly and later be reinstated by grace (Luke 22: 62).

But the wonder of God’s grace is that we died to the flesh and its infatuation with doing, striving, working in our fleshly effort. God established a new relationship of marriage to another even to him who was raised from the dead and lives in the heart of the believer. The Christian life is a life of faith motivated by a love relationship with the risen Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Powerful Points to Ponder

1. We died to the law in the body of Christ. We owe the law no duty or striving.
2. “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him” 1 Cor.6:17
3. Only a divine breaking of the flesh at the cross will suffice for true victory in Christ.
4. Remember it is not our doing, but what he did and how by faith we appropriate it.

Yours in the Message of the Cross
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute