Know you not, brothers, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?…
The apostle is here continuing his discussion of the immoral suggestion to which he alluded in the previous chapter (ver. 15), "What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the Law, but under grace?"
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?