The Sinner Married to the Law
Romans 7:4
Why, my brothers, you also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that you should be married to another…


1. This marriage involves certain obligations that correspond to those that grow out of the conjugal relation. The husband is the head of the wife, and his duty is to live with her, provide for her, and love her; the wife's duty is to be subject to her husband, consulting his will, and acting faithfully for his interests. If the law, then, be the sinner's husband, we may say, "Submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord." This is your duty, and it is also your interest. The ten rules of your husband's house are equitable and good, tending as much to promote your own happiness as his honour.

2. This marriage is of the Lord. God has joined the parties together; the marriage was made in heaven. As soon as he is born, the sinner is espoused to the law, yea, before, and there is nothing unfair in placing a sinner under a constitution which is perfectly good. It is just as fair for God to marry the sinner to the law without his consent as to bring him into existence without it. But, in one sense, the sinner has consented. Our first parents consented for themselves and their offspring, and had you been present personally when the covenant was made with them, you could not have refused and been innocent; and had Adam and Eve acted faithfully, the arrangement would have been extolled as wise and good.

3. The chief reason why objections are made is, that it is an unhappy marriage. In the case of unhappy marriages, it is commonly remarked that there is fault on both sides. But this cannot be said of this, for the Husband is uniformly holy, just, and good, and the spouse that faithfully does His will is sure of happiness. But if He be once offended, woe then to the offender; for He will never again be reconciled. Suppose you expostulate, "I wish to do Thy will," He will reply, "Speak not of wishes, but do it." "But I have done it in almost every particular." "That is not enough; My will must be altogether done." "But I am sorry, and mean to reform." "But you cannot now repair the injury you have done." "But may I not be forgiven?" "No — there is no forgiveness in My nature, the soul that sinneth it shall die."

4. But such an unhappy marriage were well dissolved." True, but the marriage is not easily dissolved. It is always a difficult thing to break a marriage. Yet in ordinary cases the wife may desert her husband, or obtain a divorce. But desertion or divorce is impossible in this case. What God has joined together, man cannot and dare not put asunder. The husband, though deeply injured, will not consent to a separation. You may become so depraved as almost to forget that he has any claim upon you. But he will follow you still, and assert his right to you as long as you live. There is only one way of escape, viz., to get married to Him that was raised from the dead. Your second Husband will give ample satisfaction to your first. He will take all your responsibilities on Himself, and deliver you.

II. THE BELIEVER IS MARRIED TO THE LORD. Of the second marriage you may notice, just as of the first, that —

1. It involves certain obligations. The spouse is bound just as before to be subject to her husband in all things. The identical regulations of the first husband are found word for word in the house of the second. "If ye love Me, keep My commandments." "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me."

2. It is of the Lord, though it is never consummated without the consent of parties. The believer is espoused to Christ before he is born, but the marriage is not completed until consent is given freely and cordially. But mark the wonders of Christ's love! He has provided the Spirit to operate on the heart, and make us willing in the day of His power. He has instituted the Christian ministry and, like Abraham's servant, every minister is bound to go to the intended bride and tell her of the riches and honours of his Master's Son, in order to gain her consent.

3. It is a happy marriage — as happy as the other is miserable. Christ loves that sinner as He loves Himself. "No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it." In having Christ, you have all things — pardon, strength, support, and a title to glory. As Elkanah said to his disconsolate spouse, so Christ says to His — "Am not I better to thee than ten sons?"

4. It is one that can never be dissolved. Whom Christ espouses, He espouses forever. May the spouse then do as she pleases? No; does a woman feel encouraged to insult her husband because she knows he will not put her away? No; she knows he has various ways of expressing his displeasure, though he does not insist on a Separation. The want of his love, the frown on his face, will be felt by an affectionate woman to be dreadful enough.


1. This is in accordance with both the law of God and of man, and the apostle assumed it as admitted and well known. As long as both you and the law are alive the marriage must stand (ver. 1).

2. How, then, is it possible for a sinner to be set at liberty? Only by death. No doubt the death of either party would dissolve it, but the Husband cannot die; He is immortal. It is your death, sinner, that must cut the connection.

3. But how can the spouse that dies be married to another? It is the party that survives, that gets married a second time.

(1) But this spouse dies not personally, but by substitute — by "the body of Christ." Being represented by Christ, ye were virtually in His person or body when He died. You admire the generosity of the Armenian prince who proposed to the conqueror to give his life as the ransom of his brides what say you to the generosity of Jesus? The bride was so overcome that she could attend to nothing else. "What did you think of Cyrus?" said her husband. "I never observed him. I was thinking of that man who proposed to give his life for mine." Herein, indeed, is love, and if Christ's professed spouse refuse to return the affection, let her be anathema maranatha.

(2) But the believer dies to the law also in spirit — his hope and his self-righteous confidence die. Married to the law he was at one time alive, cherishing the hope of being able to please it, and ultimately to enter glory. But "the commandment came, sin revived, and he died." Through the law itself he became dead to the law. Its spirituality, its exceeding breadth and purity, put an end to its legal hopes and dependencies. But observe it is not the law, apart from the body of Christ; but the law as magnified and made honourable in that body. In the Cross we see as never before the awful strength and vengeance of the law. If the spouse is alarmed and reduced to despair when she hears her husband's words, she dies altogether when she beholds his doings. She no longer hopes to appease his anger by her repentance, reformation, promises, or duties.

4. At the very time the spouse becomes dead to the law she becomes united to the Lord. The date of her death is also the date of her marriage; hence there is mourning and rejoicing on the same day. There is a strange mixture of emotions experienced, which it is difficult to describe.

5. Let God's people, then, realise their privileges, and know that they are free. Some who are professedly married to the Lord, act as if their first marriage remained still in force. But ye are not under the law, but under grace; and when the law comes to you demanding allegiance, and threatening wrath as formerly, refer it at once to the Lord Jesus.


1. The fruit of the first marriage is unto death (ver. 5). The offspring of the first marriage is sin, and as soon as it comes into existence it begins to reign over its own parent, and that unto death. It will murder your precious soul; aye, and your husband will give it authority for this purpose — "The strength of sin is the law." He will at last in justice abandon his guilty spouse to her own monster offspring — the fruit of her infidelity; and sin shall hold her in everlasting death.

2. But the fruit of the second marriage is unto God, viz., holiness (chap. Romans 6:22); which has —

(1)  Its commencement in genuine repentance.

(2)  Its essence in love to God and to His plans.

(3)  Its external manifestation in the obedience of the life.

(J. Lyon.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

WEB: Therefore, my brothers, you also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you would be joined to another, to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit to God.

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