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?…
I. THE BELIEVER'S FORMER CONNECTION WITH THE LAW.
1. The law, considered in the figurative capacity of a husband, had a right to full and implicit subjection. But alas! all mankind had violated the authority of this first husband; they had abused his rights, resisted his claims, and thus exposed themselves to the fatal consequences of his just denunciations.
2. Yet, miserable as this state is, men in general are insensible of it. They still show attachment to the law, despite their disobedience; and place, as a wife does on her husband, infatuated dependence. As God said to Eve, "Thy desire shall be to thy husband," so it is with the sinner as to the law.
II. THE DISSOLUTION OF THIS CONNECTION. This consists in the sinner's deliverance from the obligation to obedience as the condition of life, and from the curse attending disobedience.
1. When and how does this take place? The answer is — "The law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth."... "Ye are become dead to the law." Here is the decease of one of the parties, by which the union is dissolved.
2. This decease refers to the death of the believer in Christ (Romans 6:7, 8), who bore the curse of the law in his stead (Galatians 3:13). Thus the effects of the first husband's displeasure cannot reach them.
3. And not only is the curse of the law removed, but our connection with it, as a condition of life, is forever done away, as effectually as the relation between husband and wife is dissolved by death.
III. He is then "married to another," etc., which expresses THE BELIEVER'S NEW RELATION WITH JESUS (see also Ephesians 5:30-32; John 3:29; Revelation 21:2).
1. To this new husband all believers are subject. They feel his authority as that at once of rightful claim and of tender affection. They delight in obeying Him who loves them. And in Him they are truly blessed. He smiles upon them, and enriches them with a dowry of spiritual treasures.
2. This connection, being with "Him who is raised from the dead," is indissoluble (Romans 6:9). The Husband never dies; nor do they ever die to whom He stands thus related. "Joined to the Lord, they are one spirit;" and the spiritual union is lasting as eternity.
IV. THE CONSISTENCY OF THIS NEW CONNECTION WITH ALL THE RIGHTS AND CLAIMS OF THE FIRST HUSBAND. These claims were just, and had a right to be fully implemented. The believer has not satisfied them in his own person; but his Substitute has by His obedience and death "magnified the law and made it honourable." Hence the law's claims upon him cease as completely as the claims of a husband when dead on the surviving wife.
V. THE ABSOLUTE NECESSITY OF THE DISSOLUTION OF ALL CONNECTION WITH THE LAW, IN ORDER TO A SINNER'S BEING JOINED TO CHRIST. The two connections cannot subsist together. The sinner who is joined to Christ must die completely to the law. While he retains any connection with it, in the way of seeking or expecting life from it, he is not united to Christ. As the worship of idols was styled adultery, when practised by that people whom Jehovah had espoused to Himself — so all such connection with the law is unfaithfulness to our Divine Husband. He must be "all our salvation, and all our desire." Let no one, however, think that we are pleading for freedom from the law as the rule of life. Its obligation in this sense remains immutable (Romans 3:31; 1 Corinthians 9:21, etc.).
VI. THE BLESSED EFFECTS OF THE DISSOLUTION OF THE CONNECTION WITH THE LAW, AND THE FORMATION OF THE UNION WITH CHRIST. The "bringing forth fruit unto God." The fruit meant is, no doubt, holy obedience and service (Romans 6:22). Such fruit is as naturally the effect of union to Christ, as the fruit of the womb is the expected result of the marriage relation. No fruit acceptable in the sight of God can be produced while the former connection continued (ver. 5). They who are "under the law are in the flesh"; and can bring forth no fruit but "unto death." All is devoid of the only principle of acceptable service — "faith working by love." There is no true fruit unto God produced till the connection with the law has been dissolved, and that with Christ has been formed (ver. 6). The fears of the law, uniting with the pride of self-righteousness, may produce considerable outward conformity to the precepts of the law; whilst there is no true principle of godliness within. There may be much in the eyes of men that is amiable; while in the sight of God all the service is rendered in the "oldness of the letter" — under the influence of the principles of the old, is service in "newness of spirit," i.e., to serve God in sincerity, under the influence of those principles and views and dispositions which constitute a mind renewed by the Spirit of God (Ezekiel 36:26).
(R. Wardlaw, D. D.)
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?