Romans 7:4
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?"


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).


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.

Ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ: that ye 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.)


1. When them of the Southern States of America were set free, they were, in many cases, placed in a position of deep misery. Their cry reached the ears of many in the North, and amongst those who went to the rescue was a young man of education, refinement, social position, and wealth, who, soon after commencing his arduous work, sickened and died. Arrangements were made to convey the body to the family sepulchre; but many who had been fed, clothed, instructed and comforted by their deceased friend, entreated that his dust might be allowed to sleep in the scene of his generous labours. The mother consented, and the father; but the consent of another was necessary. Could any wonder if it was but tardily given? At length his betrothed gave her cordial assent, declaring that she would live where her elect husband had died, and by devoting herself to his work, would be married to his memory.

2. More than eighteen centuries ago the Son of God came from heaven to our earth. He went about doing good. He bare our sins in His own body on the tree; He rose again, and ascended into heaven. But there is a remembrance of these things by the writings of the evangelists and apostles. By testimony, the Jesus of the past is with us. The birth at Bethlehem, the teaching, miracles, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, can only be memories. Let us be married to His memory —(1) By frequently thinking of all that He was, and did, and suffered. We cannot visit Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Calvary, but we can think of them.(2) By cherishing affections corresponding with such thoughts. Thus thinking, gratitude and love will spring up in our hearts. Let us cherish these plants.(3) By contentedly living on this earth so long as we have a work of God to do. Christ came to this world, and remained until His work was finished. His memory seems to say, Pray not to be taken out of the world, but ask for help to complete your work.(4) By working, so far as we can, the works He wrought. He healed, and we may be great healers. He comforted, and the weakest may be a son of consolation. He instructed, and all who have religious knowledge may instruct. He made peace, and a little child may be a peacemaker.(5) By intelligently and devoutly observing the ordinance of remembrance which He founded (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).

II. TO THE FELLOWSHIP AND THE SERVICE OF THE LIVING CHRIST. The law, as given by Moses, has no claim upon us now. Prescription and exclusive sanctity as to place of worship is dead; human priesthood, carnal sacrifices, ritualism, symbolism, the whole Mosaic economy is dead. Let us then be married to the living Christ —

1. By the nonrecognition of the Mosaic institutes. As they who are married, forsaking all other, cleave to each other as long as both shall live, so the disciple of Jesus must cease to be a disciple of Moses, or refuse to be, if tempted to be.

2. By looking, and continuing to look to Him, for every good thing. All that we really need, the mediation of Jesus Christ can secure.

3. By cherishing and expressing true love for Him. Some appear to be content with knowledge without love, and others reduce their love to mere obligation for redemption from hell. But see 1 Corinthians 16:22.

4. By obeying His commandments. Verily, these are not grievous; but if they were, true love would make the yoke easy and the burden light. This is one test which Jesus gave His disciples (John 14:15).

5. By recognising Himself in His disciples, and by ministering to His needy ones for His sake.

6. By defending His name and His mission.

7. By devoting ourselves to advance the aim of His mediation — to save the world.Conclusion:

1. I know of no illustration of marriage to the Saviour's memory and mission equal to the example of the Apostle Paul. He describes his own death to the law and marriage to Christ, and his previous marriage to the law and death unto Christ, in Philippians 3:5-10. Paul knew what he was writing when he wrote the text, and as a wife submits herself to her own husband as her head, is subject to him in everything, reverences him, helps him, makes his cares, joys, honours, and burdens her own, and blends her life with his, so did Paul live for Christ.

2. One motive by which we should be constrained to seek and to cherish union with Jesus Christ is this — that only thereby can we live as God's children. The reference in the text is to the fruit of marriage. Elsewhere, with another reference, the same truth is presented (Galatians 2:22, 23; Ephesians 5:9; Colossians 1:5, 6, 10). The fruit here named is reconciliation to and oneness with God. It is light in the spirit, love in the heart, and righteousness in the life. It consists of all the fruits of holiness and righteousness and godliness. Peter names them as virtue, etc. (2 Peter 1:5-7). John represents them as all included in love. Jesus represents union with Himself as essential to all usefulness (John 15:5).

3. All coming short of this is traceable to non-union with Christ. Some religious people marry themselves to a system of theology, and the fruit is pride and bigotry; others to a round of ceremonies, and the fruit is self-deception and hypocrisy; others to what they account "the Church," and the fruit is a form of godliness without the power; others to a sect, and the fruit is envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness; others but partially identify themselves with Christ, and the fruit is indecision, confusion, and various evil works. The world, the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life make this union partial; in the degree that it is not entire, there cannot be fruit unto God (Psalm 45:10, 11).

(S. Martin.)


1. This imparts release from its —




2. Is effected by the body of Christ sacrificed for us.


1. The nature of this union.

2. The honour of it.

3. The result of it.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

Make a confidant of the Lord Jesus — tell Him all. You are married unto Him: play the part of a wife who keeps no secrets back, no trials back, no joys back; tell them all to him. I was in a house yesterday where there was a little child, and it was said to me, "He is such a funny child." I asked in what way, and the mother said, "Well, if he tumbles down and hurts himself in the kitchen, he will always go upstairs crying and tell somebody, and then he comes down and says, 'I told somebody'; and if he is upstairs he goes down and tells somebody, and when he comes back it is always, 'I told somebody,' and he does not cry any more." Ah! well, I thought, we must tell somebody: it is human nature to want to have sympathy, but if we would always go to Jesus, and tell Him all, and there leave it. we might often dismiss the burden, and be refreshed with a grateful song.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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