Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul to the saints which were at Rome, and more specifically, is found in the first thirteen verses of the chapter. This particular chapter found within the epistle of Paul to the Roman saints is perhaps one of the most intriguing and captivating chapters in all of Scripture. While it is not found within these first thirteen verses, this particular chapter outlines and describes the tremendous struggle that exists within the heart, within the mind, within the soul, and within the life of every saint. When first attempting to present this reality to his audience, the apostle Paul speaks of and uses a familiar setting which his audience would understand. If you begin reading the first six verses of this chapter you will find the apostle referencing the concept and reality of marriage in order to illustrate the apparent dilemma that exists within the life of an individual. Essentially, the apostle Paul presents two husbands which an individual can be married to—two marriages which an individual could be engaged in. Beginning with the first verse of this chapter the apostle Paul pens these words: “Know hue 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? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from the law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. 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. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the Old ness of the letter” (Romans 7:1-5).
Essentially that which that which the apostle presents us with in these five verses is in all reality who we will allow ourselves to be married to. The apostle Paul presented two distinct husbands who an individual could be married to, and two distinct marriages that could be experienced within the life of an individual. On the one hand the apostle Paul speaks of the law as a husband, and of an individual being married to the law. On the other hand, the apostle Paul speaks of Christ as a husband, and of being married to Christ. This concept of being married to Christ is one which the apostle Paul wrote about and expressed repeatedly throughout his epistles, for the apostle Paul believed that men and women should be married to Christ in a harmonious and beautiful union. I am first reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote to the saints which were at Corinth—words which are found in the eleventh chapter of his second epistle to this particular congregation. “Would to God ye And could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtitle, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him? (2 Corinthians 11:1-4). This reality is further echoed and expressed in the fifth chapter of the epistle of the apostle Paul to the saints which were at Ephesus, beginning with the twenty-second verse of the fifth chapter. Consider if you will the words and language that is recorded and found within the final few verses in the fifth chapter:
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and Cheri Seth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Ephesians 5:22-33).
If there is one thing that is clear from the writings of the apostle Paul, it’s that he believed that men and women should be married in a powerful union with Christ. The apostle Paul believed that at one point men and women were married to and married unto the law—a union that produced within their members death. Within this particular passage of Scripture the apostle Paul sets out to present the saints which were at Rome a powerful decision to make within their hearts and lives. The apostle begins this passage by asking a question—a question which was indeed rhetorical, yet which I am convinced needs to be answered at some point by each and every individual. In the first verse of this seventh chapter the apostle Paul asks “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?” (Romans 7:1). Thus far within this epistle written by the apostle Paul, he has suggested three specific things that could very well have dominion within and dominion over the life of an individual. The apostle Paul believed that sin could have dominion over and within the life of an individual—a reality that is expressed in the previous chapter: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). The apostle Paul believed that sin should not have any more dominion over and within the life of any man or woman, for that man or woman should be buried with Christ in baptism in order that the body of sin might be destroyed. The apostle Paul believed that men and women should be crucified in order that through death they might be freed from sin. The apostle Paul believed that every man and women should reckon themselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christy our Lord. Furthermore, the apostle Paul believed that we ought not to let sin reign in our mortal body, that we should obey it in the lusts thereof. Furthermore, the apostle Paul encouraged and instructed men and women to not yield their members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but to instead yield themselves unto God, as t hose that are alive from the dead, and their members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For the apostle Paul, he believed that sin should not have any dominion over an individual who has reckoned themselves as dead to sin, and alive unto Christ.
Upon further reading of the sixth chapter of this particular epistle, the apostle Paul also firmly believed that if sin should no longer have dominion within and over the life of an individual, neither should death. Consider the words which are contained in the final verse of the sixth chapter, and you will gain a powerful understanding of the direct connection between sin and death: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). If you turn and direct your attention back to the sixth verse of this particular chapter, you will encounter some incredibly powerful words written by the apostle Paul concerning the dominion of death within the life of an individual. What’s more, is the apostle Paul directly connected the dominion of death within the life of an individual to the dominion of death within the life of Christ. The apostle Paul did not believe that death had any dominion within and over the life of Christ, for when Christ was raised by the Spirit from death to life, He not only conquered death, but death no longer had dominion over Him. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote beginning with the sixth verse of this particular chapter: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin.might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:6-14).
For the apostle Paul, it wasn’t enough that sin should no longer have dominion within and over the life of an individual, but the apostle Paul also believed that death should no longer have dominion over an individual. This entire reality is centered upon the believer’s union with and the believer’s union to Christ. Alone and left to themselves, an individual cannot escape or even attempt to set themselves free from the dominion of sin within their hearts, within their minds, and within their lives. Left to oneself, one is completely powerless to deliver and set themselves free from the dominion and reign of death within their hearts and lives. Perhaps the single greatest illustration that I can’t help but consider when making such a statement is the slavery, the bondage and the oppression of the children of Israel within the land of Egypt. Consider if you will the words which are recorded in the final three verses of the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus concerning the slavery and oppression of the children of Israel within the land of Egypt: “And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them” (Exodus 2:23-25). This reality is further emphasized and expressed in the very next verse when the Lord is speaking directly to Moses concerning the oppression and bondage of the children of Israel: “Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. Cone now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:9-10).
It is absolutely and perfectly clear from these two references that the children of Israel were completely and utterly powerless to deliver themselves from their Egyptian slavery, bondage and oppression. The children of Israel could do absolutely nothing but sigh, and groan, and cry and weep as a result of and under their oppression at the hands of the Egyptian taskmasters. There was absolutely nothing the children of Israel could do to deliver themselves from the slavery and oppression that was unleashed upon them within their lives. In fact, Scripture seems to make it clear the only thing they could do before and unto the Lord in the face of such oppression and bondage was to cry out before and cry unto the living God. Moses records how the children of Israel sighed by treason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. What’s more, is Moses also recorded how God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. The children of Israel were being crushed under the tremendous weight of their oppression and bondage, and the only thing they could do was to sigh, to groan, and to cry out before and unto the living God. The very fact that there are two distinct references to the children of Israel crying out unto the living God by reason of their affliction, their oppression, and their bondage suggests that they were completely and totally powerless to deliver themselves from such oppression and affliction. In fact, if you read the account of Moses, Aaron, Pharaoh, and the children of Israel in the land of Egypt, you will recall how the Lord unleashed ten plagues upon the land of Egypt in order that He might bring the children of Israel out of their bondage and slavery with a strong and powerful display of power. There was only one strength, there was only one power, there was only one means by which the children of Israel could and would be delivered from their oppression and affliction, and that was the strong right hand of the Lord. The children of Israel were completely and totally powerless to deliver themselves from that oppression and affliction, and they were completely powerless to get themselves up out of the land of Egypt.
When we speak of the dominion of sin within the life of an individual, and when we speak of the dominion of death within the life of an individual, it is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand that there neither has been, nor will there ever be any man or woman who has the power and the ability to deliver themselves from sin, and to deliver themselves from death. There is absolutely no individual within or upon the face of the earth who has within themselves the power and the ability to deliver themselves from the dominion of death and the dominion of sin within their lives. There has never been a single individual who has been endowed from birth with the strength, the power, and the ability to deliver themselves from the dominion of sin and death within their hearts and lives. The apostle Paul believed this reality to be true, and directly linked and connected the death of Christ, and our union with that death as the only means of being able to experience true deliverance and freedom from the dominion of sin and the dominion of death. I am reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the second chapter of his epistle which he wrote to the Galatian congregation, beginning with the sixteenth verse: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgression. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lieveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for it righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:16-21).
This is the very same reality which the apostle Paul wrote and expressed in the sixth chapter of the epistle to the saints which were at Rome beginning with the sixth verse: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For He that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him” (Romans 6:6-8). For the apostle Paul, there was absolutely only one way whereby men and women could be delivered and set free from the dominion of death within their lives, as well as from the dominion of sin within their lives—through a union with Christ in His death. When Christ sacrificed and gave His life as a ransom upon the cross, and died a horrible death upon that cruel Roman tree, He didn’t necessarily do so in order that we wouldn’t have to. The reality of Christ’s activity and work upon the cross is in all reality an invitation to join ourselves together with Him in that death, in order that through that union we might give ourselves over to the ability to be delivered from the dominion of sin and of death. What’s more, is that it wasn’t simply in Christ’s death that we find all that we need to be delivered from the dominion of sin and death, but it is also in His burial that we also find the same power to deliver us from the dominion of death. I am convinced that it was and it is through union with Christ and the work He accomplished upon the cross that we come to understand and experience the reality of being delivered from the dominion of sin. What’s more, is that I am convinced that it is through our union with Christ in His burial—as well as His resurrection—that we experience the full reality of how we can be delivered from the dominion of death within our lives. It is through union with Christ upon the cross that we can experience deliverance from sin, and it is through union with Christ within the tomb and on the other side of the tomb that we experience deliverance from the dominion of death within our lives.
If you continue reading the seventh chapter of the New Testament epistle of Paul to the Roman congregation, you will essentially discover a third reality that should not have any dominion over the life of any individual. Within the first verse you will find the apostle Paul speaking of the law having dominion over a man as long as he lives. IN order to truly understand this, it is necessary that we direct our attention to the words of the same apostle which are found in the third chapter of the epistle to the Galatian congregation. If you begin reading with the nineteenth verse of the third chapter you will find these words recorded by the apostle: “Wherefore then serveth the law? IT was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no. Longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many as you have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:19-29).
It’s appropriate and necessary to consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were in Galatia, for the apostle makes it perfectly clear that the law was never intended to be our final master, but rather a schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ. The truth of the matter is that there have been many who have concluded that the law is to be that to whom they are betrothed and espoused to, and they have entered into union with the law. There are countless men and women who have failed to recognize and understand that it is to Christ whom we are to be united unto, and not the law. The law was given to remain in place till the seed [which is Christ] should come to whom the promise was made. What’s more, is that there are a number of men and women who have attempted to obtain life—and even righteousness before God—through and according to the law which was given unto Moses. The truth of the matter is that the apostle Paul was extending a powerful invitation to men and women to remove themselves from their union with the law in order that they might be gloriously united with Christ. This is essentially what was so tragic about the scribes, the Pharisees, the chief priests, the elders, the Sadducees during Jesus’ day, for they could not divorce them selves from the law. The religious system has always and will always be married to the law, and can never break themselves free from such a reality. The apostle Paul was attempting to bring the saints which were at Rome—and essentially all those who would read those words—to the place where they abandoned their union to the law in order that they might join themselves unto Christ. Remember that it was Jesus Himself who declared that no man can serve two masters, for as surely as no man can serve two masters, so also can no man or woman be married to two husbands. It has never, and will never be the design and intent of the Lord that we be married to Christ and the Law. The Law was put in place as a school master to point us to Christ, for Christ is indeed and in fact the fulfillment of the Law. The problem with our choosing to remain united to the law is that the law can never and will never be satisfied or fulfilled. There was never and there has never been a single man or woman who could perfectly keep or fulfill all the statutes, all the commandments, all the requirements of the Law of Moses. This is is essentially why Jesus declared that He did not come to abolish the law, but that He came to fulfill it. There is a way to fulfill the Law which was given through Moses, and that is through our union in and our union with Christ. If Christ is the perfect and absolute fulfillment of the law, then we need to make it our top priority to bring ourselves in complete and total unity with Christ.
If there is one reality we must come to terms with when reading the words of the apostle Paul it’s that we cannot be married to Christ and simultaneously be married to the law. The apostle Paul wrote and encouraged us that we should become dead to the law Bey the body of Christ in order that we should be married to another—even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. What’s more, is that the apostle Paul also declared that we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. What the apostle Paul wanted us to know that the law is not evil in and of itself, but that the law was intended to confirm sin and transgression within our hearts and lives, and that from that place of confirmation we bring ourselves unto Christ. If Christ is the fulfillment of the law, then what we need to do is to join ourselves to Christ in a powerful union that not only enjoys His fulfillment of the law, but also allows us—by and through the Spirit—to walk in obedience to the law. The apostle Paul emphatically declared and wonderfully believed that Christ is the fulfillment of the law, and that the Spirit is the power to appropriate our union with Christ, and to be able to enjoy that fulfillment. Our only hope of walking in obedience to the law of God is through our union with Christ, and through the power of the Spirit enabling us to walk in newness of life. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to separate ourselves from the law in order that we might be married to Christ. We must ask ourselves if we are willing to trade a union of death in order that we might partake of a union that leads to life. Not only is life produced from and with this union with Christ, but also righteousness and justification as well. Oh that we would allow ourselves to experience this glorious and marvelous union with Christ in order that His life might be appropriated within our hearts and lives, and that we might walk in complete obedience to the law of Christ, which is in all reality two-fold—Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Oh that we would look to Christ as the fulfillment of the law and its requirements, and as our means to obtain the righteousness the law demanded before a just and holy God.