Romans 7:1-6

Thursday Evening Bible Study

August 21, 2008


We have seen Paul present the case that man is not made right before God through his own deeds or the keeping of the law, but simply through faith.  Our salvation is not a matter of something we’ve earned, it is a “grace”, a free, undeserved, gift from God.  All we do is trust Him to receive it.

But as Paul talks about “grace”, he realizes that the concept of “grace” can be horribly abused.  People can think that God’s grace means that we can take advantage of God’s kindness by living any kind of life we wish.  People can think that “grace” means we go on living like we always used to live.

Paul has been making a case that “grace” changes a person.  When a person comes into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, fundamental changes begin to take place at the very core of their being.

Being united with Christ means that we His death and resurrection affect our lives.  We have somehow become “dead” to sin and “alive” to God.

Paul now goes on to explore more of this concept.

:1-6 Becoming freed from the Law

:1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?

to those who know the law – Paul is going to talk about marriage laws, something that all of his readers know about, whether they are Jew or Gentile.

has dominionkurieuo – to be lord of, to rule, have dominion over; to exercise influence upon, to have power over

This is the same word used back in 6:14 –

(Rom 6:14 NKJV)  For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Paul is going to talk about the believer’s relationship with the Law from a new perspective.  He’s going to use marriage as an illustration of how we are to relate to the Law.

:2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.

the womangune – a woman of any age; a wife

who has a husbandhupandros (“under” + “man”) – under i.e. subject to a man: married

is bounddeo – to bind tie, fasten; to bind, put under obligation, of the law, duty etc.

releasedkatargeo – to render idle, inoperative; to deprive of force, influence; to be severed from, loosed from any one

This word was used back in:

(Rom 6:6 NKJV)  knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
Our identifying with the death of Christ rendered our own sin nature ineffective, inoperative.
When a woman’s husband dies, the law binding her to her husband becomes ineffective or inoperative.

:3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress;

marriesginomai – to become, i.e. to come into existence; to be made, finished; of miracles, to be performed, wrought

This isn’t the typical word used for marriage (gameo), but it is clearly speaking of marriage.

We could translate this, “if while her lives she becomes to another man …”

will be calledchrematizo – to transact business; to assume or take to one’s self a name from one’s public business; to receive a name or title

The person in town who was a baker became known as “Mr. Baker”.  The fellow who made horseshoes, fixed wagons, and made things out of iron was the blacksmith, known as “Mr. Smith”.  The guy that made clothes became known as “Mr. Taylor”.  The family that lived in the field where the roses grew became known as the “Roosevelt” family (Dutch name).

Here, the woman who commits adultery is known as “Adulteress”.

Paul is saying that if a woman leaves her husband while he’s still alive, and marries another man, she becomes an adulteress.
A woman who marries another man while her first husband is still alive has “changed occupations”, she gets a new business card.  Her card no longer reads “married woman”, but reads, “adulteress”.

an adulteressmoichalis – an adulteress


Divorce and Remarriage.

The point in this verse is not to teach on divorce and remarriage.  The point here is to teach on being released from an obligation like marriage through death.
Because our society doesn’t have a great view of God’s intended permanence of marriage, our reaction to this passage might be, “so what?”
Paul’s point is to teach on how we are released from our obligation to the Law, but while he’s using this as a lesson, we ought to make sure we have the right idea about the subject.
We don’t seem to take divorce too seriously anymore.
Today when any couple get married, statistics are they have a 50/50 chance of staying married.

The divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%

The divorce rate in America for second marriage is 60%

The divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73%

Our own church has lots of folks who know the pain of divorce.

Some are “victims” of divorce – they didn’t have a choice in the matter.

Others are guilty of improper divorce.

In our society the concept of “No-fault divorce” is the law of the land.

“No-fault divorce” simply means that nobody is to blame, leading to the idea that you can divorce your spouse for any reason you want.

I found it interesting that the concept of “no-fault divorce” started in 1918, in Russia, by the Bolsheviks.

In the U.S., “no-fault divorce” started in our own glorious revolutionary state, California, on January 1, 1970.

I find it interesting that between 1965 and 1975, the rate of divorce basically doubled.

The problem is that God doesn’t seem to recognize “no-fault” divorce.

God does allow for divorce, but His reasons might be a little different than the ones we are comfortable with.

My intention is not to condemn anyone who has been divorced or is going through a divorce.  My intent is to make sure we know what God says about divorce.

We believe there are two acceptable, Biblical reasons for divorce and remarriage.


Reason for Divorce: Unfaithfulness

(Mat 19:3-9 NKJV)  The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?"
The Pharisees were testing Jesus.  There was a prominent teaching at the time that said if you found anything displeasing in your wife, you were allowed to divorce her.  It sounds a lot like today’s “irreconcilable differences” or “no-fault” divorce.
{4} And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' {5} "and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? {6} "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."
While the Pharisees would base their ideas on divorce with what Moses wrote, Jesus takes his ideas back beyond that, back to the Garden of Eden.
God never intended for people to divorce once they were married.  God’s original intentions were that a man and a woman stay married their entire lives.  When a man and a woman enter into the bond of marriage, you are no longer dealing with two individuals but a single, organic unity.
{7} They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?"
They are referring to Moses’ instructions on divorce which said very vaguely:

(Deu 24:1 NKJV)  "When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house,

Even today there are different ideas among Christians as to what this means.  Some will take this as narrow as to say that the only reason for divorce is if the wife was not a virgin when the marriage took place.

{8} He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.
Moses’ command came only as a concession to the hardness of a person’s heart.  Even in the case of marital infidelity, divorce doesn’t have to be the only response. God, in his “marriage” to His people has often taken us back after we’ve been unfaithful to Him.  But sometimes there comes a point in a spouse’s life when their heart becomes so cold, so hard, that they can’t take it anymore.  And God understands that.  God allows divorce in this instance, when there has been infidelity and the victim’s heart has become hardened to the point where they can no longer stay with the other spouse.
{9} "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery."
Jesus gives an exception to divorce.

sexual immorality (pornea) – sexual activity outside the bounds of marriage.

If a spouse has been unfaithful, then divorce is allowed.


Reason #2 - Abandonment

I have to preface this with saying that not all people accept this as a valid reason for divorce.  I do.
(1 Cor 7:10-15 NKJV)  Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. {11} But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.
Paul is talking about separation here.  In the case of a separation for any reason other than one acceptable for divorce, the idea is to be reconciled, get it worked out.
I’ve seen separation work.  I’ve seen it be something like a wakeup call for the husband and wife.  I’ve also seen it be disastrous.  I’ve seen one spouse use it simply as a prelude to divorce.  It seems to me that the longer the separation, the worse the chance for reconciliation.  It becomes too tempting to just quit on the marriage.
{12} But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. {13} And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. {14} For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.
If you are living with an unbelieving spouse, you need to stay with them as long as they want you to.  Being “unequally yoked” is not something you want to get into when you marry, but once you’re married it is not a reason to dissolve the marriage.  There is a sense in which you bring a measure of protection and holiness to your family as the believer in the house.
{15} But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.
Here is the possible reason for divorce.  If the unbeliever wants out of the marriage, you may allow them to leave.  But you shouldn’t be the one pushing them out the door. 
bondagedouloo – to make a slave of, reduce to bondage
Not being “under bondage” might just mean that you can allow them to leave, but it seems to me the point is not being bound to the person any more, you are free to remarry.
Technically, the situation described is between a believer and an unbeliever.  I have heard some pastors teach that even a Christian husband, when he wants out of a marriage, is acting like an unbeliever, and when he leaves, the wife can allow him to.  You need to let God speak to you on that.  I don’t endorse or stand against it, I only mention it.  You need to be careful to do what God is leading you.  You also need to know that you will be accountable to God for what you choose to do.  Don’t make your decision out of rebellion to God or selfishness on your own part.

Keep in mind the seriousness of divorce followed by remarriage.  Divorce for the wrong reasons leads to you committing adultery.

:3 but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.

As we get back to the verse, keep in mind that Paul’s intent is NOT to teach on divorce and remarriage, but to simply use the illustration of a woman being freed from the obligation of her marriage when her husband dies.

free fromeleutheros – freeborn; free, exempt, unrestrained, not bound by an obligation

The freedom that the widow has from the law of being married to her husband allows her to be married to another man.

The word here in Romans is simply the flip side of the word Paul uses in 1Corinthians:

(1 Cor 7:15 NKJV)  But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.
The point of being “free” or “not bound” is that you are free to be remarried.

:4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ,

Paul is again referring to this mysterious thing we looked at back in Rom. 6:3, that we have “died” with Christ.

 (Rom 6:3 NKJV)  Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?

The focus in chapter six was to show that our death with Christ freed us from the power of sin:

(Rom 6:7 NKJV)  For he who has died has been freed from sin.

Here, the focus is a little different.  We’ve not just been freed from the power of sin, but now also freed from the Law.

Death brings freedom from the Law

:4  that you may be married to another; to Him who was raised from the dead,

Death allows for remarriage

Using Paul’s analogy – we were married to the Law.  We died with Christ.  We are now free from the previous marriage so we can remarry, this time to Christ.

But of course if you follow the analogy too close, you see that since we’re the ones who died, and have been freed from the Law, that when we are now freed to marry a new husband, being joined with Christ, that Jesus is marrying a dead bride.  ;-) Kinda creepy, huh?

:4  that we should bear fruit to God.

we should bear fruitkarpophoreo (“fruit” + “to bear”) – to bear fruit

One commentator (Robertson) says that Paul is changing the metaphor from marriage to that of a tree.

I’m not sure he’s changing the metaphor.

A husband and wife also bear “fruit”.  They have kids.


Bearing fruit

Jesus said,
(John 15:1-8 NKJV)  "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. {2} "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
The vinedresser’s job is to get the vine to produce fruit.  The only reason He tends the vineyard is to produce fruit.
Pruning - One of the principles of good gardening is to prune your plants.  If you have too many “suckers”, branches that are full of leaves but not flowers or fruit, then they draw life and sap away from the good branches.  In order to support the fruitful branches, you have to prune and trim back.
Sometimes we get too involved in too many things.  There’s not enough “life” or even time in our lives to do everything.  As a good gardener, God will sometimes have to prune us back.  Sometimes we can learn to do it ourselves.
{3} "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
The word for “clean” is the same one for “prunes”.  They have been pruned through Jesus’ word to them.

One of the best pruning shears in our lives is in God’s Word.  Keep reading.  Stay pruned.

What has God been saying to you today in His word?  Have you given Him a chance to speak to your heart?

{4} "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. {5} "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
Abiding:  The key to producing fruit in your life is staying connected to Jesus, staying in that love/marriage relationship with Him.  There’s nothing mystical about “abiding”.  It simply means to “stay put” or “remain” in a place.  You don’t need to wander anywhere from Jesus.  He has what you need.
{6} "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. {7} "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. {8} "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
Word & Prayer: Part of what leads to bearing fruit.
Bearing fruit is a part of being His disciple. Bearing much fruit.
What does it mean to “bear fruit”?

1)  Inner change - qualities that come from being with Jesus.

(Gal 5:22-23 NKJV)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

(Eph 5:9 NKJV)  (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),

(Heb 12:11 NKJV)  Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

2)  Spiritual offspring.

This would seem a natural explanation of this verse in context – a marriage that brings forth fruit – children.

Having an effect on others around you.  Leading others to Jesus.  Influencing others to know Him.

:5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.

the fleshsarx – flesh, the human body; the sin nature – that part of us that wants to rebel against God.

Which one???  It seems the idea of our sin nature would make better sense.

(Rom 7:5 NLT)  When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us…

passionspathema – that which one suffers or has suffered; of an inward state, an affliction, passion

which were aroused by – literally, “which were through”

were at workenergeo (“energize”) – to be operative, be at work, put forth power

When we were operating under the control of our sin nature, the sinful passions that came through the law were energized in our bodies to bear the fruit of death”

When we live a life of evil passions, we bring forth death.

:6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

have been delivered fromkatargeo – to render idle, inoperative; to deprive of force, influence; to be severed from, loosed from any one

Same word that was translated “released” in verse 2.

we were held bykatecho – to hold fast, keep secure, keep firm possession of

we should servedouleuo – to be a slave, serve, do service

We talked back in Romans 6 about the “bondservant”, the concept of a person who loves his master and makes a choice to serve him for life.  The wearing of an earring was a sign that a person was a “bondservant”.

We make choices who we will serve.  But who do we choose?  How do we serve?

newness … oldness – contrasting the “new” marriage with the “old” marriage, contrasting our new relationship with Christ with the old relationship with the Law.

Spirit … letter – the same contrast, our relationship with Christ being one of “the Spirit”, the old relationship with the Law being the “letter”.


Motives for service

Why are you serving God?
Are you doing things for Him because of the Law, because of a sense of legalism?
Do you serve because of someone putting pressure on you?
I think that sometimes we mean well, but we can end up putting such a guilt trip on each other as to what it means to serve the Lord.
Some people do need a little prodding now and then to serve the Lord.
But we need to learn to trust the Holy Spirit to teach us how to serve and follow Jesus.
God wants the direction of our service to come from inside, from the leading of the Holy Spirit.