In Romans 7.1 (NLT), the apostle Paul wrote something that might seem very strange on an initial, out-of-context reading: “…don’t you know that the law applies only while a person is living?”
Seems fairly obvious, doesn’t it? I mean, I’m not going to care whether a traffic light is green, amber or red when my funeral procession is winding its way to the cemetery. But all the drivers in that procession should care, because they don’t want to risk injury. The law only applies while a person is living.
But Paul goes on to say that everybody who has faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord has died to the law: they no longer live under its reign.
That changes the picture a bit, right? So Paul is telling us that if we have died with Christ through our faith in him, we have died to sin (see Romans 6), and therefore have also died to the tyranny of the law.
Does that mean we should ignore the law of the land? Well, if we all did that, the number of traffic fatalities would skyrocket (among other things).
Does that means we should ignore the law of God? There’s the rub: when we become followers of Jesus, the Old Testament doesn’t fade away, and the Ten Commandments don’t cease to be applicable to our lives. So what does it mean that we have died to the law?
Just as Paul said in chapter 6 that sin will not be our master, so it is true that the law shall not be our master. Our goal is not perfectly to keep the law; our goal is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism reminds us.
How do we glorify God? Well, Jesus tells us in John 14.15 (NLT), “If you love me, obey my commandments.” Since we live under grace and not under law, we have come into relationship with Jesus by his favour alone, and in that relationship, we demonstrate our love by following what he tells us to do. So while we are dead to sin and the law, we are alive to God in Jesus, and in that relationship, we follow the law without fear of being judged for our imperfect ability to keep the law. We are respectful of the law, but not enslaved to it.
There are some great ways to apply this, and I’ll be talking about that this Sunday at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton. You (and your face mask) are very welcome to join us at 10:00 a.m., or catch the service from the comfort of your home live, or on demand later. The application may cause you to squirm a little!