I must admit (for the second day in a row), I had a blog all written out to post, but as I looked at this passage again, I started to wrestle with it all over again about what it meant. As a result, there will be some disconnect with what I wrote yesterday.
In verse 1, Paul writes,
Do you not know, brothers–for I am speaking to men who know the law–that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?
Looking at it now, I think the best way to see this passage is to look at it this way: “The law has authority over a man (or woman) as long as they live under its jurisdiction.”
I know it’s dangerous to “add words” to the Word of God, and I don’t do it lightly. And I’m willing to be convinced otherwise. But bear with me for a bit, and see if you don’t agree.
Why do I add “under its jurisdiction?” Because it makes the most sense of the illustration of marriage he uses.
Most certainly, the law of marriage loses its authority over a couple when the husband dies. But practically speaking, who does this loss of authority affect? The person who is literally dead, that is, the husband? No. It affects the wife who is still living. Prior to her husband’s death, she was under the jurisdiction of the law of marriage, and she was bound by that law to her husband. And that’s Paul’s whole point in verses 2 and 3.
But when her husband dies, she no longer lives under the jurisdiction of the law of marriage. She is a non-entity to the law because it no longer applies to her. In effect, she is “dead” to that law now, and is now free to marry another person.
How does this apply to us?
Before we came to Christ, we were under the jurisdiction of God’s law. What did that law say? It said, “You must do everything God has commanded or you will die.”
But there was a problem. None of us could keep the commandments perfectly, and so all of us were condemned to die.
So God sent his Son into the world, and Christ did what none of us could do. He kept the law perfectly. He did everything the law required. Then having kept the law perfectly, he paid the price for all our violations of the law. He paid it in full by dying on the cross and taking the punishment we deserved.
Now God accepts us not because we keep the law, but because we put our faith in Christ and his work on the cross. That’s the jurisdiction of grace in which we stand.
But because we stand in the jurisdiction of grace, we no longer stand in the jurisdiction of law. We are a non-entity to the law. In effect, we died to it (and I now think that’s what it primarily means in verse 6).
So we no longer live our lives trying to keep its commandments. Rather, now we are married to Christ, led by his Spirit day by day. The result of this joining to Christ? We give birth to the fruits of righteousness leading to eternal life, something we could not do under the law.
How about you? Are you living under this jurisdiction of grace? Or are you still trying to live under the jurisdiction of law?