One of the problems of interpreting Romans 7:1-6 is trying to determine who’s the husband in Paul’s illustration and who’s the wife. I think it’s pretty clear from the illustration that we are the wife. The question is, “Who were we married to?”
I mentioned earlier that it can’t be the law, because we never see any passage referring to the law dying.
I’ve never heard this analogy made, so I could be wrong, but I think our sinful nature was the husband we were married to.
What do I mean by our “sinful nature?”
It’s a part of us that is in total rebellion against God and insistent on going its own way. And from the time we were born, we were married to it. Put another way, we were joined to it, heart, soul, and mind. And the fruit of this joining, the “children we bear” so to speak, is sin leading to death (5).
More, as long as we were married to our sinful nature, it was impossible to be married to Christ.
Here, the analogy breaks down a bit, but bear with me. When we divorce our first spouse and marry someone else, we are considered adulterous to our first spouse. The opposite is true in our relationship to our sinful nature and Christ. Though our sin nature was “our original spouse,” nevertheless, we are considered adulterous to Christ if we try to marry him while continuing to being married to our sinful nature.
But when God saves us, we die to sin in that God cuts off the chains that held us in slavery to it. It no longer has power to control us. More, he crucifies the sinful nature that put us into bondage to sin in the first place and it too dies.
What happens, though, when the sinful nature we were married to dies? Two things.
First, the law no longer has authority over us, just as when a husband dies, the law of marriage no longer has authority over a woman. She died to the law of marriage when her husband died, and we died to the law of Moses and all its requirements when our sinful nature was crucified with Christ on the cross.
Second, with our sinful nature dead, we now are free to marry Christ, free from any adulterous relationship with that sinful nature.
And as I said yesterday, through this joining with Christ, we no longer give birth to sin that leads to death. Rather, we give birth to the fruit of righteousness that leads to life.
It is ultimately the reason that only through Christ we can be saved. As long as we are married to a nature that is rebellious towards God, we can never bear fruit towards eternal life. The “seed” it plants within us causes us to give birth to sin. But when we are joined with Christ, through his seed planted in us, we give birth to true righteousness in our lives, and the result is eternal life.
Who are you married to?