We talked yesterday about how the Judaizers were basically accusing Paul of preaching a gospel that would make Christ out to be a promoter of sin. That whenever they saw Paul or any other Christian fall in any way small or great, they would be quick to say, “See, this is the result of your gospel of grace. You’ve become just like the sinners of this world.”
But Paul pointed out that even if he brought back the law and preached that people must keep it in order to be saved, it wouldn’t stop people from sinning. The law has never produced any perfect people, aside from Christ. All the law can do is point out that we are sinners in need of a Savior.
How then can we be made righteous before God, if not by the law? Paul tells us in these next two verses.
For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (19-20)
What is Paul saying here? What does it mean that through the law, I died to the law? And why is that important?
In Romans 7, Paul talks about how the law has power over a person only as long as that person is alive (Romans 7:1). As long as I live, for example, I have to pay taxes. I am under tax law. But the moment I die, I am dead to that law. Now I’m sure the government will come after my wife to get any taxes I owe from her. But the government can’t come to my corpse and demand taxes to me. I am dead to that law. It has no power over me.
Paul then says in verse 4 of Romans 7, that we died to the law through the body of Christ. This is parallel to what Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ.”
What does this mean, though?
The law required a penalty for our sin: death. But when Jesus came to this earth, he lived as a man under the law and he fulfilled it perfectly, never doing anything wrong. And then he did something more. Though he did nothing wrong, he paid the penalty for our sin on the cross. When he died there, God put all of our sins on him. (Isaiah 53:5-6, II Corinthians 5:21)
When God saw Jesus on that cross then, he saw everyone that Jesus was dying for. When he saw Jesus on the cross, he saw me there, and said, “That’s Bruce. He is now dead. The law has put him to death for his sin.” When he saw Jesus, he saw my wife and said, “That’s Satoko. She is now dead. The law has put her to death for her sin.”
That’s what it means by “I have been crucified with Christ.”
But what happened once we died there with Christ? The law lost power over us. We are dead to it.
We no longer have to worry, “I have to keep the law or God will nail me to the wall.” We no longer have to strain under our own efforts to keep the God’s law, only to fail time and again, coming under its condemnation.
Rather, we start to see Christ living his life in us. As the days go by, we start to see him directing our steps, whispering through the Holy Spirit the way to go, and not only that, but also giving us the power to do so.
And so living each day is no longer a matter of us changing ourselves, but rather learning to hear his voice and trusting him day by day. And as we do, we start to find that we’re living lives pleasing to God. We in short, start to actually live the righteous lives the law requires.
How about you? Are you still trying to become righteous before God by keeping a bunch of rules? Are you getting discouraged because you keep failing?
Or do you know the love of Jesus who gave his life for you? Are you able to relax before God, enjoying his company, and learning each day to walk in relationship with him, trusting and loving him?
That’s the Christian life. Is it yours?