Following is a guest post regarding the exposition of Romans 7:1-6, a passage greatly misused by those in the Hebrew Roots Movement and other ‘Law-keeping’ sects. At the end of this article, I’ll post an excerpt from Gateways into the Hebrew Roots Movement – An Examination of ‘Identity Crisis’ and Related Teachings of Jim Staley, where the HRM view of Romans 7:1-6 is detailed to give contrast to what we see a plain reading of the passage communicating. Thanks to UGANUL for submitting the following!
Christian Law-Keepers and Spiritual Adultery
An Exposition of Romans 7:1-6
by UGANUL (Under Grace And Not Under Law)
Hebrew Roots, Torah Observant and Seventh Day Adventist believers know well the commandment, “You shall not commit adultery”, number seven of the Big Ten. They also know well Jesus’ expansion of that commandment in His sermon on the mount, in which He proclaimed lust to be adultery in the heart. Law-keepers love to say things like, “See, Jesus didn’t do away with the law, He made it even more demanding!”
A little rabbit-trail here from my main subject, but every time I hear a statement like that I want to reply, “Yes, and if Jesus had included the fourth commandment in His sermon on the mount, it would have probably gone something like this:”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘The seventh day is a Sabbath (complete rest) to the Lord Your God’, but I say to you, not just one day a week shall you enter into rest, but you shall enter into My rest every day of the week all day long.”
That is exactly the message of Hebrews 4:1-10 and elsewhere in the New Testament. But I digress . . .
Back to adultery. I think that we can all agree on the fact that there are at least two kinds of adultery:
- Physical adultery (actual sexual involvement with someone other than one’s spouse)
- Psychological adultery (lust in the heart for sexual involvement with someone other than one’s spouse)
To these two forms of adultery, I believe the Apostle Paul clearly adds a third form of adultery, spiritual adultery, explained in Roman 7:1-6.
The first three verses there set up the basis of comparison with physical adultery:
1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? 2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3 So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.
That’s all pretty clear; no controversy here. Paul is speaking to those who know the Law, so probably a good number of Jewish converts to the gospel of Jesus are among the Christians at Rome. And they (and even those under other forms of civil law) clearly understand that, yes, if a woman is married to a husband, and while that husband is still alive she goes and joins herself to another man, she is clearly an adulteress.
Having set that stage, Paul goes on to apply this truth to those who are followers of Christ:
4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.
What is the “therefore” there for? Obviously, this verse is an application of the previous three verses.
It is evident, is it not, that on a spiritual level, the Apostle is saying we cannot be joined to both Christ and the Law at the same time.
Otherwise, just like the woman in the first three verses, an individual who seeks to join himself or herself to both Jesus and the Law at the same time commits spiritual adultery, a third kind of adultery.
It seems obvious to me that this article should be concluded right here in the first clause of v. 4 in which we are told that if we are part of the “brethren” in Christ Paul is addressing, then we have been “made to die to the Law”, period, end of argument, end of this nonsense about Christians needing to obey the Law given to Moses.
We believers in Christ have been made to die to the Law! What is so difficult to understand about that straightforward statement? But alas, I must be too simple-minded, so I will continue.
There is obviously a huge problem here. Some 1400 years before the book of Romans was written, Moses recorded the commandments of God for the Israelite people which appeared to be good for all time stretching into eternity. Now, however, the very Son of God has appeared demanding that we be joined to Him in ways which supersede the Law given to Moses. E.g., in His sermon on the mount He differentiates Himself from the Law with the refrain, “But I say to you…”, and even overturns some points of the Law such as commanding us to swear no oaths at all when the Law commands its adherents to take oaths to the Lord. (Compare and contrast Mt. 5:33-37 and Dt. 6:13.)
So, what is the solution to this perceived contradiction between the Laws given to Moses, and the teachings given to us by our Lord Jesus and His Apostles?
Here it is: Just as in verses 1-3 in which someone has to die in order for the second union to be non-adulterous, so someone has to die here in order for there to be no spiritual adultery – the adultery of seeking to join ourselves to both Jesus and the Law of Moses at the same time.
Now here is where I think God provides an amazing, startling, and totally unexpected solution. In verse 4, He actually has two people die: Jesus and the believer in Christ! But He also has those two people raised from the dead, so that they may be joined to each other in a new union that truly bears “fruit for God”.
Implication: The old union with the Law was not getting the fruit-bearing job done. Only New Life can do that.
In another place Paul reveals,
The letter (speaking of the Ten Commandments carved on tablets of stone) kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6)
But wait; there’s more! God tells us why He had to work the plan this way. He tells us that there is actually a problem with the Law: It actually causes the flesh to sin, to bear fruit for death! Romans 7:5 says:
For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.
Almost every translation of the New Testament puts it the same way – that our sinful passions are aroused by the Law to cause us to sin! Yes, there is something about the Law of Moses and our sinful flesh that is impossible to fit together to bear fruit for God. The Law of Moses arouses our sinful passions to show us how desperately we need our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now I can almost feel a flood of law-keepers descending upon me saying, “But look down at v. 12, ‘So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.’ The problem isn’t with the commandment; it is with our sinful flesh.”
My dear friend, I am not saying that there is something evil about the Law.
- By saying that the Law is “holy”, that word signifies that it is set apart for a special purpose, to show us our sin.
- By saying that the Law is “just”, that word signifies that God is just in condemning us to His wrath.
- By saying that the Law is “good”, that word signifies that the Law accomplishes the good purpose of showing us that in and of ourselves we can never accomplish all the demands of that law, and it thereby leads us to our need for Christ.
Unbeknownst to the Israelites of Moses’ day and following, they were never going to be able to perfectly keep the Law, and were in effect being set up for failure so that in the fullness of time they would be driven to the grace and mercy and forgiveness in Christ, along with the power and privilege to live a whole new kind of life above sin.
So the Law has a purpose, and Paul explains that purpose in vv. 7-12 (as well as in many other places in the New Testament). But here is the one thing we must recognize about the Law: Though the Law of Moses had and has many good purposes, though it is holy (set apart), and though it is good, there is something even more important about it: It is inadequate. It cannot produce life, and it cannot bear fruit. This is why it is so important to tenaciously hold to the truth of Romans 7:6:
But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
I am amazed at the hermeneutical (interpretive) gymnastics that HRM, TO, and SDA apologists use to get around verses in the New Testament, but it is as obvious as the day is long that what this verse really means is, “we have been released from the Law”!
In the Greek it still means, “We have been released from the Law”! Ok, if you missed it look at the second phrase which indicates action completed in the past with results continuing into the present: “having died to that by which we were bound”.
Folks, when we were “born-again” or “born from above” (John 3), we were crucified with Christ and raised up with Him (Col. 3 and elsewhere), so that we are now dead to the Law along with everything else associated with our old life. We are new creatures in Christ… “the old things passed away, behold new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17)!
Now there is one more very important death that took place by crucifixion, and sadly this death is often missed by many Christians. Not only was Jesus crucified (and raised again), and believers in Jesus were crucified with Him (and raised again, Gal. 2:19-21), but there was also something else that was crucified, and this thing that was crucified was not raised from the dead. For believers, the thing that was crucified was the Law itself!
Check out these two passages from Colossians and Ephesians:
13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
What is the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us? Paul makes it even clearer in his parallel passage to this one in the body of his letter to the Ephesians:
For He Himself [Jesus] is our peace, who made both groups [Jews and Gentiles] into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
Dear friend, do not pass over this passage too quickly. Observe two very important points:
First, notice in v. 16 what exactly was put to death on the cross. It was the enmity. What was the enmity? Look back up into v. 15, where it tells us exactly what the enmity was: “…the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances….”
Let’s not get too complicated here. The enmity is the Law.
Second, as JGIG has pointed out previously, the Greek word translated “abolishing” both here in Ephesians 2:15 and in the text of our exposition at Rom. 7:6 is the word katargeo – G2673. It’s semantic range includes the following meanings:
to render idle, unemployed, inactive, inoperative; to cause a person or thing to have no further efficiency; to deprive of force, influence or power; to cause to cease, put an end to, do away with, annul, abolish; to cease, to pass away, be done away; to be severed from, separated from, discharged from, loosed from; and finally to terminate all intercourse with.
Given this semantic range, it would seem to me that the translators of the New King James Version were rather mild in saying we have been released from the Law in Romans 7:6, and dead on accurate in their translation of Ephesians 2:15 by saying “abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law….”
Dear friend, if you are a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, you have been
- discharged and terminated from the Law of Moses which has been
- abolished, and
- deprived of all force, influence, power and authority over you as a New Covenant believer!
There are many reasons why we have been released from the Law of Moses, but one of the most important is that it is impossible for us to ever obey all its commandments:
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
It is both a Biblical fact and the common experience of every human being outside of Jesus Christ, that none of us, not even Ellen G. White or any other proponent of sinless perfectionism, has ever lived a life completely without sin.
Sooner or later, many Law abiding believers come to the realization of what sadly has taken them a long period of years to finally admit: That living by the letter of the law is actually and truly an act of the flesh.
You are either walking in the power of your own flesh to keep commandments, many of which, by the way, were never intended for believers in Christ to keep in the same way the Old Testament Israelites were to keep them, or you are walking in the Spirit, being led by Him as “sons of God” into and through a lifestyle of fulfilling the Royal law (James 2:8), the law of love, the “new commandment” Jesus gave to us. There is no middle ground!
Ok, sorry for the run-on sentence in the previous paragraph; perhaps I was influenced by many of the Apostle Paul’s long sentences. Dear loved one, let me conclude here by encouraging you from the bottom of my heart:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
Whether it is committing adultery or trying to keep all the commandments of the Law of Moses, it is still of the flesh, and will only reap corruption. Sow to the Spirit, dear friend, and reap eternal life.
Postscript: For those of you Goyim (Gentiles) who are trying to become more Jewish through Torah observance, please take heed to the following New Covenant warning from Romans 2:17-24 about being Jewish:
17 But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, 18 and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, 21 you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? 22 You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? 23 You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written.
Following is an excerpt of an examination of Jim Staley’s teaching, ‘Identity Crisis’, in which he relays an interpretation common in the Hebrew Roots Movement regarding Romans 7:1-6. Excerpted from Gateways into the Hebrew Roots Movement – An Examination of ‘Identity Crisis’ and Related Teachings of Jim Staley:
. . . Staley doesn’t answer the question, but goes into how God divorces and then makes it so that He can remarry Israel.
Around 1:00 he takes Romans 7:4 and actually says that Israel died to Law, but died only to the law of adultery, so that She could be married to another. Romans 7:4 actually says,
4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
Those in Christ do not die to a single law, but to THE Law, as Romans 7:4 clearly states.
Did you die just to the Law regarding adultery? If the law of adultery died, like the husband did in the scenario presented in verses 1-3, that might make sense, as the rest of the Law could remain intact, but the Scripture does not say that the law of adultery died, it says that those in Christ died. When someone dies, they die to all laws. So dying to a single law makes no sense in light of Romans 7:6, which says this:
6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
The written code, as we know, is the Ten Commandments and the other 600+ specific commands documented by God in Torah.
In Romans 7:4-6, the Law doesn’t die, WE do!
To the Law.
To be able to be joined to Another.
Hang on to your hats for this one: If you go back to the Law (which you have died to and been released from in order to be joined to Christ), you commit spiritual adultery (see part 4 on this page).
Whether you view the Law as a husband, as in the example in verses 1-3, as a Schoolmaster/Tutor/Guardian, as in Galatians 3:21-28, or anything else, you cannot be joined to both the Law and to Christ!
. . . we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way
of the written code.
Which brings me to a few rhetorical questions: If you are now dead to just the Law of adultery, does it now matter if you commit adultery? Is adultery no longer a part of the jots and tittles, none of which were supposed to pass away? If you believe that you died just to the law of adultery, what is the ‘written code’ spoken of by Paul — just the Law of adultery? Or maybe the passage is referring to the Oral Traditions? No, that can’t be it, because the Oral Traditions include all of the Law plus other stuff. Silly? Perhaps, but you get the point.
Torah folk that I’ve talked with tell me that if we interpret Romans 7:4 to mean the whole Law then it must be okay to go out and murder, steal, commit adultery, etc. Yet, if we go with that logic and couple it with the HRM interpretation of Romans 7:4-6 (which is standard in the HRM beyond Staley’s teaching), then it must be okay to commit adultery since that’s a law you’ve died to, yes?
Well I certainly don’t believe that! Why? Because I died with Christ:
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
The Scriptures tell us clearly that those in Christ have died to the Law — all of it.
In the New Covenant, Grace teaches us and the Spirit leads us (Titus 2:11-14, Galatians 5:18-26). If we are led by the Spirit, we are not under Law (Galatians 5:18), which coincides to being dead to the Law. Not only that, but what does Romans 7:5, which is sandwiched in between verses 4 and 6, say?
5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.
I like the idea of being dead to that which arouses our sinful passions! Because as one in Christ, I’m not looking for license to sin, rather for how to sin less and less. The Law does not show us how to accomplish that. The Scriptures say that in us, the Law actually stirs up sinful passions rather than to tamp down sinful passions (Romans 5:20, Romans 7:5-11, 1 Corinthians 15:56).
Living in Grace and by the Spirit does not leave us in a vacuum, floating about with no compass to guide us! Notice in Galatians 5:21 where it says, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”
So how does righteousness come? Grace. (See Hebrew Roots Movement – Man’s Righteousness or God’s Righteousness? and Grace or Law? How Then, Shall We Live?, and also Parts 2 and 5 on this page for more on this topic.)
We also know from the Scriptures that the Fruit of the Spirit is love (Galatians 5:22-23) and that love, which does no harm to its neighbor fulfills the Law (Romans 13:8-10) because someone loving others is not murdering, stealing, committing adultery, bearing false witness, etc.
6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
So we see that in the New Covenant, Grace teaches us and the Spirit leads us (Titus 2:11-14, Galatians 5:18-26). The Fruit of that is Love, which fulfills the Law (Romans 13:8-10). These are foundational Truths to the Gospel that bear repeating in the face of false teaching.
The balance of the article excerpted above can be read here: Gateways into the Hebrew Roots Movement – An Examination of ‘Identity Crisis’ and Related Teachings of Jim Staley
Other articles of interest:
If you or someone you know is in the HRM or a related Law-keeping sect and are questioning what you believe, a clear presentation of the Gospel can be found HERE. For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page. General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE. Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE. Be sure to check out the other testimonies on the Testimonies Page, as well. Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable. May God guide and bless you as you seek His Truth.
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