An Example from Marriage
1My friends, you surely understand enough about law to know that laws only have power over people who are alive. 2For example, the Law says that a man's wife must remain his wife as long as he lives. But once her husband is dead, she is free 3to marry someone else. However, if she goes off with another man while her husband is still alive, she is said to be unfaithful.
4That is how it is with you, my friends. You are now part of the body of Christ and are dead to the power of the Law. You are free to belong to Christ, who was raised to life so we could serve God. 5When we thought only of ourselves, the Law made us have sinful desires. It made every part of our bodies into slaves who are doomed to die. 6But the Law no longer rules over us. We are like dead people, and it cannot have any power over us. Now we can serve God in a new way by obeying his Spirit, and not in the old way by obeying the written Law.
During my time in pastoral ministry I knew people who remarried after their spouse passed away. Because of the intimate nature of marriage, definite adjustments in lifestyle had to be made. It would be silly and even pointless for the remarried person to treat their new spouse just like the first one: to do the exact same activities as a couple, to use the same pet-names; to love that person as if s/he was the first spouse.
Throughout chapters six and seven of Romans Paul implicitly compares and contrasts the old and new covenants. He associates life under the old covenant with sin, death, the Mosaic Law, and pleasing ourselves. To the new covenant he ascribes pleasing God, life, being “in Christ,” and the Spirit. When a person places their faith in Christ and his finished work, that person not only receives a new master, they have been released from the old covenant in order to live under the new one (v 4).
One of the reasons God sets us free from the old covenant is so that we can experience the superiority of the new covenant: “Now we can serve God in a new way by obeying his Spirit, and not in the old way by obeying the written Law” (vv 5-6). Spirit beats Law every time!
As far as the old covenant is concerned, the Christian has been widowed. The old covenant and the old order of life now lie completely dead. Therefore, the Christian has absolutely no obligation whatsoever to fulfill any aspect of the old covenant Law. That is what legalists try to do; that is, people in the church who try to get others to live according to human-made rules and regulations. Essentially, a legalist treats the new spouse (Christianity) exactly like the deceased one (the Mosaic Law). May it never be!
Heavenly Father, Thank you that Christ has released me from the realm of sin, death and the Law, so that I can now serve him in righteousness through the Spirit. Forgive me when I fall back to the old ways of the Law and legalism. Help me to move ever forward in the way of new life in Christ and the Spirit. In Jesus’ name, amen.