Delivered From the Law

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Abstract

When Paul says we are delivered from the Law, he does not mean we are no longer responsible to obey God’s Law. He means that we have been delivered from the penalty imposed by the Law, because the one whom the Law had justly detained for execution, our old man, has already been slain in Christ. He states further that we are not only delivered from the penalty of Law, but also from the dominion of our sin nature so that we can start keeping the Law.

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In the Bible it is written, “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Rom 7:6) What does Paul mean when he says we are … delivered from the law?

At first, if we harbor any enmity at all toward the Law of God, the Torah, thinking it might tend to hold us in bondage with its rules and regulations, and to violate our freedom in Christ to live as we please, then we might be tempted to think Paul is saying that since Christ fulfilled and kept the Law of God on our behalf we are now free to ignore it, to violate without consequence those parts of it we dislike.

Yet such a view would tend to identify us as being in the flesh and having a carnal mind, being at enmity with God Himself: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” And being thus in the flesh we might not be able to relate to Paul very well when he says, “I delight in the Law of God after the inward man;” (Rom 7:22) since we do not share his love for Torah.

We would also find ourselves contradicting the heart of our Messiah … Who said, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:19) Evidently, Paul is speaking to those who love each and every one of God’s laws and have an earnest desire to obey them. It is to these rare souls that Paul writes, himself included: “we are delivered from the law.”

What does it mean then to be delivered from something we delight in, to be set free from what we love more than much fine gold, from that which we find sweeter than honey? (Ps 19:10) Perhaps the key is in the phrase following: “that being dead wherein we were held.” Evidently, someone who was being held on death row has already died, and in this death we are delivered from the Law, set free.

This is evidently referring back to what Paul has just said in the immediate context: “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” (Rom 7:4) Paul says that we have died to the Law, meaning not that the Law of God is dead to us, but that we are accounted dead by the Law – the death penalty the Law requires for our disobedience has already been carried out in Christ’s death on our behalf: we died in Him, His death was accounted as our own. The Law cannot continue to rightly demand that we pay for sin which has already been paid for.

Justice has been served in our case by the atoning death of Christ, but this does not mean we are now free to disobey God. Those who are thinking this way are missing the entire point, indicating they themselves have not yet been delivered from the law.

Being delivered from the law involves being delivered from something to something else, as Paul says that we are now to “serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Rom 7:6b) So we are set free from corruption, bondage and death to a new pattern of life characterized by a practical, godly holiness. To this end Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom 8:1-2) Those who have been freed from the Law’s condemnation through the death of Christ have also been set “free from the law of sin and death” through “the law of the spirit of life in Christ.”

In other words, when we were at enmity with God and His ways there was a spiritual law in operation — a consistent pattern of disobedience and alienation from God. But something is different now in the redeemed – a new law is in effect: the law of the Spirit of life in Christ is changing our hearts and minds such that we are no longer at enmity with God and His ways; we are loving God and His laws and we are growing in our tendency to obey Him, submit to Him, align with Him, and enjoy Him.

This supernatural transformation in the redeemed is called a law for a reason: it is describing a consistent and unalterable pattern of behavior, much like natural law … like the Law of Gravity. Natural laws describe predictable patterns in Creation which are generally stable, immovable, solid, and firm. God designed natural laws for our benefit so that we could experience Him and each other in a safe and predictable environment. When a supernatural being violates one of these laws we call it a miracle.

Spiritual laws are the ultimate reality of which natural law is merely an illustration or shadow; Spiritual laws are predictable and unchanging patterns of behavior in spiritual beings. And as in Natural Law, there is a corresponding sense of miracle when God violates them. Just like natural law, we can freely depend on spiritual laws; it is good to understand these laws and live in accord with them.

In this particular context God is describing two spiritual laws: the law of sin and death and the law of the spirit of life in Christ. Now that I am delivered from (the penalty and condemnation of) the law through the death of Christ, I am now able to serve God in newness of spirit since the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death: God has so worked in my life that I am now going in the opposite direction from where I was going. We are describing a spiritual law which is presently operational in every child of God: we are no longer experiencing a pattern of growing disobedience to God’s laws and alienation from Him, but rather a pattern of growing obedience and holiness and fellowship with God. God does not deliver us from His Law so that we can go on disobeying it and sinning freely, stubbornly exalting ourselves without fearing His wrath, but so that we can be delivered from sin itself, obeying God more and more from the heart and thereby ultimately delivered from the law of sin and death.

In other words, Christ does not deliver us from the Law so that we may sin without consequence or guilt, so that He might enjoy us while we continue to relentlessly and willfully trample His heart underfoot. No … God does not suspend the law of sin and death so men can saunter arrogantly into His courts and exalt themselves without fear. God violates the law of sin and death by supernaturally and progressively delivering us from the sin nature itself; the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus changes us so that we obey God more and more from the heart and experience fellowship with Him in righteousness.

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