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The Law: Dead or Alive? (Romans 7:1-13)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“The Law: Dead or Alive?”

(Romans 7:1-13)

Series: Romans – United in the Gospel [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

May 1, 2022

Introductory Comments:

Very often at weddings, [show picture on screen] you hear these words as part of the vows, “Till death do us part.” You see, there are some things that are designed to be bound for life, marriage being one of them. There are other things that last a lifetime. For example, think of someone who serves as a United States President. For the rest of their life, they are known as “Mr. President,” even after their time expires in office. I still refer to my childhood pastor, Jay Brinson, as “Pastor;” he will always be my pastor, even though he retired years ago. Some things are only separated by death. 

Well, in today’s passage, Paul is continuing a discussion about sin, the law, grace, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As he does so, he talks about being dead to the law and being alive to Jesus. Today’s sermon is entitled, “The Law: Dead or Alive?” [on screen]

Before we go any further, let’s ask God to pray for us as we study His Word. Let’s pray together.


So, here we are in Romans 7. We’re going to talk about three different types of death in this passage as Paul continues his discourse on grace and sin, death and life, and the law and grace. 

First, let us hear about . . .

I. The death of a husband (1-3) [on screen]

Now, as we get into this first point, I certainly don’t want to be insensitive to those who have lost loved ones. I’ve seen many of you lose loved ones and I know that it is very hard. However, if we listen to what Paul is saying in this passage, we can see that he is merely trying to make a point using the illustration of the death of a husband. 

Let’s see what he has to say. Look at verses 1-3:

1 Since I am speaking to those who know the law, brothers and sisters, don’t you know that the law rules over someone as long as he lives? 2 For example, a married woman is legally bound to her husband while he lives. But if her husband dies, she is released from the law regarding the husband. 3 So then, if she is married to another man while her husband is living, she will be called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law. Then, if she is married to another man, she is not an adulteress.

Ok, so we see in verse 1 why Paul chose to speak about a husband-wife relationship. He says, “Since I am speaking to those who know the law . . .”

Paul knows that his audience understands the law of marriage. He knows that they understand that according to their law, generally speaking, a marriage is legally binding until death. 

By the way, it’s helpful to point out here that although there is something we can learn about marriage in this passage, marriage is not Paul’s main concern. Paul and Jesus both speak about marriage elsewhere but that’s not Paul’s main concern here. 

Paul’s main point is to point out that death separates someone from a legal obligation. 

For example, if you have traffic court next week, and you die tomorrow, you don’t have to worry about showing up to traffic court. 

So also, Paul says that a woman whose husband has passed away is not obligated to stay married to him any longer because he is no longer living and their marital vows are no longer binding. 

To make it personal, today at this moment, I am alive. If my wife decided to go marry another man, that is not ok; we might have some issues. My wife is bound to me and I am bound to her. For either of us to break that bond while we are still married would be to commit adultery. However, if I die or if she dies, we are free to remarry. 

Paul is trying to help us see that death nullifies the bonding agent that binds this legal relationship together. Paul is setting us up for a greater understanding of what he will say next. Pay attention to what he says in verse 3: “ . . . if her husband dies, she is free from that law.”

Ok, let’s see which death Paul speaks about next. Let’s talk about . . .

II. The death of Christ (4-6) [on screen]

Paul will explain that through the death of Christ, we too have died to the binding of the law upon our hearts. 

Listen to what Paul says in verses 4-6:

4 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you also were put to death in relation to the law through the body of Christ so that you may belong to another. You belong to him who was raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions aroused through the law were working in us to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, so that we may serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law.

Paul says in verse 4, “ . . . you also were put to death in relation to the law.” 

Well, none of us actually have died yet, so how have we been put to death? 

Paul answers that question. He says we have been put to death, “ . . . through the body of Christ.” To be clear, in this case, Paul is not talking about the “body of Christ” as the church. Sometimes the church is called the “body of Christ.” Here, Paul means the actual body of Christ. The actual physical body of Christ was put to death and because of the miraculous supernatural work of the Gospel of Jesus, we have also been put to death to the law. 

Well, what is the result of all of this? Again, Paul answers that question for us. He says in verse 4, “ . . . so that you may belong to another. You belong to him who was raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.”

Because we are no longer bound to the law because we have died to its power over us, we now belong to another. We belong to Jesus, the One who was raised from the dead!

So, we might say that the law was our husband before but now we have committed ourselves to Jesus!

In verses 5 and 6, Paul gives us a refresher course on the idea of the bondage of the law over us when we were without Jesus. 

When we were in the flesh, without the Spirit of God in us, we lived in sin and the law was a weight on us. We couldn’t keep the law and all we did was live in sin. This resulted in death for us. We couldn’t keep the law, we violated the law, and the result, or the fruit, was death. 

However, Paul says in verse 6, “But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us.” Just as the wife Paul spoke of is free to remarry if their spouse dies, so also, we are free from the chains of the law and we are free from death because we have died to the law. 

Now, Paul says in verse 6, we have, “ . . . the newness of the Spirit.” So, church, let us live with a newness of the Spirit. We are new and free! So, let us live as new and free people, guided by the Holy Spirit of God!

Finally, let us see . . .

III. The death of sin (7-13) [on screen]

Paul has another “What should we say then?” question coming up in this section. Paul wants to bring more clarity as to whether or not the law is bad. Let’s look at verses 7-13:

7 What should we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not!  On the contrary, I would not have known sin if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, Do not covet. 8 And sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind. For apart from the law sin is dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life again 10 and I died. The commandment that was meant for life resulted in death for me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. 13 Therefore, did what is good become death to me? Absolutely not!  On the contrary, sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment, sin might become sinful beyond measure.

So, then, the law is not bad; the law is not evil; the law is not sinful. Paul’s answer to the question of, “Is the law sin?” is, “Absolutely not!” 

Remember the law itself is not sinful. However, it shows us our sin and holds us accountable for our sin. 

Remember, the law is like a mirror, in that it shows how sinful we really are. [show picture on screen] The law is like a speed limit sign, in that it defines the specifics of sin for us. [show picture on screen]

Interestingly, Paul shifts his language here to the first person. That is, Paul starts to speak about himself; he gets personal. He says in verse 7, “I would not have known sin if it were not for the law.”

Paul then gets specific and he talks about coveting, which, remember, is wanting something that belongs to someone else. 

Paul basically says, “I wouldn’t even really know what coveting was unless the law pointed it out. Now, I have a problem with coveting in many different ways.”

This reminds me of something like a sign that says, “Do not enter,” “Don’t touch,” “Don’t walk on the grass,” or something like that. When we see those rules, oftentimes we are tempted to do the very thing that it tells us not to do. However, we had no inclination or desire to do those things until someone told us not to do those things. This is how it was for Paul. When he read, “Do not covet,” he wanted to covet in every way imaginable. 

Of course, this is not to say that Paul didn’t covet without the law. It is to say that Paul now knows how bad of a coveter he was and that he really needed some help to be rescued from the bondage of sin as revealed in the law. 

So also, the law shows us how desperately we really need Jesus. 

In the remaining verses, Paul speaks about how sin latched onto what is good in order to use it for evil. 

Paul says in verse 11, “For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me.”

Don’t you know that there are some things that if they latch on to you will cause damage? Have you ever had a tick? [show picture on screen] A little tiny insect, if it latches on to you, and you don’t deal with it, can cause you all kinds of problems. How much more can sin bring all kinds of damage, even death, to you when it latches on to you, if it’s not dealt with by the power of Jesus!

The law is not bad; sin is bad. Paul clarifies in verse 12, “ . . . the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.”

The problem isn’t the law, the problem is the sin that the law reveals. Sin latched onto the law and showed us more and more ways to sin and we desperately needed to be rescued from that mess so that we could be set free to live the law of God the way we were really meant to live. 

Sin brings death. It brought death before the law and it expanded the specificity of the death that it brought through the law. What was intended for good (the law) was used by death to show how many different ways sin could affect us. 

The law is not the problem, sin is the problem. 

The death of sin, the sting of sin is the problem. 

Concluding Thoughts:

Well, what are we to do church? Paul gives us the answer in another of his letters. In 1 Corinthians 15:56-57, he says, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” [on screen]

Because of the death of Jesus, sin will no longer bring death; rather sin will suffer death. The death of Jesus will result in the death of sin! Oh Victory in Jesus, My Savior forever!

Jesus put death to death. 

When I studied this passage, I thought of the words of John Mark McMillan in his song, “Death in His Grave.” McMillan says, “On Friday a thief, on Sunday a king. Laid down in grief, but awoke with the keys, to hell on that day, the firstborn of the slain, the man Jesus Christ put death in his grave.”

The death of Jesus brought the death of sin. 

Let this bottom line summarize what Paul is teaching us this day.

Bottom Line: The power of the law and sin is deadover us so that the power of Jesus can livein us. [on screen]


We are dead to sin, we are no longer slaves to the law, so let us now live freely as those who can live for God rather than live in sin. 

Challenge yourself this week in the following ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

1. Rate the power of sin over you. [on screen]

What kind of power does sin have over you? Sin is so powerful that if we allow it to it can even pervert and twist that which is good to cause you to sin even more. 

Well, how about it? How much of a hold does sin have over you? Do you give into it freely and willingly? Can you not help yourself when it comes to sinning?

Have you ever really been set free from sin?

2. Ask yourself how much newness is in your life. [on screen]

Paul said in verse 6, “But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, so that we may serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law.”

Are you living in the Spirit? Are you becoming all who God made you to be in the power of the Holy Spirit?

How much newness is in your life? How much love? How much righteousness? How much faithfulness? How much compassion? How much courage? How much gentleness? How much patience? Are you new?


The follower of Jesus can say this, “First, sin brought death to me; now, sin is dead to me.” 

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

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