Marriage is bliss! For others marriage is vexation! Often wives have felt shackled by their husband! Romans 7:1-4 describes two marriages. In the first marriage, mankind is a wife shackled to an authoritative husband for as long as he lives. Finally, that husband dies and the wife is free to marry ANOTHER HUSBAND, who loves her.
The two husbands are the Law and the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle begins by asking in Romans 7:1—
Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?
DO YOU NOT KNOW is a nice way of asking, “ARE YOU SO IGNORANT?” You may be certain when Paul asks this question that the brethren did not know what he about to say.
Paul uses THE LAW sometimes in the abstract and at other times to refer to the Law of Moses. The apostle refers to no less than six specific laws in chapter 7 and the first two verses of chapter 8:
- The law of marriage (7:2)
- The law of God (7:22)
- The law of the mind (7:23)
- The law of sin (7:23)
- The law of sin and death (8:2)
- The law of the Spirit of the life (8:2)
Paul has already touched upon the LAW in relation to JUSTIFICATION in 3:20—
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
He has touched on the LAW in relation to SIN in 5:20—
The law was added so that the trespass might increase.
And on the LAW in relation to BELIEVERS in 6:14—
For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
But each of these brief touches must be given further elaboration. So Paul treats these relationships in reverse order in Chapter 7. The first six verses dig into the relation of the Law to believers. Here we find three important verbs used to describe our relationship to the Law: BOUND (verse 2); DIED (verse 4); and RELEASED (verse 6). These verbs describe the history of every Christian.
Paul statement is obvious: “THE LAW HAS AUTHORITY OVER A MAN ONLY AS LONG AS HE LIVES.” On the flip side, THE LAW HAS NO JURISDICTION OVER ONE WHO IS DEAD.
On November 22, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly shot and killed President John Kennedy and then Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald. The moment Oswald died the law no longer had authority over him. It could not put him on trial, convict him, and sentence him to a punishment fitting the crime.
A traffic cop investigates a fatal traffic accident and discovers the victim is responsible for the accident. He doesn’t write a ticket and give it to the corpse, no matter how responsible the dead person was for the accident. Death severs the authority of the law.
The basic thought of this passage is founded on the legal maxim that death cancels all contracts. Christians have been freed from the Mosaic law since they have died with Christ. We have no obligation to be circumcised, to bring a sacrifice to the Temple to be offered to cover our sins, to keep the annual feast days or any kind of legislation in attempt to try to curb sin or attain holiness.
Paul illustrates this truth with the Law of Marriage. Verses 2-3—
For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.
Picture for a moment an unhappy marriage in which the marriage vows have become a hateful bondage. Paul says that there is no release form this bondage until death severs the relationship. The Law of Marriage he refers to rivets firm and fast the bond of the marriage vow.
Marriage laws, however, varied from nation to nation. In the classical period, divorce had been very common in Greece. A man could repudiate his wife by a simple statement before a witnesses; a woman could have a bill of divorce written out and submitted to an official for approval. Under Roman law, a daughter did not cease to be under her father’s rule unless her husband declared what was called manus. Than a husband ruled over his wife. Either spouse, however, could easily obtain a divorce in Rome. The Jews believed that divorce was a unique privilege that belonged to them alone, but the Rabbis could not agree on what was a justifiable cause.
Certainly, Paul is not speaking about a marriage law instituted by the governments of his day. The article THE makes it is a particular one; the one he describes in verses 2-3.
Remember Paul started this section DO YOU NOT KNOW? He felt the Roman saints were ignorant of the LAW of MARRIAGE to which he was about to speak. This one did not allow for divorce since only death separated the marriage bond. This law was instituted when Eve was created for Adam. It is universal and irrevocable—in God’s eyes.
Turn to Genesis 2:23-24. God has just created a female from the rib of Adam and He brought her to the man—
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called `woman’, for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Undoubtedly, the words of Adam are inspired by God. Adam lays down this law to all his posterity. The virtue of a divine ordinance, and the bonds of it, are stronger than those of nature. Let’s look at the law first, than at the circumstances.
The Law of Marriage is expressed in three mandates: LEAVE, UNITED and ONE FLESH. Each mandate indicates that marriage brings about a change.
The man is to LEAVE his parents. He is no longer under his parents’ authority—and the same is true for the wife. Both must leave the authority of their parents if they are to be UNITED.
The Hebrew word for UNITED can be translated JOINED or CLEAVE. This word conveys the idea of TO GLUE TOGETHER TWO SO TO MAKE AN INSEPARABLE ONE.
Once UNITED, the two become ONE FLESH and have no separate or independent rights, privileges, cares, concerns, etc., each being equally interested in all things that concern the marriage state. The union between them is so close, as if they were but one person, one soul, one body.
It is evident that monogamy was the original law of marriage. The man shall cleave unto his wife; with a cordial affection, taking care of her, nourishing and cherishing her, providing all things comfortable for her, continuing to live with her, and not depart from her as long as they live.
Now lets look at the circumstances of marriage. God made the woman out of the man, to convey the idea that the closest union, and the most affectionate attachment, should exist in the matrimony. The man should ever consider and treat the woman as a part of himself for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and supports it, so should a man deal with his wife.
And the woman should consider that the man was not made for her, but that she was made for the man, and derived, under God, her being from him; therefore the wife should see that she respects her husband. And of course, the man should do nothing to spoil that respect. Hence, Paul decrees in Ephesians 5:33—
Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Turn to Mark 10:2-9. Here Jesus interprets the Law of Marriage—
Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” “What did Moses command you?” he replied. They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied.
“But at the beginning of creation God `made them male and female’. `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
Jesus’ command, “LET MAN NOT SEPARATE,” bears absolute authority and power in the original Greek—requiring full obedience on the part of all hearers. There is no ‘wiggle’ room in it. Under God’s marriage law, man has no authority or power to sever or cause to become disunited or disjoined what God has joined together.
The fact that the union and oneness of marriage cannot be separated by man is apparent from Mark 10:10- 12—
When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
The enduring force of the marriage bond was not recognized in rabbinic courts, but in God’s eyes it continues until death. Otherwise, there would be no adultery when the divorced remarry.
Jesus is saying that the original ordinance has never been abolish nor superseded, but continues in force. Man-made rules, even by Moses, don’t supersede God’s laws.
In 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, the apostle Paul tells us that his teaching on marriage came from Jesus—
To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
Then Paul adds in 1 Corinthians 7:39—
A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.
BOUND denotes the woman is put under obligation of the law of marriage as to be fastened to her husband as with CHAINS until he dies. Once her husband is dead, she is unshackled and free to remarry. However, it is absolutely necessary that her new husband be in the Lord, a converted person, a believer in Christ.
The permanence of the marriage union until death severs is a wondrous doctrine to teach. Yet, hearing it is often painful because so many people have been affected directly or indirectly by broken marriages. It is essential that the person who has fallen into this sin make confession to God for forgiveness, purity and righteousness.
Divorce rates have markedly increased in many countries since World War II and in some countries have been on the increase since the early 20th century. Attitudes toward divorce have changed dramatically in this period, with the general trend toward tolerance of the practice.
It matters little what the world thinks about divorce, the Bible says divorce and remarriage while one’s spouse is alive is adultery. Therefore, it sows and reaps heartaches for all concerned, but it is not an unforgivable sin. It falls under 1 John 1:9—
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
TO CONFESS is to say the same the thing that God’s says—to agree with Him. We cannot be forgiven of sin until we agree with God. Christ welcomes those who have made such a tangle of their lives but have at last put their trust in Him. Also His church welcomes the sinner who repents, but the church is never to participate in sin! God’s grace is never a license to sin! That’s the point of Romans 6:15—
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
If your life has been broken by divorce, believe that God loves you and wants you to come to Him just as you are. He wants you to love Him and be faithful to Him. Perhaps in your case this means that you have to go it alone for the rest of your life, but He will give you grace to endure if you are true to Him.
Laxity in matters of marriage and divorce is one of the outstanding sins of our day. Those who are born again must obey the Word of God, in spite of personal desires. In no aspect of life is it easier to walk in one’s own way than when the body and physical desire are involved. That’s why Chapters 6-8 of Romans is so important for us to learn and practice. For it teaches us how to be victorious over sin that so easily besets us.
The spiritual have discovered a thrilling way of salvation and victory that does not depend upon keeping the Law. Verse 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.
In the Bible, the institution of marriage is declared to be the perfect illustration of how the Father joins true believers to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father pronounces believers one in Christ because we died to the Law.
By baptism we share in the death of Christ. That means that, having died, we are discharged from all obligations to the Law and become free to marry again. This time we marry, not the Law, but Christ.
Paul’s illustration is thrilling indeed. The old marriage to sin, hateful, intimate and unbearable, and made even worse by the Law, is over. The marriage is now dissolved, not by divorce, but by death! Now the believer is free to be MARRIED TO ANOTHER.
In our salvation we were married to Jesus. Paul calls this a profound mystery when he quotes the Law of Marriage in Ephesians 5:31-32—
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
At the moment of salvation, the wedding vows are exchanged. Jesus took the vows first of all—
I, Jesus take you sinner, to be my Bride. And I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses, to be your loving and faithful Savior and Bridegroom; in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in faithfulness and in waywardness, for time and for eternity.
And then we looked up to Him and said—
I sinner, take You, Jesus, to be my Savior and my Lord. And I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses to be Your loving and faithful Bride; in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, for time and for eternity.
All of us as believers can remember the day the Holy Spirit came and pointed to God’s beloved Son, urging us to join our life with His. “Will you take this Man to be your Lord and Savior?” “I will!” was the glad reply. In that holy moment we died to sin, to death, to the Law! And we rose to new life with Christ! We became MARRIED TO ANOTHER!
I believe that herein is the significance of the Third Commandment which says, “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” (Exodus 20:7, NIV). When a woman takes a man’s name, she henceforth honors or dishonors it by every act of her life. We have taken the name Christian—so let’s honor it.
The permanence of marriage teaches significant spiritual truths throughout the Bible. For instance, God’s marriage vow is: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
The LORD illustrated this truth in the greatest and strangest love story in the Bible—that of the prophet and unfaithful Gomer. God said to Hosea, “I am going to use your life as an object lesson for my people Israel. I command you to marry a prostitute, and together you will act out a pageant. You will play the part of God, and she will play the part of Israel. Though she will be unfaithful to you, you must love her and be faithful to her, for that is the situation between me and Israel.”
The Book of Hosea is a story of romance, love, adultery, and enduring love—the enduring love of God. Hosea and Gomer had three children, but Gomer left Hosea and lived with other men; and each lover was poorer than the man before him. One day Hosea said to a certain man, “Are you the man who is currently living with Gomer the daughter of Diblaim?” “Well, what of it?” replies the man, “I am Hosea, her husband.” As the man recoiled, Hosea said, “But I love her, and I know that you don’t have enough money to take care of her. Take this money and see that she does not lack for anything.” So the man took Hosea’s money and bought clothing, oil and wine for Gomer, who gave her lover credit for providing these things; but Hosea said, “She doesn’t know that I paid the bills.”
No doubt the man who took Hosea’s money was thinking, “there is no fool like this old fool.” But who can explain true love? Love is of God, and it is infinite. Love is apart from reason. Love exists for its own reasons. Love does not operate according to logic but according to love.
And we can see Hosea lurking in the shadows to catch a glimpse of her who filled his heart; weeping as he sees her embrace her lover and thank him for the gifts which true love has provided, which the villain offers and folly accepts.
“Now,” says God, “that is how I treat you. You run away from me and I pay your bills. The story of Hosea is a picture of my faithfulness. I am the faithful husband and you are the adulterous wife. You turn to other gods; you run away, and still I love you.”
Man runs away from God and says, “I’ve gotten away from Him; I have gotten away from God!” And God touches him on the arm and says, “My child, I took a short cut and here I am, to tell you that I love you and am providing for you.” Then man pulls away form God and runs; but God says, “My child, I took another short cut, I want you for Myself.”
So Hosea kept on loving Gomer, who gradually sank to the depths of debasement. Gomer sank so low that she became a slave; and in accordance with the ancient custom in the city of Jerusalem was put up on the slave block, naked. God told Hosea to buy her. Let us visualize the auction in the slave market. Perhaps one man bids ten pieces of sliver; Hosea bids eleven. Then the man bids twelve pieces, so Hosea bids thirteen. Finally the bid is fifteen pieces of silver and a bushel of barley. Hosea bids fifteen pieces of silver and a bushel and a half of barley. The auctioneer points, “Sold to Hosea for fifteen pieces of silver and a bushel and a half of barley!”
So Gomer now belonged to Hosea as a slave. According to the law of the time, he could have killed her if he wished. Instead, Hosea obeyed the LORD who said to him—
“Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”
So Hosea purchased Gomer and told her, “You are to live with me for many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.”
The pathos of Hosea’s words grips our heartstrings, for here is the highest expression of love. What
Gomer would not voluntarily give him, Hosea now demands because he has REDEEMED her from slavery. As a purchased slave she must be faithful. Hosea’s most extraordinary words, “And I will live with you,” is love shinning at its brightest! Although, he demands complete faithfulness, he promises to be no less faithful. This is the faithfulness of the love of God. This is the true meaning of the little word “SO” in John 3:16—
For God SO loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Christ is the faithful One. We are the ones who slip into flirtation and then into adultery with the world. We are loved by Christ Jesus, but we are drawn aside by our own desires and seduced from our love of Christ. Such a deduction is the worst of all transgressions since it is the sin against the love of God. He is faithful to the end, loving us when we were unlovely, and taking us through all steps of our wandering to the place of redemption and final attachment to Himself forever.
In Holy Matrimony, the Heavenly Father has joined you to His Son, the Bridegroom of the Church. So you are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
Jesus paid the ransom price to redeem you from the slave markets of sin and the Law. Now you are His slave. Your love, life and loyalty all belong to your Redeemer. If you are faithful to Him, He will live with you.
Offer yourself as His LOVE-SLAVE. Live with Him now and for ever more! Tell Him, “You love Him.”