In his series 'The Beauty of the Bride,' Stephen unveils one of the most beautiful and dramatic truths found at the heart of the Gospel: Christianity is a wedding! Of all the descriptions God gives us in Scripture regarding the state of our relationship with Him, there is none so compelling and so convicting as this one. So let's listen now as Stephen explains the ramifications of this truth both for our future and, more practically, for our present.
The New Marriage
In chapter 6 Paul took us to the graveyard and taught us that we died in Christ, were buried in Christ and then resurrected in Christ to newness in life.
In chapter 7 he moves from the graveyard into a wedding scene; he shows us a wedding album and we discover that we are in the picture.
In chapter 6 we died in Christ, but in chapter 7 we are married to Christ.
In other words, in chapter 6 we were buried with Christ; but in chapter 7 we are the bride of Christ.
And the good news is that every believer who experienced the burial of chapter 6 experiences the wedding of chapter 7 and, ultimately, the victory of chapter 8.
Now, before we dive in, there are a number of opinions about chapter 7; Paul was referring to someone under the law; Paul was referring to carnal Christians; Paul was referring to Jews who wanted to return to the OT system of law and sacrifices; Paul was talking about himself and every other Christian; Paul was talking about himself and nobody else.
One commentator just threw up his hands and said, “We ought to just forget what Paul said and try to figure out what Paul meant.”
The answer to the dilemma is discovered by taking this chapter at face value, like every chapter before it. The text itself answers the question. From verse 7 through the end of this chapter, Paul uses the personal pronoun “I” thirty times! In fact, if you added to that Paul’s uses of personal pronouns like “me,” “my” and “myself,” Paul refers to himself 47 times in 19 verses.
Alva J. McClain, Romans; The Gospel of God’s Grace (BMH Books, Winona Lake, IN), 1973, p. 151
This is Paul’s story! This chapter is intensely personal to Paul! And you will discover that this chapter is not only Paul’s autobiography, it is the truth about your story and mine today, as well.
Now, Paul, the master teacher, begins these next paragraphs, which we call chapter 7, by delivering a principle; he then illuminates the principle with an illustration and then concludes with an application.
We could call his opening statement, in Romans chapter 7, verse 1, A. The Principle Of Law and Limitation
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?
Now some believe Paul is referring to the Torah – the Jewish law delivered through Moses.
However, this phrase in the Greek New Testament lacks the definite article. You could literally translate it, “Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know law). . .”
In other words, Paul is speaking about law in general.
And he assumes that every Roman, every Jew, every Greek man or woman would understand law in general.
Paul is asking a rhetorical questions. He knows they know the truth about law. “Don’t you know that law has jurisdiction over a person, but only while they are living?” You know that, don’t you?!
You can’t take a corpse to court. You can’t fine someone for parking tickets after they have died. You can’t bring them before a judge and jury and convict them of crimes.
Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy, was never brought to trial for murder because he himself was murdered before his trial began. [That ended the inquiry – the law could do nothing more against Oswald – because Oswald was dead.]
John MacArthur Jr., Romans (Moody Press; Chicago Illinois) 1991, p. 359
The limitation of the law is that it can only enforce and monitor and denounce and instruct and convict and sentence and condemn the living. Law has power only over those who are alive.
Its jurisdiction – its influence – its sway – its verdict only affects the living.
Now Paul will illustrate the jurisdiction of law over the living only, with the marriage covenant.
B. The Illustration of Marriage and Covenant
Notice verse 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.
Of all the illustrations Paul could have used to describe the limitations of law, I find it absolutely fascinating that Paul, by means of the Holy Spirit’s influence, would choose this one.
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.
Here’s what’s so amazing about this principle and illustration.
Paul is speaking rhetorically! He is speaking with the assumption that his audience agrees with the biblical teaching on the permanence of marriage . . . [here’s the startling point] . . . there is also the assumption by Paul that those who are ignorant of what the Bible says about marriage would still understand the natural law that says when two people join together in marriage, it is for life.
Holman New testament Commentary: Volume 6 (Broadman & Holman, Nashville) 2000; p. 217
In other words, as Paul has already declared in chapter 1, there is an intuitive knowledge of God’s law. We could call that natural law. Law understood without every having read the 10 commandments.
C.S. Lewis wrote that natural law is revealed in the way people talk. “That’s my seat, I was there first.” “Leave him alone; he isn’t doing you any harm,” Why should you cut in first?” “Give me a bit of your orange; I gave you a bit of mine,” “Come on now, you promised.”
Quoted in James Montgomery Boice, Romans Vol. 2, Baker Book House, 1991, p. 718
Lewis stated that people understood standards of conduct simply because they had law encoded on their hearts.
I love watching candid camera because it illustrates the tension of natural law. I loved one clip where a guy in a restaurant would come in and immediately pocket the tip left at the counter – while the nearest customer watched with his mouth hanging open. Why? Because it’s wrong – it’s stealing – it doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to the waitress. Even though there isn’t a note written to the waitress and a notarized statement declaring that tip to be the property of the waitress.
I watched one candid camera where they had someone come into a restaurant, sit at the counter next to someone and begin eating food off of that other person’s plate. The waitress asks, “Do you want to order?” “Na, I like this just fine.” while that other person just sits there, stunned.
I read some time ago about a woman who bought a bag of cookies at the airport, while she waited in the terminal for her flight. While seated there, the terminal became crowded with people and a man sat near her, with one seat in between them. After a while, the woman reached down and ate on of her cookies while she read her magazine. Then, to her shock, the noticed the man reached down and took a cookie out of the package and popped it into his mouth – she glared at him, he smiled back her. She didn’t know what to do – a minute later she picked up another cookie and so did he – nodding at her and smiling. She was infuriated now – she took the last cookie, stuffed it in her mouth as they got up to board the plane. She fumed her way to her seat, sat down, buckled up, then opened her purse, and there lay her package of cookies still wrapped up.
What had made her so angry? And what made him so nice about it? She thought he was a thief, violating her rights and taking her property, and so she was rightfully angry . . . he was exercising patience and kindness toward a woman who was evidently out of her mind. Both exercised compliance to natural law – a gift from God that produces civility and order, among a thousand other things.
In the Book of Romans Paul never condemns the unbeliever for not knowing the law – the truth about God as creator and judge; he simply says that they have the law of God written (where>?) on their hearts – he writes that they are condemned for knowing certain truth about God and suppressing it; denying it; mocking it; distorting it.
Paul is assuming everybody, anywhere in the world, understands the natural law that marriage is a binding covenant.
Someone might say, “Well Paul lived in a different era . . . marriage was not as sophisticated in the village like it is in the metropolis . . . everybody back then lived differently.
The truth is just the opposite.
The Jewish society was awash with divorce. Women were beasts of burden and could be discarded all too easily. The rabbis of Paul’s day took Moses’ words that a man who married a woman and then divorced her after finding her to be unclean or adulteress. The word “unclean” became the subject of debate within the Jewish community. One rabbi said that only adultery could allow for divorce. Another rabbi taught that “uncleanness” could be anything displeasing. Rabbi Hillel, a famous rabbi, taught that a wife was unclean if she spoiled her husband’s dinner or put too much salt in it. Talking with men on the streets, saying something against her mother-in-law, that was uncleanness. Rabbi Akiba even insisted that if a man found a woman who was prettier than his wife, the latter became unclean in his eyes. He could divorce her, send her out, and marry the prettier one.
When Paul wrote, on man and one woman for life, that was radical.
The pagan Greek world around Paul was even worse. Prostitution, homosexuality, lesbianism and pedophilia abounded in the Greek world.
Most of the emperors were bisexual. Even in Greek society, heterosexuality was considered simplistic and prudish. Wives were simply taken to bear legitimate heirs to the family fortune. Demosthenes, the orator from Athens wrote, “We have prostitutes for pleasure, we have concubines for daily cohabitation, and wives to bear legitimate children and guard the household affairs.”
The Roman view of marriage was just as corrupt. Jerome, an ancient writer, tells us of one Roman woman who married her 23rdhusband, and she was his 21st wife! Marriage in Roman times became little more than legalized prostitution. One Roman writer named Juvenal wrote that women vacated their home and flitted from one marriage to another, wearing out their bridal veils.”
Cultural notes and comments adapted from John MacArthur, The Family (GTY Publications), p. 20
When Paul wrote, I know you know it’s true, that a man and a woman belong to one another for life – it was radical news to a corrupt world.
Paul’s statement about a life-long bond was as strange to 1st century Athens as it is today in 21st century America.
But he assumed they knew and we know this self-evident truth that the covenant of marriage is for life.
Paul goes on to add another truth - 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.
Paul isn’t attempting, by the way, to deliver instruction on the nature of marriage and divorce. In other passages, like I Corinthians 7, Paul will teach the bond of marriage is violated and can be permanently broken by adultery and abandonment.
But Paul’s point in this passage is this; apart from the exceptions to marriage covenant, brought about by sinful man, God intends
marriage to last a life-time.
‘Til death do us part is not a nice idea – it’s God’s idea and it has been stamped on the heart of everyone, anywhere in the world.
The unbeliever doesn’t look over the wedding vows and say, “Look, that part about, ‘til death do us part’, that’s only for Christians . . . no, he says it too! An unbelieving bride to be doesn’t stand at the altar and say, “It really doesn’t matter if he dumps me in 20 years for a younger woman . . . I’m gonna enjoy him while I have him.” No . . . it’s for life.
‘Til death do us part – Paul’s point is simply this – death nullifies the union of marriage.
And he assumed everybody understood that; they might deny it, or refute it, or sin against it, but they still know intuitively that marriage covenants are set aside after death.
Let me quickly review:
The principle: law has jurisdiction upon only those who are alive
The illustration: the binding covenant of marriage is only active while the spouse is alive
The application: we are bound to the law as long as we are alive
So we have a major problem . . . we’re bound to the law; and because the law isn’t a living being, it can’t die – which means, in this analogy, we are married to the law – all the rules and standards and requirements of the law we can never keep will torment us – the law is our husband and he will never die.
That’s right! Somebody has to die to free us from the law so we can become the bride of Christ.
C. The Application of Death and Re-Marriage
Notice the solution in verse 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.
The law doesn’t die – you die.
That’s takes us back to chapter 6 where we read that God views us, by faith in Christ, to have died in Him, buried in Him, and raised to new life in Him.
We died – the covenant to law is broken. That law with it’s holy requirements that we cannot keep; that law which serves as a barrier between us and heaven; that law which condemns us and proves us guilty – by faith in Christ, we died in Him and rose in Him.
The law has lost its jurisdiction! It has lost the right of a husband to rule his wife! It has lost his voice!
We belong to another man – the God man – our husband, Jesus Christ!
Can you say Amen?
Praise the Lord?
While on vacation I’ve been visiting Pentecostal churches.
Your marriage to the law was dissolved by death – your death in Christ – who died to sin, having fulfilled the law He rose again and you in Him – and having died – you are now free to remarry.
And he offers to us who come to him – those of us who felt the weight of our sin and our futile attempts to keep the law – we heard His Spirit calling, “To those who are thirsty, let him come . . . you who are weary and heavy laden, come to this One and find rest for your souls.”
And you came. . .and the Holy Spirit presided over this mysterious new birth – this death and burial and resurrection – this marriage arranged by the Father, to the groom, His Son Jesus Christ.
The Spirit asks, “Will you take Him – to be your wedded husband?”
And you say, “I do.”
In sickness and in health?
“Yes, that too.”
For better or for worse?
“Yes . . . no matter what!”
‘Till death do you part?”
“Oh, death will never part us for I have already died in Him and I now live in Him forever . . . even though I will die physically, I have already been given eternal life – our covenant can never be broken apart by death.”
And the Spirit says, “Amen . . . and to you who have become His bride, you shall now take the name of your husband – the name – Christian!
You ever been to a wedding? Names matter at weddings.
I remember a few years ago when I didn’t have the wonderful staff of pastors to carry out the duties of pastoring. I did almost all of the weddings. One weekend I married a couple – the groom’s name was Richard. The next weekend I married another couple – his name was Robert. During the vows I said to the bride, “Do you take Richard to be your lawfully wedded husband?” Problem was, this guy was Robert. Everything froze – and then everyone burst into laughter, primarily at my red face.
I had to get it right! The bride did not say, “Aah, call him Henry for all I care . . . doesn’t matter to me!”
No, get the name right!
Acts 4:12. The Apostle Peter said, “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
I take Jesus Christ – to be my lawfully wedded husband!
No other – I take Him!
For those who’ve trusted in this One named Jesus Christ . . . may I remind you where we are headed.
In Revelation 19 we’re given a glimpse of the marriage feast between the church and Jesus Christ, just before the inauguration of the millennial kingdom. . .many believe it will take place on earth. We are dressed in fine robes, and the wedding feast begins.
It’s interesting that the marriage supper is called the marriage supper of the Lamb – not King, Lord of Lords, Messiah, Son of God – but Lamb! The one title that Christ wants emphasized for all eternity is “the Lamb,” for it speaks of His love for the church and the price He paid to purchase her as His bride.”
Warren Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament; (Victor Books), 1992, p. 850
Because He was willing to die – and you in Him, you are able to be pronounced His bride.
I’ve got news for you Christian, there’s a wedding ceremony coming and you’re in it!
Can you see the pictures . . . there you are smiling with undiminished joy – standing next to your eternal Bride-groom – I don’t know how space dimensions will be altered – you might picture yourself at that wedding supper, somewhere in line with 20 million other brides who are closer to the cake . . . you’ll never get any punch . . . I don’t know how God arranges that new world, but the ceremony is intensely personal.
There you stand next to the Lamb of God, your Redeemer from bondage to the law – your Savior from the evil one and from yourself – the one who bought you with His life, a precious bride unto Himself.
You remember after your wedding how strange it sounded to say, “She’s my wife . . . I’m her husband . . . I’m married.”
Man that sounded strange . . . she belongs to me . . . I belong to her.
How many of you thought you married the perfect husband?
How many of you thought you married the perfect wife? Don’t raise your hand . . . just look over at her and say, “I did.” You’re lying, but you’re a wise man.
Paul has declared the principle, the illustration and the application in this great text, ‘we have been released from the jurisdiction of our former spouse, the law, by means of our death in Christ, and we have been joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead.’
You, Christian, have been married to the perfect Husband . . . you belong to Christ, forever. And guess what?! He belongs to you . . . He belongs to you . . . forever and forever and forever.