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*Scripture verses covered in this section's commentary are noted in italics

Romans 7:1-3 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Romans 7:1
  • Romans 7:2
  • Romans 7:3

Paul is telling his audience of believers in Rome that, like the widow who is no longer bound by the covenant of marriage to a dead husband, Christian believers are no longer bound to the covenant of the Law.

The Apostle Paul has written this letter to the Roman believers (whose faith is famous throughout the world, Romans 1:8), referring to them here as brethren. In this letter, he is dealing with slanderous statements made by competing Jewish “authorities” in Rome, who have misrepresented the gospel Paul preaches. In Romans 3:8, Paul specifically quoted what the slanderous charges are: “And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), ‘Let us do evil that good may come’?

It is likely that this letter to the Roman believers is, in part, intended to support Aquila and Priscilla, who were fellow Jews who preached the gospel with Paul in Greece, and are now returned to Rome where they have started a church in their home (Romans 16:3-5; Acts 18:2, 18, 26). Aquila and Priscilla were probably contending with these competing Jewish “authorities” and their slander as well.

The slanderous charge is this—if Paul preaches that believers are no longer under the Law because the grace of Jesus delivers us from all sin (past, present, and future), then Paul is preaching that we ought to sin, and good will come from it (it will show that God is even more graceful). Paul confirms the first part, that God’s grace covers all sins, but vigorously denies the second.

Paul is speaking to those who know the Law well (v 1). Therefore, the competing “authorities” claim, since Paul’s teaching is ridiculous, then we must still adhere to the Law. But Paul shows the Law is no longer binding because we are dead to the Law in Christ: 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? (v 1). Paul argues that the Law no longer has jurisdiction over believers because they have died with Christ, having been baptized into His death (Romans 6:3).

In verses 2 and 3, Paul gives his audience the example that confirms his assertion. The example is of a married woman. When a married woman while her husband is living is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress, a cheater. She is bound by law to her husband while he is living and has promised herself to her husband until “death do us part.”

But, if her husband dies and she marries another man, then she is not a cheater or an adulteress, because she is no longer under the prior marriage vow: If her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband (v 3). When the woman is married and her husband lives, she is bound to him under the law: For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living (v 2). However, if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband and is allowed to remarry (v 2).

If she remarries after her husband’s death, she is not breaking God’s law—the promise under “till death do us part” has been satisfied, because death separated her from the previous husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress (v 3). If the woman married another man while her husband lived, then she would be committing adultery. Because the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living (v 2).  

However, if her husband dies, she is free from the law, and is free to remarry.  If she remarries after she is widowed, then she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man (v 3)

In the same way, we have been freed from the requirements of the law because we have been baptized into the death of Christ when we believe in Jesus (Romans 6:3): Or do you not know, brethren, that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives (v 1)? Paul argues that since those who have believed on Jesus have died in Christ, we are no longer under the law.

In making this argument, Paul is doubling down on the teaching of grace that offends his opponents. He is adamant that the law has no bearing whatsoever in making us righteous in the sight of God—that occurs only by faith alone through Christ alone. Further, the death of Christ covers all sins for all time (Colossians 2:14.) Therefore, God’s grace covers all sin.

Paul argued in Chapter 6 that believers should choose not to sin—because sin is harmful, it is self-destructive. If anyone chooses to sin while believing that is in their best interest, then they have an erroneous view of sin.

When we choose sin we are choosing self-destruction. We are choosing slavery (addiction, Romans 6:16). We are choosing the adverse effects of the fruits of sin, which lead to death (Romans 6:23). Death is separation, and when we choose to walk in the ways of the world, we are separated from God’s (good) design for creation. Thus we lose experiencing the fulfillment of all we were created to be; in place of fulfillment, we harvest emptiness, loss, and destruction.

So, Paul argues, since we are dead in Christ, we are now raised to a new life. And because we died, we are no longer under the law. However, we have a new struggle—the struggle to recognize what is true, and walk in the ways of life rather than getting sucked back into the ways of death. We still have a flesh, our old man, and its pull is formidable. We will need the power of Jesus, and the strength of a renewed mind to see and live our new reality (Romans 12:1-2).

Biblical Text

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? 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. 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.




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