Romans 7:1-4

1. Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?

1. Num ignoratis fratres (scientibus enim Legem loquor) quod Lex dominatur homini quamdiu vivit?

2. For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.

2. Nam viro subjecta mulier, viventi viro alligata est per Legem; quod si mortuus fuerit vir, soluta est a Lege viri.

3. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.

3. Proinde vivente marito, si alteri viro conjuncta fuerit, adultera vocabitur: quod si mortuus fuerit vir, liberata est a Lege ne amplius sit adultera si alteri nupserit.

4. 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.

4. Itaque fratres mei, vos quoque mortui estis Legi per corpus Christi, ut posthac alterius sitis, ejus qui ex mortuis suscitatus est, ut fructificemus Deo. 1

Though he had, in a brief manner, sufficiently explained the question respecting the abrogation of the law; yet as it was a difficult one, and might have given rise to many other questions, he now shows more at large how the law, with regard to us, is become abrogated; and then he sets forth what good is thereby done to us: for while it holds us separated from Christ and bound to itself, it can do nothing but condemn us. And lest any one should on this account blame the law itself, he takes up and confutes the objections of the flesh, and handles, in a striking manner, the great question respecting the use of the law. 2

1. Know ye not, etc. Let the general proposition be that the law was given to men for no other end but to regulate the present life, and that it belongs not to those who are dead: to this he afterwards subjoins this truth -- that we are dead to it through the body of Christ. Some understand, that the dominion of the law continues so long to bind us as it remains in force. But as this view is rather obscure, and does not harmonize so well with the proposition which immediately follows, I prefer to follow those who regard what is said as referring to the life of man, and not to the law. The question has indeed a peculiar force, as it affirms the certainty of what is spoken; for it shows that it was not a thing new or unknown to any of them, but acknowledged equally by them all.

(For to those who know the law I speak.) This parenthesis is to be taken in the same sense with the question, as though he had said -- that he knew that they were not so unskilful in the law as to entertain any doubt on the subject. And though both sentences might be understood of all laws, it is yet better to take them as referring to the law of God, which is the subject that is discussed. There are some who think that he ascribes knowledge of the law to the Romans, because the largest part of the world was under their power and government; but this is puerile: for he addressed in part the Jews or other strangers, and in part common and obscure individuals; nay, he mainly regarded the Jews, with whom he had to do respecting the abrogation of the law: and lest they should think that he was dealing captiously with them, he declares that he took up a common principle, known to them all, of which they could by no means be ignorant, who had from their childhood been brought up in the teaching of the law.

2. For a woman subject to a man, etc. He brings a similitude, by which he proves, that we are so loosed from the law, that it does not any longer, properly and by its own right, retain over us any authority: and though he could have proved this by other reasons, yet as the example of marriage was very suitable to illustrate the subject, he introduced this comparison instead of evidence to prove his point. But that no one may be puzzled, because the different parts of the comparison do not altogether correspond, we are to be reminded, that the Apostle designedly intended, by a little change, to avoid the invidiousness of a stronger expression. He might have said, in order to make the comparison complete, "A woman after the death of her husband is loosed from the bond of marriage: the law, which is in the place of a husband to us, is to us dead; then we are freed from its power." But that he might not offend the Jews by the asperity of his expressions, had he said that the law was dead, he adopted a digression, and said, that we are dead to the law 3 To some indeed he appears to reason from the less to the greater: however, as I fear that this is too strained, I approve more of the first meaning, which is simpler. The whole argument then is formed in this manner "The woman is bound to her living husband by the law, so that she cannot be the wife of another; but after the death of her husband she is loosed from the bond of his law so, that she is free to marry whom she pleases."

Then follows the application, --
The law was, as it were our husband,
under whose yoke we were kept until it became dead to us:
After the death of the law Christ received us, that is, he joined us,
when loosed from the law, to himself:
Then being united to Christ risen from the dead,
we ought to cleave to him alone:
And as the life of Christ after the resurrection is eternal,
so hereafter there shall be no divorce.

But further, the word law is not mentioned here in every part in the same sense: for in one place it means the bond of marriage; in another, the authority of a husband over his wife; and in another, the law of Moses: but we must remember, that Paul refers here only to that office of the law which was peculiar to the dispensation of Moses; for as far as God has in the ten commandments taught what is just and right, and given directions for guiding our life, no abrogation of the law is to be dreamt of; for the will of God must stand the same forever. We ought carefully to remember that this is not a release from the righteousness which is taught in the law, but from its rigid requirements, and from the curse which thence follows. The law, then, as a rule of life, is not abrogated; but what belongs to it as opposed to the liberty obtained through Christ, that is, as it requires absolute perfection: for as we render not this perfection, it binds to under the sentence of eternal death. But as it was not his purpose to decide here the character of the bond of marriage, he was not anxious to mention the causes which releases a woman from her husband. It is therefore unreasonable that anything decisive on this point should be sought here.

4. Through the body of Christ. Christ, by the glorious victory of the cross, first triumphed over sin; and that he might do this, it was necessary that the handwriting, by which we were held bound, should be cancelled. This handwriting was the law, which, while it continued in force, rendered us bound to serve 4 sin; and hence it is called the power of sin. It was then by cancelling this handwriting that we were delivered through the body of Christ -- through his body as fixed to the cross. 5 But the Apostle goes farther, and says, that the bond of the law was destroyed; not that we may live according to our own will, like a widow, who lives as she pleases while single; but that we may be now bound to another husband; nay, that we may pass from hand to hand, as they say, that is, from the law to Christ. He at the same time softens the asperity of the expression, by saying that Christ, in order to join us to his own body, made us free from the yoke of the law. For though Christ subjected himself for a time of his own accord to the law, it is not yet right to say that the law ruled over him. Moreover, he conveys to his own members the liberty which he himself possesses. It is then no wonder that he exempts those from the yoke of the law, whom he unites by a sacred bond to himself, that they may be one body in him.

Even his who has been raised, etc. We have already said, that Christ is substituted for the law, lest any freedom should be pretended without him, or lest any, being not yet dead to the law, should dare to divorce himself from it. But he adopts here a periphrastic sentence to denote the eternity of that life which Christ attained by his resurrection, that Christians might know that this connection is to be perpetual. But of the spiritual marriage between Christ and his Church he speaks more fully in Ephesians 6.

That we may bring forth fruit to God. He ever annexes the final cause, lest any should indulge the liberty of their flesh and their own lusts, under the pretense that Christ has delivered them from the bondage of the law; for he has offered us, together with himself, as a sacrifice to the Father, and he regenerates us for this end -- that by newness of life we may bring forth fruit unto God: and we know that the fruits which our heavenly Father requires from us are those of holiness and righteousness. It is indeed no abatement to our liberty that we serve God; nay, if we desire to enjoy so great a benefit as there is in Christ, it will not henceforth be right in us to entertain any other thought but that of promoting the glory of God; for which purpose Christ has connected us with himself. We shall otherwise remain tle bond-slaves, not only of the law, but also of sin and of death.

1 That is, the law by which she was bound to her husband, or, the law by which he became her husband. It is an instance of the latitude in which the genitive case is used. -- Ed.

2 The connection of the beginning of this chapter with Romans 6:14 deserves to be noticed. He says there, that sin shall not rule over us, because we are not under law, but under grace. Then he asks, in Romans 6:15,

"Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace?"

This last subject, according to his usual mode, he takes up first, and discusses it till the end of the chapter: and then in this chapter he reassumes the first subject -- freedom from the law. This is a striking instance of the Apostle's manner of writing, quite different from what is usual with us in the present day. He mentions two things; he proceeds with the last, and then goes back to the first. -- Ed.

3 This is a plausible reason, derived from Theodoret and Chrysostom; but hardly necessary. Commentators have felt much embarrassed in applying the illustration given here. The woman is freed by the death of the husband; but the believer is represented as freed by dying himself. This does not Correspond: and if we attend to what the Apostle says, we shall see that he did not contemplate such a Correspondence. Let us notice how he introduces the illustration; "the law," he says in the first verse, "rules, or exercises authority, over a man while he lives;" and then let us observe the application in Romans 7:4, where he speaks of our dying to the law The main design of the illustration then was, to show that there is no freedom from a law but by death; so that there is no necessity of a Correspondence in the other parts, As in the case of man and wife, death destroys the bond of marriage; so in the case of man and the law, that is, the law as the condition of life, there must be a death; else there is no freedom. But there is one thing more in the illustration, which the Apostle adopts, the liberty to marry another, when death has given a release: The bond of connection being broken, a union with another is legitimate. So far only is the example adduced to be applied -- death puts an end to the right and authority of law; and then the party released may justly form another connection. It is the attempt to make all parts of the comparison to Correspond that has occasioned all the difficulty. -- Ed.

4 "Obæratos" -- debtors bound to serve their creditors until payment is made. -- Ed.

5 That his crucified body is intended, is clear from what follows; for he is spoken of as having "been raised from the dead." -- Ed.