William Bell is an excellent Bible student and great friend. In a recent Facebook exchange, the discussion turned to the passing of the Law of Moses, whether it passed at the cross, or in AD 70. The focus of the discussion turned quickly to Romans 7. Below is part of the discussion, as William demonstrated that Romans 7 does not teach that the Law of Moses passed at the cross.
The Passing of the Law of Moses
The Bible teaches that God was married to Israel. “Return, O backsliding children,” says the LORD; ‘for I am married to you, I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.” (Jer. 3:14)
God describes his marriage to Israel thusly:
“When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord God (Ezekiel 16:8). From this we learn that God is the husband. The Law or Covenant he made with Israel is the marriage “contract” which bound Israel and God as husband and wife.
Secondly, God divorced Israel (the ten northern tribes) due to unfaithfulness and breaking the covenant and refusing to repent. In other words, God gave Israel a bill or writing of divorce breaking his covenant with her. However, that was not the “end” of the covenant because God’s covenant remained in force with Judah.
The northern kingdom died to the covenant through sin and was “put away” through God giving her a “certificate of divorce”. (Jer. 3:8) God did not die. His covenant did not end. Israel was dead to the covenant or Law.
They also “married another”, i.e. the nations in committing idolatry, while in a covenant relationship with God. Therefore, to make the Law the husband would imply and teach that God was yet married to Israel because He had not died nor had the Law died. The Law also stated that such a woman could not return to her former husband under such conditions.
Dying to the Law of Moses– Or the Law of Moses Dying?
Thirdly, when an Israelite died, they were freed from the Law of Moses. In the same manner, we all are freed from all laws of this world when we die. Those laws do not cease. We, because of “decease” cease to be bound by those laws even though they continue. We are “married” to that entity, be it international, federal, state, county or local government or other entity such as financial as long as “we live” or until such time as they are changed or abrogated. If they remain in force, when we die, the law(s) do not end or die; the obligation to keep them ends for the dead person(s).
Fourthly, In Romans 7, Paul spoke to those who knew the Law of Moses and said the Law “has”[not had] dominion (rules) over a man as long as “HE” lives.
Note, it does not say the Law has dominion over “God” as long as God lives. Nor does it say, the Law has dominion over the “Law” as long as the Law lives. It does not say the Law has dominion over the man as long as the Law lives. This is important in following Paul’s train of thought.
For the woman who has a husband is bound by the Law to her husband as long as he lives…”
Note that she is bound by the Law to her husband. The Law is not the husband. It is what binds the woman to the husband. What makes him a husband and particularly her husband is the law. This same law distinguishes between the husband and a single person and excludes all other husbands from making a claim upon the woman. But if the “husband dies” meaning “he” does not “live” she is released from the “Law” of her husband.
Next, if “while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress…” Why? It is because she is living under two separate marriage laws at once. The first to the original husband, the latter to the second husband while both are alive.
Note: It is important to understand that Paul’s illustration would be meaningless if the Law had died. He would be unable to make such a comparison and analogy. It would be the equivalent of attempting to teach that a woman whose husband was dead commits adultery by remarrying. She would not. Paul is applying his words to a case where there are “two living husbands” not a dead one versus a living one.
Thus, he says, “but if her husband dies, she is free from “that Law (referring back to verses 1 and 2 where he has mentioned the “law of her husband”. Thus, although she has married another man, the law of death precludes her entering a state of adultery.
Now, in his application, Paul argues that a “death” has occurred which brought about freedom that ended the relationship to the “law of the former husband.”
Therefore, my brethren [it was not all Jews under the law, but only Paul’s brethren to whom this applied].
“You” also have become dead to the law. Note, he says “you have become dead to the law” through the body of Christ. This does not mean they were free from the law at Jesus’ death any more than those today who are free from sin through the body of Christ were free at His death. Freedom through Christ’s death must be individually appropriated.
The nuance here is that “positionally”, the brethren are the wife. But as Moses Lard’s Commentary on Romans) argues, it is not a material difference. For if either party, the wife or the husband died, the remaining living party is free from the law of the former spouse. The net result would be the same; the surviving party is free.
Therefore, Paul teaches that it is the brethren who died to the Law of Moses in dying with Christ in baptism. (See Rom. 5:20-6:4 and note that “the sin” to which they had died was strengthened by “the Law”. In dying to “the sin” they were also dying to it’s strength, i.e. that which caused it to abound. Hence, Paul says:
“But now we have been delivered from the law, [“we”] having died to what [we] were held by…” (Rom. 6:6).
We (the brethren) were not the Law. But it was “we,” the brethren who died to the law of Moses in dying with Christ through baptism. That is what freed them and allowed them to enter a new relationship in order that they “should be married” to him who was raised from the dead. Their marriage to Christ was not consummated. They had entered an espousal to him, (2 Cor. 11:2). The marriage would not be consummated until the parousia, (Matt. 22:1-7; 25:1-10; Eph. 5:27; Rev. 19:7-8; 21:1-3; 9f).
In each of the texts, the marriage of Christ is posited after the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. Babylon in Revelation is the city where the Lord was crucified, (Rev. 11:8). The murderers who killed Christ were the Judeans (Matt. 22:1-7). He came in retribution, killed them and burned up their city. Matthew 24 is the destruction of the Jerusalem, the destruction of the city at which time the bridegroom came, Matt. 25:1-10.
Note by Don K.– An objector, by the name of Jack Brown, lodged a complaint against William’s analysis, and William Responded…
Objections Raised By Jack Brown:
“The ONLY way that this woman could marry another/law of Christ is if her husband/Law of Moses was dead ALL THE WAY AND NOT IN THE PROCESSING OF DYING. Otherwise, it would be adultery/ spiritual adultery. Since Jesus put to death the Law of Moses, that is how that we have the right marry another or become members of the new covenant. It is this sense, that we are able to dead to the law of Moses.”
Response: We demonstrated that a person can and does die to laws every day that have not been abrogated or terminated. We continue to live under laws that many of our family and friends once lived under but have now died to. They are yet in effect.
Since it is the brethren who died and because Christ raised them from death, they have the right to remarry without being charged with adultery while the other husband, the Law remained alive. That is the teaching of Rom. 7. They died spiritually, in which the net result was the same as if they had died physically. They were free. The ten Northern tribes “married another” without the Law dying at all.
Summary: Romans 7 and the Passing of the Law of Moses
- We demonstrated from the O.T. that the Husband and the Covenant are separate. If not, how could God, the husband, make a new covenant with the house of Israel and Judah? He would be making the same Old Covenant, because until He died, [an utter impossibility] they would yet be bound to him.
- We demonstrated that God could and did give a bill of divorcement thereby cutting off Israel (Northern tribes) from the covenant while the covenant remained in force.
- We demonstrated that the principle of dying to laws continues to this day even with laws currently in force that do not end upon our death.
- We demonstrated that a person can and does die to laws every day that have not been abrogated or terminated. We continue to live under laws that many of our family and friends once lived under but have now died to. They are yet in effect.
- Since it is the brethren who died and because Christ raised them from death, they have the right to remarry without being charged with adultery while the other husband, the Law remained alive. That is the teaching of Rom. 7. They died spiritually, in which the net result was the same as if they had died physically. They were free.
- Paul only addressed his “brethren” who died to the law. He did not make a general statement that “All” had died to the Law. This is the same in both Colossians 2 and Ephesians 2. When Paul says let no man judge you, he writes to “brethren” who had died with Christ in baptism. In Eph. 2, he writes to those who are “in Christ” saying “for through Him” we (Jew and Gentile) both have access to the Father. These statements did not apply to non-Christians, or Judaizers. If all Jews and Gentiles were reconciled “at the cross” we have universal salvation. To reconcile them “through the cross” as in “through the body of Christ” in Romans 7, means they died with him in baptism to the law, sin and death.
- In 1 Cor. 15:56, as in Romans 5:19-20, Paul taught that the strength of sin is the Law. The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin in the Law”. Paul says victory over death and its sting and strength, occurs at the Parousia and Resurrection. Thus, the Law of Moses is not removed until the last enemy death caused by sin is removed. Jack Brown teaches a future parousia and resurrection, therefore, the conclusion follows the end of the Law of Moses is yet future.
Be sure to get a copy of Don K. Preston’s book The End of the Law: From Torah to Telos, for an in-depth study of this important issue.