Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Are We Dead to the Law or Dead to Sin?

Many people read Romans 7:6 and conclude that we are dead to the Law or Torah.  Are we dead to the law or are we dead to sin?

Romans 7:6 NKJV 6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

Let’s examine this scripture passage from the Hebraic point of view; from its cultural, historic and linguistic context. But before jumping into this verse, let’s look at who is writing this letter and see if we can enter into his point of view. Paul wrote this letter to all those in Rome; this would include Jews and Gentiles. Paul was a Jewish Rabbi trained under the great teacher Gamliel of the Pharisee sect. Indeed, Paul describes himself as a Pharisee.

Acts 22:3 NKJV 3 "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.

He followed the Torah testifying before Festus that he had not broken any laws whether those of Torah or of the Roman civil law.

Acts 25:7-8 NKJV 7 When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove, 8 while he answered for himself, "Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all."

Notice that those people accusing him had no witnesses that he broke any law. In fact, Paul was arrested as he was carrying out the fulfillment of his own vow (Acts 18:18) as well as paying for other believers to bring sacrifices in fulfillment of their vows to demonstrate that he had not violated Torah nor was he teaching others to do so.

Acts 21:21-24 NKJV 21 "but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. 22 "What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. 23 "Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. 24 "Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.

From his own words, we conclude that Paul did not break Torah nor did he teach others to do so.

From a cultural vantage point, we need to be aware that different sects of Judaism interpreted the Torah in different ways, each putting up their own “hedge” around the Torah to prevent someone from “accidentally” breaking Torah. Yeshua participated in discussions of some of these interpretations the most notable of which is how to observe the Sabbath. What Paul is running into here in Acts is the teaching that only Jews can receive God’s salvation.

Acts 15:1-2 NKJV 1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." 2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.

Paul, as the most prolific teacher of the Gentiles, took the brunt of this sentiment against salvation of the Gentiles. The Jews were perfectly willing to accept Gentiles as long as they learned Torah for three years, were circumcised and underwent a mikvah or baptism rising to new life as a Jew. In other words, this sect of Judaism believed that Gentiles had to become Jews in order to receive God’s salvation.

Now, let’s turn our attention to Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul begins his letter persuading his readers that both Jew and Gentile will be held accountable to God. He concludes this portion of his letter saying those who do the law will be justified and their actions show the evidence that the Torah is written in their hearts.

Romans 2:13-16 NKJV 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

Notice it is not the works of the law that Paul says justifies them but that the works of the law are evidence that the law is written in their hearts. They demonstrate that they have entered into the New Covenant as described by Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 31:31-33 NKJV 31 "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah- 32 "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

Paul continues in his letter to differentiate between the two ideas of justification by works of the law and justification by grace resulting in works.

Romans 3:28-31 NKJV 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.

Paul continues to expound on this difference using Abraham as an example. God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness then gave him the commandment of circumcision and Abraham obeyed.  Paul then begins to describe the results of sin comparing it with life through Yeshua.

Romans 5:12 NKJV 12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—

Romans 5:18-19 NKJV 18 Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.

Paul now resorts to a couple of analogies. He really wants us to get what he is saying! Let’s compare those analogies.

  • Death in Adam through disobedience versus life in Christ through His obedience.
  • Death to the body when we are buried with Christ leads to walking in newness of life.
  • Slaves to sin leading to death versus slaves to obedience leading to righteousness.

Romans 6:4 NKJV 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:16-18 NKJV 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

Paul concludes each analogy with the question shall we continue in sin?

Romans 6:1-2 NKJV 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

Romans 6:15 NKJV 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!

Paul’s last analogy of being slaves to sin leads into a third analogy in chapter 7.  Mankind starts as slaves to sin. Paul says we presented our members as slaves of uncleanness and lawlessness (Torah-lessness). It is as if we were married to sin. Marriage is the union of two into one flesh. As slaves to sin we are one with sin. Our “husband” is the sin nature.  So, we read Romans 7 not starting off married to Christ or even the Torah, but starting off married to sin in a sense; that is our fleshly or sin nature.

Romans 7:1-2 NKJV 1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.

The woman, then, is bound to the sin nature as long as the sin nature lives. That is the law’s provision for marriage! In the marriage, the woman is subject to her husband. Only when her husband dies, is she freed from his authority.

Romans 7:3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.

In the same way, we must die to the sin nature first; if we try to “marry another” while still married to the sin nature, we commit adultery! Paul says that when we were slaves of sin, we were free of righteousness, and now that we are free from sin, we are slaves of God.

Romans 6:20 NKJV 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

Romans 6:22 NKJV 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

Our “husband”, the sin nature, must die before we are free to “marry” another. Even Yeshua, since He came in the flesh, was tempted the same as we are although He didn’t sin.

Hebrews 2:17-18 NKJV 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

Yeshua had to die in the flesh to free us from our sin nature. Paul writes about that in Philippians.

Philippians 2:8-9 NKJV 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,

So, when the “husband,” that is the sin nature, dies, the woman is freed from the law of her “husband,” and is freed from the law in regards to marriage that forbids being married to another. She is no longer under that provision of the law. She is dead to that provision of the law because her husband is dead. Paul then says that we as believers become dead to the law through the body of Yeshua. We are dead to the law because our sin nature is now dead in that it was buried with Christ. The law no longer condemns us. In the analogy of the husband, the law does not condemn us of adultery. In the broader analogy of the sin nature, the law does not condemn us as transgressors of the law.

Romans 7:4-5 NKJV 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another--to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.

Notice that verse 5 uses the past tense to say “when we were in the flesh.” This implies that we are no longer in the flesh, not that we are no longer in the law (Torah). We are out from under the authority of the sin nature. We are now free to “marry” another, specifically Yeshua through whom we live in the Spirit and are under His authority through the Spirit.

Romans 7:6 NKJV But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

We have been delivered from the law, dying to the sin nature we were held by. We weren’t held by Christ or the law (Torah) before; we were held by the sin nature! How were we delivered from the law? The letter of the law condemns the sin in us. When the sin in us dies, we are no longer condemned by the law; we have been delivered from the law! Paul goes on to say that the law defines sin, and that the sin nature, provoked by the law, produces sin in us leading to death. He reiterates that the law is holy, just and good. He, then, poses the question “Has what is good become death to me?”

Romans 7:13 NKJV 13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.

He writes of the struggles he faces with the sin nature. Paul desires to stay faithful to God, delighting in the law of God but finds himself straying, doing that which he doesn’t desire to do. He finds himself once more united to the “body of death” the sin nature.

Romans 7:22-25 NKJV 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

But through Christ, we are freed from the law of sin and death to serve the law of God; the law that is holy, just and good! He begins to wrap up his discussion as chapter 8 begins.

Romans 8:1-2 NKJV 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Paul doesn’t conclude that there is now no more law; he concludes there is no condemnation. We are no longer condemned under the law because the sin nature has died.  We are set free to live according to God’s law, and join Paul in delighting in the law (Torah) of God.  We know that when we fall short we have grace and forgiveness through Yeshua who delivers us from the condemnation of the law—as long as we don’t walk according to the flesh! Once again it is sin and the sin nature that is dead!

יבורך שלום
Shalom and be blessed
Dan & Brenda Cathcart

Visit our website at


  1. I enjoyed this post and very much agree with the conclusion. Could you address Galatians and the circumcision? I have an idea that Paul was speaking against those advocating circumcision as a means of salvation just as you pointed out in Acts in this post. I just wanted to hear your perspective. Thank you.

    APO, AP

  2. Thank you Daniel for your comment. I believe that Paul was speaking of more than just the idea that "circumcision as a means of salvation". The use of the terms "circumcision" and "uncircuncision" were euphemisms for Jew and non-Jew. So the prominent school of thought among early Jewish believers in Messiah Yeshua was that one must "convert" to Judaism in order to receive salvation. Paul was simply pointing out that a "conversion", as it was practiced in that day was not necessary; that salvation is a free gift available to all, to both Jew and Gentile, to both the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision. This is his argument in Galatians. Remember who he is writing to. The Jewish believers living in the diasporia in the Roman province of Galatia. These were Jews, probably native Greek speakers, living in an incredibly pagan world, trying to scratch out a living in a society vastly different than their own. They most likely lived in small sequestered enclaves and socialized with no one but their fellow Jews. Now all of a sudden, many Gentiles, former practitioners of Greek/Roman paganism, are seeking after the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob because of the message of salvation through faith in Yeshua. Where do these Gentiles go but to the Jewish Synagogues for answers? They come with the "baggage" of their former lifestyle and culture. The Jewish believers see them at some level as a kind of threat. A threat to their way of life and to the fiber of their community. Quite naturally, the Jewish believers want these new Gentile believers to "convert" to Judaism mistakenly believing that it is a pre-requisite to salvation. Paul is simple making the case that conversion to Judaism is not necessary and doing it based on solid Torah teaching. This is the entire premise of Paul's letter to the Galatians.

    Shalom and be blessed
    Dan Cathcart


You must include your name, city and state at the end of your comment. I do not accept comments from any one who identifies themselves as anonymous. All comments are moderated prior to appearing on this blog.