• Introduction: Paul’s married woman analogy in our Epistle reading for today is a very interesting way of presenting our freedom in Christ that we have because of His innocent death and resurrection from that death.
    • To recall, Paul started out Chapter 7 with the broad statement that the Law is only binding on a person while they live.  That’s kind of obvious, isn’t it?  I don’t have to worry about speed limits if I’m pushing up daisies from 6ft under.
    • But that isn’t what Paul had in mind.  He was not thinking of secular laws on the books that would be enforced by the police.  He was writing about the Law of the Old Testament.
      • To make a related observation; marriage in our nation has been redefined in a secular way.  I recall reading a few years ago about three people, two lesbian females, and one heterosexual male joining in something of a marriage arrangement. This occurred out in the open in some city of the Bay Area in California (where else?).  That was not long after the Supreme Court ruled that state Constitutions which an amendment defining marriage being between one man and one woman was suddenly somehow unconstitutional.  That was literally 5yrs ago almost to the day.
        • In the interview, the women were adamant that this was not a relationship of a man with two wives.  That would be polygamy.  This was a marriage of each person to each other.  The word for that is a “polyamorous” relationship.  To them, I imagine that sort of relationship should be the “law” like homosexual couples are now law.  In trying to locate that article for this sermon, I saw a newer article on the BBC on-line[1] about a “throuple” in Florida, planning a wedding for this month. They were concerned it was not legal, but they have optimism that the day is coming when it will be legal. It’s hard to argue against their optimism, considering the amount of back-sliding away from the Lord’s word we have seen in the past few years.
      • Homosexuality, polygamy, and polyamorous relationships were probably even more prevalent in Paul’s time.  Nonetheless, he makes a case at the beginning of Rom Ch#7 that if a woman is legally married to a man, she is legally bound by the Lord’s word to remain with her husband so long as he lives (and vice versa).  However, if he dies, she is free from that Law and may seek out another husband.  The Sixth Command, “You shall not commit adultery[2]”, is the particular Law Paul was implying.  This Commandment no longer applies if one of the marriage partners passes away.  If she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
    • But, is that the extent of what Paul meant?  And, what does that mean for us?  These are questions we will explore further in our message for today.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, we thank you for the liberty You have given us from the Law.  You reconciled us through Your one and only Son, with whom we died on the cross, and with whom we now live eternally.  Our relationship with You, Heavenly Father, is restored because of what Your faithful Son has done for us.  Send Your Spirit to remind us we do not have to worry about our sins, and whether they distance us from You because of them.  We pray this through Your Son Jesus, who reigns with the You, Heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
  • Background:  In v4 of our text, Paul expanded upon the married woman analogy.  We read - Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.  How is it that we somehow died and therefore were released from the Law?
    • We talk about this a lot in Lutheran Theology, but Jesus was a substitute in our place, when He took our sins upon Himself on the cross.  Think about that: what kind of a God do we worship that looked upon our hopeless situation of never being able to lead a sin-free life. That would forever bar us from heaven. So God figured out something that would cleanse us from sin.
      • To digress for a moment, I hope no one here thinks they are sin-free.  There are religions which teach that you work on righteousness all your life and eventually no longer sin.  In contrast, the Apostle John made it clear - If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us[3].  
      • But, God the Father heaped all our lies, cheats, and steals onto Jesus.  Jesus lived a perfect life.  Doesn’t it seem a bit unfair to make Jesus who knew no sin take on our sins and the sins of everyone else onto Him?  The burden of sin was so great that Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[4] That was Almighty God yelling out to Almighty God the Father, “what’s the deal, that you turn Your face from me?!”  This was not easy for either person of the Trinity.
      • Not long after Jesus said that, He died.  Believers took His lifeless body down from the cross and put it into a tomb that no one had been buried in up to that time. On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead and in the subsequent 40 days after, appeared to several hundred people, including the disciples.
      • To make a long story short: our sins are gone because of Jesus!  He fulfilled the Law, so there is no reason for feeling guilty about whatever sins you have committed.  Like the married woman in Paul’s analogy, you are no longer bound under the Law to do this or that.
      • The only sin you can commit is the sin of denying that Jesus did this work of salvation.  That is a sin against the Holy Spirit, because also at your baptism, you received the Holy Spirit.  He testifies in your soul of the need for this saving grace, and the fact that you have received this grace.  We took on the righteousness of Christ at our baptism, so that when God the Father sees you, He sees what Jesus did for you.  He sees a soul justified through Christ.
  • Meaning:  This is the point in our message when we can now consider the verse of the day repeated here from the NASB instead of the ESV read earlier from Rom 7:6 – 6But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter[6].  What does this mean to us regarding the way we are supposed to live?
    • The first phrase to consider is “serve in newness of the Spirit.”  We need to forsake our old sinful ways of doing things. It doesn’t matter what the rest of the world is doing, we need to stop in our sinful ways.  As I mentioned at the beginning of our message for today, marriage in our nation and around the globe is being redefined away from God’s perfect definition of a marriage being between one man and one woman.  We need to hold true to God’s definition of marriage in our personal life.  Jesus said, just looking at another person with wishful or lustful eyes is breaking the Sixth Commandment[7].  That’s the old way of living.
      • Paul defines this “serving in newness of the Spirit” in another of his writings, this time in Galatians - 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law[8]
    • Does this mean we should be practicing Christian piety to the point of perishing in our righteousness?  King Solomon cautioned about this in what he wrote by inspiration in the Book of Ecclesiastes - 15 In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. 16 Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?
      • Before you stop there and draw the conclusion that Solomon is encouraging you to ignore God’s Law, we continue - 17 Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them[9].
      • Classic Lutheran theology teaches there are three uses of the Lord’s Law.  The Law is a curb in the sense that we refrain from doing certain things because there will be consequences if we do.  The Law is a mirror when we use it to look into it and see a sinner staring back at us.  We deceive ourselves if we don’t see someone staring back who is a sinner. The third use of the Law is to use it as a guide on how to live.  King Solomon’s inspired advice is to grab hold of the Gospel and not let go of the Law. You will stay in touch with both and avoid the extremes of either one.
    • Someone fully relieved they don’t have to worry about the Law anymore, should be very thankful at a minimum.  And toward leading a new life in the Spirit, the advice from our Lord is - go and sin no more.
      • In John Ch#8, Jesus was confronted with a woman caught in adultery.  This woman obviously was not in tune with what we talked about concerning marriage and the 6th Commandment.  The crowd wanted her stoned which was the penalty written in the “law” for the sin of adultery.  Jesus said to the crowd, “he who is without sin cast the first stone.” The entire crowd eventually walked away from stoning her.  Jesus then turned to her and asked - 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.[10]
  • Conclusion: If I had to sum up what we learned on today, it’s that we should live under the Gospel with a circumcised heart.  The Gospel message is that there is atonement for everything you have done wrong, and everything you neglected that should have been done.  A circumcised heart is one that that looks at all the Lord has done for it, and out of love, does what is pleasing in the sight of the Lord. The best way to know what pleases the Lord is to learn His Law, and put it into practice – not because you have to, but because you want to.  Amen.

[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-40655103

[2] Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO 2017 p.14

[3] 1Jn 1:8 quoted from biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+jn+1&version=ESV

[4] Mat 27:46b quoted from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+27&version=ESV

[5] Col 2:11-14 as quoted from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=col+2&version=ESV

[6] Rom 7:6 from the NASB as quoted from https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb/rom/7/1/t_conc_1053006

[7] Mat 5:27-28

[8] Gal 5:16-18  as quoted from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gal+5&version=ESV

[9] Ecc 7:15-18 as quoted from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ecc+7&version=ESV

[10] John 8:10-11 as quoted from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+8&version=ESV