(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 8/18/02 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Let's turn to the book of Romans, and I'll be reading chapter 6 verse 14 through chapter 7 verse 6:
Romans 6: (14) For your sin shall not lord it over you, for you are not under Law, but under grace. (15) What then? Shall we sin because we are not under Law, but under grace? Let it not be! (16) Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves [as] slaves for obedience, you are slaves to whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or obedience to righteousness? (17) But thanks [be] to God that you were slaves of sin, but you obeyed from [the] heart the form of doctrine to which you were delivered. (18) And having been set free from sin, you were enslaved to righteousness. (19) I speak as a man on account of the weakness of your flesh. For as you presented your members [as] slaves to uncleanness and to lawless act unto lawless act, so now yield your members as slaves to righteousness unto sanctification. (20) For when you were slaves of sin, you were free as to righteousness. (21) Therefore what fruit did you have then [in the things] over which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things [is] death. (22) But now having been set free from sin, and having been enslaved to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end everlasting life. (23) For the wages of sin [is] death, but the gift of God [is] everlasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (7:1) Or are you ignorant, brothers, (for I speak to those knowing Law), that the Law lords it over the man for as long a time as he lives? (2) For the married woman was bound by Law to the living husband; but if the husband dies, she is set free from the Law of the husband. (3) So then, [if] the husband [is] living, she will be called an adulteress if she becomes another man's. But if the husband dies, she is free from the Law, [so as for] her not to be an adulteress [by] becoming another man's. (4) So that, my brothers, you also were made dead to the Law through the body of Christ, for you to become Another's, to [the One] raised from [the] dead, so that we may bear fruit to God. (5) For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sin were working in our members through the Law for the bearing of fruit unto death. (6) But now we have been set free from the Law, having died [to that] in which we were held, so as [for] us to serve in newness of spirit, and not [in] oldness of letter.
In chapter 6, we saw Paul use the rhetorical device of a question to make a point. In verse 3 he started a question with "Or are you ignorant," and in verse 16, he started a question with "Do you not know." And, as I said before, Paul wasn't questioning whether or not the Roman believers knew these things; instead, he was using this manner of speaking (or writing) as a way to drive home the point he was making. In verse 3, he made the point that since all who were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death, there is no regenerate person who still lives in sin. In verse 16, he made the point that since one is a slave to whom one obeys, there is no regenerate person who is a slave to sin. Now we come to Romans 7 verse 1, where again Paul employs this way of presenting an argument. Before I read it again, I want to read Romans 6:14, because Romans 7:1 continues the theme of Romans 6:14. Romans 6:14 says this:
Romans 6: (14) For your sin shall not lord it over you, for you are not under Law, but under grace.
Now Romans 7:1:
Romans 7: (1) Or are you ignorant, brothers, (for I speak to those knowing Law), that the Law lords it over the man for as long a time as he lives?
Paul tells believers in Romans 6:14 that our sin shall not lord it over us - it shall not be our master; it shall not have dominion over us. Then, in Romans 7:1, he uses the same word, koo-re-YOO-oh, meaning "to have dominion over" or "to lord it over." Let's look at what the Holy Spirit through Paul is saying in Romans 7:1.
The first thing we see is the "or are you ignorant" phrase that Paul used in Romans 6:3. But he adds to it this time by saying "brothers." Now some would use this to say that Paul was implying that the Roman believers WERE ignorant of what he was about to say. But what Paul says in the parentheses actually shows just the opposite. He was talking to those who KNEW LAW. So he inserted the word "brothers" in here to show to whom He was addressing this, which were his BROTHERS who KNEW LAW. These were people who were familiar with the Law. So to say that Paul is saying that these people are ignorant of the fact that the Law lords it over a man for as long as he lives would be to say that Paul is saying that these people WERE NOT familiar with the Law and did NOT know the Law. This would be a blatant contradiction, and we know that there are no contradictions in the Bible. Thus, we see that the phrase "Or are you ignorant" continues to be a rhetorical device to drive a point home, not to call into question whether or not the Roman believers were ignorant of this.
Okay. So what does Paul say about the Law to those who know the Law? He says that the Law lords it over the man for as long a time as he lives. As long as a man is living, he is under the rule of law. Now, as we will see when he goes into one particular illustration, that this is not talking about the dominion of Law versus the dominion of grace. This is talking about one's obligation to obey God's Law as a rule of life. Hopefully, the analogy will become clear as we see the specific case of Law that Paul brings up next in verses 2 and 3. So let's first get into our minds that a person is bound by law as long as that person is living. Okay? Now let's go into the specific instance of the Law that Paul uses to illustrate his point. This specific instance is of the law of marriage. What I want to do for the remainder of the time is to go into this law in and of itself, because it is important in and of itself. And when it is then put into the context of what Paul is saying, it magnifies its importance, because we will see, the Lord willing, that the law of marriage is a picture of a spiritual reality.
Let's read verses 2 and 3:
Romans 7: (2) For the married woman was bound by Law to the living husband; but if the husband dies, she is set free from the Law of the husband. (3) So then, [if] the husband [is] living, she will be called an adulteress if she becomes another man's. But if the husband dies, she is free from the Law, [so as for] her not to be an adulteress [by] becoming another man's.
Now before someone stumbles over the word "was" in verse 2, I'd like to address it. Some would see the word "was" and conclude that this is a law that no longer applies. They would say something like, "The Bible says that the married woman WAS bound by law to the living husband, which means that this was so only in the Old Testament age, while in the New Testament age, the married woman IS NOT bound by law to the living husband." But this is not what this verb means at all. The verb here is DEH-oh, which means "to tie" or "to bind." The specific form of the verb in this passage is DED-eh-tai, which can be translated "was bound", as the LITV translates it, or "hath been bound," as Young's Literal Translation translates it. It is meant to convey something that HAD happened BEFORE something else happened. In this verse, the married woman HAD been bound by law to her husband when he was alive, but if the husband died, she IS NOW set free from the law of her husband. So I think Young's is a better translation than the LITV. In fact, the LITV shows its inconsistency when it translates the same word in 1 Corinthians 7:39 as "IS bound." I want to go ahead and turn over to 1 Corinthians 7:39, not only to show you where this same word is found, but to also show you that this law is STILL in effect. Let's turn over there to 1 Corinthians 7, and I'll read verses 39 and 40:
1 Corinthians 7: (39) A wife is bound by law for as long a time as her husband lives; but if her husband sleeps, she is free to be married to whomever she desires, only in [the] Lord. (40) But she is happier if she remains so, according to my judgment. And I think I also have [the] Spirit of God.
Paul says three things: First, a wife is bound to her husband for as long as her husband lives. She must not be married to another while her husband lives. Second, if her husband dies, she is free to be married to another Christian man. Third, it is BETTER for the widow NOT to marry anyone else, because she would be happier remaining unmarried after having been married to one husband. Now if this is read in the whole context of 1 Corinthians 7, who can dispute that this is a CURRENT LAW that IS TO CURRENTLY BE OBEYED by NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANS? So the whole argument over the word "was" back in Romans 7 easily gets resolved when we see that this is NOT Old Testament law that was abrogated but is a law that REMAINS IN FORCE as a RULE OF LIFE for Christians. This is so clear as to be indisputable.
So let us take a look at this law that is a rule of life for Christians. Let's go back to Romans 7:2. The first thing we see is that a married woman is bound by law to the living husband. This means that as long as the wife and the husband are still living, REMARRIAGE IS FORBIDDEN. NO EXCEPTIONS. In verse 3, God says that if the woman becomes another man's while her husband is yet living, then she will be called an adulteress. Now we've already gone over the fact that when someone is called a name that is indicative of the person's LIFESTYLE, that person is necessarily UNREGENERATE. 1 Corinthians 6:10 names a whole bunch of people who will not inherit the kingdom of heaven, and ADULTERERS are in this bunch. So if a woman is an ADULTERESS, she is an unregenerate person. Now we see the seriousness of this law, don't we? If a woman remarries while her husband is still alive, she shows that she is an unregenerate person. Thus, if we look at this logically, NO CHRISTIAN WOMAN will remarry while her husband is still alive. Did you hear that? It is IMPOSSIBLE for a Christian woman to commit the sin of remarrying while her husband is still alive. If a woman remarries while her husband is still alive, she is NOT SAVED. Now to most in Christendom, I've just swung a wrecking ball throughout the church. I'd be called everything in the book. But this is not ME that made this up; this is GOD'S LAW. And if you want to argue with GOD'S LAW, go ahead, but keep me out of it. As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Now just a little while ago, I said that as long as the husband and the wife are still living, remarriage is forbidden, no exceptions. Now some of you listening to this might have caught the "no exceptions" clause and run over to Matthew 19:9 and say, "see, here's an exception." So let's turn over to Matthew 19:9 to see if there's an exception:
Matthew 19: (9) And I say to you, Whoever shall put away his wife, if not for fornication, and shall marry another, [that one] commits adultery. And the one who marries her [who was] put away commits adultery.
We see what is sometimes called "the exception clause," which says, "if not for fornication." So here's the scenario: A husband and wife are married. The wife commits fornication. The husband and wife are divorced because of the wife's fornication. Is it okay, then, for the husband, who is the so-called "innocent party," to remarry while his wife is still alive? Well, we need to look at the phrase "if not for fornication." To what is this phrase attached? Well, we can see in this verse that it is attached to the phrase, "Whoever shall put away his wife." The "exception clause" is attached to the DIVORCE clause, not the REMARRIAGE clause. To make this even clearer, let's go to some other passages that talk of divorce and remarriage. Let's first turn over to Matthew 5:32:
Matthew 5: (32) But I say to you, Whoever puts away his wife, apart from a matter of fornication, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever shall marry the one put away commits adultery.
Here it is even clearer what the "exception clause" is attached to. It says that whoever divorces his wife, EXCEPT in the case in which the wife commits fornication, causes his wife to commit adultery. Now over to Mark 10:11:
Mark 10: (11) And He said to them, Whoever may dismiss his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.
Here's a passage with NO exception clause whatsoever. It says that whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against his wife! The absence of the exception clause tells us a lot. It shows us that remarriage after divorce is NEVER acceptable. Now did Mark just forget to put in the exception clause when he was writing this? Or are these the inerrant, inspired words of God? If they are the inerrant and inspired words of God, then the Holy Spirit INTENTIONALLY left out the exception clause here to clearly show us that the exception does not have to do with remarriage. Turn over to Luke 16:18:
Luke 16: (18) Everyone putting away his wife, and marrying another, commits adultery. And everyone marrying her who has been put away from a husband commits adultery.
Same here. There is no exception clause. So when we see the exception clauses in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, we see that it has to be talking about divorce, NOT remarriage. If a husband and a wife get divorced over fornication, then they are still BOUND to each other until one of them dies. The marriage bond is NEVER broken until death, no matter if the husband and wife were divorced. And at the end of each of the passages in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we see that whoever MARRIES a divorced person commits adultery.
So what's the big deal about marriage that God places so much emphasis on it, even to the point of saying that if a woman becomes another man's while her husband is still living, she is an adulteress? It is because marriage is a picture of the sacred bond between Christ and His church. That union is an indissoluble union. It is a union that is an EXCLUSIVE union. Jesus Christ never leaves His church for the whore church, and the church never leaves Jesus Christ for a false christ. If a Christian woman were to divorce her husband and marry another man, this would be a confession that the church divorces Jesus Christ and marries a false Christ. If a Christian man were to divorce his wife and marry another woman, this would be a confession that Jesus Christ divorces His church and marries the whore church. These things would be blasphemy. In essence, an adulterer or an adulteress is a BLASPHEMER. Do you see how important and vital the marriage bond is?
What about a case in which there is one regenerate spouse and one unregenerate spouse? This could be the case in which two unregenerate people get married and then God regenerates one of them. This is NOT talking about a regenerate person marrying an unregenerate person, because passages like 2 Corinthians 6:14 forbid such a union, and such a union is speaking peace when there is no peace, and such a union would be a picture of Christ marrying the whore church or the true church marrying a false Christ. Well, 1 Corinthians 7 talks about such a situation. Let's turn over there, and I'll read verses 10 through 16:
1 Corinthians 7: (10) But I command the ones being married (not I, but the Lord), [that] a woman [is] not to be separated from her husband; (11) but if indeed she is separated, remain unmarried, or be reconciled to the husband; and a husband not to leave [his] wife. (12) But to the rest I say, not the Lord, if any brother has an unbelieving wife, and she consents to live with him, let him not leave her. (13) And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, let her not leave him. (14) For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified by the husband; else, then, your children are unclean, but now they are holy. (15) But if the unbelieving one separates, let [them] be separated; the brother or the sister is not in bondage in such matters; but God has called us in peace. (16) For what do you know, wife, whether you will save the husband? Or what do you know, husband, whether you will save the wife?
Even if one has an unbelieving spouse, if the unbelieving spouse wants to continue to live with the believing spouse, the believing spouse is not to leave the believing spouse. And if the unbelieving spouse decides to leave, the believing spouse is not in sin if there is a separation initiated by the unbelieving spouse. Yet, even if the unbelieving spouse leaves, the believing spouse is NOT TO MARRY ANOTHER, as it clearly shows further down in verse 39. The marriage bond is still important, and the law of marriage still applies.
Let's go back to Romans 7 and go over the second part of what Paul says here. This is the part about if the husband dies. The end of verse 2 says, "but if the husband dies, she is set free from the Law of the husband." The end of verse 3 says, "But if the husband dies, she is free from the Law, so as for her not to be an adulteress by becoming another man's." So here is the only time that it is lawful for a woman to become married a second time, and that is if the first husband dies. She is free from the law that binds her to her husband. Only upon death does she become free from the law. As we'll see, the Lord willing, this is the analogy Paul uses to say that we have become dead to the Law. But, in the physical realm, we also must remember the words of 1 Corinthians 7:40, "but she is happier if she remains so." The woman whose husband has died is happier if she does not remarry, even though remarriage is lawful in such a circumstance. If there has been such a bond in Christian love between the husband and the wife, there are some cases in which remarriage isn't even thinkable even if one of the spouses dies. This is the case between me and my wife. Our bond is as deep as any human beings can have, and this will be the only such bond that we will ever have. If my wife dies before I do, I will not marry another. If I die before my wife does, she will not marry another. This is something that we have already decided without any hesitation or doubt, and we know that we will be happier that way, as Scripture says. But this is not to forbid all second marriages after the death of a spouse. This is a permissible and a lawful thing to do if the second marriage is in the Lord.
The most important thing to gain from this lesson is the fact that the marriage bond is a picture of the bond between Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. Purity in a marriage relationship is a picture of the purity of the relationship between Christ and His church. God forbids fornication because it defaces the picture. Jesus Christ has ONE bride, the glorious church without spot or wrinkle, washed in His own blood and clothed in His own righteousness. He does not go whoring after the false church. He loves His church and loves no other. The bride has ONE husband, the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom she has been given over, to love and to serve and to obey. She does not go whoring after false Christs. Christ knows His wife and is known by His wife. His wife believes the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of her husband, who bought her and redeemed her from all unrighteousness. The bride knows that it is the work of her husband, Jesus Christ, alone that makes the difference between spending eternity with Him or spending eternity in the burning fires of hell. Let us read Ephesians 5:22-32:
Ephesians 5: (22) Wives, subject yourselves to [your] own husbands, as to the Lord, (23) because a husband is head of the wife, as also Christ [is] Head of the assembly, and He is [the] Savior of the body. (24) But even as the assembly is subject to Christ, so also the wives to their own husbands in everything. (25) Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly and gave Himself up on its behalf, (26) that He might sanctify it, cleansing [it] by the washing of the water in [the] Word, (27) that He might present it to Himself [as] the glorious assembly, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such things, but that it be holy and without blemish. (28) So, husbands ought to love their wives as their [own] bodies, (he loving his wife loves himself), (29) for then no one hated his [own] flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as also the Lord the assembly. (30) For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. (31) "For this, a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh." (32) The mystery is great, but I speak as to Christ and as to the assembly.