What effect did Christ’s death have on God’s law? The majority of Christendom think they know the answer to this question…but do they really?

Intellectual that he was, Paul leaves us with some difficult-to-understand passages about the law in the book of Romans. And reading them out of the immediate and even wider context can be the cause of some erroneous thinking about the law.

This week we will take a look at how the death of Jesus affected the law of God. What is the true purpose of the law, back then and for us today?

Key Text: “In the same way, my friends, you 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” Romans 7:4 NRSV

Although this text has been misconstrued by some to mean that the law is dead, notice that it says that WE have died to the law, not that the law is dead. And the reason seems to be that we can belong to another and bear fruit. How can you bear fruit unless you are keeping the law? Our lesson will clarify both these points, so stay with us.

Sunday: Dead to the Law

“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?” Romans 7:1 NKJV

Literally interpreted, this verse means that “every living person is under the rule of law.” This makes sense, because we can’t obey the law when we’re dead. It doesn’t mean the law is dead, just the person.

Paul goes on in v. 2-6 to explain our relationship with the law using the example of marriage. If a spouse dies, the living spouse is free to marry another and not be committing adultery. In the same sense, when we decide to become disciples of God and give up our old life of sin and breaking the law, we are dead to that first life of disobedience, with the law condemning us and causing us to die, and are now free to have a full relationship with God. The law then becomes our friend, our guide to being able to please our new “spouse”.

Although some may say from taking Romans 7:4 out of context (“…ye also are become dead to the law…”), that this means that the law of God is dead, we must ask ourselves if this is what Paul meant. When the passage is taken as a whole, one cannot verify this meaning, especially when compared to other writings by Paul and other prophets.

Discussion Question: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Romans 6:6

After reading this verse, discuss how it fits in with our understanding of the beginning of chapter 7. Does it not verify our assumptions about our new relationship with the law? What are we dead to?

Monday: The Law of Sin and Death

Romans 8:1, 2 brings us to another question about the law: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”

We wonder from this one text, if there are actually two laws. But it appears that just as our relationship with God changes, so does our relationship with the law.

Think about what the law means to a criminal. He no doubt may come to hate the law, which has condemned him to be punished for his lawbreaking. But to the victims of his crimes, the law works to their advantage. They rejoice in the law that made them free to walk the streets safely again. It’s the same law, but seen in the eyes of different people.

If ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15.

We continue reading in Romans 7:7-13 to discover further what Paul is trying to convey about the law. He describes in these verses how even a Christian struggles with the problem of how to relate to sin and the law. But we have to admire his conclusion:

“Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” Romans 7:12, 13 KJV

Discussion Questions: What are some other words we may use to describe the law?

Why are some people not comfortable with talking about the law of God? How can we help them see the positive aspects of the law, and not just the negative?

Tuesday: The Power of the Law

Sin is actually the thing that holds us in its power. But the law holds power in that it defines what sin is. We have seen this explained to us in these verses:

  • Romans 4:15 “Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.” KJV (this sounds like without the law, there is no sin–which should make us hesitate in doing away with the law–without sin, why would we need Jesus?)
  • Romans 5:13 “(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” KJV (once again, without law, sin is not imputed, or turned over to Jesus–there’s no need to)
  • Romans 7:7 “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” KJV (so the law helps us know what sin is)

And therein lies the power of the law: it is used to define sin.

Discussion Question: The definition of “law” is: “a binding custom or practice of a community: a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority”.

Try to define sin, without using any reference to the law. Discuss why this definition of sin is so important to our understanding of salvation and the need for the law.

Wednesday: The Impotent Law

So if law has the powerful effect of defining sin for us, why is the law also called weak or powerless in Romans 8:3?

“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” KJV

A couple of other verses from Paul should help us understand this aspect of the law:

  • Acts 13:38, 39 “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” KJV
  • Galatians 3:21 “Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.” NIV

We therefore see that the law was weak in that it could not save us, justify us, or give us life. We go back to what the law CAN do, which is define sin. I’ll never forget the first time I heard a preacher compare the law to a mirror. A mirror just shows you where you are dirty. You then need a washcloth to get the smudges of dirt off. Let none of us think that by keeping the law, we are saved. I think this is the message that Paul was trying to convey.

Discussion Questions: Read Galatians 3:11 and discover  what the law can’t do for us. [“…no man is justified by the law…”]

If obedience to the law could save us, why did Jesus have to die for that purpose?

Looking at our own obedience, how much hope to we have without Jesus? Why is He important in our lives? Why is the law important too?

Thursday: The Curse of the Law

Paul didn’t just confuse us temporarily in the book of Romans, but he does it again in Galatians. Here we have this verse:

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse of it: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” Galatians 3:10 KJV

What is this curse of the law? The remainder of this verse does not give the idea that keeping the law brings us the curse, but actually it says not continuing to do them brings us the curse. Again, what is this curse that we are to avoid? Is it the law itself?

  • Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” KJV
  • Ezekiel 18:4 “…the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” KJV

Who is under this curse? These texts reveal that we are all under this curse of death:

  • “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 51:5 KJV
  • “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6 KJV
  • “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 KJV

Fortunately, Paul does not leave any question about how we can avoid this curse. In Galatians 3:13 he explains it:

“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:” KJV

Keep in mind, that we are redeemed from the CURSE of the law (death), not the law itself.

The wider Biblical context verifies these conclusions:

  • I John 5:3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” KJV
  • James 2:10 “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” KJV

Indeed, we are still under the law, just not under the curse of the law, which would be death. Not keeping the law brings us the curse. Keeping it through Jesus brings us life. The law stands forever.

Psalm 19:7 puts it so nicely: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” KJV

Discussion Questions: How and why is our relationship to God tied to our relationship to the law? Does how we feel about one indicate how we feel about the other?

What are some ways we can make the law grievous?

Is obeying the law in order to avoid the curse enough in God’s eyes to save us?


Jesus death did not do away with the law. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, all who believe have victory over death and sin. Jesus paid the penalty for sin, which puts us in a new relationship with God and His law.


The law has been compared to an alarm system that warns us of the danger of sin that might be present in our lives. One recalls the alarm system that had been disabled in 2010, which caused the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Even if we believe the law is still in force, we often do things unwittingly that disables the law’s ability to alert us.

What are some ways we may have disabled the law, our best alarm system for sin?

Try to get your alarm system up and working this week by doing all you can to reconnect with God and develop a friendly, positive attitude about His law.

Next week: Christ, the End of the Law