(1 Corinthians 7:36-40)
Most of this section of scripture talks about the unmarried being able to remain in control of their natural desires of a man for a woman, and it says that if they cannot be in control they should marry.
But there is a principle that is snuck into the end of this section that is worth investigating for it pertains to how we are set free from the law by the death of Jesus Christ. The verse I am referring to is:
A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. – (1 Corinthians 7:39)
Law of Marriage
The laws of marriage as they are defined and were intended by God, was for a man and a woman to come together in the bonds of matrimony and to stay together until they are parted by death.
The idea of divorce and separation was allowed under the laws of Moses because some people could not commit themselves for life, and in some cases the marriages went sour. Divorce was permitted to allow people to escape a bad marriage rather than live a life of misery.
But this was not the way God intended marriage to be originally. Marriage is meant to be an all of life commitment where the marriage partners were separated only by the death of one or the other.
It is important to understand this concept for it is this same concept that is used to enable us today to be set free from the law through Jesus Christ.
Freedom From Law Through Baptism
The death of Jesus Christ brought into effect the New Covenant, and through it we receive freedom. It is through Jesus Christ's death that we are set free from sin, set free from law and set free from the passions of the flesh that lead us to sin. All of these things are enabled by His death, which we receive through faith and which we enter into by being baptised in water into His death and resurrection.
Now in relation to each of these freedoms and how they both are received and work, let us take a brief look.
When we are baptised in water, we enter into Jesus Christ's death. We die with Him and we take on His death as if it were our own real death. This is what we place our faith in and what we are called to believe in Him.
Abraham was told he would be the father of many nations and he believed God when he was told these things and God reckoned Abraham as righteous because he believed. Abraham's faith was not a blind faith but he had something very specific to believe.
And it is the same with us. We too have something very specific to believe and so are reckoned righteous just as Abraham was. What we believe is that God raised Jesus from the dead and that we can now enter His death and so by faith die to this world with Him through faith when we go through the waters of baptism. It is baptism that is the entry point through which we receive all of the freedoms given to us by God in Jesus Christ.
That is why baptism in water is so important and why it was one of the three key things that Jesus told the disciples they must do as part of the Great Commission.
Every Christian should be baptised so that they can receive the freedoms promised through the grace of God to those who believe.
Understanding the Three Freedoms: The First Freedom
I mentioned that there were three freedoms given to us by faith in the grace of God through believing we have died with Christ in baptism. They were: freedom from sin, freedom from law and freedom from the passions of the flesh that lead to sin or lead us astray.
Freedom from sin is received by the grace of God and is given to us as a gift in the righteousness by faith that He imputed to us when we believe in what He did in the death of Jesus Christ. That is, God forgives, forgets and overlooks all of our sins, just as He did with Abraham because we believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. And when we are baptised into Jesus's death and believe we have died we receive the grace of God and the removal of our sins so that we stand righteous before God.
It is important to understand that the reason people die is because death is the payment we make for sin. As we live in this world we build up a huge debt of sin over our lives and that debt is paid only when we die. Several scriptures clearly point to this fact.
20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. 21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. – (Ezekiel 18:20-22)
It is evident from this scripture that, “The soul (person) who sins shall die,” but the righteous person shall live. Death is the penalty for being a sinner and all mankind has sinned so all mankind will pay the penalty, which is to die. We see also in Romans this verse.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – (Romans 6:23)
Death is earned like a wage and the wage is sin. We die because we earn death through sinning. But we receive life as a gift from God through faith in Jesus Christ and what He achieved for us in His death and resurrection.
So note this important point. When we die the debt of sin is paid in full. It is only by dying that the debt of sin can be totally and fully paid off.
Now because baptism is through faith our death with Christ, and because we now believe we have died to this world, God now accepts our faith and considers us as dead to the world too. And when we are dead the debt of sin has been paid and so we are set free from sin.
The Second Freedom
The second freedom which is freedom from the law is absolutely essential to enable Christians to continue in the righteousness given by God as a gift. After all what is the point of being cleansed of sin if the next day you go out and screw up by committing some form of sin through breaking the law and are no longer righteous?
And this is where the principle of marriage comes into play.
All mankind are subject to the laws of God…whether they believe so or not, because all men are subject to sin and all mankind die because of sin.
Sin is the breaking of the law, or lawlessness as we are told by the apostle John.
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. – (1 John 3:4)
So if we are to be able to remain standing in righteousness before God, He not only had to take away our sins, but also had to remove the thing that condemns us as sinners, that is, the law. When we break the law we sin, so we have to be set apart from the law otherwise it was pointless God forgiving our past sins if we are going to just rack up a bunch of new sins as we continue forward.
We see the principle of marriage at play in how God achieved this.
In a marriage we have already seen that the binding contract of the laws of marriage lasts until one of the partners in the marriage dies. The law of marriage says that you cannot go and marry someone else if you are already married, and if you do live with someone else while married you commit a sin against the law of marriage. But when one person dies you are set free from the law of marriage. Someone else (the partner in the marriage who dies) has died so that the living partner is set free from the law of marriage. If they want they can then remarry anyone they choose.
Likewise we have been set free from the law through the death of Jesus Christ when we enter into His death, taking it on as our own through faith in our baptism. Jesus Christ died to set us free from the law. His death paid the debt of sin that we accrue throughout our lives AND He removes us from the law.
Romans 7:1 tells us that the law is binding on a person only while they are alive. As it says,
Or do you not know, brothers-for I am speaking to those who know the law-that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? – (Romans 7:1)
Once a person dies, the debt of sin is paid and in addition they are no longer bound by the law because they have died. The law is of the flesh and addresses the issues of the flesh. But when a person dies they are no longer of the flesh and so the law no longer is in force for them. They are no longer constrained under the law.
We also see this principle strengthened in the letter of Paul to the Colossians.
Here we see that God first forgave all our sins and made us alive through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then God cancelled the “bond which stood against us with its legal demands.” This legal bond was the law. And where was the law left? It was left nailed to the tree on which Jesus was put to death. What this tells us is that Jesus passed through death and was resurrected to new life in the spirit, but the law cannot and does not pass through death. The law ends at death and so anyone who has died is set apart from the law because the law is binding only on a person while they are alive.
And we who have been baptised into Jesus Christ's death and resurrection have died through faith and have been resurrected into the spirit through faith. This is the very foundation of what we must believe as Christians so that God can and will help us.
Just as a person is set free from the law of marriage by the death of someone else (I.e. Their marriage partner) so too we are set free from the law by the death of someone else…Jesus Christ.
The Third Freedom
Which brings us to the third freedom that we receive through the grace of God by the death of Jesus.
Once we have been set free from sin and been separated from the law, we no longer stand in sin, but through faith we receive the free gift of righteousness from God and stand righteous by faith before Him.
But God wants His people to be transformed into His image and into the image of Jesus Christ. He wants us to be perfect as He is perfect as we are told in Matthew 5:48.
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – (Matthew 5:48)
But man cannot make himself perfect because man is born in sin with the passions, desires and lusts of the flesh that cause him to sin continually. An imperfect thing cannot make itself perfect. But if we are to become perfect we must overcome the passions, lusts and desires of the flesh.
But God refused to help man in his sinful state as we see in Romans chapter 1 where it says three times that “God gave up on man.” He gave up on man because man was full of sin.
So God in His grace forgave and removed all of our sins and set us free from the law through faith and declared us righteous by faith. He did this so that the barrier of sin that stands between man and God was removed and He would then be in a position to help us to overcome the passions, lusts and desire of the flesh.
He gives us this third freedom, the victory over the passions, lusts and desire of the flesh, by giving us the Holy Spirit whose job it is to bring us to perfection, into the image of Jesus Christ. We see this shown in the following verse.
15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – (2 Corinthians 3:15-18)
We see here that the minds of those who try to seek perfection under the law as given by Moses, are veiled. They cannot see the way to perfection while they remain under the law and trying to follow the law as delivered by Moses.
But when a person turns to the Lord Jesus Christ, the veil of the law is lifted, the fog clears and the work of transformation into the image of the Lord is made possible. And verse 18 tells us that the transformation is the work of the Spirit.
But it is a long, long journey to perfection in the way we think and behave. Verse 18 shows up as much for the transformation is not instant or total, but is from one degree of glory to another. It is a long road that we walk to come into the image of perfection, which is the image of the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father. We do and will fall down many times on the journey to perfection.
But that is why God has given us grace. When we do fall down, His grace covers us. He does not condemn us as sinners, but instead He knows we are not yet perfect and are works in progress. So He constantly gives us the benefit of the doubt as long as we stand in our righteousness by faith and continue the journey. If we do that, the Holy Spirit continues to work in us so that next time, or the time after that, or the one after that, we are able to overcome our weaknesses and attain that one extra degree of glory that will eventually accumulate into the perfection we MUST achieve if we are to stand with Jesus Christ and with God in His kingdom.
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