“For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.”
died to the law
Not only are we dead through the law, but we are also dead to the law. We legally died to the law when we embraced the cross to obtain forgiveness for our sins. The law has no claim beyond death. Jesus paid our debt to the law by His death. He substituted His death for our death.
The law demands a penalty for those who break it. Through the law, Paul died to the law. The law killed any hope of his living for God. Paul’s status of having been crucified with Christ (Ga 2:20) freed him from sin and its consequences (Ga 3:13). The law curses us, but Christ killed the judgment of the law. The law has no further claim on the Christian.
The law itself kills any hope of merit before God. It precludes any hope of justification or sanctification by works because it places the standard too high for any sinner to achieve. However, the law has no authority over people executed for crimes. They have paid their penalty by death. Society has no further claim on them. Jesus died for our sins, so the penalty of the law has no other claim on us (Romans 6:1-14; 7:1-4).
Paul does not say that the law is dead, far from it. He says that he is dead to the law. “In the eyes of the law, I do not exist anymore. The law has no authority over me, even though it is very much alive.” It still curses and condemns the sinner. It still demands the death of the transgressor, but we are no longer transgressors because Christ forgave us when we came to trust His work on the cross.
“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).
Paul did not claim that he was a lawless person. He was no law unto himself. His point is that the law has no claim on him. The law declared him a sinner and punished him for his sin through Christ. Now he is free from the law’s penalty because Christ fulfilled the law.
The law has no authority over the Christian because Christ fulfilled the demands of the law by His death on the cross.
The law has no more authority over us now that we have died to it by Christ’s death. When a woman’s husband dies, her legal relationship with her husband dissolves. When Christ died for our sins, we died to the law. The law can no longer condemn us.
“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. 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. 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” (Romans 7:4-6).
“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
“…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
We do not try to die; we are dead already. We cannot crucify ourselves; we stand crucified with Christ already. When Jesus died on the cross, I died there on that cross (Ga 2:20). This is how God looks at us if we have been born again.
“Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—” (Colossians 2:20).
The law brings us to the realization of sin (Romans 3:20). The law makes us give up all hope in self and human merit. It drives us to place our hope in Christ alone. The Christian is like a corpse at which the law can thunder with all its might but get no response. The law does not get the stir of a finger or the flicker of an eyelash. No master can give orders to a dead slave.
“Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; “and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39).
“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” (Romans 8:1 ).
The law has no remedy for sin, but it has a double power: 1) it declares us sinners, and 2) it states our penalty for being sinners. Suppose a person committed the terrible crime of murder. He deserves the death penalty or life in prison. The authorities arrest him, bring him before a judge, and prosecute him for murder. They call the witnesses one by one. They all testify with one accord to the man’s guilt. There seems to be no defense for him at all. The jury finds him guilty. According to the law, he is guilty, and the authorities should put him to death.
Before the judge pronounces the sentence, something suddenly happens to the accused. While on the stand, the man suddenly slumps down and dies. A physician pronounces him officially and legally dead. What does the judge do now? Does he continue with the penalty? He cannot carry out any punishment. The law cannot try, convict, or carry out a penalty on a dead man. He is beyond the reach of the law. The judge can only rap his gavel, solemnly dismiss the case, and adjourn the court. The man is dead in the eyes of the law.
In the case of this illustration, the man cheated the law. The law had the right to put him to death but could not do so because he was already dead. In our case, Christ fulfilled all the requirements of the law (Romans 8:2-4).