1 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?
Chapter six dealt with the sin issue, but chapter seven deals with the subject of the believer’s relationship to the law. The latter half of chapter six warns believers about the abuse of grace and the implication of antinomianism.
There is a valid place for the law for Christians (v. 12), but the concern in this chapter has to do with the law as a means of salvation or spirituality. Law is malicious to Christian living in that perspective. The only way to free people spiritually from the law is death.
Chapter seven is divided into two sections:
Believers released from the law by the death of Christ, 7:1-6
The utter despair of the believer living the Christian life apart from Christ, 7:7-25
The argument of this chapter shows that God has released the believer from the law. This picks up the argument of 6:15-23 that the believer is no longer under the law but grace. Those under the law are under the bondage of sin. Those under grace can produce fruit for God.
The word “or” connects to 6:14: “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”
do you not know, brethren
Invariably, when Paul asks the question whether we know something, we don’t know it.
(for I speak to those who know the law),
Paul speaks to those who know the Mosaic law. They may have been converted Jews in the city of Rome, but he is speaking to all believers in the city.
that the law has dominion [rule as lord] over a man as long as he lives?
The law has a claim on people throughout their lives; only death delivers them from its dominion. Biblical societal law rules a person as long as he lives. The Mosaic law is clear on this point. Paul does not disparage societal law in itself. Human government is important for the order of its society for people in a fallen state.
Death delivers the believer from the rule of law over his life.
By Jesus’ death on the cross Christians died in their relationship to the law. That state passed with the coming of the grace principle and newness of life in Christ. The law convicts us of sin in its proper role but it cannot deliver us from sin in its false role. We fail to live the Christian life if we put ourselves under the wrong system for spirituality. The true means of spirituality is God’s provision of grace (His resources) for living the Christian life. Legalism is self-dependence.