In Romans 5:12-21 we saw that the gift in Christ surpasses the heritage in Adam. Romans 6 revealed our identification with Christ. In order to have a genuine experience of our identification with Christ, we must pay attention to two negative items found in Romans 7—the law and the flesh. Romans 7 exposes the bondage of the law in our flesh. Although we have been identified with Christ through baptism, and although we have grown together with Him in the likeness of His death and are now growing together with Him in the likeness of His resurrection, the law and the flesh continue to exist. We may present ourselves as slaves and our members as weapons of righteousness to God that we may be sanctified and enjoy the riches of the divine life, yet the law of God outside of us and our flesh within us still exist.
Why does Paul in chapter 7 speak in such detail about the law and the flesh? Because Romans 6:14 says, “you are not under law but under grace.” In Romans 5 and 6 Paul explained clearly that we are now under grace, not under law. However, he has not yet explained how it can be that we are not under law. Because in 6:14 Paul said, “you are not under law,” he must write another chapter to explain how we are not under law. Without Romans 7 we could never be clear about this matter. Although the law continues to exist, we are not under it; we have nothing to do with it any longer. Has God recalled the law? Has He annulled or abolished it? The answer to these questions is no. How then can we say that we are not under the law? How can we be outside of the law and discharged from it? How can we be freed from the law? The answer to these questions is found in Romans 7, especially in the first six verses. This portion of the Word gives us a full definition and explanation of why we are no longer under the law. If we understand Romans 7:1-6, we will know how we have been discharged from the law.
If we are to understand how we have been freed from the law, we must know the two husbands in Romans 7. In Romans 5 we have two men, two acts, and two results with the four reigning things. In Romans 7:1-6 we have two husbands, and in 7:7-25 we have three laws. What are the two husbands in Romans 7?
As a young Christian I was eager to know the Bible. I found it especially difficult to learn who was the first husband in Romans 7. I tried to accumulate the best expositions of the Scriptures. However, I still could not determine who was the first husband in Romans 7. Was he the law or the flesh? I inquired of those who were knowledgeable in the Scriptures, but none of them were clear about this. Some said that the first husband was the law, while others said that he was the flesh. I read Romans 7 again and again, trying my best to understand it. I continued to study this matter for years. Twenty-two years ago I conducted a thorough study of the book of Romans, but even at that time I was not absolutely certain about the first husband. Now, after many years of study and experience, this matter is clear.
Who is the first husband in Romans 7? We must approach this question with the entire Bible in view, for we should understand one verse of the Bible according to the Bible as a whole. Let us now adopt such a view regarding the first husband in Romans 7.
In God’s creation man’s original position was that of a wife. Isaiah 54:5 says that God our Maker is our husband. Thus, according to God’s creation, man had the position of a wife. As a wife to God, we must depend upon Him and take Him as our head. This was our original position.
When man fell, he took another position, the self-assuming position of the old man. The fallen man assumed the position of a husband. The man created by God was a wife; the fallen man became a husband. Assuming the position of the husband, the fallen man became independent of God and made himself the head as the husband. Before you were saved, you never considered yourself as a wife. If you were a female, you might have thought of yourself as stronger than a man. Among fallen people both males and females think of themselves as husbands. Many wives have said, “Why must I be under my husband? He should be under me. Why should he be the head? I want to be the head.” Hence, fallen man became a strong, ugly husband.
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