Thursday, March 9, 2017

Romans 7:1-6 Marriage and the Law

Marriage is an example of how death frees one from obligation. Nobody expects marriage obligations (and privileges) extend beyond physical death. But Paul explains how this works – death frees one from marriage. Giving one’s self to another who is not your spouse while the spouse is alive makes you an adulterer. If your spouse has died, however, you are free to marry – not guilty of adultery. That’s the example – death ends marriage.

The Jews of Jesus’ time understood this, even though they had contrived countless reasons for which a man could divorce his wife, abusing the two reasons God provided (because of our natural hardness of heart). We see the Jewish perspective, not only was a widow free to re-marry, if she had no children, her dead husband’s kin were obligated to marry her so she might produce offspring. In Matt 22:23 and following, the Sadducees tested Jesus because they denied the resurrection and were trying to trap Him with a complicated story. The point I want to bring out from that story is that everyone accepted that death freed one from a marriage. That’s the point Paul is making.

And yet, some teach that this passage is instruction on marriage, meaning that only death ends marriage. I don’t know how the language could be much plainer. All the arguments these folks muster up fall into extra-biblical rules and they crumble in the face of life. They teach that divorce was required in the Jewish engagement period (and it was!) but not used in the actual marriage. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and and Jeremiah 3:1 tells us that woman is thrown out by her husband can get married to another man; but she is NOT permitted to return to be the wife to her first husband again.  The first marriage has been ended and may not be re-instituted. Paul tells us that he is using marriage as an example about how death affects a legal relationship – it ends it. 

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