Read This Week’s Passage: Romans 6:1–23
“Law” Treated as “Covenants”
“I am not under the law, but under grace.”
Have you ever heard that line from someone to whom you were trying to explain the Sabbath? It is generally used as a conversation stopper, as in: “Sorry, but I’m no longer bound by anything the law required, including the Sabbath, now that Jesus has come into history and put us ‘under grace.’ ”
While “you are not under law but under grace” is biblical (from the last verse in our inScribe section for this lesson—Rom. 6:11–14), many people do not realize that it is not the entirety of verse 14 but simply a phrase from the verse. Our purpose in this lesson is to study this verse in its immediate and wider context.
But before we begin, we need to add another key concept to the four we noted previously (see lesson 6 inTro) that is important to keep in mind as we study this and the next two lessons especially: when Paul and the New Testament authors discuss “the law,” or “law,” they often have covenant issues in mind. So the same historical/experiential models of interpretation apply to the discussions of the law as apply to discussions of the covenants, especially when the discussions are polemical (argumentative), appearing to portray a negative attitude toward the law, and are presented through a series of contrasts, as occurs in presentations on the covenants. In each passage one must ask, “Is this referring to the law as God gave it in history and intended it to function (the historical dimension) or to the way humans have rightly or wrongly responded to God’s Law (the experiential dimension)?”
With this in mind, the term law in Romans 6:14 is a code term for the old covenant and the term grace a code term for the new covenant. In Romans 6:11–14 Paul once again presents a series of contrasts that will inform us of whether he has in mind the historical or experiential old and new covenants. As you read this week’s passage, see if you can discover how he contrasts the relationship to sin and righteousness of someone who is “under law” and someone who is “under grace.”