“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” —Romans 6:14
Because of the infinitely glorious work of Christ’s crucifixion, we have been set free from the power of sin. It does not say that we will be perfectly sinless in this life. It does not say that we will be free from temptation. It says that sin will “not have dominion over” us; that is, it will not reign in our lives, rule over us or dominate our thoughts and actions. Yes, there are struggles with sin, and we’ll cover that in more detail when we get to Romans 7, but often, for many, a great difficulty begins with a misunderstanding between law and grace.
From Exodus 20 through the Book of Leviticus, God gives us a very interesting pattern; and though there is much, much more meaning to it than we can discuss here, I just want to explain the law for Israel as simply as I can. In Exodus 20:1-17 we have The Ten Commandments, also referred to by some as “the moral law,” considered to be those moral absolutes expressed by God as the minimum standard and guide for fellowship with Himself. Immediately following those Commandments, God begins giving judgments (ordinances), which are referred to by some as “the civil law,” considered to be the ordinances and statues by which a righteous, God-fearing society should conduct itself in their dealings one with another. Then instructions for the building of the tabernacle and the garments for the priesthood are given; and after that, we are brought to the book of Leviticus, which are the instructions and requirements for the worship of God, which are referred to by some as “the ceremonial law.”
The civil law and the ceremonial law, given unto Israel, stemmed from the moral law. The moral law (the 10 Commandments) is eternal truth as a standard for man that is always applicable. Take the first commandment, for example: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). When was it ever acceptable to deviate from this command? The answer to that is quite simple as our previous studies in Romans has shown: Never. Yet, no descendent of Adam, including Adam himself, has ever kept this commandment perfectly, without fault or hesitation. The only person who has ever kept this commandment, as well as the entire moral law wholly, perfectly, and completely, is Jesus Christ, “who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The civil law and ceremonial laws were given to show Israel how utterly corrupt they were. The blood sacrifices of bulls and goats in the ceremonial law demonstrated how the civil law was constantly broken; thus breaking the moral law. Romans 5:20 states, “Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Immediately following the moral law, the first ordinance given in the civil law was the law of slavery among God’s people:
“Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.” —Exodus 21:1-4
The slave, who is under bondage to another through the law, is set free in the seventh year. This is an illustration of our freedom from the power of sin through the grace of God in Jesus Christ. We are set free from the bondage of sin and death that the law brings; therefore, in Christ, sin has no more power over us; no longer rules over us; does “not have dominion over” us. In His perfect sacrifice, fulfilling every shadow and type of sacrifice from Leviticus, Christ has freed His people from the bondage of sin when He declared as God Almighty, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Those who believe and trust upon Christ’s finished work upon the cross are forgiven of sin and freed from it.
In our next article we will explore the last part of Romans 6:14 to gain an understanding of what it means to be “under grace.
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Read the previous article in this series, “Let Not Sin Reign” (Romans 6:12-13).