Many people, including Christians, are trusting in their own carnal strength to become righteousness. However, there is a positive alternative to legalism, made possible through the Holy Spirit: direct, personal union with Christ.
In Romans 7:1–6 Paul paints a picture of the alternatives.
Or do you not know, brethren [for I am speaking to those who know the law], that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? [Once you’re under the law, the only way out from the law is death.] For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living: but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then if while her husband is living, she is joined to another man [in marriage], she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress, though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined [in a marriage union] to another, to Him who was raised from the dead [that’s the Lord Jesus], that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.
When we rely on our own carnal ability to keep God’s law, we are under the power of our carnal nature. Nothing good can come out of our carnal nature. Paul says, “I know that in me [that is, in my flesh] dwells no good thing.” The only problem about most of us is not that we’re different from Paul but we don’t know what Paul knew!
Then Paul concludes this passage in Romans 7 by saying:
But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. (NAS)
Under the law we were married to our carnal nature, we were compelled to rely on our own natural ability to do what God requires. However, we lack the power to carry out the law, because there’s something in each of us, a rebel nature, that is made even more rebellious by the law. As long as our carnal nature continues to live we cannot be married to anybody else—we are bound to it as long as it lives.
But the message of the gospel is our carnal nature, our old man, was crucified in Christ on the cross and we are to reckon ourselves to be dead to that carnal nature. And once that carnal nature was put to death, we were released from the obligations to the law.
Paul says the law has jurisdiction over a man as long as he lives. The last thing the law can do to anybody is put you to death. Once it has put you to death you are not under the law. So through the death of Jesus on our behalf, as our representative, we were put to death and released from the claims of the law. Now we are free to be married to another. To whom? To the one who rose from the dead.
What does it mean to you to ‘reckon yourself to be dead to the law’?
Lord Jesus Christ, I belong to You. I want to live in unity with You. Thank You for Your death on my behalf, for liberating me from the curse of the law and from the power of sin. The claims of the law no longer apply to me. I trust in You alone. Amen.
Also recommended: How to be Led by the Holy Spirit