For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.
So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.
Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another–to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. Romans 7:1-4 NKJV
The freshly dug dirt hole beside me was deep and well defined. It was a gravesite…..mine. I sat on the ground above it, looking down into its interior with curiosity, wondering how it was going to happen. My death, that is. Amazingly, I felt no fear, no trepidation, not even a hint of nervousness. I was as eager for this to take place as I had ever been about anything in my life. My problem was I didn’t know what to do to make it happen. “Lord”, I said, “You’re just going to have to do it, because as much as I want to, I just don’t know how to die.”
I’ve just described a graphic dream I had some years ago. It was no ordinary dream. I’ve pretty much learned how to tell the difference between dreams that are sourced in anxiety, emotion, or too much pizza and those that are God shouting: “You need to pay attention to this.” This dream definitely got my attention.
Looking back I can see with crystal clarity the many ways in which the Lord has since answered my request to teach me to die, and continues to do so. It sometimes seems to me that teaching me to die (spiritually speaking) has been such a monumental task I wonder that He has time for anything else (yes, I am being tongue in cheek here so no need to reach for the tissues just yet).
I love the analogy our friend Paul used in Romans 7 to help us understand the full scope of what it means to be crucified with Christ, which is more or less the same message as that in my dream. He had been writing about how being united together with Christ in His death and resurrection has delivered us from the power of sin (check out Romans chapter 6). Now, moving on to the subject of Old Covenant Law, he compares the believer, you and me, to a married woman.
This woman has been married for a long time but the marriage is not a happy one. Her husband is the Law, and no matter how hard she tries, she can never please him. The woman longs for another Husband, One who will love her despite her failures, but she knows she cannot be with both and she is legally bound to the first. The Husband she longs for respects the Law and will never allow her to come to Him by law-breaking. He cannot abide the thought of her being labeled an adulteress. It seems the woman’s only hope is to wait for her husband, the Law, to die, so that she can be free to be with the One she longs for. But her hope is in vain, for the Law is exceedingly strong and will not die (Matthew 5:18). She is trapped beyond all possibility of freedom.
Enter the Cross. The One who waits for her, in His great wisdom, has come up with the only possible answer. He will die and He will take her with Him into His death. Rather than the first husband dying, the woman will die instead. Through embracing death she will be dying to what has bound her to the Law…..the life of her flesh. When the flesh is dead, Law has no further legal hold (Romans 7:6).
The woman has only one question now to deal with. Is the One who waits for her worthy of her death? This is a decision only she can make. He has laid down His Life for her, but will she willingly join Him in the fellowship of His sufferings? It is the question each believer sooner or later arrives at…..to embrace the Cross that is inevitably placed before us or stand frozen before it in shocked denial, refusing to acknowledge that a God who loves us would ask us to join Him there.
Confronted with the reality of the Cross becoming so up close and personal, many disciples look for a way around it. Blaming the devil is a popular route. If something is happening to us that doesn’t feel comfortable it’s got to be our enemy satan, because God’s our biggest fan, right? Wrong, we’ve missed the point. What God offers through allowing the Cross into our lives may cause suffering, but His purpose is deeper fellowship (Philippians 3:10).
Then there’s the hyper-grace path. Maybe we can avoid the Cross by taking that route. Let’s take some specific scriptures about God’s grace, out of context, and apply them universally to very person and every situation, thereby making redundant other New Testament passages that teach repentance, pursuit of holiness or obedience to God. That way we make the Cross a one-time historic event that has no personal relevance to our daily lives apart from grace, grace and more grace. Taking that route ignores the truth that grace reigns through righteousness (Rom. 5:21), but hey, it sure makes any need for a personal Cross irrelevant.
But the truth is there is no way to avoid the Cross if we are to be joined to Christ. The way is through it, not around it. Having made her decision to accept this revelation perhaps the woman’s struggles are over.
Which brings me back to my dream, where I sat beside my own grave willing and ready to be crucified and buried with Christ, waiting for God to ‘make it happen’. And He is faithful! But He did not leave me there, for there was a second part to the dream. In the next scene I found myself standing atop a very high hill with 180 degree views all around me. Loudly, with much authority and boldness, I was preaching the Word of God to the nations. Among the hearers there were those who were listening, those who were mocking and those who were very angry that I was no longer in the grave. “You died and you should have stayed dead”, they yelled at me. “We even paid to watch you die. You have cheated us. We want our money back!” Hmmm….apparently there are those who become quite upset when we die to the Law and then rise again.
Returning to our woman, not only has she embraced her would-be Husband in His death, to her delight she now finds herself married to Another and risen together with Him into His resurrected Life. Now, that’s grace for you! But much to her frustration she still has a problem. She has spent so much time living with Law she only knows one way to live……under Law. Despite her wonderful newly gained freedom, she finds adjusting to this new environment extremely difficult.
They say if you take a lion (or in this case a lioness) out of a cage in which he has lived a very restricted life, pacing relentlessly back and forth, he will still pace up and down as if in a confined space long after freedom is granted to him. Our newly liberated woman finds herself in a similar situation……loving the freedom that now surrounds her but often finding it easier to revert to old habits of law keeping than to learn a radical new way of living. Just as the dying had to be in Him, so also the living has to be in Him. Where once she prayed “Lord, teach me how to die!”, she now cries out desperately: “Lord, as much as I want to, I just don’t know how to do this. Teach me how to LIVE!”
The woman, as already stated, is you and me. But on another level the woman is also the emerging, corporate Bride of Christ. It’s amazing where she turns up, isn’t it? And just as she has had to learn how to die in Christ, the Bride must now learn to live through Christ. Anyone identify?
We have married Another. In His household supernatural life flows abundantly, grace is sufficient, law has been fulfilled, the Cross is a place of fellowship, the grave clothes are discarded, the grave lies empty, and all things are now possible. Our only need is to learn how to live to the full, embracing our exciting but untrodden new environment. And something tells me He’s about to show us.
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2013 Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.