Think back for a moment to that fateful moment around a decade ago when smartphones hit the market. Up to that point, cell phones were in regular use, but they weren’t smart. Text functions were clunky, and connectivity to the internet was almost non-existent. When the iPhone debuted, it was obviously a superior device, and, while they took a few years to really catch on, smart phones eventually came to rule the day. Now, there wasn’t anything wrong with old-type cell phones. At the same time, there is no doubt that the smart phone is the superior device.
As Paul talks about the law in the first verses of chapter 7, he’s thinking in similar terms to my smart phone analogy. The law was good and served its purpose, but it has now been replaced by something new. As verse 6 tells us, those who lived under law have been “released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” Just as the smart phone surpassed the old-type cell phone, so also has God’s work in Christ surpassed the law, particularly regarding its effect on sin. Though the law was good, it stood powerless to help humanity overcome the power of sin. Thus, people under the law bear the “fruit of death” because sin still holds power in their lives. With Christ, though, sin is stripped of its power, and believers are empowered to “bear fruit for God.” Not only has Christ removed the guilt of sin, he has also broken its power in our lives!
A problem emerges, though, when people are so attached to the law that they can’t fully embrace Christ. These folks rightly name the law as good but fail to see the new thing that God is doing in Jesus. Thus, Paul argues in verses 1-6 that believers have died to the law so that they can belong to Christ, which changes everything.
In our own lives we can sometimes fall into the tendency to rely on our own power – we identify sin in our lives and then try to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps to conquer it. To do so is to return to a former era in which the law named sin but failed to conquer it. We Christians need to walk in the power of Christ, which alone enables us to bear fruit for God. As we confront sin, we rely on Christ’s power, for we belong to him and that makes all the difference.