“For he who has died has been freed from sin. … For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” Rom 6:7, 14-16
What does it mean to be “under law” and “under grace”? We need to understand this, because sin does not have dominion over us, because we are under grace. Paul is talking about dominion. Go back through chapters 5 and 6 and see how many times Paul talks about dominion:
Rom 5:14 – death REIGNED from Adam to Moses;
Rom 5:17 – by one man’s offense death REIGNED through the one (over many is implied, Rom 5:15);
Rom 5:17-18 – by one man’s righteous act, life REIGNED through the one (over many is implied in verse 18);
Rom 5:21 – sin REIGNED in death;
Rom 5:21 – grace REIGNS in righteousness to eternal life;
Rom 6:9 – death no longer has DOMINION over Messiah, now that He has died to sin and been raised from the dead;
Rom 6:12 – do not let sin REIGN in your bodies (since we who have died to sin have been freed from sin’s DOMINION is implied, Rom 6:7-8);
Rom 6:14 – sin will not have DOMINION over us, because we are not under law but under grace.
Dominion means in Greek, to be lord of, to rule over, to have dominion over. Dominion, according to Webster’s, means supreme authority or absolute ownership. Where there is dominion, there is something over and something under. When we are under law, though, it is not law that has dominion over us, but sin (Rom 5:21, 6:12, 14) and death (Rom 5:14, 17, 6:9).
In contrast, to be under grace is to let Messiah’s resurrection life have dominion over us through grace (Rom 5:17-18, 21). This has to do with where our righteousness is coming from, as Paul has been explaining since the second chapter of Romans! When a person is RULED by striving after self righteousness through works of the law (to be “under law”, then sin and death have dominion over him (vs. 14); but when a person is RULED by not striving after self righteousness because God’s righteousness has been imputed to him through grace leading to life (to be “under grace”), then obedience and life have dominion over him (vs. 14-16).
To make it even more plain – the old man who was born after the nature of his father Adam, over whom sin and death reigned, has died. The new man who was born after the nature of his Father YHVH through Jesus Christ, over whom righteousness and life reigned, lives. We are a different creature now, one over which sin does not have dominion. Our new nature is one in which obedience has dominion, because our righteousness is not earned! We don’t have to work, so we can simply live in accordance with our new nature!
So then what benefit is the written Torah? I think it is simply, to instruct our minds, which have not been reborn. (The Hebrew meaning of the word torah, by the way, is not law but instruction or teaching.) We need to learn what God considers righteous behavior, not so that we can conform to it to earn righteousness, but so that we can conform to it because we love our Father and it is the longing of our heart to please Him and conform our actions to His nature!
Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Mat 4:4) “Every word” includes Torah, which shows us our understanding of Torah has been tainted. According to Jesus, every word of God including Torah is life- giving! It is only when we try to establish our own righteousness by Torah observance (to be “under law” instead of “under grace”) that the fruit of sin and death is produced.
I keep coming back to Torah because it is the only portion of God’s Word which has been dismissed for most of us in our minds. There is a reason God wants us to walk in His whole Word in these last days!