How We are Freed from the Law, Sin and Death

Epiphany 3 Saturday

Isaiah 9:4

“For the yoke of their burden and the rod of their shoulder and the staff of their driver you have broken as in the time of Midian.”

The third reason why Christians can rejoice is the removal of “the staff of the driver,” that is, the law. Paul says in Romans 3:20; 7:7: The law is the power of sin. But I am speaking about the law spiritually understood, when it reveals sin. For this is what Paul says: “By the law comes knowledge of sins.” I do not mean it in a carnal sense, when it makes hypocrites by works. For those who do not hear the law in a spiritual sense, do not feel the rod on the shoulder, that is, sin. The rod is certainly there, but it does not put any weight on their shoulder, that is, they have sin, but do neither feel nor consider it. Likewise, the burden, that is, death, is also there, but they do not have the yoke of the burden; for they do not feel how death has subjected them and rules over them. The same is true for the law: The staff is there, but they do not hear the voice of the driver, so that the staff and the driver are two things, just like rod and lying on the shoulder are two things, and the yoke and the burden are two things. For we all have death, sin, and the law, but we do not all feel the sting and victory, that is, the power and dominion of death, sin, and law over us until our final hour. Accordingly, then, the staff is the law, the driver is the law’s power and dominion. For if there were no law, there also would be no sin. But now that the law is there, we would like to be free from sin, but we are unable. For the law is there; and it drives, chases, convicts, and overcomes us, making us realize that we are sinners; in this way, it puts us under sin by force. There you have the voice of the driver, that is, the dominion and power of the law over us that turns us into sin’s servants. For it is called the law’s power, a driver or overseer, an enforcer, because it always demands obedience from us and also does not leave the conscience in peace on account of such demanding and driving. Since we cannot satisfy such demanding or conform to it, the law soon drives us under sin and condemns us to be servants of sin. But sin quickly hands us over to death. There we lie as captured servants under death, sin, and the law, that is, under the yoke of the burden, under the rod on the shoulder, under the staff of the driver. We see here that Isaiah took his manner of speaking from a donkey driver or some other cruel tyrant; for there you have burden, rod, and driver in relation to that poor beast…But how is the law broken? Sin and death, as we said, have lost their power and rightful claim on us, so that they no longer subjugate us; and eventually, they must cease. But the law is broken in that it no longer drives us. And we become free from its demanding and driving by satisfying it through Christ our Lord. And now we live and, out of the Spirit, do willingly everything the law wanted to exact and demand from us. This is why we no longer need any law. And since its driving and demanding is past, all its power, rightful claim, and cause is past. We now live as those who have no law, just like a healthy man lives, eats, and drinks without law and driving; he does not need a law for this.

St. Louis ed., 11:1987-1989.

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