A Jagged Word


“What do you, a baptized person, say when the law (correctly) accuses you of sin? You do not claim that the law made a false accusation. Nor do you claim that there appears to be a sin beyond Christ’s reach, and therefore you must seek another remedy – like penance. Paul teaches a peculiar defense by which you plead guilty, but claim a remarkable extenuating circumstance: ‘But I am dead, and you have no jurisdiction over the dead.’ Death is an unforeseen defense for a sinner that leaves the law speechless because at death the law has reached its outer limit. The baptized says: ‘Law, your accusation is quite correct, but the “you” to whom you point is dead, and therefore you are without authority in this case.’ Paul says” ‘Do you not know… that the law rules over a person only as long as he lives?’ (Romans 7:1). The law is exactly right – but only about living people. Sin is not reckoned where there is no law, and law cannot reckon sin on dead people – there the judgment has already been made and there is no more work for the law to do, since that would be kicking a dead horse. Death is the limit of law, and so at death, law itself is shown to be limited – not eternal – in terms of its applicable authority or use.”

– Steven D. Paulson, “Lutheran Theology” (174)