Freedom from the Law.* 1Are you unaware, brothers (for I am speaking to people who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over one as long as one lives? 2Thus a married woman is bound by law to her living husband; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law in respect to her husband.a 3Consequently, while her husband is alive she will be called an adulteress if she consorts with another man. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and she is not an adulteress if she consorts with another man.
4In the same way, my brothers, you also were put to death to the law through the body of Christ, so that you might belong to another, to the one who was raised from the dead in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5For when we were in the flesh, our sinful passions, awakened by the law, worked in our members to bear fruit for death.b 6But now we are released from the law, dead to what held us captive, so that we may serve in the newness of the spirit and not under the obsolete letter.c
Acquaintance with Sin through the Law. 7* What then can we say? That the law is sin? Of course not!* Yet I did not know sin except through the law, and I did not know what it is to covet except that the law said, “You shall not covet.”d 8But sin, finding an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetousness. Apart from the law sin is dead.e 9I once lived outside the law, but when the commandment came, sin became alive; 10then I died, and the commandment that was for life turned out to be death for me.f 11For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it put me to death.g 12So then the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.h
Sin and Death.* 13Did the good, then, become death for me? Of course not! Sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin, worked death in me through the good, so that sin might become sinful beyond measure through the commandment.i 14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold into slavery to sin.j 15What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I concur that the law is good. 17So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.k 19For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. 20Now if [I] do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand. 22For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, 23l but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.* 24Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, I myself, with my mind, serve the law of God but, with my flesh, the law of sin.m
* [7:1–6] Paul reflects on the fact that Christians have a different understanding of the law because of their faith in Christ. Law binds the living, not the dead, as exemplified in marriage, which binds in life but is dissolved through death. Similarly, Christians who through baptism have died with Christ to sin (cf. Rom 6:2–4) are freed from the law that occasioned transgressions, which in turn were productive of death. Now that Christians are joined to Christ, the power of Christ’s resurrection makes it possible for them to bear the fruit of newness of life for God.
* [7:7–25] In this passage Paul uses the first person singular in the style of diatribe for the sake of argument. He aims to depict the disastrous consequences when a Christian reintroduces the law as a means to attain the objective of holiness pronounced in Rom 6:22.
* [7:7–12] The apostle defends himself against the charge of identifying the law with sin. Sin does not exist in law but in human beings, whose sinful inclinations are not overcome by the proclamation of law.
* [7:13–25] Far from improving the sinner, law encourages sin to expose itself in transgressions or violations of specific commandments (see Rom 1:24; 5:20). Thus persons who do not experience the justifying grace of God, and Christians who revert to dependence on law as the criterion for their relationship with God, will recognize a rift between their reasoned desire for the goodness of the law and their actual performance that is contrary to the law. Unable to free themselves from the slavery of sin and the power of death, they can only be rescued from defeat in the conflict by the power of God’s grace working through Jesus Christ.