a. Dead to the law (7:1-6)
In 6:14 Paul declares, “For sin shall not be your master [kurieuō], because you are not under law, but under grace.” And in 6:15-23 Paul answers a question that can be easily raised by this statement. “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” (6:15). The paragraph before us now explain the declaration of 6:14. V. 1 states, The law has authority over [kurieuō] a man. Here Paul intentionally uses the same Greek word occurring in 6:14 (kurieuō) to indicate the parallel thoughts. There are several parallels between 6:15-23 and 7:1-6. The former deals with freedom from sin, the latter, freedom from the law. Ro 7:1-4 corresponds to 6:16-19, and 7:5-6 to 6:21-23.
In 7:1 Paul appeals to knowledge of the law. (In the early church, even gentile Christians had a good knowledge of the OT [cf. Gal 4:21].) It is true that only Jews had the law. So only they could die to the law. However, the death of Jews to the law does affect Gentiles. Christ redeemed Jews from the law so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come upon Gentiles (Gal 3:13-14). Therefore, Paul includes all Christians when he talks about death to the law.
Paul uses the analogy of marriage to demonstrate our freedom from the law. In marriage, when there is a death, the surviving partner is no longer bound to the marriage and is free to marry another. So Paul says, the death of believers sets them free from the law, to be married to Christ.
Christ Jesus was born under the law (Gal 4:4). When he died on the cross, he died to the law as well. The law lost jurisdiction over him. By his death he abolished the law (Eph 2:15; Col 2:14). Through the body of Christ, that is, being united with Christ in his death (Notes, 378), we died to the law, so that we might be married to Christ in order to bear fruit to God. Here Paul designates Christ Jesus as the one who was raised from the dead (v. 4) to emphasize his death and resurrection. This signifies the coming of the new age. So we have been redeemed from under the law (Gal 4:4-5). Our redemption from under the law and our union with Christ are two sides of the same event. Our marriage to Christ is to bear fruit to God (v. 4).
In contrast v. 5 describes how we used to bear fruit to death. When we were living in the flesh (en tē sarki; niv controlled by the sinful nature; niv note “the flesh”; rsv, nasb “in the flesh”), the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies to bear fruit for death. The past tense were indicates that we are no longer living in this condition. This condition is not normative for the Christian.
In 7:7-13 Paul describes in greater detail how sin takes the opportunity afforded by the commandment to produce in us the desires that lead to sin. Paul describes a person's moral struggle in 7:14-23. He or she wants to follow the law and does not want to do evil. But the action inevitably is the opposite of this desire. Finally, he or she cries out, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (7:24). Paul summarizes this condition by saying “tē sarki [niv ‘in the sinful nature’; rsv, nasb ‘with my flesh’] [I am] a slave to the law of sin” (7:25). The same Greek word, sarx, is used both in 7:5 and 7:25 to describe the condition of 7:5 and 7:7-25. This is another evidence that 7:5 is further elaborated in 7:7-25.
V. 6 reports our emancipation from the law. Dying to what once bound us refers back to 7:2-3. We died to and are released from our first husband, the law. Now we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code (gramma, lit. “letter”). This concept occurs also in 2Co 3:6. There the Spirit has to do with the new covenant, which came by Christ Jesus, and the letter (gramma) refers to the old covenant represented by the Mosaic Law. The expression written code (gramma, or “letter”) emphasizes the powerlessness of the Mosaic Law. This is elaborated on in 8:1-17. The law is weak and powerless (8:3), but the new covenant is empowered by the Spirit and is powerful and productive.