An Example From Marriage
7 Brothers and sisters, you all understand the Law of Moses. So surely you know that the law rules over people only while they are alive. 2 It’s like what the law says about marriage: A woman must stay married to her husband as long as he is alive. But if her husband dies, she is made free from the law of marriage. 3 But if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, the law says she is guilty of adultery. But if her husband dies, she is made free from the law of marriage. So if she marries another man after her husband dies, she is not guilty of adultery.
4 In the same way, my brothers and sisters, your old selves died and you became free from the law through the body of Christ. Now you belong to someone else. You belong to the one who was raised from death. We belong to Christ so that we can be used in service to God. 5 In the past we were ruled by our sinful selves. The law made us want to do sinful things. And those sinful desires controlled our bodies, so that what we did only brought us spiritual death. 6 In the past the law held us as prisoners, but our old selves died, and we were made free from the law. So now we serve God in a new way, not in the old way, with the written rules. Now we serve God in the new way, with the Spirit.
Our Fight Against Sin
7 You might think I am saying that sin and the law are the same. That is not true. But the law was the only way I could learn what sin means. I would never have known it is wrong to want something that is not mine. But the law said, “You must not want what belongs to someone else.”[a] 8 And sin found a way to use that command and make me want all kinds of things that weren’t mine. So sin came to me because of the command. But without the law, sin has no power. 9 Before I knew the law, I was alive. But when I heard the law’s command, sin began to live, 10 and I died spiritually. The command was meant to bring life, but for me it brought death. 11 Sin found a way to fool me by using the command to make me die.
12 Now the law is holy, and the command is holy and right and good. 13 Does this mean that something that is good brought death to me? No, it was sin that used the good command to bring me death. This shows how terrible sin really is. It can use a good command to produce a result that shows sin at its very worst.
The War Inside Us
14 We know that the law is spiritual, but I am not. I am so human. Sin rules me as if I were its slave. 15 I don’t understand why I act the way I do. I don’t do the good I want to do, and I do the evil I hate. 16 And if I don’t want to do what I do, that means I agree that the law is good. 17 But I am not really the one doing the evil. It is sin living in me that does it. 18 Yes, I know that nothing good lives in me—I mean nothing good lives in the part of me that is not spiritual. I want to do what is good, but I don’t do it. 19 I don’t do the good that I want to do. I do the evil that I don’t want to do. 20 So if I do what I don’t want to do, then I am not really the one doing it. It is the sin living in me that does it.
21 So I have learned this rule: When I want to do good, evil is there with me. 22 In my mind I am happy with God’s law. 23 But I see another law working in my body. That law makes war against the law that my mind accepts. That other law working in my body is the law of sin, and that law makes me its prisoner. 24 What a miserable person I am! Who will save me from this body that brings me death? 25 I thank God for his salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So in my mind I am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful self I am a slave to the law of sin.