I was alive ·before I knew [or before I recognized the demands of; L apart from] the law [C Paul thought he was righteous; see Phil. 3:6]. But when the law’s command ·came to me [or came to my attention; L came], then sin ·began to live [sprang to life], and I died [C the law revealed Paul’s sinfulness and confirmed he was spiritually dead].
But the sin in me, finding in the commandment an opportunity to express itself, stimulated all my covetous desires. For sin, in the absence of the Law, has no chance to function technically as “sin”. As long, then, as I was without the Law I was, spiritually speaking, alive. But when the commandment arrived, sin sprang to life and I “died”. The commandment, which was meant to be a direction to life, I found was a sentence to death. The commandment gave sin an opportunity, and without my realising what was happening, it “killed” me.
Don’t you remember how it was? I do, perfectly well. The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of “forbidden fruit” out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it. The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead. But the law code itself is God’s good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel.
I once lived without a clear understanding of the law, but when I heard God’s commandments, sin sprang to life and brought with it a death sentence. The commandment that was intended to bring life brought me death instead.
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