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The role of the law

1YOU must be aware, my friends -- I am sure you have some knowledge of law -- that a person is subject to the law only so long as he is alive.

2For example, a married woman is by law bound to her husband while he lives; but if the husband dies, she is released from the marriage bond.

3If, therefore, in her husband's lifetime she gives herself to another man, she will be held to be an adulteress; but if the husband dies, she is free of the law and she does not commit adultery by giving herself to another man.

4So too, my friends, through the body of Christ you died to the law and were set free to give yourselves to another, to him who rose from the dead so that we may bear fruit for God.

5While we lived on the level of mere human nature, the sinful passions evoked by the law were active in our bodies, and bore fruit for death.

6But now, having died to that which held us bound, we are released from the law, to serve God in a new way, the way of the spirit in contrast to the old way of a written code.

7What follows? Is the law identical with sin? Of course not! Yet had it not been for the law I should never have become acquainted with sin. For example, I should never have known what it was to covet, if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

8Through that commandment sin found its opportunity, and produced in me all kinds of wrong desires. In the absence of law, sin is devoid of life.

9There was a time when, in the absence of law, I was fully alive; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.

10The commandment which should have led to life proved in my experience to lead to death,

11because in the commandment sin found its opportunity to seduce me, and through the commandment killed me.

12So then, the law in itself is holy and the commandment is holy and just and good.

13Are we therefore to say that this good thing caused my death? Of course not! It was sin that killed me, and thereby sin exposed its true character: it used a good thing to bring about my death, and so, through the commandment, sin became more sinful than ever.

14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am not: I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

15I do not even acknowledge my own actions as mine, for what I do is not what I want to do, but what I detest.

16But if what I do is against my will, then clearly I agree with the law and hold it to be admirable.

17This means that it is no longer I who perform the action, but sin that dwells in me.

18For I know that nothing good dwells in me -- my unspiritual self, I mean -- for though the will to do good is there, the ability to effect it is not.

19The good which I want to do, I fail to do; but what I do is the wrong which is against my will;

20and if what I do is against my will, clearly it is no longer I who am the agent, but sin that has its dwelling in me.

21I discover this principle, then: that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.

22In my inmost self I delight in the law of God,

23but I perceive in my outward actions a different law, fighting against the law that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.

24Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?

25Who but God? Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord! To sum up then: left to myself I serve God's law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

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