Brothers and sisters, all of you understand the law of Moses. So surely you know that the law rules over people only while they are alive.
For example, a woman must stay married to her husband as long as he is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from the law of marriage.
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 free from the law of marriage. Then if she marries another man, she is not guilty of adultery.
In the same way, my brothers and sisters, your old selves died, and you became free from the law through the body of Christ. This happened so that you might belong to someone else -- the One who was raised from the dead -- and so that we might be used in service to God.
In the past, we were ruled by our sinful selves. The law made us want to do sinful things that controlled our bodies, so the things we did were bringing us death.
In the past, the law held us like prisoners, but our old selves died, and we were made free from the law. So now we serve God in a new way with the Spirit, and not in the old way with written rules.
You might think I am saying that sin and the law are the same thing. That is not true. But the law was the only way I could learn what sin meant. I would never have known what it means to want to take something belonging to someone else if the law had not said, "You must not want to take your neighbor's things."
And sin found a way to use that command and cause me to want all kinds of things I should not want. But without the law, sin has no power.
I was alive before I knew the law. But when the law's command came to me, then sin began to live,
and I died. The command was meant to bring life, but for me it brought death.
Sin found a way to fool me by using the command to make me die.
So the law is holy, and the command is holy and right and good.
Does this mean that something that is good brought death to me? No! Sin used something that is good to bring death to me. This happened so that I could see what sin is really like; the command was used to show that sin is very evil.
We know that the law is spiritual, but I am not spiritual since sin rules me as if I were its slave.
I do not understand the things I do. I do not do what I want to do, and I do the things I hate.
And if I do not want to do the hated things I do, that means I agree that the law is good.
But I am not really the one who is doing these hated things; it is sin living in me that does them.
Yes, I know that nothing good lives in me -- I mean nothing good lives in the part of me that is earthly and sinful. I want to do the things that are good, but I do not do them.
I do not do the good things I want to do, but I do the bad things I do not want to do.
So if I do things I do not want to do, then I am not the one doing them. It is sin living in me that does those things.
So I have learned this rule: When I want to do good, evil is there with me.
In my mind, I am happy with God's law.
But I see another law working in my body, which makes war against the law that my mind accepts. That other law working in my body is the law of sin, and it makes me its prisoner.
What a miserable man I am! Who will save me from this body that brings me death?
I thank God for saving me 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.