Paul said, “Once I was alive apart from law, but when law came, sin sprang to life, and I died.” He also talks about being dead to the law, dead to sin, and “You died, and your life is hid with God in Christ..” Then there is the natural death of the body, and also “The second death”, the final spiritual death.
So Paul was, as an innocent, alive because He knew no guilt. Then law brought knowledge of right and wrong, and declared him guilty. So He then also recognised himself as guilty, and experienced inner judgement which effectively rendered him as a dead person. He “died inside”, and this inner death held him captive to his guilt.
Guilty [dead] people cannot perform properly. People without Jesus cannot perform properly. [without me you can do nothing]
As a “dead” person, Paul had to become alive again, and the only way this can be done is through Jesus’ death. In order to be participant in Jesus’ death, Paul had to “die with him”, and this is simulated in baptism. The death that the law had declared to be his due lot, was now accomplished through Jesus having taken it and Paul acknowledging the truth and reality of it.
Paul “died to the law” through the body of Jesus. The ‘death of death’ and the removal of guilt now having taken place, Paul is free to rise to life with Jesus. So “as a child” he was alive, then he died because of sin and law, then being “dead” he died in sin and died to the law. Then risen with Jesus he lived as one who was now dead to the law of sin and death. [And those who do not do this, die the second death]. Paul then died the natural death of the body. [The law is negated by God’s love which/who forgives (consumes, absorbs) sin]
Paul had life in his innocence before being made aware of his guilt. He again became innocent, like a child, free of guilt, as new birth became his reality. He once was subject to the law of cause and effect, but Jesus took the effects, and gave him new “cause”. Death occurs because we are flesh, life occurs because we deny our fleshly origin and accept Him as the life giver and the one who has already given life and become Spirit of life in order to to enable our life.
Paul in Romans 7 is one who has been slain by the law by revealing sin in the flesh, which is our body and basic human nature. And he has no answer to his internalised death, which controls him and neutralises his desire to be a part of the righteousness of which the law speaks. He is speaking completely in context of law, which is why he is able to examine his own basic fleshly nature and how it reacts when under the provocation of law. Once he becomes Christian his problem is solved , but this never occurs in the narrative because it is hypothetical, Paul already being a Christian while he is doing this teaching about the law.
If we see Chapter 8 as a continuation, we then get the whole narrative as it began in CH.6, how those in Christ are no longer under this condemnation, condemnation by the law of sin guilt and death, which subject Paul particularly investigated in CH.7.
Man can never become alive under law, because law reveals our death from which, other than through Jesus, there is no escape. He brings in the law of life, of forgiveness, of the elimination of sin by the power and influence of His Spirit of Love. Mercy has overcome judgement. Righteousness overpowers unrighteousness. Christ reigns.
The reality now is that death is dead, and non belief in regard to this is contrary to God, though still it may be present in man. Let God be true, though every man a liar.