Verses 1-3 compares our relationship with law to a marriage, in that when the husband DIES, the wife is free to join with another.
4 Says that WE were MADE TO DIE to the Law through the body of Christ, for the PURPOSE of being joined to Him who was then raised from the dead, so that with Him, we might bear fruit for God. So God’s action in Jesus effectively renders us initially dead with Him. Since He died FOR us, His death in/to the law is also OUR death in/to the law.
5 “For while we were in the flesh”. This means that while we were existent in and of our natural human bodies, married to the law, “the sinful passions which were AROUSED BY THE LAW were at work in us to bear the fruit of death.
6 But now we have been RELEASED from the law, HAVING DIED By/with Christ, having died to that covenant/marriage law that bound us, we do serve in newness of Spirit and not in oldness of letter (of law). [the law having been satisfied in the body of Christ the Son of God, all who agree with Him in this regard are joined with Him in judgement on the now deadness of sin].
Now I think I always denied the word Spirit occurred in this passage, yet there it is! But it is plain that Paul is speaking to Christians, [in verse 6*] as is evident in chapter 6, he is summarising. But he starts the discourse in Ch7 off with “I write to those who know the law”. The subject matter is that of Law and how it interacts with human nature. He is explaining why the law “had to go”. It is a before and after situation; V5 “while we were in the flesh” (we sinned) and then V6 ‘But now we have undergone this change, this release from bondage to law, we (are free to) serve in newness of (the?) Spirit’.
So V5 is before change and V6 is after change. But then he continues with the BEFORE explanation in V7. The law is not in itself sin, but it brings awareness of sin.
V7,8,9 Apart from law, sin has no power, but the commandment killed me because of the action of the serpentine mind [flesh]. [but this is a past ‘before change’ issue][he is dead].
V13 Did that which is good kill me? Well yes, [no] but only because it stirred up sin within. The law was good, the sin and the internal mechanism that produced it was not .
V14 now shifts to present tense, and this is why people think it means Paul is explaining (and excusing) his poor behaviour in this chapter. What he is saying though, is (using himself as an example) that there lies within every man this principle that subjection to law empowers the flesh, because it stirs up the ‘self protection mechanism’ within, it provokes the ego or that sense of separate identity that was created when Adam left God. It arises from a sense of vulnerability and thus fear of death. (judgement). It is called “The Wrath of God”.
Paul makes the distinction that the law is spiritual, but he (and we) are of flesh (human creatures) and SOLD into BONDAGE TO SIN. [The bondage out of which Jesus buys us back with His blood].
V15 FOR THAT WHICH I AM DOING. Here lies a problem. Is it possible to decide how this passage should be rendered? Other versions have it as “THAT WHICH I DO”.
“For that which I do [if under law] I do not understand, I do not do what I want to do, but that which I hate.” Paul here is admitting he has no inherent power to do good, because his flesh is in power [through law] and controls him. He is a slave to his flesh or natural human nature.
V16 But if I do what I don’t want to, I am in agreeance with the law. This shows he is as one operating under the law, as one who understands the law, not as some idle bystander.
V17 So it is not me doing it, it is sin which indwells me. [the law actually gives sin its power]
V18 Nothing good lies in my natural human nature. For the wishing is there, but the doing is not.
V19 For the good I would do I do not, rather it is the evil I would not do that results.
V20 But if I do the very thing I do not wish, it is not me doing it but sin that dwells in me. [sin is empowered].
V21 I find within me then, the principle [a law] that evil is in me, the one who wants to do good.
V22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God [with His righteousness] in the inner man.
V23 But there is a different law within me, in my natural inclinations, which makes war against the ‘law’ my mind would establish [in agreeance with the law] and instead takes me prisoner to the law of sin which is in my bodily nature.
V24 “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” He already knows the answer, the whole discourse being hypothetical, even though it reveals the inner truth of human nature of which Paul also is a part.
V25 is the triumphal interjection “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” [there is an answer!] And then He sums up what he has just explained in all the above by concluding: So then, we have discovered that on the one hand, I by myself, of myself, my mind aligns itself with the law of God, but on the other hand my flesh serves the law of sin. [his mind may be said to serve the law of God, but he as a person is in captivity, in bondage, to the law of sin, he does the will of sin, not his own will or the will of God]
This is what he has discovered is the situation for a person with some conscience of right and wrong [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil]. And the natural way is that the fruit of this knowledge will be bad.
If you now impose law upon the person, they will be enslaved to sin. If you now bring grace into the situation, they will be freed from the power of the flesh. “For the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God…who gives us the victory…”
From the last verse of chapter 7, we enter into the first verse of chapter 8. “There is now therefore no condemnation for Christians, BECAUSE the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death”. Note that the law of sin and death is enabled, is pronounced, by the law itself.
[Paul demonstrates that under law he has no free will, that his will is in captivity to sin, as he explained in chapter 6. 7 is explaining what captivity to sin under law is and how and why it works, 8 is the release from this captivity.]