The Law and Sin
What should we say then? That the law is sinful? Not at all! Yet I wouldn’t have known what sin was unless the law had told me. The law says, “Do not want what belongs to other people.” (Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21) If the law hadn’t said that, I would not have known what it was like to want what belongs to others. But the commandment gave sin an opportunity. Sin caused me to want all kinds of things that belong to others. A person can’t sin by breaking a law if that law doesn’t exist. Before I knew about the law, I was alive. But then the commandment came. Sin came to life, and I died. I found that the commandment that was supposed to bring life actually brought death. When the commandment gave sin the opportunity, sin tricked me. It used the commandment to put me to death. So the law is holy. The commandment also is holy and right and good.
Did what is good cause me to die? Not at all! Sin had to be recognized for what it really is. So it used what is good to bring about my death. Because of the commandment, sin became totally sinful.
We know that the law is holy. But I am not. I have been sold to be a slave of sin. I don’t understand what I do. I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do what I hate to do. I do what I don’t want to do. So I agree that the law is good. As it is, I am no longer the one who does these things. It is sin living in me that does them. I know there is nothing good in my desires controlled by sin. I want to do what is good, but I can’t. I don’t do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don’t want to do. I do what I don’t want to do. But I am not really the one who is doing it. It is sin living in me that does it.
Here is the law I find working in me. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. Deep inside me I find joy in God’s law. But I see another law working in me. It fights against the law of my mind. It makes me a prisoner of the law of sin. That law controls me. What a terrible failure I am! Who will save me from this sin that brings death to my body? I give thanks to God who saves me. He saves me through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So in my mind I am a slave to God’s law. But sin controls my desires. So I am a slave to the law of sin.