Paul assures the Christian that there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. . . For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:1-2, NKJV). If we read these verses apart from their immediate context, it would appear that Paul was referring to two opposing laws: the law of life and the law of sin and death. However, the difference is not with the law but with the individual before and after he or she receives Christ.
In what ways does Paul’s discussion in Romans 7:7-13 illustrate the role of the law?
The function of the law depends on the person with whom it is associated. The same knife, for instance, can be used by a surgeon to heal or by a murderer to kill. In the same way, a thief who breaks a law to steal someone’s purse will stand in a different relationship to the law than will the one whom the law was meant to protect (the owner of the purse). The law itself may sometimes be described as holy and righteous and good (Rom. 7:12, NASB), or as the law of sin and of death (Rom. 8:2, NASB). However, in the same way that God’s retributive vengeance does not stop Him from being a God of love, the law’s function as an agent of sin and death does not make it sinful.
According to Romans 8:5-8, the law is an instrument of sin and death for those who set their minds on the things of the flesh (Rom. 8:5, NASB). This describes the person who is still married to the old self and has no apparent desire to sever the relationship and be joined to the resurrected Christ. As a result of the sinful union, the person finds himself at enmity with God and His law since they are on opposing sides (Rom. 8:7).
Paul then emphasizes that it is impossible for the mind set on the flesh to submit to God’s law, or even to please Him (Rom. 8:7-8, NASB). This is obviously not a reference to the struggling individual of Romans 7:13-25, since that person serves the law of God with my mind (Rom. 7:25, NASB). Paul is probably referring to those who by their wickedness suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18, NASB). It is for these rebels against God’s sovereignty that the law becomes an instrument of sin and death (Rom. 2:12).
How do you relate to the law when you violate it?