1 Or, do you not know, brothers, (I am talking to people who know how law works) that the law has authority over a person only as long as he lives? [Note: It is not clear whether this refers to Roman law or the law of Moses]. 2 For a married woman is legally bound to her husband for as long as he lives. But, when he dies, she is released from the marriage contract. 3 So, if she lives with another man while her husband is still alive, she will be called an adulteress [i.e., a person who is sexually unfaithful to their mate]. But if her husband dies, she is legally free to marry another man without committing adultery.
4 Therefore, my brothers, you also died to the law [i.e., were released from its binding requirements] through the body of Christ [Note: This seems to refer to Christ's death on the cross, but some think it refers to becoming a part of the church], so that you could belong to someone else, [namely] to Christ, who was raised from the dead in order that we might live spiritually productive lives for God. 5 For when we were in the flesh [i.e., before conversion], our sinful desires, aroused by [the restrictions of] the law of Moses, worked in our bodies to produce activity that led to [spiritual] death. 6 But now that we have died to what controlled us and have been released from [the requirements of] the law of Moses [i.e., under the Gospel age], we serve [God] in a new way [directed] by the Holy Spirit [Note: Some take "Spirit" here to be "spirit" and see it as describing the inner person], and not in the old way [directed] by the written law of Moses.
7 What shall we say then? Is the law of Moses sinful? Certainly not! For I would not have known what sin was if it had not been for the law. For [example]; I would not have known [what it meant] to covet [i.e., have a strong desire for what belongs to someone else] except that the law said [Ex. 20:17], "You must not covet." 8 So, through that commandment, sin found an opportunity to produce in my heart all kinds of improper desires for what belonged to others. For until there was the law, sin was dead [i.e., it did not stimulate excitement and activity as much]. 9 And I was [once] alive before being aware of the law [i.e., complacent and without a sense of guilt]; but when [awareness of] the commandment [not to sin] came, sin sprang to life, 10 and I died [i.e., came under its power]. And [so] the commandment, which was [intended] to bring [spiritual] life, actually brought [spiritual] death. 11 For by means of God's commandment [against sinning], sin found an opportunity to deceive me and [even] kill me [spiritually]. 12 So, the law of Moses itself is holy and the commandment [against sinning] is holy and just and good.
13 Was this [commandment] then, which was intended for my good, [actually] responsible for my [spiritual] death? Certainly not! But so that sin could be seen as [truly] sinful, it produced [spiritual] death in me through something that was good [i.e., the commandment against sinning]. This was so that, by means of the commandment [against sinning], sin could be seen as extremely sinful. 14 For we know that the law of Moses is spiritual [i.e., from the Holy Spirit in origin and character], but I am fleshly, sold as a slave to sin. [Note: "Flesh" throughout this section refers to a person's natural inclinations to sin]. 15 For I do not [really] understand what I am doing; I practice what I do not want to and I hate what I do. [Note: This highly controversial section (verses 14b-25) is here viewed as the struggles of the apostle Paul after his conversion, and by extension, of all Christians. See Bruce, pages 150ff; Murray, pages 255ff; Lard, pages 236ff]. 16 But if I do what I do not want to, I agree with the law [which condemns such conduct] that it is good. 17 So, now I am not [really] the one doing this, but [it is] sin which is living in me. 18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh, for the desire to do good is present in my heart, but the ability to carry it out [consistently] is not. 19 For I do not do the good [things] I want to, but I practice the evil [things] I do not want to. 20 But if I do what I do not want to, [then] I am no longer the one doing it, but [instead], it is sin which lives in me [i.e., that motivates such conduct]. 21 So, I find this principle [at work]: [Although] I want to do what is good, evil is [always] present [and often wins out]. 22 For in my heart I am delighted with God's law, 23 but I see a different law [at work] in my body, waging [spiritual] warfare against the law in my mind. It brings me into captivity to the law of sin in my body. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body doomed to [spiritual] death? 25 Thank God [that I can be rescued] through [the power of] Jesus Christ our Lord. So then, I personally [try to] serve God's law with my mind, but [all too often] I serve the law of sin with my flesh [i.e., submitting in weakness to my human desires].