Paul makes what seems to be an odd comparison with the law of God and the laws of marriage. Again, there is a logic to Paul’s thinking that is different than how we would think or make a comparison.
He starts off writing about how a woman is bound by the law to remain chaste with other men because of the laws of marriage, but when her husband dies, she is free to be courted by another man. While she is married, she is bound by the laws of marriage to remain faithful, but when ‘death do us part’ comes along, as is implicated in the vows of marriage, the law is no longer imposed on her. (So her husband is now dead to her, for he in fact is dead physically) In a similar way, when we die to sin, sin becomes dead to us. Since sin is now dead and we no longer have to obey the laws of sin, we are now free to live for God. When we are baptized, that is the moment in our lives when we are supposed to live our life for Jesus. The old life of sin is symbolized in the husband that died and Jesus is the new husband for whom we are now living. This is what is supposed to happen, but many times we want the old husband back, preferring the one who is bad for us and forsaking the good husband who is Jesus. Sin should be dead to us, not even a desire.
Therefore, if sin is dead to us, we are not even thinking about the law; it just becomes natural for us to avoid what offends God and do the good He desires. For example: If you have no desire to speed, then speeding is the last thing you would think of doing. You hardly think of it as a law, it is just the way things are. You do not worry about where the police officer is and you do not get nervous when he/she is around. This is the ideal that God wants of us because it is good for us, just like not speeding is good for us. Something I need to learn yet!
Verses seven through twelve get more confusing, but Paul is continuing his logic. The law makes us aware of the offenses we commit. Once we realize the offenses we do, we may be able to change our behavior right away with God’s grace. But to change our desires may be something that can take some time. We still may covet what God does not want us to do. I have to do what they call “die to myself.” That is what is meant when Paul says in verse 10, “then I died, and the commandment that was for life turned out to be death for me.” To die to yourself means to no longer do your own will; it means to do only God’s will. This is really hard to do, but it is what God wants us to do.
If we realize the commandment of God is good for us, sin becomes dead. An example of this is when we see sin as a ‘good’ before, and then learn the evil it does. We realize then that the sin is evil and no longer have a desire for it. If a person is stealing, they may see it as a good, so they can get more stuff. But when they realize the danger it puts them in. They may start to realize that their family may be put in jeopardy because of this sin. And in turn they may see the damage done to friendships and that the trust others have for them is damaged. They will find it harder to keep or even get a job. Once they experience the evils in the actions, they will never even be tempted to commit the sin, because they understand how bad it is to commit this sin and the consequences it has in their lives. That sin now becomes dead to them. Even repulsive.
This is where we can see that the law is something that leads us to holiness. It teaches us to be more like God and to follow His ways. Therefore, the law is holy, righteous and good (v12). In the process of being purified of our own will and desires, it will feel like the law is constricting, but if we are open to God’s grace, we can realize it is life giving. It will feel like death, but in the long term, will give life. Do you trust that God’s will for you will give life, even when it means dying to yourself? Are you willing to give up the old husband of sin and go with the new husband who is love itself?