Continuing on with Paul illustration of the Law being a husband, it is an impotent husband—
“If a Law had been given which could confer spiritual life, then righteousness with God would certainly have come by Law. (Galatians 3:21) But it couldn’t!
If the law could have said, “Don’t do such and such,” and could then imparted life—Zoë, and given us the power to live it, then yes, righteousness could be by the law. But it couldn’t—it just condemned us!
We died to the law and married Jesus in order to bear fruit for God.
But I can hear you say, “Now if the law was as bad as all that, it’s no better than sin itself.” No, you silly goose. The law had a perfectly legitimate function. Without its clear guidelines for right and wrong, moral behavior would be mostly guesswork. Apart from the succinct, surgical command, “You shall not covet,” I could have dressed covetousness up to look like a virtue and ruined my life with it. That’s what Paul is saying:
“Nevertheless, if it had not been for the Law, I should not have recognized sin or have known its meaning. For instance, I would have had no consciousness of sin or sense of guilt if the Law had not repeatedly said, You shall not covet and have an evil desire for one thing and another.” (Romans 7:7)
The law does not fix the sin—it reveals it.
But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment to express itself, got a hold on me and aroused and stimulated all kinds of forbidden desires (lust, covetousness). For without the Law sin is dead.
Once I was alive, but quite apart from and unconscious of the Law. But when the commandment came, sin lived again and I was sentenced by the Law to death.
And the very legal ordinance which was designed and intended to bring life actually proved to mean to me death.
For sin, seizing the opportunity and getting a hold on me by taking its incentive from the commandment, beguiled and entrapped and cheated me, and used it as a weapon and killed me.
“The Law therefore is holy, and each commandment is holy and just and good” (Romans 7:8-12)
Think about it. Don’t you remember what it was like before you came to Jesus? The Law started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, and made it a piece of “forbidden fruit.”
“The Law, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the Law, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it. However, once sin got its hands on the Law and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it. The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead. But the law code itself is God’s good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel” (Phillips Translation)
“Did that which is good then prove fatal—bringing death to me? Certainly not! It was sin, working death in me by using this good thing as a weapon, in order that through the commandment, sin might be shown up clearly to be sin, that the extreme malignity and immeasurable sinfulness of sin might plainly appear”(Romans 7:13)
Every one knows and has experienced, even before we became Christians, that certain aspects of our natural life—the Adamic life, the flesh—are bad because they get us into trouble. We know that selfishness is bad. We know that sexual misadventure is bad. We know that stealing and lying are bad. We think that we understand what the flesh is, and what God means when he talks to us about these bad things in our lives. Our first reaction is to stop lying and stealing and doing other outward things.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome