“So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.” (Romans 7:12-13)
Although the believer has died to sin, it continues to exert a strong influence. This is why we must fight against temptations and the allurements of the world. Unsaved people and nominal Christians may struggle superficially and briefly with sin but consistently succumb without guilt or shame. Paul depicts here in graphic terms his own personal struggle to be righteous. He recounted this conflict for it reflected the conflicts that the legalistic believers at Rome endured as they tried to follow the Law to attain salvation and right standing before God. Their relationship with God was based on fear, obedience and rule-keeping, not love, mercy and grace.
Those who try to maintain a relationship with God, to achieve salvation or earn grace by doing works of the Mosaic Law or the moral laws written in the Scriptures, will never achieve any peace by this means. Instead they will wallow in misery, hatred and self-loathing. This is because they interpret the written word, the letter of the word rigidly. As Paul says, it condemns. Legalists use the word to condemn others while at the same time it condemns them as well. Following the works of the law cannot save anyone. These laws may be helpful in showing us what is right and wrong, but the main purpose they have is to show us our sin and our total impotence in overcoming it. The law also leads us to depend on Christ and His grace for all things including the ability to obey as His spirit leads us. The Spirit is the one who writes the Law of God on our hearts, the law of love and mercy and grace. Let us think about the ways we follow the letter of the law too rigidly in our own lives and apply it to the lives of others. There should be a desire in us to show mercy and forgiveness for those who live as enemies of God. But we should never tolerate or excuse sin in ourselves or others.