Let’s read Romans 7:7-13 from the New King James Version: “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I WOULD NOT HAVE KNOWN SIN EXCEPT THROUGH THE LAW. For I would not have known COVETOUSNESS unless the law had said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COVET.’ But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I WAS ALIVE ONCE WITHOUT THE LAW, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment deceived me, and BY IT KILLED ME. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin was PRODUCING DEATH in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.”

In this passage the Apostle Paul is giving his own personal testimony before he was saved. He is informing us that God used “the Law” (the “Ten Commandments”) to reveal to him his sin and that he was “dead in trespasses and sins” (see Ephesians 2:1) and worthy of death (Romans 6:23). Before the Law did its convicting work in Paul’s heart he truly thought he was righteous and spiritually alive in God’s sight. This is borne out in verse 9, “I was alive once without the law.” This corresponds with Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3:4-6 where he lists all the good things that were true of him and that he trusted in to be righteous before God. The last thing he mentions in that list is especially pertinent, “concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” Paul truly believed he was keeping the Law to the best of his ability and that no one could point out any sin in his life that would condemn him.

But at some point Paul’s attitude radically changed, for the day came when one of God’s commandments came home to his conscience and convicted him of sin. It was the Tenth Commandment, “You shall not covet.” From that point on Paul’s mind was constantly coveting (i.e. desiring) things that didn’t belong to him. Verse 8 speaks to this, “But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, PRODUCED IN ME ALL MANNER OF EVIL DESIRE.” Though Paul thought of himself as “outwardly blameless”; he now realized that his “inward thought life was sinful and corrupt.” The verse goes on to say, “For apart from the law SIN WAS DEAD.” Paul thought his sinful nature was lying dormant, but once the Law did its work of revealing sin to Paul he could say, “Sin revived and I died” (verse 9).

In verses 10-13 Paul brings his testimony (of being convicted of sin and death) to its conclusion. He had thought, like many pious Jews, that the Law was given to man to PRODUCE LIFE (see Leviticus 18:5), but instead he came to see that the Law BROUGHT DEATH to the sinner. “And the commandment, WHICH WAS TO BRING LIFE, I FOUND TO BRING DEATH. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me and BY IT KILLED ME” (verses 10-11). Notice, it wasn’t the COMMANDMENT that killed Paul, but SIN. Yet it was the Law (which said, “You shall not covet”) that stirred up the sinful nature in Paul and caused him to COVET. When Paul realized how sinful he really was he saw he was indeed “dead in trespasses and sins”; he was spiritually dead towards God. It should be pointed out that he was spiritually dead all along (from the moment he was born), for we read in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” But the revelation of Paul’s sin and spiritual death came when the Law convicted him. “But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.”  (377.1)  (DO)