But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.Romans 7:8-9 NIV
This seventh chapter of Romans is one that many find confusing. In it, Paul talks about the relationship between the law and sin. That sin is dead apart from the law. But when the law came, sin sprang to life. And as a result, I died. But the law is holy and good. It shows sin for what it really is. And it demonstrates that I am a slave to sin—something I would not have recognized apart from the law.
The third chapter of Genesis illustrates what Paul is talking about here. God had created Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden. Life was good. But a commandment had been given. Do not eat the fruit of one tree in the middle of the garden. And with that commandment, the serpent saw his chance. The serpent came to the woman and deceived her, convincing her that the commandment God had given was holding her back rather than being for her good. As a result, her desires were aroused, she ate from the tree, gave some to her husband, and they were exiled from the garden and the presence of God.
The commandment God gave them did not cause them to sin. But it did reveal what was inside them. And that is just as true today. The law does not make us sinners. But it reveals the ugliness that lies within each of us. The law demonstrates to us our need for a savior. Someone who can deliver us from our bondage to sin. And, as Paul goes on to say, that savior is Jesus. Only he can deliver us from sin and death.