This passage comes up OFTEN in various conversations around here. I have posted on this many times but because of typing as opposed to speaking... I can really only say so much via this medium. However, a friend of mine has a very good teaching on this via MP3. It can be downloaded here. Right click and save to your computer if you want to listen to it later... worth the save and listening to a couple of times. Here is a link to his site and he has a lot of interesting stuff on there... for doctrine issues and those that enjoy simple End Times stuff.
I want to discuss this after you read and here is what I have said on this matter.
Romans 7:1 Since I am speaking to those who understand law, brothers, are you unaware that the law has authority over someone as long as he lives?
Paul makes it clear here who his audience is... those who understand the law. You will see the words law/commandment/ principle/commands used throughout this passage in great number. I often times color code those words just to make it stand out... maybe I will do that in a seperate post. But Paul is speaking throughout this passage about the law and when he was under the law. We know this because the law no longer has authority over him as he describes in this first verse.
2For example, a married woman is legally bound to her husband while he lives. But if her husband dies, she is released from the law regarding the husband.
3So then, if she gives herself to another man while her husband is living, she will be called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law. Then, if she gives herself to another man, she is not an adulteress.
4 Therefore, my brothers, you also were put to death in relation to the law through the [crucified]body of the Messiah, so that you may belong to another—to Him who was raised from the dead—that we may bear fruit for God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions operated through the law in every part of us and bore fruit for death.
6 But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law.
Paul uses marriage as an example. When he was married to the law then he couldn't deviate from that. But through the crucified body of Jesus Christ we are now legally unattached to the law. You now no longer belong to this law but you belong to Christ. When you were in the flesh (not born again with the Spirit of God indwelling you) sin operated in you and sin taking advantage of the law (he gets into that next) you did nothing but bear fruit that was leading to death. The old way of the law died when we died to the law and were resurrected in the newness of the Spirit... in other words we are born again.
7 What should we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, Do not covet.
Paul now starts going into the first person in this portion of Scripture. This is why many say that Paul is talking about his life "now" as opposed to back when he was under the law because they say he is talking in the first person here therefore.... but not at all. Paul is merely using his past self as the example.
8 And sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind. For apart from the law sin is dead.
9 Once I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life
10 and I died. The commandment that was meant for life resulted in death for me.
11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me.
12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.
Paul simply continues explaining the point of how it was that this holy law and the holy, just and good commandment was the very thing that he was dead from because it more or less simply produced death because of the sin that is in us. He continues with this very theme... still in the first person and still speaking of the time when he was under the law which kills him. This is not speaking of a man born again.
13 Therefore, did what is good cause my death? Absolutely not! On the contrary, sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment sin might become sinful beyond measure.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am made out of flesh, sold into sin’s power.
Again... read closely that 14th verse. This is not describing a born again man. This is speaking of a man sold into sins power... yet when Paul is born again he was purchased with a price and he was no long a slave to sin.
15 For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate.
16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good.
17 So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me.
18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.
19 For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do.
20 Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me.
That 18th verse tells us much as well. Paul now knows that there is ability within him to do it. He gets into that in the 8th chapter... The Spirit of God which brings him life is the same Spirit of God that gives him the ability to walk in the Spirit and no longer in the flesh.
21 So I discover this principle: when I want to do good, evil is with me.
22 For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law.
23 But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.
Here again Paul speaks of being taken prisoner to the law of sin... yet Paul let's us know that when we are walking in the Spirit then we are free from this law of sin and death. Paul is speaking of the time (still using himself as the example of when he learned of sin through the law and how he understands the struggle of those who know the law) when he was in fact a slave/prisoner to sin.
24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.
Under this system of law he was a wretched man in need of rescue. Who will do this? Jesus Christ our Lord. Look at this last verse... slave to the law of God in his mind but in the flesh a slave to the law of sin. Again this is not even close to any description that Paul ever gives of a born again person who has been set free from these very things.