1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I
speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a
man as long as he liveth?2 For the
woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so
long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the
law of her husband.
3 So then
if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she
shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free
from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body
of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who
is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.5 For when we were in the flesh,
the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to
bring forth fruit unto death.6 But now
we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held;
that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness
of the letter.
shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not
known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had
said, Thou shalt not covet.8 But sin,
taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of
concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
9 For I
was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin
revived, and I died.10 And
the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be
unto death.11 For
sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew
Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just,
then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it
might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin
by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
An interesting parallel of marriage and the law. Father Thomas Soroko quotes St. John of Chrysostom on The Path podcast in the relationship between the law and the flesh and our soul…
"You see what we had to gain from our former husband. Paul does not say 'when we were in the law' because that would merely lend a hand to heretics who want to deny the oracles of the Old Testament. Rather he says 'when we were in the flesh', that is when we were living a sinful and carnal life. In order to not accuse the flesh, Paul does not say that our members were at work, but that sinful passions were at work in our members. This was to show that the origin of the trouble was in not in our members but in the thoughts which made use of them…The soul ranks as a performer and the flesh as a harp which produces sound according to the performer's direction. If the tune is discordant, the fault is with the performer, not with the instrument." (Homilies on Romans 12)
Lactantius (a Christian writer labeled as the "Christian Cicero" served Constantine as a tutor to his son, Crispus) discusses this concept of the power of sin in The Divine Institutes, 4:24 (written between 303 and 311):
"…it is my wish not to sin, but I am overpowered; for I am clothed with frail and weak flesh…I am led on against my will; and I sin, not because it is my wish, but because I am compelled that Jesus refuted them by being 'clothed by flesh, so that he may show that even the flesh is capable of virtue…that by overpowering sin he may teach man that sin may be overpowered by him…'"
St. Augustine writes:
"Instead of the grace of the law which has passed away, we have received the grace of the gospel which is abiding; and instead of the shadows and types of the old dispensation, the truth has come by Jesus Christ. Jeremiah also prophesied thus in God's name: 'Behold, the days come, says the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the Land of Egypt.' [Jer. 31:31-32] Observe what the prophet says, not to the Gentiles, who had not been partakers in any former covenant, but to the Jewish nation. He who has given them the law by Moses, promises in place of it the new covenant of the gospel, that they might no longer live in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of spirit." (Letters 75, 4)
Theodoret of Cyr says:
"'In the flesh' means 'under the law.' Paul calls those laws regarding food, drink, leprosy and so on 'flesh'…Paul teaches us that before grace came, while we were still under the law, we suffered ever more serious attacks of sin because, although the law showed us what it was we should be doing, it did not give us any help in doing it." (Interpretation of the Letter of the Romans)