Summary: The Law cannot set you free. The Law cannot deliver us from the old nature. While the inward man may delight in the Law of God (Psalms 119:35) the old nature delights in breaking the Law of God.
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE PASSAGE:
A man is driving with his wife at his side and his mother-in-law in the back seat. The women just won’t leave him alone. His mother-in-law says, "You’re driving too fast!" His wife says, "Stay more to the left." After ten mixed orders, the man turns to his wife and asks, "Who’s driving this car - you or your mother?" (Eric Snyder - Sermon Central)
Having explained what the Law does, Paul now explains what the Law cannot do. The Law cannot set you free. The Law cannot deliver us from the old nature. While the inward man may delight in the Law of God (Psalms 119:35) the old nature delights in breaking the Law of God. It is not surprising that the believer under Law becomes tired and discouraged and eventually gives up! What can be more discouraging than trying to live a good life, only to discover that the best you can do is still not good enough? The only answer is to let the Holy Spirit lead you.
Paul sees two spiritual laws at work (verses 21-24). The one is what can be called the law of God. This law is holy, just, and good. It demands absolute perfection as a standard of behavior, because perfection is God’s minimum requirement which is consistent with His own holiness. Then there is an opposite law, which Paul refers to as the law of sin. When Adam fell in the garden he placed the whole human race under this law. Anyone who ignores this law will ultimately wander hopelessly astray from the truth. Yet most of the universities and schools of our day teach every law known to science, except the law of sin. Yet the fact remains that the law of sin is what really explains why people do what they do.
The “law in my members” is the sin deep within us. It refers to everything with us that is more loyal to our old way of selfish living than to God. This inward struggle was as real to Paul as it is for us. We can learn from Paul what to do about it. Whenever Paul felt lost, he would go back to the beginnings of his spiritual life, remembering that he had already been freed by Jesus Christ. It is the law of sin that causes the eyes to look involuntarily with lust, the tongue to wag with gossip, and the ears to strain to hear that which is improper and impure. With the conflicting potentialities, purposes and principles of these two laws the believer can sometimes almost be pulled apart. The only way of escape is "through Jesus Christ our Lord" (v. 25).
If I depend on the energy of the flesh I cannot serve God, please God, or do any good thing. But if I yield to the Holy Spirit then I will have the power needed to obey His will.