BSB Romans 8:2For in Christ Jesus the law [principle] of the Spirit [breath] of life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

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    According to my exegesis, it is concupiscence of fallen man, or the life and mode that is "according to the flesh." Whereas a 'law' or mode or way of living that is according to the Spirit would be that which saves us therefrom. Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 20:27
  • There have been some very good answers here (and marked as answers). My own answer is contained in the the following answer I posted to another question: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/18632/…
    – Ruminator
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 17:52

3 Answers 3


In reality there is no place where Paul suggests that the “law” itself provides freedom for believers. To do so here would contradict his thesis in chapter 7: The inability of the law to produce righteousness. It is true that Torah can function in different ways. Here, in my opinion, which is also that of the majority of commentators, nomos--law--in v.2 is figurative/metaphorical. I believe it means the "controlling influence' of Sin and Death contrasted with the 'controlling influence' of the Spirit. [Cf “principle” (Witherington III, Mounce, Shedd; “controlling power” (Ekstrand), “authority producing regulated action” (Sanday & Headlam), “rule” (Morris).]

In Romans 6:1, Paul asks the church: "What shall we say, then (in response to the reign of Sin and Grace)? Should we continue in (a relationship with) the Sin (that reigns in Death) so that the Grace (of God that reigns through righteousness) may increase and abound? See Rom.5:20-21; cf. Rom.3:8. Or, literally, his question is: “Should we remain (or continue) in the sin that the grace may increase?” Shedd comments that the article denotes Sin as a state and condition, the Sin that came into the world by the one man. Grant R. Osborn notes that the singular sin in the Greek stresses that they remain under the power of Sin, which emphasizes more than multiplying the number of sins. That Sin is a power is clear from the context and the way it is described. Sin enters the world through Adam and exercises its influence over all humanity (Romans 5:12-19). Sin “reigns” in death (5:21). Those outside Christ are “slaves” to Sin (6:6), but believers have been liberated from the Sin that enslaved them and they are now enslaved to Righteousness (6:16-18, 20, 22). Sin no longer “rules” (v.14) over them. Therefore, believers must not permit Sin to “reign” over them any more (6:12), etc. Sin is being personified. So the law of Sin and Death is the controlling influence of Sin (as a tyrannical, enslaving master) and Death.


The first mention of the "law of sin and death" in Rom. 8:2 is a summary of the dynamic between LAW, SIN, and DEATH that Paul has been developing since Rom. 6. There is no reason to interpret LAW as a "principle" or anything other than Torah in light of the themes of the previous chapters.

Being free from "the law of sin and death" or its parallel passage having “died to the law” (Rom. 7:4 ESV) is built on the theme that sin takes advantage of the law for its own ends. Notice the progression of verses along this line: “the law came in to increase the trespass,” “our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death,” “sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness,” “The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me,” “For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me,” (Rom. 5:20; 7:5, 8, 10, 11; emphasis mine ESV).

But how could something as good and holy as the law (Rom.7:12) appear to be complicit in sin and death? The answer is in an assumption Paul makes clear in at least three verses: 1) “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death” (Rom. 7:6 ESV emphasis mine) 2) “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin,” (Rom. 7:14 ESV emphasis mine) 3)”For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do,” (Rom. 8:3 ESV emphasis mine). When the flesh, a flesh that is radically antagonistic to the law ("The fleshly(σαρκὸς) mind is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so" Rom. 8:7), is confronted with the law, then sin and death result and it may appear that the law is causing both. But this is not the case, and Paul emphatically denies that the law is culpable. “By no means,” he says, is the law sin, and “by no means,” did that which is good bring death (Rom. 7:7, 13 ESV). The blame must fully lie on SIN’s doorstep; though the law plays a role in the dynamic between sin and death, it is innocent. Paul anticipated that these unexpected connections between sin and law would raise eyebrows. As a result, Romans 7 stands as the strongest apologetic (Kümmel) of the law in the entire Pauline corpus.

So the "law of sin and death" is a description of God's law as it plays out in the life of one who is still in the flesh. Thankfully, as Rom. 8 expounds, being in the Spirit reorients the believer in relation to the law so that the law is now characterized as the "law of the Spirit of life" in order that "the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Rom 8:4 KJV).


This is one of those topics where the answer was obvious - until someone or something causes you to take another look. (As in incorrectly assuming that the 'law of sin' had to do with the 10 Commandments.)

The first find was that the "law of sin and death" is:

Gen. 2:17 - "...for in the day that thou eatest, thou shalt surely die."

Gen. 3:19 - "...till thou return to the ground; for out of it was thou taken: for dust thou [art] and unto dust shalt thou return." (Definition of 'death'?)

The best find, thus far, was a pdf by David Clemens:

The law of sin and death: Ecclesiastes and Genesis 1-3


Sin and death. Genesis clearly associates sin with death (Gn. 2:17; 3:3, 17-19; cf. Rom. 5:12-21). A similar connection emerges in the course of E; it is stated most clearly in 9:3, where 'evil' and 'insanity' eventuate in death; similarly 7:17; 8:8; 8:11/13.

Genesis 1:27 ... Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way ... –Ecclesiastes 7:20 ... in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. ... –John 1:1-3,14.

((Many writers say that the 'one man' is Adam. However, to me, plugging in Greek mythology, the 'Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil' consists of Aphrodite/Venus and Ares/Mars - Mars being the 'evil impulse'; the 'one man/male entity' by whom sin entered, when ingested.))

Several Bible verses show 'sin' to be a living force.

One of the neat Hebrew expressions of animate sin is "yetzer hara".


In Judaism, yetzer hara (Hebrew: יֵצֶר הַרַע‎‎, for the definite "the evil inclination"), or yetzer ra (Hebrew: יֵצֶר רַע‎‎, for the indefinite "an evil inclination/((impulse))") refers to the congenital inclination to do evil, by violating the will of God. The term is drawn from the phrase "the imagination of the heart of man [is] evil" (Hebrew: יֵצֶר לֵב הָאָדָם רַע, yetzer lev-ha-adam ra), which occurs twice in the Hebrew Bible, at Genesis 6:5 and 8:21.

  • The answer should be found in the context which is Romans.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 0:41

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