But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.
In verse 7 Paul states that the law reveals to us our sin. Now in verse 8 he makes the additional point that the law stirs up our sin.
Let's catch the flow of the passage:
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead (7:7-8).
What produced coveting? Not the law, but sin. Sin stirs up coveting. Actually, Paul had alluded to this two verses previously in verse 5: "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" (7:5).
The law exposes the sinfulness of sin. The law exposes the deep-seated rebellion, the independent spirit, the "don't tell me what to do" mindset. The law stirs all of this up. For example, just tell a two-year-old to share a toy and see what happens. C.S. Lewis once wrote:
What mattered most of all was my deep-seated hatred of authority, my monstrous individualism, my lawlessness. No word in my vocabulary expressed deeper hatred than the word Interference. But Christianity placed at the center what then seemed to me a transcendental Interferer. There was no region even in the innermost depth of one's soul which one could surround with a barbed wire fence and guard with a notice, No Admittance. And that was what I wanted; some area, however small, of which I could say to all other beings, "This is my business and mine only."
The essence of sin is independence from God.
So the law both reveals sin and it stirs up sin. But the Bible is clear. The problem does not lie with the law but with our sinfulness.
O God, eradicate all traces of my independent spirit, and may I know that in my surrender to you is my liberation and joy.