A Wretched Man Becomes a Saint
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, September 27, 2009
Copyright © 2009, P. G. Mathew
God never makes anyone his saint unless he cries out, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" In this exposition of Romans 7, we are in general agreement with the majority of the church fathers in the first three centuries of the Christian era and with modern scholars like Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Douglas Moo, and a number of others.
Whose experience is Paul describing in Romans 7:7-25? Is it his own at the time he was writing the epistle to the Romans, or his experience before he was born again? Does this passage describe the normal Christian life, or the life of a sinner under conviction of sin and yet not indwelt by the Holy Spirit?
The Romans 7 Man
In Romans 7 we see a man who is aware of what is right and what is sinful, yet he always-not sometimes-ends up doing the wrong thing. This is a person to whom God's law came home in its full meaning and power by the operation of the Spirit. Paul says that when the law came to him, "sin revived and I died" (Rom. 7:9). Romans 7:14-25 is speaking about this same person to whom the law came. He no longer thinks of himself as perfect concerning the righteousness of the law (Phil. 3:6). Those happy days are over for him. He now realizes he is a sinner. The law of God came home to him, condemned him, and he died. We are not reading about a Christian who enjoys the freedom of posse non peccare, the freedom not to sin, which is the freedom of a true believer. This passage describes a sinner under conviction of sin yet who has no freedom.
This man is a prisoner of sin. He is in the state of non posse non peccare (not possible not to sin), meaning he can only sin all the time. The church fathers, especially in the first three centuries of the church, saw this man as unregenerate. But the Reformers, following Augustine's later views, generally thought this passage spoke of a Christian, even a Christian at his best and most mature. This latter view is partly responsible for the spirit of antinomianism that prevails in much of today's evangelical church. It also contributed to the dead orthodoxy of the seventeenth century, which the Pietists opposed.
In Romans 7:7-25 Paul speaks of what the law can and cannot do. The law can neither justify nor sanctify us. The law is weak because of our sin nature and cannot impart life. It cannot cause us to obey the law. It reveals our sin and condemns us as sinners. Law is powerless before the mighty power of sin.
Romans 7:14-25, therefore, cannot be an analysis of Paul at the time of writing this epistle or a description of a Christian at his best. Here Paul is describing himself under conviction of sin yet not born again. He is aware of his sin and his complete moral impotence and failure. He is aware of the great power of sin, yet he is not aware of the freedom of the gospel. It is probably describing his preconversion experience prior to his baptism by Ananias. F. F. Bruce says, "Here is a picture of life under the law, without the aid of the Spirit, portrayed from the perspective of one who has now experienced the liberating power of life in the Spirit."1 The Spirit of the Reformation Bible posits, "Paul was describing [in a dramatic fashion] a transitional experience, possibly his own, of one who has been awakened to his or her true spiritual need but who has not yet entered the full relief of justification by grace."2 In Romans 7:7-25 we see no reference to grace, the Holy Spirit, or Christ.
The Key Verse
"We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin" (v. 14). This is the key verse in this section. Verses 7:15-25 simply explain verse 14, which itself gives reason for the previous verse. In the Greek, verse 14 starts with the word "for." Paul knows the law is holy, just, and good. But if the law is good, why did he die when it came to him? Why is it ministering death to him? So he asks, "Did that which is good, then, become death to me?" (v. 13). Not at all! The law is not responsible for our death; sin is. But through the law, God unmasks sin and makes it appear in its true nature: utterly corrupt and foul. So Paul says, "Do not blame God's law. It is holy, just, good, and spiritual (pneumatikos). God is Spirit, and the law is spiritual because it is given by the Holy Spirit. The problem is not with the law but with us. We are sinful."
Then Paul explains, "The law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual." The word is sarkinos (carnal). He is not partly carnal. He describes himself as all flesh in all its weakness, especially because of sin. He is conditioned by sin and is an in-Adam, fallen man. Remember in Romans 7:5 he said, "When we were in the flesh," meaning we are no longer in the flesh. There he was speaking as a born-again, Spirit-indwelt man. He is in the Spirit, able to bear fruit to God and serve him in the newness of the Spirit. But in Romans 7:14-25 he describes himself as one still in the flesh, incapable of bringing forth the fruit of obedience to God. We see this contrast in Romans 6:17: "But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted" (see also Rom. 6:20). A regenerate person is no longer a slave to sin. Paul makes this clear in Romans 8:9: "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."
The third element of this verse is that this man is "sold as a slave to sin." We see this idea in 1 Kings 21:20, when Elijah tells Ahab, "You have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD.'" And in 2 Kings 17:17 we read that the Israelites sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire and "practiced divination and sorcery and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger."
Paul is saying, "I am in the state of slavery, and I cannot redeem myself. I need a redeemer who can buy me out of my slavery."
The fourth aspect of this verse is that Paul calls himself "a slave to sin," meaning "under sin." Paul acknowledges that he is under the rule, authority, and power of sin. Yet earlier in this epistle he declared that a Christian is not under sin or law or death, but under grace, and that King Grace governs his life in righteousness: "Just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:21). Yet here in Romans 7:14 Paul says he is sold under sin.
Finally, Paul implies, "I am not spiritual. The law is spiritual, but I am carnal." Yet elsewhere he declares that a believer is spiritual: "The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment" (1 Cor. 2:15). The believer is Spirit-born and has divine nature. He is Spirit-indwelt, Spirit-taught, Spirit-led, and Spirit-empowered to be able to bring forth fruit to God through obedience. So Romans 7:7-25 is speaking, not about a spiritual man, a believer, but about a man who is carnal, sold under sin.
Propositions from Verses 15-25
Let us then look at some propositions from verses 15-25 which explain verse 14.
Paul says in verse 15: "I do not understand what I do" [i.e., "I do not approve it"]. Then he says, "For what I want to do, I do not do." He is not speaking about occasional actions. He is saying, "I do not practice what I want to do at any time. I can only sin." Then he says, "But what I hate, I do." Again, he is saying his actions are not occasional but always. He is describing himself as a non posse non peccare man: "I find myself always practicing not what I approve, but what I hate." This is strong language.
In verse 16 he is saying, "I am doing what I do not purpose, desire, will, or want."3 Therefore he deduces: "If this is so, that I do what I don't desire, and I do what I hate, then it is not I but sin indwelling in me that is doing this evil" (see verse 17).
We must clarify one point. Paul is not saying he is blameless of sin. But he is speaking about himself as a sin-possessed, sin-controlled person. He is saying, "This indwelling sin is a permanent resident in me and defeats my purpose. This sin does what I do not will. I am its bondslave and cannot overcome it." He tells us this again in verse 20, saying, in essence: "The sin is not outside of me, in the environment. It is inside, making me do its will instead of my own. The Holy Spirit is not dwelling in me. Christ is not dwelling in me. Sin, in all its power, is dwelling in me and controlling my life."
Paul states in verse 18: "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature [flesh]." Something good of greater power must dwell in us to oppose and conquer this indwelling sin. But, he says, "Nothing good dwells in me. I am not born again. I do not have divine nature. I do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in me." This is not what he said in Romans 5:5: "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (see also 1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Then he says, "For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing" (v. 19). The reality is that the evil [kakon] he does not will, he practices. And he does so not once in a while, as some theologians want to say, but always. And in verse 21 he says he discovered a law, a principle, in the light of his experience, that when he wanted to do that which is excellent-the law of God-evil is right there, poised to oppose, frustrate, and defeat him. And this evil wins every time.
Paul continues in verse 23: "I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members." This other law, which is different from and opposed to God's law, carries on a continuous campaign of warfare against God's law in his mind. It wins out all the time, defeating him and taking him captive (as the Greek says, like a prisoner is taken at the point of a spear).
But this is not the language Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5: "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world [or "the flesh," sarkika]. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Here we see Paul as powerful, born of God, Spirit-empowered, and a soldier of Christ, enjoying victory over sin.
In verse 24 Paul declares, "What a wretched man I am!" In other words, "I am weary and worn out. My hands are full of calluses." The word (talaipôros) conveys the picture of a miserable man doing hard labor for sin. Satan wants to present the sin life as a wonderful life of great joy and happiness. But Paul is proclaiming, "What a wretched man I am! I am a bondslave to sin and subject to death, which is the wages of sin. I cannot save myself. Who will save me from the law of sin and death?"
At this point, the Christian Paul surfaces. He breaks out in doxology and answers the heartrending question of this miserable, wretched man he has been describing. Man cannot save himself, and no man can save another, because every man in Adam is a weak, carnal sinner. But Paul triumphantly declares, "But thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
A Man Convicted of Sin
God has a plan to save the miserable sons and daughters of Adam and make them into saints, justifying, sanctifying, glorifying, and bringing them to himself without sin. He has accomplished that eternal plan to make us holy and blameless in and through the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul had already said of Christ, "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification" (Rom. 4:25). Now in Romans 7 he is summarizing the life of a sinner, unconverted, yet under conviction of sin. When God's Holy Spirit comes, the first thing he does is convict us of sin. When we see people calling themselves Christians who have no sense of sin, we can say they are not under the work of the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin. After Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, his listeners "were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?'" (Acts 2:37). In the middle of the night, the trembling Philippian jailer asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30).
It could be that Romans 7:7-25 is speaking about Paul's life before his baptism. Notice how Paul describes his own repentance and faith in Jesus Christ: "A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. He stood beside me and said, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight!' And at that very moment I was able to see him. Then he said: 'The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name'" (Acts 22:12-16). In Acts 9:17-19 we are also told how Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit, his eyes were opened, and he was baptized.
When Paul was saying, "I myself with my mind serve the law of God," we recognize that an outright pagan cannot serve God with his mind. But these words can be true of a man whom the Holy Spirit is convicting of his sin. His next statements that with his flesh he is a slave of sin and sin wins out indicate that the man of Romans 7:7-25 is a man to whom the law of God was coming with power and deep conviction. The man who once said he was perfectly righteous as a Pharisee now says, "Sin revived and I died. I am all unrighteousness and a bondslave of sin. I do not do what I will, and I do what I do not will. I do what I hate-yea, what is evil. Sin is dwelling in me as a permanent resident and is of greater power than my mind. No good thing dwells in me. From this slavery to sin, who will deliver me?"
So we must conclude that Romans 7:7-25 is not a description of normal Christian life or of Christian life at its best. It is life of one being convicted but not converted, the life of one who knows no victory in Jesus. He has not yet been indwelt by the greatest power in the universe, the infinite power of the Holy Spirit, who alone can triumphantly oppose the great yet finite power of sin and Satan.
In this passage, therefore, Paul says a certain things only a man under conviction can say. He says the law is holy, just, and good and that law is spiritual. He says, "I agree with the law that it is good." He says he wills what is good but cannot do it. (PGM) Not only that, he rejoices with the law of God with his inner man (i.e., with his mind), and he says he serves God with his mind. But whatever he is doing, he is incompetent. He has no freedom, no divine ability to do the will of God. He must be saved through Christ.
The Difference between Romans 7 Man and A True Believer
If, then, Romans 7:7-25 describes normal Christian life, or a mature Christian life, or the life of a Christian at his best, then Paul is contradicting himself in his own words elsewhere in Romans as well as in his other epistles. Let us look at some verses in which Paul described the normal Christian life and compare them to the description of the Romans 7 man:
Romans 5:1-2: "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." That is not we see in Romans 7:7-25. There is no peace, no rejoicing.
Romans 5:17: "For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ." Believers receive abundance of grace and they reign in life here and now. But that is not what we see in Romans 7.
Romans 5:21b: "so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Grace reigns through righteousness.
Romans 6:2: "Shall we continue in sin?" Paul asks. "By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" This is not true of the Romans 7 man.
Romans 6:4: "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." The life of Jesus Christ in us is the resurrection life. That is why we can get up in the morning and work for the Lord. We can do all things because God has given us a new nature, and the Spirit of God indwells us. We receive an abundance of grace to do mighty, great things.
Romans 6:6: "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin."
Romans 6:7: "because anyone who has died has been freed from sin," meaning freed from the dominion, rule, authority, and power of sin.
Romans 6:11: "In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus," that is, alive to serve God in Christ Jesus, not serve sin.
Romans 6:12: "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires." Christians enjoy freedom not to sin (posse non peccare). If you find yourself caught in sin, exercise your freedom and move out of Romans 7, because Romans 7 is not speaking about the normal Christian life. It is a life of defeat, bondage to sin, and misery.
Romans 6:13: "Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness." Every believer is obedient and disobedient at the same time. We have the freedom to obey God and the freedom to disobey sin. We must not, therefore, call ourselves Christians if we do not live by the power of the Holy Spirit and serve God in righteousness.
Romans 6:14: "For sin shall not be your master because you are not under law, but under grace." We are no longer slaves to sin.
Romans 6:17: "But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted." Notice, the word is "obeyed," not "believed." Every true Christian is born of God and therefore has a new nature; and every Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and therefore he obeys from the heart the will of God as given to us in the word. A beautiful mind is a mind renewed by the word of God.
Romans 6:18: "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." We have been set free from the dominion, authority, and power of sin, and through the Spirit of the living God, we defeat sin.
Romans 6:20: "When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness." Now it is reversed. We are under the control of righteousness and set free from sin.
Romans 6:22: "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." We are holy people.
Romans 7:4: "So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God." We have a new husband to whom we belong, and he enables us to bear the fruit of obedience to God.
Romans 7:6: "But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve [God] in the new way of the Spirit [the new power of the Spirit] and not in the old way of the written code."
Romans 8:1-2: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." We have been set free from the dominion of sin and Satan.
Romans 8:9: "You, however, are controlled not by the [flesh] but by the [Holy] Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." We can make any profession we want, but a true Christian is born of God and indwelt by the infinite person of the Spirit and his infinite power, which makes us able to do the will of God and be successful in this world and the world to come.
Romans 8:11: "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." The cry of the man under conviction in Romans 7: "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" Here is the answer: "Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!" The Holy Spirit has come and is dwelling in us. This same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise our mortal bodies from the dead. The indwelling Holy Spirit guarantees our resurrection.
Romans 8:37: "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Believe, saints of God. If you are defeated, rise up and say, "From this day forward, by the energy of the mighty Spirit of God, I believe the truth that I am more than a conqueror through him who loved me. So neither death nor life, nor anything else in all creation is able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Christians are powerful to live victorious lives in Jesus, overcoming the temptations of this world.
Galatians: 2:20: Remember, Romans 7 spoke about sin dwelling in us and making us his slaves. But there is another reality. If we have been born again, the infinite Holy Spirit dwells in us, always opposing finite sin and giving us victory. So we can say with Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." These are not mythological statements; they are reality. As we add faith to these words, we will experience peace, comfort, victory, and success.
Galatians 5:16: "So I say, live by the Spirit [by his teaching and by his power], and you will not gratify the desires of the [flesh]." We are not saved from the flesh; sin is still in us. But, thank God, there is a new reality. We are new creations in Christ and the Holy Spirit dwells in us, always opposing and defeating sin.
Galatians 5:18: "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law." We are no longer under sin and death.
Ephesians 1:19: Paul prayed that we may have spiritual assistance to know certain things to live a Christian life. The first thing we need to know is "his incomparably great power for us who believe." If we come and say, "I sinned again," it is proof that we did not receive the grace and assistance of the Holy Spirit that would have come to us had we prayed and sought him. That is why Paul speaks of God's "incomparably great power for us who believe." The idea is that we might live by this resurrection power of Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:10: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." From all eternity it is God's will to have a holy and blameless people who obey him. If we do not obey God, we are not true Christians. We may be nominal Christians. But our profession will not mean anything unless we live obedient, powerful, victorious lives.
Ephesians 3:20: "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his [infinite] power that is at work within us." A Christian wife and mother can do all the work she should be doing. A Christian father and husband can do all the work he should be doing. Any Christian can do all the work he should be doing because God's power is at work in us.
Ephesians 4:28: "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need." This is speaking about a thief who became a Christian. Before he was stealing; now he is working hard. Why? God gave him a new nature and the Holy Spirit is indwelling him, and he is eager to obey God's by obeying his commandments. He pays his own bills and helps those in need. This is true Christianity.
Ephesians 6:10, 13-14: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" and wage war against all evil, against principalities and powers and heavenly wickedness, against Satan. Resist the devil and he shall flee from you. Verses 13-14: "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place." I pray that especially husbands and fathers will believe what we are saying and go home to live such powerful lives that you inspire your wife and children to also live for God.
Philippians 2:12-13: "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Josiah showed such fear and trembling when he discovered the Bible (2 Kings 22-23). If we are Christians, God works in us to will and to do his good pleasure. We do God's will because God makes us willing and able to do it. Even if we are steeped in sin, the Holy Spirit can deliver us instantly. The thief of Ephesians 4 was not told to steal less and less until one day he stops. No, he is to stop stealing immediately and start working with his hands. God works in him.
Philippians 4:13: "I can do everything through [Christ] who gives me strength." The Lord helps us all the time to do all that he wants us to do.
1 Corinthians 9:27: "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." Paul's practice was to make his body obey him, not be enslaved to his body. The Romans 7 man cannot do this. The Holy Spirit enables us to get up and do God's work.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." Paul's question, "Do you not know?" means we should know that our bodies are no longer ours; they are the property of the Holy Spirit. We were bought with a price, the blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we have no right to abuse or do whatever we want with them.
1 Corinthians 15:10: "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me." We who receive abundant provision of God's grace reign in life, Paul wrote in Romans 5:17. Here he says that all his success came to him by the grace of God. If we are Christians, we must evaluate our lives and begin to redeem the time and produce eternally significant works. God's grace is available if we avail ourselves of the means of grace, such as getting up early to read the Scriptures, listening with all attention when the word is preached, and praying with faith and passion, in accordance with the will of God.
2 Corinthians 9:8: "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." What a great promise! May we believe it, add faith to it, and receive grace to do all things God wants us to do. We need grace, and it is available to face all exigencies of life. A Christian is bold, confident, and positive rather than pessimistic and retreating.
2 Corinthians 12:9-11: "But [the Lord] said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." These are the words of a truly mature Christian.
In light of all these scriptures, we must say that if Romans 7:7-25 describes normal Christian life, a mature Christian life, or the life of a Christian at his best, then Paul is contradicting himself everywhere else in his writings. Throughout all his epistles we see a believer living a victorious Christian life.
Have you noticed that most modern evangelical churches do not preach about sin anymore? They do not speak of repentance, judgment, hell, holiness, purity, separation from the world, saving faith, cross power, victorious Christian life, power of grace, power of the Holy Spirit, or the authority of the Scripture. What, then, is the prevalent type of Christianity? It is nominalism. People call themselves Christians but live pagan lives. They do so for the simple reason that they are still pagans. They have not experienced regeneration or the infilling and baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The view that Romans 7 describes the normal Christian life promotes such antinomianism. In fact, it says the more we sin, the more grace we can receive and the more God is glorified. Even Luther, by his statement, "Simul iustus et peccator" (simultaneously justified and still a sinner), might have lent support to this antinomian Christianity in the Protestant church world. If Romans 7 speaks of normal Christian life, it also promotes the heresy called dualism, which says sin belongs to the body only. So one can say that his body is sinning, but he is not. In fact, he can say, who cares what the body does? It is only going to die. So one can sin all he wants; he is saved forever.
People may not use the labels of "antinomianism" or "dualism," but this is the type of life many people are living today in the evangelical world. This explains the lack of preaching of sin, repentance, holiness, judgment, and Holy Spirit power.
Jesus came to save his people from their sins, not "in their sins." Yet this does not mean that Christians are sinlessly perfect. Christians sin, and it is very possible for a Christian to sin terribly and for a long time. That is why John writes, "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). But by the new nature and the dynamic of the indwelling Holy Spirit, those who are justified are also being sanctified to live victorious Christian lives. Once we were darkness; now we are light in the Lord. Let us therefore shine like stars in this dark world and bring glory to our heavenly Father.
1 F. F. Bruce, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Romans, rev. ed., (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000 rptd.), 143.
2 New International Version Spirit of the Reformation Bible, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 1821.
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Copyright © 2009, P. G. Mathew
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