Religious Folklore - The Christian Life is one of Receiving Forgiveness for but not Victory over Habitual Sins

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There are three spiritual classes of humanity referenced in the Bible:

1. The Natural Person – the unsaved person. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

2. The Carnal Person – the Christian who is not living a consistently victorious life over sin. (1 Corinthians 3:1)

3. The Spiritual Person – the Christian who understands God’s prescribed method for the saint which results in their living a holy life. (1 Corinthians 2:15)

Through this study of Romans chapter six, it is my hope that those that are unsaved become saved, and Christians in category 2 above will receive the truth to move to category 3.  My motive?

that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. (John 17:21 NET)

Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples– if you have love for one another." (John 13:35 NET)

But the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5 NET)

The world is waiting to see the church act like Jesus, and when we do, they will believe the Gospel.  My goal is to see the answer to our Lord’s prayer realized in our lifetime.

The first question to be examined from Romans chapter 6:

What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? (Romans 6:1 NET)

This question comes to “nip in the bud” a potential misunderstanding or perversion of what was said by the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, in Romans chapter 5.

Now the law came in so that the transgression may increase, but where sin increased, grace multiplied all the more, (Romans 5:20 NET)

The words “multiplied all the more” are from a Greek word referring to a superabundance of something with an additional supply added to this superabundance.  This means that no matter how much sin is committed there will always be unlimited resources of grace from our God, who is Love Himself (1 John 4:16), to overcome it! In Romans 6:1 the verb used refers to habitual action and the word sin refers not to acts of sin but to the sinful nature (this is because Paul is dealing with the mechanics of the Christian life, not the outward actions of the individual).  Therefore, Romans 6:1b could be stated as follows:

Shall we habitually live as if we still are slaves to the sinful nature just like an unsaved person (natural man)?

The first part of the answer:

Absolutely not! (Romans 6:2 a NET)

In the literal Greek: “May it not become.”  Paul dismisses this thought as unthinkable.(2)

The second part of the answer:

How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:2 b NET)

The Greek word for “how” literally means “how is it possible?”  The Greek word “we” not only refers to the individuals involved but also to the character of these individuals – “such as we.”  The words “who died” is from a past tense verb which speaks of finality – “died once for all”.  The word “sin” is in a construction in Greek – “with reference to sin”.  The verb “live” is from a word which speaks here of the life principle, not the actions of the person.

Putting this all together we have:

“What shall we say then?  Shall we habitually abide under the control of sin in order that this grace, previously mentioned, be increasingly lavished in superabundant outpourings?  Far be the thought!  Such as we who died once for all with reference to sin, how is it possible for us to exist in the grip of its motivating energy any longer?”

Let us look more deeply at the word “died” in the previous passage.  Death is not the extinction of a being, but rather a separation.  Physical death is the separation of the individual from their physical body.  Spiritual death is the separation of the person from the life of God.  Consequently, here the word “died” refers to the separation of the believer from the power of the sinful nature.  This sinful nature entered Adam, the first man when he willfully disobeyed God and ate of the Tree (1) of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Before salvation, we were compelled to obey its authoritative orders.  After salvation, we are free from the obligation to serve sin.(2)

For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14 NET)

However, note that Paul is not saying that the sinful nature is “eradicated” when we are saved.  The Bible teaches that the sinful nature remains in the believer until he dies; however, we are not “in it” in the sense we are in its grip.

For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. (Romans 7:18 NET)

So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. (Romans 7:21 NET)

If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8 NET)

Therefore, Paul answers the question as to whether a Christian should continue in habitual sin by first stating that it is impossible.  This is based on the fact that the fallen nature that made us sin habitually before salvation has had its power over us broken.  Consequently, it is a mechanical impossibility for a Christian to continue in habitual sin.

In summary, when God justifies the believer He also breaks the power of sin in their life.  Grace does what the law could never do.  Grace not only forbids sin but also defeats its power in the life of the believer.  Grace gives us God’s ability to do what truth demands!

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,  as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:11-13 NET)

Secondly, Paul proceeds to answer the question from another viewpoint.  Remember, in his first answer he showed the impossibility of habitual sin in a Christian’s life because of the fact that the power of the sinful nature was broken when the believer was saved.

Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3 NET)

This verse explains how we died to sin.  We were baptized into Jesus Christ so that we might be baptized into His death on the cross.  This is so that, through our identification with Jesus in that death, we might die with reference to sin – that is to have the power of indwelling sin broken.

That is, in the mind of God, all believers from Adam’s time to the time of the Great White Throne judgment were baptized (introduced into the vital union) into Christ when he died on the cross.  This vital union with Him resulted in our participating in His death - He dying a vicarious death on our behalf.  Therefore, we died with Him in reference to our sinful nature.  The Lord having died once will never die again.  We who died in Him, with reference to the sinful nature, are forever delivered from its compelling power.(2)

Furthermore, we were baptized into His death so that we might share His burial and thus share His resurrection life!

Thus Paul is developing his stance based on the fact that baptism accomplished two things:

1. The power of sin being broken.

2. The resurrection life of Jesus, the divine nature, being implanted within us.

We figuratively represent this baptism into Jesus Christ by our ordinance of water baptism.  However, this is a physical representation of a spiritual reality.  The baptism that set us free from the power of sin and implanted the divine nature is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, (1 Corinthians 12:13 a NET)

This baptism is an act that occurs the moment the sinner believes – never to be repeated.  However, the fullness is a moment by moment continuous state, as the believer trusts the Lord Jesus for that fullness (1).

we were all made to drink of the one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13 b NET)

On the last day of the feast, the greatest day, Jesus stood up and shouted out, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, 'From within him will flow rivers of living water.'"  (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:37-39 NET)

Furthermore, the word baptism in Romans chapter 6 literally means:

The introduction or placing of a person into a new environment or into union with something else so as to alter its condition or its relationship to its previous environment or condition.

Consequently, the baptism by the Holy Spirit introduces a believing sinner into vital union with Jesus Christ.  This is so that the believer might have the power of their sinful nature broken and the divine nature implanted – through their identification with the Lord Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.  Consequently, altering the condition and relationship of the sinner with regard to their previous state and environment, bringing him into a new environment – the Kingdom of God! (2)

He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, (Colossians 1:13 NET)

Realize, the ordinance of water baptism is an order from our Lord Jesus and not an option for the believer (Matthew 28:18-20).  However, water baptism never introduced a believing sinner into vital union with Jesus Christ.  Furthermore, the baptism by the Holy Spirit is not for power but for union with our Savior.  Again, the power for holy living and for service comes from the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Let us examine Romans Chapter 6 verse 3:

Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3 NET)

The words “that as many of us” in the Greek, do not imply that some were not baptized, but designate all collectively.  Compare this with the following verse:

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13 NET)

This again points to the fact that Paul is speaking here of the baptism by the Spirit. All believers are in Christ, and yet not all have obeyed our Lord’s command to be baptized in water.

The words “or do you not know” in the Greek are literally “or are ye ignorant?”  The Greek showing that the persons addressed were not ignorant of these facts but familiar with them.  The word “into” is from a Greek word that which denotes an “inward union.”

Putting this all together we have the following literal translation for Romans 6:3:

“Or, are ye ignorant of the fact that all we who were baptized (introduced) into an inward union with Christ Jesus, were baptized (introduced) into (a participation in) His death?”

Let us now move on to Romans chapter 6 verse 4.

Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4 NET)

The words “a new life” do not refer to the new kind of life we are to live before the world.  Furthermore, they do not refer to our Christian testimony as seen in our thoughts, words, or deeds.  They do speak of the new life implanted in us, that is a motivating energy, providing both the desire and the power to live a Christian life.  We are to walk (conduct) ourselves in the power of this new life that is imparted to us in the new birth (the regeneration).  Prior to salvation, we walked in the power of the Adamic nature which gave us the desire and power to sin (Ephesians 2:2). We now are to walk in the energy of the new life God has imparted, which gives us both the desire and the power to live a holy life. (2)

Verse 4 then says:

“Therefore, we were buried in company with Him through the intermediate instrumentality of this baptism (introduction) into His death, in order that even as Christ was raised out from among the dead through the Glory of the Father, thus also we from the power of a new life (imparted) should derive the motivating energy for our walk (thoughts, words, deeds).

To summarize verses 2-4 of Romans 6:

It is not possible for someone saved to continue living a life of habitual sin because the Holy Spirit has baptized (introduced) him into vital union with Jesus Christ.  The moment we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior, the power of indwelling sin was broken, and the divine nature was imparted.  This divine nature gives us both the desire and power to live a holy life.

We will now examine verse 5 of Romans chapter 6:

For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. (Rom. 6:5 NET)

The word “if” in the Greek (i.e, "ei") used here is not the conditional particle of an unfulfilled condition or hypothetical case (i.e., "ean").  In its usage here it is a fulfilled condition meaning “in view of the fact.” The words “have been” are from a verb in the perfect tense that speaks of an entrance into a new state of existence in the present based on the cross of Christ in the past.  The perfect tense in the Greek speaks of an action completed in the past that has present results.  The word “united” is from a compound word, one part of the word meaning “to grow” and the other part implying “close fellowship or participation on the part of two persons in a common action or state.”  Putting these two meanings together then implies an intimate and progressive union.  The word “likeness” speaks of a likeness that amounts to an identity.  The words “we also shall be” are “a future of logical result.”  They do not point to the future physical resurrection of the believer or saint.  But rather are speaking of the spiritual resurrection of the believer that occurred potentially when Christ was raised from the dead and actually at the moment they believed.  Therefore, Paul is stating that given the fact that believers have become united with Christ in the likeness of His death, the logical consequence of the identification with Christ in His death is identification with Him in His resurrection. (2)

Putting this together we obtain the following for Romans 6:5:

For given the fact that we have become united with Him in the likeness of death, with the present result that we are identified with Him in His death, certainly we also (as a necessary consequence) shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.

Our Lord came out of the tomb in the same body in which in died, but with that body energized by the life of God.  Therefore, the believer leaves their old dead self in the tomb of their former life and now walks in the energy of the life of God surging through their being.  This energy or divine life is imparted through the identification with Christ in His resurrection. (Ephesians 1:16-23. Ephesians 2:1)

We will now examine verse 6 of Romans chapter 6:

We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:6 NET)

The word “man” utilized here is translated from the Greek word that refers to the race of man, not an individual person.  The expression “our old man” refers to the old unrenewed self, that person which we were before salvation did its work in our being, a human being dominated entirely by the Adamic (sinful) nature, having a heart darkened by sin, totally depraved in its entire being. There are two words in Greek which mean “old.”   One refers to that which is old in the sense of having existed from the beginning, the emphasis being on upon the length of time it has been in existence.  The other refers to that which is antiquated, out of date, belonging to a world of has been, worn out.  The second is used here.  It is the person when looked at from this side of salvation, that is antiquated and out of date belonging to a world of has been.  The words “was crucified” come from a past-tense verb in the Greek.  When we died with Christ, that old unregenerate totally depraved person we were before salvation died.  The words “of sin” is in a construction in the Greek called “the genitive of possession.”  The words “the body” refers to the physical body possessed, dominated and controlled by the sinful nature.  The word “destroyed” is from a Greek word which means “to render idle or inoperative, to put an end to, to make inefficient.”  The words “serve sin” are from the verb whose stem is the same as the noun translated “bondslave.”  It refers to habitual slavery to something. (2)

Putting this all together we have the following for verse 6:

“Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, so that the body (then) dominated by sin might be rendered inoperative (in that respect), and this for the purpose that we should no longer be habitually rendering a slave’s obedience to sin.”

Consequently, God has put an end to the domination of the sinful nature over the believer and has rendered the physical body idle and inoperative in that respect.

Next, we examine verse 7 of Romans chapter 6:

(For someone who has died has been freed from sin.)  (Rom. 6:7 NET)

This verse is used to illustrate the truths of verse 6.  The words “has died” are from a past tense in the Greek that speaks of a past action with the tense speaking of finality.  This would be better translated “died once for all.”  The word “freed” is from the Greek word that is usually translated “righteousness” when used as a noun and “justify” when used as a verb.  Furthermore, it is in the perfect tense that speaks of a past-completed action having both present and future results that are fixed and permanent.  As a man who has died physically is freed from bondage to sin in which he was held, even so, a person who has died to sin in a spiritual sense, is released from its bondage. (2)

Putting this all together we have the following for verse 7:

“For he who died once for all is in a permanent state of freedom from sin.”

Now we examine verse 8 of Romans chapter 6:

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:8 NET)

The word “if” utilized here refers to a fulfilled condition.  It conveys the understanding that each believer died with Christ.  The words “be dead” are again from a past tense verb speaking of an accomplished fact.  The word “believe” is to be taken here in the sense of dogmatic belief, not in the sense of “trusting” in Jesus as Savior.  It is a belief of the form of logic that if a = b and b = c then a = c.  Consequently, since we have died with Christ, then the inescapable conclusion is that we will live with Him.  The word “shall” is not referring to a future event, but rather a logical result.  The words “live with Him” do not refer to fellowship with the Lord Jesus in the sense of companionship.  The preposition “with” is followed by the pronoun “Him” in the instrumental case.  This case in Greek speaks of the means whereby the action or the state represented in the verb is accomplished.  The word “live” here does not speak of the experience of the believer, but the motivating energy that determines our conduct.  That motivating energy is a Person – the Lord Jesus Christ!  He is “the Life” by means of which we live our new lives.  He is our new existence, just as Paul says, “For to me, living is Christ” (Philippians 1:21 a NET)

Putting this all together we have the following for verse 8:

“Now, since we died once for all with Christ, we believe that we shall also live by means of Him.”

This could be paraphrased as, “Now, since we died once for all with Christ, we believe that as a necessary consequence, we shall also derive our spiritual existence and the motivating impulse for our Christian experience from Him.”

The Christian life is not simply a system of ethics that God gives the desire and power to obey.  It is a Person living His life in and through another person, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).  That is what Paul meant when he prays that Christ might be formed in the saints (Galatians 4:19).  The Greek word for “form” has no idea of a physical shape, or a molding of some solid substance, or of creating or producing something.  It refers to the action of an individual giving outward expression of their true inward nature.  This is similar to thermoplastic tubing (heat shrink) being put around an electrical connection and heated.  Once heat is applied the tubing shrinks conforming to the connection underneath.  Then, and only then, can you recognize what is underneath or inside the tubing.  Even so with us, the trials of life provide the heat to cause our lives to shrink (I must decrease that He might increase, John 3:30) and conform to Christ who is within us. Then, and only then, can the world see Christ Jesus!  Paul prays that the lives of the saints may be so yielded to the Lord Jesus, that He may be able to give outward expression of His own glorious Person in the thoughts, words, actions and attitude of the believer in whose heart He lives.  Therefore, the believer is not only alive in salvation by virtue of the fact that Christ is their life, but also they live their Christian life in dependence upon Him, or rather by means of Him. (2)

Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, (Colossians 2:6 NET)

Only through Christ Jesus were we saved and only through Him shall we live!  Without Him, we merely exist.

I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. (John 10:10 b NET)

Now we examine verses 9 and 10 of Romans chapter 6:

We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him. For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. (Romans 6:9,10 NET)

Verses 9 and 10 are presented as a basis for the conclusion of verses 1-8; since we died with Christ we shall also live with Him.  The believer died with reference to their sinful nature once for all resulting in their deliverance from its power.  They now lives with respect to the life of God – Their new life in Christ!

The following is a paraphrase of verses 9 and 10 of Romans 6:

“Knowing that Christ having been raised out from among the dead, dies no more; death no longer has dominion over Him, for the death which He died, He died with reference to sin once for all, but the life He now lives, He lives with reference to God.”

Now Paul leaves the theoretical concepts to stimulate the practical aspects of this new life in verse 11 of Romans chapter 6:

So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 6:11 NET)

There are three steps to activating this victory over temptation in our lives:

The first step, a believer must “consider” himself dead to sin.  The word “consider” in the Greek means “count, compute, calculate, take into account.”  The believer is to live their Christian life upon the basis of the fact that the power of the sinful nature is broken.  They are to take this fact into reckoning as he deals with temptations that confront him or evil impulses that come from within.  Our attitude should be that, in view of the fact that the power of the evil nature is broken, he is under no obligation to obey its orders (Romans 8:12).  We have been set free from sin, and the proper response is to read God’s emancipation proclamation to the insistent demands of the Adamic nature. (2)

The second step, a believer must know that before salvation we could not help but sin; however, after salvation, we sin as a free choice – similar to Adam in the Garden of Eden.  Consequently, we are responsible for all sins that we commit after salvation.

The third step, a believer must count upon the fact of their possession of the divine nature.  This will keep us from depending upon our own strength in our effort to live a life pleasing to the Lord Jesus.  Consequently, we will throw ourselves upon the resources of God.  We will then recognize the necessity of being moment by moment filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).  The Holy Spirit will then do two things for us:

1. He will suppress the activities of the evil nature:

But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.  For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. (Galatians 5:16-17 NET)

2. He will produce in the believer a Christlike life:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22,23 NET)

The literal translation of verse 11 is:

“Thus also, as for you, constantly be taking into account the fact that you are those who are dead with respect to sin, and indeed those who are living ones with reference to God in Christ Jesus.”

Paraphrased:

“Thus also, as for you, constantly be taking into account the fact that you are those who have had the power of sin broken in your lives and those who have had the divine nature implanted.”

Next, we will examine verse 12 of Romans chapter 6:

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, (Romans 6:12 NET)

The words “do not let sin” are in a construction in the Greek that forbids the continuation of an action already going on.  The word “reign” is literally “reign as king” in the Greek with the tense speaking of habitual action.  The words “that you obey” are literally, “with a view to habitually obeying.”  The word “its” refers to the mortal human body.  The word “desires” is literally “cravings.”

Putting this all together we have the following literal translation of Romans 6:12:

“Therefore, stop allowing sin to reign habitually as king in your mortal bodies, with a view to your habitually obeying the cravings of that body.”

Question: How can we have any hope of fulfilling this order from the Lord?

Answer: Because Jesus has broken the power of sin in our lives at Golgotha and the divine nature has been implanted.  Hallelujah! Through these two acts, God has provided the grace to keep sin from reigning in our lives (Titus 2:11-14).

Never forget, God never asks us to do anything for which He has not already provided the grace and mercy to do it! (Colossians 1:28,29)

 


(1) Left click on underlined phrase to open another article in a new tab with more explanation.

(2) Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Kenneth S. Wuest, IISBN: 978-0-8028-2280-2

 


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