Tuesday, May 9, 2023

P1 The New Christian Identity And The Reality Of Lingering Sin - Romans 6:1-7


    In this series of posts we are understanding two truths about the Christian life in this world. 

1. First, the Christian has a new identity,
    and thus a new nature in Jesus              Christ. 

2. Second, though having a new 
    identity, the Christian still retains the      lingering effects of corruption.

Romans 6,7 and 8 helps us understand how these two truths are to be explained. If I were to summarize these three chapters, the following could be said.

1. Romans 6 - New Christian identity and no excuse to sin.

2. Romans 7 - Old vss New identity and      the conflict of sin.

3. Romans 8 - New Christian identity          and defeating sins.

    As an old preacher I heard once noted, until I understand the realities of Romans 6, and deal with the conflict of Romans 7, only then can I enjoy the victory promised in Romans 8. 

    Lets look what we find in Romans 6 concerning the new Christian identity and no excuse to sin. These are two realities. The new identity in Jesus Christ speaks to what I become and who I am as a Christian. The lingering corruption of sin speaks to a secondary reality of the Christian life that stems from our unredeemed flesh. We shall first note some questions to ask ourselves.

Important questions to ask of our new identity and the tendencies to still desire to sin

    Let's first begin with the second reality of the Christian life, the lingering corruption that clings to our flesh and which imposes itself upon our new nature. Paul writes about this issue of sin in the Christian life, and the need to rely upon the Holy Spirit who brought it about. We can note what he says in Galatians 5:16-17

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please."

    Anyone reading this post, especially Christian readers, ought to identity with what Paul wrote in Galatians. These two competing realities, unequal to be sure, stir about on the inside. In later posts I'll take note of this enormous conflict in Paul's extensive treatment of it in Romans 7. 

    Suffice to say, any working model of Christian sanctification has to handle how the Christian can have a new nature on the one hand, while still dealing with the uncomfortable reality of lingering sin. As we turn to Romans 6, the opening three verses pose three diagnostic questions that help us to see that thought the Christian is "a saint who sins occasionally", they never have a legitimate excuse for doing so.

1. Do I have the right to sin? No

Romans 6:1 "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be!"

    When one becomes a Christian, they are brought into a new life, united to Christ, with new rights. We have the right to live for God. The right to love God. The right to hate sin. Whenever we compare those rights to the one right don't have - the right to sin, we discover that in all reality, nothing is lost. Whenever you think about it, a "right" in the moral and spiritual sense is something granted by God. The sinner's claim on having the "right to sin" is a deception of the fallen impulses of our physical body, containing those selfish drives the Scripture calls "the flesh". The Christian has the license to live for God and does not have the right to sin.

2. Do I have to sin? No

Romans 6:2b "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?"

    This second question deals with the issue of no longer having the necessity to sin. Before Christ, the sinner could say: "I couldn't help my self" because they not only sin out of willingness, but also necessity. Necessity has to do with the overall disposition of one's moral and spiritual nature. When I speak of "nature", I mean the way in which something expresses its existence, behavior, or (if possessing an intellect) it's personality. Another way of describing one's nature would be to say "how one is wound" or, "how one is wired".

    What happens when the nature is changed to a new one in Christ? The will of the human person now has options! Fallen man's freedom of the will is limited to only doing what pleases himself. He is free to do whatever he wants and yet, no matter how religious or moral he may be, unless the Holy Spirit is acting upon and in the heart - that person will refuse God 100% of the time. At saving faith, the will is "freed" to do the one thing it refused to do - truly and freely love God.

    In post-conversion life (that is, the life that follows from having been born-again to saving faith), Christians will still sin. With that reality understood, the Christian cannot claim they "had to sin", since the necessity to sin is removed. Even though I may sin post-conversion, I don't have to. One's growth in sanctification ought to see a lessening frequency and severity of sins relative to what they would had been pre-conversion.

3. Can I have victory over sins? Yes

Romans 6:3 "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?"

    Let us suppose one has a dead mouse in a mouse trap. If you were to put a piece of cheese up to his nose - would he grab for it? Clearly not. Why? The mouse is "dead". No amount cheese, even the finest cut, will entice a dead mouse. Paul describes the Christian's relationship to the power of sin as being "dead". By one's union in Christ - sin - in effect - is "dead to them". 

    This is Paul's way of saying that in Christ, ground is given to the Christian to have victory. Victory over particular sins requires a daily giving of oneself to God's Word, prayer, and putting on the shield of faith (see Ephesians 6:1-11). Our flesh may very well "flare-up" in such instances - since the cancellation of "power of sin", not the "presence of sin", has occured.

    We must remember that in justification - the penalty of sin is removed. In sanctification - the power of sin is removed. Only when I am in heaven with Jesus - or glorification - will the presence of sin be removed. With those distinctions noted, since my relationship with Christ is defined - that means my relationship to sin ought to change. 

    The more I grow deeper in love with Jesus, the higher will be my hatred of sin. In sanctification - I am becoming in experience whom God declared me to be by position in justification.

    In our next post, we shall continue on by exploring the meaning of how the primary reality of the Christian's new identity is rooted in their union with Jesus Christ. 

More next time....

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