I have wanted to do a series on Romans chapter 8 for a while. This is one of the greatest chapters in all of Holy Scripture, and we’re going to begin that next Sunday. But as a preparation for that, we need to know a little bit about the chapters that come before. So that is why I read chapter 7, and I will now read a portion from even chapter 6. So open your Bible to Romans chapter 6. This is going to be a very important series for all of us as we understand the believer’s battle with sin better so that we can be victorious through our Lord.
I want to have you look at the opening of chapter 6 and I want to read the first seven verses. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.”
And then chapter 7, the first six verses: “Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.
“Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.”
The question is, “Does that describe you?” What do I mean by that? I mean, does it describe you to say that, “You are no longer a slave to sin?” You are marked by newness of life. Sin has lost its mastery in your life. You are freed from sin. You no longer operate only in the flesh. Sinful passions do not dominate you, producing in you the fruit of death. But rather, you have died to sin, you have died to passion and lust. They once bound you in a kind of slavery that has been broken. You have died and you have risen to a new master, the Lord Jesus Christ. And now you are a slave to Christ and you are empowered by a sovereign authority, namely the indwelling Holy Spirit. You are a possessor of eternal life. And now instead of bringing forth fruit to death, you bring forth fruit unto God.
Does that describe you? It does if you are justified, because sanctification, which is what that describes, is true of every justified believer. If you have been justified you are also sanctified; the two are inseparable. And when we talk about justification we say that justification is a declaration by God in which He declares that we are righteous, not that we are; but by faith in Christ He declares that we are righteous by crediting His own righteousness through Christ to us so that we are covered literally with the righteousness of God in Christ. That is why we are justified or declared righteous, because we have been literally given credit for the perfect righteousness of God in Christ. That happens at salvation, you are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. That’s justification.
But is that all? What about sanctification? Well, if you have been justified, you also have been declared sanctified, and that process has begun. Go back to Romans 5 for a moment and verse 19. “For as through the one man’s disobedience” – and that would be Adam who catapulted the whole human race into sin – “through one man’s disobedience” – namely Adam – “the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One” – that is Christ – “the many will be made righteous.” Very important.
If you have been declared righteous, you have also been made righteous. If you have been justified, you have also been sanctified. Made righteous, kathistēmi, to make, to constitute. Not that you want to be righteous, not that you hope to be righteous, not that you attempt to be righteous, but you are now made righteous. In justification, you are declared righteous because the righteousness of God in Christ is credited to you. But in sanctification, you are made righteous. In other words, there is a real transformation: regeneration, new birth, conversion. When you were regenerated and given life and you repented and believed, you were justified, and you were also made righteous.
Look at chapter 6, verse 11: “Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Down to verse 17: “Thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” Those are stated as realities, facts.
Down in verse 20: “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.”
This is all fact. This is all stated as reality. This is true. It is true to say of you, you are no longer a slave to sin. You have been freed from sin. You have died to sin. You have been given new life. Sin’s mastery has been done away. You are freed from sin. You have died to the passions that drove you, no longer bound as a slave to sin, but now a slave to righteousness.
Does that describe you? Does it sounds a little bit like an overstatement? Does it sound too extreme? Does it sound like you wouldn’t qualify for all of that? Whatever it sounds like is irrelevant; that is how a believer is described. Having been justified, you are also sanctified.
Now are we passive in this? Is this just all fact? And as some used to say, do we just let go and let God go into neutral and kind of watch it happen? No.
Go down to chapter 6, verse 13. “Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” Down in verse 19, “I’m speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.” So in both verses 13 and 19, we are commanded not to present ourselves to unrighteousness, but to present ourselves to righteousness. We are not passive. Sanctification is a reality; we are not passive in that operation.
Look at verse 22 again: “Having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.” This says when you became enslaved to God, the benefit was sanctification. That is what God has done leads to sanctification.
But back in verse 19 it says, the end of the verse, “As you present your members as slaves to righteousness, it results in sanctification.” So what God does results in sanctification, and what we do results in sanctification; exactly the same phrase. Resulting in sanctification is attributed to God, the work He is doing, and to us as we present our members to Him. Sanctification is a fact. All of these things are true about you if you have been justified. You are no longer in bondage to sin and you are no longer under the threat of the law’s sentence.
But you look at yourself, as I do at myself, and I say, “This seems like an overstatement,” because I’m so very aware of the reality of sin in my life. So how am I to understand that I am simultaneously righteous and sinful? How am I to grasp this? Well, it’s critical that I do, because I need to understand the pathology of my own spirituality so that I can honor God and deal with sin. I am being sanctified. God is sanctifying me, separating me from sin. He is doing that, that is a fact. But the operation of that process requires my obedience.
Lazarus had been dead for four days, and when the Lord arrived at his grave, He had purposely delayed so that he would be good and dead. Mary and Martha knew Jesus could heal, according to John 11, but they weren’t too sure about whether He could raise the dead, and they were hoping He would come before Lazarus died. Jesus waited until he was not only dead, but very dead, so He could display to them the full scope of His divine power.
Jesus went to Lazarus’ grave, and He told the mourners to remove the stone that was over the grave. Jews did not embalm. So Martha immediately incredulous blurted out in King James English, no doubt, “Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he’s been dead four days.” Jesus ignored her concern and cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The sight the mourners saw was Lazarus bound hand and foot, wrappings on his face. He was a mummy hopping when he came out of the grave. So Jesus said, “Loose him, and let him go.” As long as the stinking grave clothes filled with decay and stench of decomposition and death clung to him, it did stink, and he would be unable to express the freshness of his new life.
Why am I telling you that? Because Lazarus offers a graphic illustration of our predicament, as regenerate, justified Christians. We have been raised from the dead, Romans 6:4, we walk in newness of life. We died with Christ and we have been raised with Christ. We joyfully agree with the law of God in the inner man. We are new creations, but we are covered by the remnants of our fallenness, and so we stink. It’s as if we’re bound in our own graveclothes.
That is the reality of our spiritual condition; however, it’s an even deeper and more difficult situation than Lazarus faced. Lazarus’ rags came off rather easily and immediately and completely. With him it was just a linen shroud, and once it was removed and discarded, the stench was gone and the corruption of death no longer was clinging to him. Our predicament cannot be so easily resolved, because it’s not a linen shroud that clings to us, it is a full-fledged carcass.
Go to chapter 7 and remember verse 24: “Wretched man that I am!” – says Paul – “Who will set me free from the body of this death?” What is he talking about? The body of this death, he’s not saying, “I have a corroded or corrupted shroud over me. Literally, I have a corpse tied to me.” And that is why in chapter 8, verse 23, he says, “We groan waiting for the redemption of the body when we will be freed from that corpse that is tied to us.”
We wait for the full and glorious deliverance from sin’s presence. Sin’s mastery has been broken. Sin’s penalty has been canceled, having been satisfied by Christ. Sin’s power has been broken. But sin’s presence is still a reality. So while we are, as verse 5 in chapter 6 says, “united with Him in the likeness of His death, and also united with Him in the likeness of His resurrection, and even that our old self was crucified, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, that we no longer be slaves to sin,” that corpse is still tied to us.
There are some people who think that for Paul to talk like this, he has to be talking about his own life before he was a Christian. There is a whole stream of theology that says Paul can’t possibly be talking about a believer who is simultaneously righteous and sinful, who is a new creation with a corpse tied to him. They say this is not possible. Some of those theologians say things like these: “No limit can be put on the degree of perfection attainable in this life. Doing so would be to limit the grace of God. Clearly, the only limitation as to how holy you can be is that which you impose by your own free will. So you could actually be perfect if you could amp up your will. There’s no limit.” That sounds like such a strange statement it must be uncommon. No, it’s very common.
I’ll read you from the Church of the Nazarene Articles of Faith – that’s a historic denomination, been around for hundreds of years, part of the Wesleyan movement. In their Articles of Faith under “Entire Sanctification,” this is what they say: “We believe that entire sanctification is that act of God subsequent to regeneration by which believers are made free from original sin or depravity and brought into a state of entire devotion to God and the holy obedience of love made perfect.” Now they are saying that can happen as you exercise your will while you’re alive in this world.
Goes on to say in the Article under “Entire Sanctification”: “It is wrought by the baptism with the Holy Spirit.” At some point subsequent to salvation you have an event called the baptism with the Holy Spirit. “It is some kind of spiritual event that results in the cleansing of the heart from sin and the abiding, indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit empowering the believer for life and service. Entire sanctification is a result. It is provided by the blood of Jesus. It is wrought instantaneously by faith, preceded by entire consecration; and to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness.”
So you are justified person. “At some point in your life you desire to become totally sanctified, totally consecrated, so you totally consecrate yourself to God” – whatever that may mean in any moment – “and by faith you apprehend the idea that if you’re devout enough, God will by His Holy Spirit make you sinless. This experience is also knows by various other terms such as Christian perfection, perfect love, heart purity, fullness of blessing, and Christian holiness.”
And then as a footnote, they comment, “We believe that there is a marked distinction between a pure heart and a mature character. The former, a pure heart, is obtained in an instant, the result of entire sanctification.” So you’re justified. And then maybe sometime in the future, by faith, you, through the power of your will, decide that you will become totally consecrated to God; and at that point you are baptized by the Holy Spirit, at which point sin is removed and you become sinless, entirely sanctified. But that’s different than growing in grace. I don’t know you could possibly be a perfectly sinless person and still need to grow in grace. Contradictory.
A little more history on that. Luther confronted this and called it the false philosophy of Aristotle adapted by medieval scholastics. Luther said, “They teach that sin is entirely destroyed by baptism or repentance, and so regard it as absurd that the apostle should here confess, ‘Sin dwells in me.’ As a converted or spiritual man they say, he could no longer have any sin in him; therefore they argue he speaks of himself as a carnal, unconverted man.” – to which Luther says – “But sin does remain in the spiritual man.”
Presbyterian theologian B. B. Warfield in his great work called Perfectionism traced the modern influence of this doctrine back to John Wesley. It was John Wesley, the English pastor, who infected the world with this idea of entire sanctification. And by the way, there was no element in all of his teaching, which afforded him greater satisfaction. And there’s no element in Wesleyan teaching that is more lauded by his followers than this notion of entire sanctification, Christian perfectionism, holiness. This has given life to what is called the holiness movement.
There are many denominations, many forms of this viewpoint. It’s washed up on the church shore in various forms, but it has one consistent fundamental, and this is it. The essential core of this notion that repeats itself in diverse movements is this: justification and sanctification are separate events. They are divided from each other. Justification happens at some point in time when you believe in Jesus Christ in a gospel way. Sanctification happens at some other time later on when you ramp up your free will to totally consecrate yourself to God or therefore baptized by the Holy Spirit, which then makes you perfect. Sanctification then is obtained like justification. It’s some momentary, esoteric, elevated, spiritually-heightened encounter with God by faith, at a later time, disconnect from justification. Sanctification is the second act of grace, they call it. It is like salvation, by faith; like salvation, immediate; and like salvation, complete. This sanctification brings complete freedom from sins.
Now here’s the bad news: you can lose both. In their theological system, you can lose your justification and your sanctification. You attain to justification by your free will, and you attain to sanctification by your free will. And if your will lapses and you stumble into sin and unbelief, you can lose your sanctification and you can lose your justification. So while they are by faith immediate and complete, they are temporary. Neither one is stable. Neither one is permanent. Both can be lost; and then again, instantaneously recovered.
That would be a very difficult way to live the Christian life, trying with all your might on the one hand to hold on to your justification, and with the other hand to hang on to your sanctification. How could anybody who is a true Christian and knows his or her own heart ever think that they had reached entire sanctification, or as many Wesleyan holiness people call it, eradication of the sin nature? I’ll tell you how they do it; they have to redefine sin. You have to downgrade holiness and redefine sin.
Some of you ladies, if you look in your kitchen drawer might find a spoon or a fork or a set of tableware that says, “Oneida.” That is an old company that made flatware. It’s a little town in New York actually. It was one of the original fifty utopian communes that operated in New York after Charles Finney from about 1847 to 1879. There was a stone mansion in the town of Oneida and there were three hundred people in this commune living together, and they started the flatware company. And by the way, the name still exists.
What few people knew was this sort of product of the ministry of Charles Finney and product of this notion of entire sanctification and holiness. What few people knew until 1879 when it dissolved was that their form of perfectionism practiced communal marriage. So every man had access to every woman, including young girls. So they could live in a perpetual orgy and claim they were still entirely sanctified.
You say, “Well, that’s a bizarre illustration.” It is, but it shows you that if you’re going to hold to that doctrine you’ve got to redefine holiness and sin. They’re forced to devise downgraded definition of sin, downgrade definition of sanctification to accommodate the reality that they’re still sinful.
Today this is the classic theology of Methodists, Salvation Army, Nazarenes, other Wesleyan groups. Most Pentecostal groups, many charismatic groups affirm entire sanctification or the doctrine of holiness or eradication. Sin, they say, is only that which is premeditated, conscious and intentional. Something that’s sort of unintentional, accidental and not premeditated is called a mistake. Obviously every form of perfectionism has one big problem: it tortures the human conscience. How in the world could your conscience function if you are so bent on constantly telling yourself you were without sin?
All of this downgrade of holiness, redefinition of sin, is at the expense of a tortured conscience. And what you wind up doing is fearing you’ve lost your justification, fearing you might have lost your sanctification, because the fact is, you can’t hide your sin even to yourself. All of this starts when you separate sanctification from justification. This found its way because of American revivalism from Finney and other. This found its way into mainstream evangelicalism into traditional Baptist movements, and it began to be talked about like this: you receive Jesus as Savior and you’re justified, and sometime later in your life you confess Him as Lord; and that’s when you’re sanctified. That basically was the common view when I wrote the book The Gospel According to Jesus, and I was basically arguing that that was a wrong view, that where justification occurs, sanctification always occurs. And certainly what we read in Romans 6 and 7 says that we have died with Christ and we have risen with Christ and we walk in newness of life.
So how did the mainstream evangelicals deal with it? They said, “Well, we are justified, and you can’t lose that. But sanctification is at the point when you decide to make Jesus Lord. That’s what I grew up with.” You need to make Jesus Lord, as if He was not?
Romans 10:9 and 10, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” That’s why I wrote The Gospel According to Jesus and The Gospel According to the Apostles. And I just finished and saw the first copies of a new treatment of the gospel called Only Jesus. It should be available anytime now.
But evangelism in general all across the country when I wrote that book The Gospel According to Jesus had separated those two things. That’s what I grew up with. I grew up with people saying, “We know you’re a Christian, but you need to dedicate your life to the Lord. You need to consecrate your life to the Lord.” A lot of talk about consecration, dedication. And when we go to youth camp the speakers would always say, “We’re going to have an invitation for dedication to confess Jesus as Lord, a consecration.” And you went back every year, so you did it last year, so it became rededication, reconsecration. Chasing this supposed momentary experience that catapulted you into the category of sanctification, a sort of offshoot from Wesleyan theology.
We go at the end of a camp to a fire, and there’d be a pile of sticks, and we were supposed to take a stick and say, “This is my old life. I want to throw it in the fire and I want to rededicate my life to the Lord.” So kids teary-eyed would come up and throw sticks in the fire. I remember one kid threw his watch in the fire, and I said, “Why did you do that?” He said, “I want to dedicate my time to the Lord.” Really? Try explaining that to your mother when you get home. She asked, “What happened to the watch you got for your birthday?”
Everything from no lordship theology to that dedication, rededication, throwing sticks in the fire mentality existed because of a failure to understand that all who are justified are sanctified. But that sanctification cannot possibly mean perfection. Paul is a believer when he writes Romans 6 and 7. Only a believer understands that. Only a believer loves the law of God and sees it as holy, just and good, and in his inner man, wants to obey it.
J. C. Ryle, writing in his wonderful book Holiness back in 1879 said, “Sudden instantaneous leaps from conversion to consecration I fail to see in the Bible.” He knew what all accurate Bible teachers know, that justification and sanctification are inseparable, and they both come at salvation. It is a serious and consequential error to say that a Christian is justified and not sanctified, but at some point becomes sanctified, and that can actually go to the point of perfection. When you are saved, 1 Corinthians 1:30, we are told that Jesus has become to us justification and sanctification.
There are some similarities between justification and sanctification, both originate and stem from the free grace of God. It is only because of God’s grace that believers are justified and sanctified. Both are part of Christ’s redemptive work of salvation. He grants us pardon, justification, and He grants us purification in sanctification. Both will be present in the same person. Anyone who is justified is sanctified. Anyone who is sanctified has been justified. Both begin simultaneously, both begin at the moment of justification. Both are necessary to glorification. “Without holiness no man will see the Lord.” Those who reach heaven have not only been forgiven of their sins, they’ve also been transformed and renewed in the heart by the Holy Spirit.
That is not to say that there are not differences. There are similarities, as I just said. There are differences. In justification the sinner is counted righteous because the righteousness of Christ is credited to the sinner. In sanctification – listen – the sinner is actually being made righteous, though to a limited degree, still being made righteous by the work of the Word and the Spirit. The righteousness of sanctification is not our own, it is Christ’s righteousness credited to us. That’s the righteousness of justification. The righteousness of sanctification is our own, though mixed with failings and imperfection, wrought in us through the Holy Spirit. In sanctification we are working out the salvation that God has wrought in us.
Justification is an instantaneous, complete and finished act of God, totally complete the moment the sinner believes. Sanctification is a progressive work lasting for the rest of this life and not complete until glorification. Justification doesn’t increase, it doesn’t develop, it doesn’t grow. The sinner is as justified – listen – is as justified the moment the sinner believes, as he will be in heavenly glory. But sanctification is progressive as believers grow in their spiritual life by the power of the Holy Spirit.
One of my favorite Puritans, Thomas Watson, wrote this: "Saving faith lives in a broken heart, always grows in a heart humbled by sin, in a weeping eye and a tearful conscience.” Beautifully said. Beautifully said. Let me say it again. Thomas Watson: “Saving faith lives in a broken heart, always grows in a heart humbled by sin, in a weeping eye and a tearful conscience.” The Puritans couldn’t even imagine, imagine someone thinking himself to be sinless.
That is a dead giveaway that you’re not even dealing honestly with your own heart. True spirituality is the assurance that you can say with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” What mature Christian would say, “I’m sinless. I’m perfect”? Someone who had a seriously downgraded notion of sin and holiness. John Owen, English Puritan, said, “Indwelling sin always abides while we are in this life.” That’s why the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 12:1 talks about the sin that so easily besets us.
Now what does Scripture say? Listen to Proverbs 20, verse 9: “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from sin’?” That’s a rhetorical question, with the obvious answer, “No one.”
First John 1:8 to 10, listen: “If we say we have no sin,” – we, being believers – “if we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. We make God a liar and His word is not in us.” That’s pretty serious. You think you’re sinless? You’re deceiving yourself. The truth is not in you. You make God a liar, and you deny His word. James says in chapter 3, verse 2, “We all stumble in many ways.”
Listen to Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” That’s the pathology of the believer’s battle. “These are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things you wish.” That’s the reality of a believer. We have been justified, we are being sanctified, but there’s a battle going on that will never allow us to reach perfection in this life.
And that sends us back to chapter 7, which I read to you. Go to verse 14 for a moment. “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.” Now wait a minute; you just said in chapter 6 that sin’s bondage was broken. Now you’re saying you’re in bondage to sin. What do you mean? “Well, what I’m doing I don’t understand. I’m not practicing what I would like to do, but I’m doing the thing I hate. All my loves and desires and affections have changed, but I am struggling to bring them about in my life. I do the very thing I don’t want to do. I agree with the Law, confessing the Law is good.”
So this is the heart and soul of a regenerated person. “I love the Law of God, I want to do what honors God. I don’t understand what’s going on, because I find my flesh still in bondage to sin. So I conclude” – in verse 17 – “that it’s not I anymore, it’s not the new I, it’s sin that dwells in me. And I know nothing good dwells in me,” – that is, in my flesh – “for the willing is present in me because of the new creation, but the doing of the good is not. The good I want, I do not do, I practice the very evil I do not want. If I’m doing the very thing I do not want, I’m not longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”
He distances his new I, his new life, his new creation from the sin that is still hanging on. He says, “I find then” – verse 21 – “the principle of evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me or set me free from the body of this death?” So I’ve got this carcass still strapped to me. The old man is dead. The old self is a corpse. It has no life left, but it clings to us with its wretchedness.
That’s the battle, the new life beyond sin’s reach. That’s why Romans 8:1 says, “There’s therefore now no” – what? – “condemnation to those who are in Christ.” The new life is beyond sin’s reach. The new life is prepared for heaven. Death will be less of a change for you than your salvation was. You became a new creation at salvation; that was transformation. When you die, it’s just subtraction. The Christian life is a life of progressive sanctification.
I wish it were as simple as Lazarus, but we’re worse off than Lazarus because we just can’t throw off an outer garment. We still possess the faculties of our unredeemed flesh; and therein lies the battle. It’s such a battle that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “I beat my body to bring it into submission.” Paul says to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
It is a battle. It is a war. There was a time when we were exclusively sinners. There will be a time when we will be exclusively saints. But in this life, we’re both. And that’s the wretchedness of chapter 7, verse 24.
But this is nothing new. Psalm 119 is an Old Testament illustration of this that is stark. In Psalm 119 you have one hundred and seventy-five verses in which the psalmist praises the word of God, one hundred and seventy-five verses, and never repeats himself. He frames it up one hundred and seventy-five times how much he loves the law of God, how much he loves the statues and testimonies and judgment, commandments. He loves them. One hundred and seventy-five times his soul says how much he loves the law of God.
Then there’s one more verse, verse 176: “I’ve gone astray like a lost sheep.” Really? One hundred and seventy times you just said you loved the law of God, and the final comment is, “I’ve gone astray like a lost sheep”? He’s living in Romans 7:2. He knows what is right. He knows what he loves, and what he loves is the law of God. But he also knows that he goes astray.
The body of this death, you see that in chapter 7, verse 24. That’s the dead corpse of the old life, the old man. Spurgeon said this: “It is death incarnate, death concentrated, death dwelling in the very temple of life. Such is the condition of the Christian.” Then Spurgeon wrote this: “It was the custom of ancient tyrants when they wished to put men to the most fearful punishments to tie a dead body to them, placing the two back-to-back. And there was the living man with a dead corpse closely strapped to him, rotting, putrefying, corrupting; and this he must drag with him wherever he went. Now” – says Spurgeon – “this is what the Christian has to do. He has within him the new life. He has a living and undying principle which the Spirit has put within him. But he feels that every day he has to drag about with him this dead body, this body of death, a thing a loathsome, as hideous, as abominable to his new life as a dead, stinking carcass would be to a living man.” And we’re not going to be delivered from it until we leave this world and receive the redemption of the body.
So what should be our response? Go down for a moment to chapter 8, verse 12. We’ll look at verse 11: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,” – and He does – “He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” So you have the power of the Holy Spirit. “So then, brethren, we are not under obligation to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. If you’re living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” How can we win this battle? By the Spirit. By the Spirit. And that is chapter 8: life in the Spirit.
Now that you understand the battle, I’m sure you’re eager to find the answer, and it comes in the profound and unparalleled truths of Romans chapter 8. And that’s going to be starting next week, our study. Sin will always be there to fight. As John Owens said, “You’d better load your conscience with the guilt of it.” The worst thing you could possible do was imagine yourself to be sinless. Owen said, “Load your conscience with the guilt of it.” Be ashamed. “He who conceals his transgression will not prosper.” We’re going to learn how to do just that, to load our conscience with the guilt of it, and triumph over it in the power of the Holy Spirit, and we’ll start that next week in chapter 8.
Father, Your Word again is life and light to us. It instructs us so that we know exactly the truth about everything: the truth about You and ourselves, sin and righteousness, life and death, heaven and hell, judgment and reward, shame and honor. And we certainly learn the reality of our Christian struggle, and we want to be victorious. We want our sanctification to be known to all men. We want to so live that our light shines and brings glory to Your name. It is sanctification for Your honor, to put Your saving power on display.
Guide us, Lord, as we honestly confront the carcass of our old life, which is still strapped to us, the flesh. Thank You for the new inner man, no longer in bondage to sin, but our flesh still is, the new inner man, obedient and producing the fruit of righteousness, fighting against that old man and the temptations of what is unrighteous. May we continually experience increasing victory as sanctification progresses, to make us more like Christ. We long for the day when we will not be sinners and saints, but saints only. Until that day, may we be faithful, for Your glory, in our Savior’s name. Amen.
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