A Voice in the
If we have died and been buried with Christ through baptism, and the matter of living in "righteousness to God" (6:13) is -simply- a matter of considering ourselves as "dead to sin" and of yielding in submission as slaves to God, how come we still sin? If in being raised with Christ to "newness of life" (6:4) where the new birth (Jn3:3) makes us "new creatures" and everything has "become new" (2Cor5:17) why is it such a STRUGGLE to live pure and righteous lives before God?
As Believers we -want- to be obedient to God and His laws, knowing that His commandments are good. But something draws us away to disobey, and we actually -enjoy- doing those things we "hate". Paul says, "For what I desire, that I do not do; but what I hate, that I do." (vs15,19)
For all this "righteousness of God" which we have, there is "sin that dwells in me." (vs17,20-21) How can this be? John wrote, "Everyone who abides in Him does not sin. Everyone who sins has not seen Him nor known Him." (1Jn3:6) And again, "Everyone who has been born of God does not commit sin, because His seed remains in him, and he -cannot- sin, because he has been born of God." (vs9) Paul says there is sin in us. John says, if you sin you're not of God. Who's right? Does the Bible contradict itself? Oh, but then, John had said earlier, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1Jn1:8) Well, there you have it! John can't even decide!
[Ed: For John's perspective on this the reader is directed to the website "Library" where you will find a study series on the complete book of 1John]
Paul speaks of "Law". Remember how we -died- to sin, and -arose- to Christ, to newness of life. Just as we die to sin and whoever is in charge of sin, we also die to Law and its jurisdiction. As long as a person is alive, the law can fine, imprison or execute a person. Once a person is dead, there is nothing further the law can do regarding that person.
The marriage "trust" which the two pledge to each other is, "until death do us part." The only form of RE-marriage God ordained was for widow/ers. Where -death- had taken one of the two. God ordained, "two become one". (Gen2:24) And Jesus confirmed that law, "what God has joined, let not man separate." (Mt19:6) Any other form of remarriage, according to Law, is "adultery". (vs1-3)
Now, we have just a bit of a dichotomy about the Law. On one hand, the Law is God's Law. It is holy, just and good. (vs12,16) God had commanded regarding the keeping of it, "And you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live in them. I am the LORD." (Lev18:5)
However, the Law is also the basis for judgment. If there was no speed-limit law, a person cannot receive a citation for going too fast. In similar fashion, although a person's conscience (2:15) may tell him that lying is wrong, he can't be judged for lying unless there is a law that says, "you shall not lie." When God's only stipulation was, "don't eat of -that- tree" -that- tree became the focus for lust. "But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, worked in me all kinds of lust." (vs8) You see, without the Law, there are no 'teeth' against sin. There is no understanding of something existing called "sin". This is why -that- tree was called the "Tree of the knowledge of good and evil." (Gen2:9) Without a law or the breaking of the law, there is no understanding of the -concept- of sin. Sin does not 'exist'. (vs8) There is no death, as mankind was "alive" once without the law. (vs9)
But as soon as there was the Law, then sin had things to grab on to. Start churning and manipulating. Things to be 'curious' about and 'investigate'; which is what the serpent 'helped' Eve along with. How many little children would not be drowned if there hadn't been a "law" which said, "don't go near the pool." As soon as the law says, don't go there, the attention is turned towards the pool, and then, curiosity, investigation...and 'splash'...they're -in- the pool. Did that make the parents "bad" because they warned, "don't..."? No, the warning was good. Just like God's law, if it was observed, the child would not drown... they would "live".
Although it is good, the Law focuses the attention on what is bad, and we tend to do what our attention is focused on. Just like they teach in motorcycle safety classes: If you're maneuvering around objects, or riding near a ditch, or such obstacles; if the attention is focused on that telephone pole or ditch, that's where you're going to end up. What you want to do: You notice the object is there, but focus your attention on where you want the motorcycle to go. Which is why Paul writes about "laying aside" all the obstacles to the Christian life and "sin", focusing our attention instead, "looking unto Jesus..." (Heb12:1-2)
Thing is... there are -two- laws. And correspondingly, two "natures". God's Law is "spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin." (vs14) We maybe have died and risen with Christ, but "evil is present with me." (vs21) This word "present" indicates that this evil is not "part -of-" me, but it's near-by, 'tagging along'. It is not a part of that "new birth" (Jn3:3) or part of Christ. Which is why John wrote, "his -seed- remains in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God." (1Jn3:9) When we are born in Christ, we have Christ's nature, but there is sin which tags along and follows us around. How does it do so?
"..I am carnal". Still in the "flesh". (vs14) I "delight in the law of God according to the -INWARD- man." (vs22) We are 'tripartite' beings. We are comprised of "spirit, soul and body". (1Th5:23) The "inward man" is the 'spiritual'. -That- part has no problem being obedient to God and His laws. But there is -another- law "in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin being in my members." (vs23) While our spirits are saved, our -bodies- are yet in sin. In another recent study with the people on the E-list, we considered how when a person comes to Faith in Christ, that Faith did not change certain -physical- situations about the person. If their body had tattoos or scars prior to salvation, the New Birth did not erase those -physical- features. Nor did it change the status of one's -physical- "marriage bed" in terms of divorce and remarriage.
When we were buried and raised with Christ (6:4) that was -spiritual-. But our -bodies- are yet beset with their carnal frailties. The carnal is yet 'tagging along' and -wanting- its way. And so it contrives to get its way by manipulating the mind. (vs23) If a person thinks about it, temptation to sensual lust, for example, begins with the body. One's own hormones, the visual sensation of that which is "desirable", and everything works on the mind, then, to contrive satisfaction... for the -flesh-.
Notice Paul's great cry, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the -BODY- of this death?" (vs24) In Ch8 he will speak of the "redemption of our body." (vs23) At the resurrection/rapture notice that it is "flesh and blood" which will be "changed". (1Cor15:50-51)
As we exist presently, no matter how wonderful the Believer, we CANNOT get to heaven. We may have come to God in repentance and received Jesus Christ as our sole Savior from sin, but we cannot -yet- go to heaven. Because of these -BODIES-. "..flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption." (1Cor15:50) Our salvation is not yet 'complete' for all three parts of our being. Paul says, "Not as though I had -already- attained, either were already perfect..My brothers, I do not count myself to have -TAKEN- possession..." (Phil3:12-13) But we have the "sealing" with the Holy Spirit of -PROMISE-. (Eph1:13) It is our sure "hope".
This is why Christ's -physical- resurrection is so important. His resurrection insures a "living hope" of the "inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and unfading, reserved in Heaven for you." Which is why the "security" of God's salvation is so precious. This aspect of our salvation is "ready to be revealed in the last time" (1Pt1:3-5) at His "glorious appearing" (Tit2:13) when Believers are raised from the dead and living ones caught up to "meet the Lord in the air" (1Th4:17) at which time "when He shall be revealed, we shall be like Him" ..because we will have been "changed" as the "corruptible [put on] incorruption" (1Cor15:52) ..as we "see Him as He is." (1Jn3:2)
[Ed: Think about how the "wedding garment" might fit here. (Mt22:11-12) Possibly something different than the "robe of righteousness"? (Isa61:10, Rev7:9)]
But for now "..with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." (vs25b)
How do I gain victory over the flesh? "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (vs25a) And -how- is this accomplished? "Oh...just turn it over to the Lord!" ...flutter the eyelids a bit and don a pious expression? Not quite!
Marriage! When we died with Christ, we not only died to sin, but also to the Law which condemned sin. Since we are now "free" from the law and sin, we are "free" to "be married to Another [Christ], even to Him raised from the dead.." (vs4) Thus, Paul exhorts, "stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and do not again be held [entangled-nkjv] with the yoke of bondage." (Gal5:1)
When a couple is newly married, in a 'healthy' marriage the two do not necessarily seek out each other as to what "laws/rules" the other -requires- of them. The "law" that now exists is the law of 'love'. The -desire- to 'please' the other; to do what the other wants. Just as wives are "subject to" their husbands (Eph5:22,Col3:18), if we love Him [our "Husband"] we will keep His commandments. (Jn14:15)
And so, if our flesh tempts us to lust away after sin, sin now has a new label. "Adultery". "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?" (Jas4:4) The O.T. prophets spoke much of Israel's "whoredom" against God. In other words, with our "marriage" relationship with Christ, if we are led away into sin, we are being "UNFAITHFUL" to our "Spouse", Jesus Christ.
So, how do we achieve victory over sin? Do we begin to see how the pharisaical approach of "legalism" just doesn't 'cut' it? Is impossible? Legalists judge everything by "law". They look -to- the Law, instead of Christ. They busy themselves with their KJV-derived "appearances" of evil (1Th5:22) in terms of what "looks" good or bad, rather than looking within their own hearts and their relationship with Christ. They forget that the Law was much too cumbersome and impossible to keep. They do not accept the "simplicity that is in Christ" (2Cor11:3), forgetting that He promised, "My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." (Mt11:30)
Victory comes through Jesus Christ our Lord. Through our marriage "Pledge of Faith" to Him. "-ABIDING-" in Him (Jn15:4) and bearing "much fruit" (vs5) "to God". (Rom7:4b) If we in this manner continually "put on" the Lord Jesus (Rom13:14) we won't have time for the flesh.