This article and the articles that follow in the series of 28 articles were taken from the written text behind my 28 half-hour audio broadcast series, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin." Quite often throughout this article I will make comments in the middle of quotations using brackets [ ]. I'll always quote from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition, unless I mention otherwise.
Since this is the first article I'll give a little background information. I received BS and MS degrees in engineering from St. Louis University, and I worked throughout the 60s on various space projects. Much of that was very interesting. Very often we were doing things for the first time.
In 1964 the best thing that ever happened to me happened. I became a born-again Christian. Thanks be to God! My life began to change, greatly. For the first time in my life I had peace with God. I had an assurance of salvation. And I have had that assurance ever since. Again, thanks be to God! One of the first things I noticed after I became a born-again Christian was that my cussing stopped. I had tried to quit cussing for at least ten years with no success. I would embarrass myself quite often. But God just took it away, with no effort on my part, and there were other things like that. He did some spectacular things, convincing me that the Bible is true and that new-covenant salvation is real.
But there was one area, at least one area, where temptation increased, and the spiritual warfare was intense. What was I going to do? As I began to cry out to God for help, I got highly motivated to study what the Bible had to say about holiness and victory over sin. God began to open up Romans chapter 6 to me, which is a powerful passage on holiness and victory over sin. (We will go through that chapter verse-by-verse in the very near future, and we will look at many similar passages.) I began to see that God was clearly saying that we are called and enabled to walk in holiness with the victory over sin. That was good news to me, very good news. I didn't get condemned by the fact that I wasn't fully walking in that victory yet, but I rejoiced in that I could see that the victory was available.
I could also see that the victory over sin wouldn't be easy. The world, the flesh, and the devil are engaged in intense warfare against us, and I began to see that most Christians wouldn't be much help. Most of the Christians I knew were trying to talk me out of the idea that we can have the victory over sin in this life. And I was receiving the same message from most of the Christian literature I was reading. I don't mean that they were saying that sin is OK, but they made it quite clear that they didn't think it was possible for Christians to stop sinning while living in this world.
In the fall of 1969 I quit my job as an engineer. I thought it might be temporary, but I never got back to engineering. I liked it (in fact, for a long time it was one of my primary gods), but I found Someone and something that was much better. Of course we have to do what God calls us to do. For one thing, I wanted to go to seminary. I wanted to learn everything I could possibly learn that would help me understand the Bible. It is super-important for us to rightly divide God's Word, to understand it, and to live it. One thing I really wanted to learn was New Testament Greek. I have found Greek to be very helpful. I took all the Greek they offered at seminary, and I studied quite a bit more on my own, and I have taught quite a few classes in New Testament Greek. I also wanted to learn Old Testament Hebrew, and I have found that to be quite helpful too. However, the most important thing I learned as a young Christian is that we are totally dependent on the Holy Spirit to be able to rightly divide, to understand, and to live God's Word.
I am interested in every detail that will help me understand the Bible. We can't understand a verse of the Bible until we understand the meaning of the words in the verse. I'm willing to spend ten hours, twenty hours, even a hundred hours to find out what one key word means. I have spent over a hundred hours studying a few key words like righteousness and holiness.
I finally graduated from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis with an MA degree in Biblical Studies in 1972. Since then I have been prayerfully studying and teaching classes in churches, Bible colleges, home Bible studies, etc. My primary topic has always been holiness and victory over sin, but I have also spent a lot of time on topics like faith, grace, and the end times. Most of my study and teaching has involved going through passages of the Bible, or books of the Bible, verse-by-verse. Each verse must be understood in its context.
The last twenty years I have been doing a lot of writing. I wrote two books, "The Mid-Week Rapture: A Verse-by-Verse Study of Key Prophetic Passages" and "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: (This is a good sub-title) Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ." "Full salvation" very much includes holiness and victory over sin. The Lord Jesus Christ didn't die just so we could be forgiven and have right standing with God, as important as that is. It is equally true that His atoning death dethroned sin, Satan, and spiritual death and enables us to be born again and to walk in the righteousness and holiness of God. For example, 1 Pet. 2:24 says, "He bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed."
I have also written quite a few articles and papers. The primary emphasis has been on holiness and victory over sin, but quite a few papers deal with the end times. One paper is titled "Once Saved, Always Saved?" Another is titled, "A Paper on Faith" and another, "The Christian, the Law, and Legalism." Many of the papers are over 100 pages. Most of my papers are posted on my internet site. I recommend you take a look at them. I'll give the internet address later.
Now I'm going to turn to the Preface of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin," and read four paragraphs. I'll be reading from the book quite a bit in these radio broadcasts. For one thing, I would like to get you motivated to get a copy of this book and to study it. The book is not light reading, but the topic is extremely important, and I believe the book is quite accurate. The primary goal for this book and for these radio broadcasts is that we rightly divide God's Word and understand the gospel of new-covenant salvation, and then live it, by grace, through faith (faith in God and His Word). The book gets into a lot of details, but details are necessary, important, and good if they help us understand the Bible.
The first paragraph I'm going to read from the Preface is under the heading, "Need for revival?" Quite often when I read from my book, I will make additional comments and sometimes I will modify what is written in the book for these radio broadcasts. More and more I hear Christians speak of the need for revival. There is a growing awareness that all is not well with the Christian church of our day. (I wrote this book about fifteen years ago. Some things are better now than they were fifteen years ago, but I believe that most things have gotten worse.) I certainly agree that we have a great need for revival, but I'm interested in a revival that is solidly based on the Bible and puts the emphasis on such things as truth, grace, holiness, righteousness, humility, and true Christian love. (There is a counterfeit love that's big in our day.) The studies contained in this book show something of the foundation needed for a true, Bible-centered revival.
Now I'll turn to another heading in the Preface, "The major theme of these studies." There are three paragraphs here. The major theme that permeates these studies is the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ has dethroned sin, Satan, and spiritual death through His atoning death, and it is mandatory, therefore, for Christians to make it a top priority item to walk in righteousness and holiness through faith. This is not a burden; this is a great privilege! We don't want legalism and striving in the flesh, and we certainly don't need more condemnation. What we need is the transformation to the righteousness and holiness of God that only the Holy Spirit can produce and maintain. We need to humble ourselves before God and cry out to Him to forgive and sanctify His people.
I trust that most sincere Christians know that sin is our greatest enemy and want the full victory over sin. (Admittedly, many, or most, Christians don't believe that victory over sin is possible during this present life, but they at least agree that we must wage warfare against sin with the highest priority). I feel a need to modify the second half of that last sentence, where I said, "they at least agree that we must wage warfare against sin with the highest priority." I wish it were true that all, or most, evangelical Christians agree that we must wage warfare against sin with the highest priority, but I'm sorry to say it isn't true, far from it, and it is getting worse all the time in some circles. I'm talking about evangelical Christians waging warfare against the sin of evangelical Christians, especially our own sins, not about waging warfare against the sin of the world. Some are ignoring sin more than they are waging warfare against sin. For one thing, we don't want to offend anyone. We had better get more concerned with offending God.
One thing is for sure, we will not hit the target of walking in the righteousness and holiness of God with the victory over all sin if we are not even aiming at the target. Something is seriously wrong when Christians are not making it top priority to walk with the victory over sin by grace through faith. I'm totally convinced from the New Testament that God has called us to such a walk. This is good news! Very good news! What God calls us to do, He enables us to do. No true Christian likes feeling guilty. No true Christian wants to continue sinning.
We will spend a lot of time discussing these super-important things in these radio broadcasts. Now, I'll continue to read from my book. Holiness, which includes victory over sin, like forgiveness, must be received from God by grace through faith. But we cannot have a solid faith to receive and walk in holiness unless we are convinced that this is part of the gospel (according to the New Testament). A primary goal for these studies is to show that the gospel does indeed call Christians to walk in holiness with the victory over sin. And again, this is good news!
There is very little said in this book about Christian growth. Clearly, Christian growth is necessary and important, but the emphasis of these studies is on the need to get rid of anything and everything that God considers sinful in the heart and life of each Christian now. Everything that is truly sinful should be dealt with now. Christian growth will take place as it should if we take care of the basics. The basics include the following: #1 laying a solid foundation of repentance and faith in God and in the truth of the gospel; #2 establishing and maintaining a proper relationship with God (for example, make Him and His will top priority, walk by the Spirit [not the flesh], and spend adequate time in worship, Bible study, and prayer); #3 establishing and maintaining a proper relationship with the people of God (for example, become part of a God-centered, Bible-centered church); and #4 continuing to walk in the light that we have now, as we continue to learn more of God's Word and of His will for our lives.
For our first Bible passage to study let's turn to Gal. 5:16-25, which is a very important passage. I'll read from the NASB, 1977 edition, which was the edition I used in my book. Today we won't get beyond the first verse, verse 16, which is a very important verse on the topic of holiness and victory over sin. The apostle Paul was writing here to the Galatian Christians. He was the one who had shared the gospel with them. I'll start to read Gal. 5:16. "But I say, walk by the Spirit. [It is very important to see that this is the Holy Spirit. "Walk by the Spirit," or we could translate "walk after the Spirit" or "walk in the Spirit." We can't walk by the Spirit until we are born again and indwelled by the Spirit of God. Paul was writing to born-again Christians.] But I say, walk by the Spirit. [How do we walk by the Spirit? First and foremost, we walk by faith, faith in God and faith in what the Word of God teaches about new-covenant salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.] But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh."
If we walk by the Spirit all the time, we will not carry out the desire of the flesh. What is the desire of the flesh? The desire of the flesh is to sin. Later in this chapter, in verses 19-21, Paul lists some of the works of the flesh. The desire of the flesh is to do the works of the flesh. The works of the flesh equals all sin. I'll read Gal. 5:19-21. "Now the deeds [I like the translation "works" better.] Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Not inherit the kingdom of God? We had better listen then; we don't want to miss the kingdom of God.
One important thing to notice here is that many of these sins have little or nothing to do with the physical body. For example, idolatry, sorcery, and envying. The flesh, as Paul uses this word in Gal. 5:16 ("you will not carry out the desire of the flesh") and in Gal. 5:17, 19 and many other verses, equals the old man. The flesh equals the old man. The old man is everything we were before we became born-again Christians. It's man in spiritual death; it's man without the Spirit of God; it's man in bondage to sin. The flesh is not at all limited to the physical body (as many Christians think it is). We will talk more about the meaning of the word flesh as we continue.
The desire of the flesh is to sin, as the works of the flesh demonstrate. "Walk by the Spirit and you most certainly will not carry out the desire of the flesh." I like to translate it that way, you most certainly will not. The Greek supports this translation in that the Greek has an intensive negative here. It has the words "ou" and "me." The apostle is saying, walk by the Spirit all the time, and you won't be sinning. That sounds good doesn't it? Forgiven, but also so transformed by the saving grace of God in Christ that we stop sinning. That's a big part of what the good news of new-covenant salvation is all about!
"Walk by the Spirit and you most certainly will not carry out the desire of the flesh." In other words the sin problem will really be solved; we won't just be forgiven; we will stop sinning and live in the righteousness and holiness of God. And this full salvation comes 100 percent by grace, and God gets all the glory.
Our holiness and victory over sin doesn't come automatically, because our walking in faith and by the Holy Spirit all the time is not automatic. First we have to know and understand the gospel, and then we must live the gospel on a continuous basis by grace through faith. "Walk by the Spirit and you most certainly will not carry out the desire of the flesh." Did the apostle Paul consider this to be the impossible dream, that we could walk by the Spirit all the time and not sin? Emphatically not! God calls us to walk by the Spirit all the time, and no one can stop us from walking by the Spirit all the time. Now I didn't say it was always easy. There is intense warfare against us by the world, the flesh (the flesh is the old man that wants to live and manifest itself in sin), and the devil and his hosts. But God's grace is sufficient for those who appropriate it by faith, on a continuous basis, in accordance with His Word. We must know and understand the gospel, and we must walk by faith on a continuous basis.
One of the main problems we have in the body of Christ is that the gospel is often presented in a very shallow and unacceptable way, and Christians have often been taught that they cannot have the victory over sin in this life. Many sincere, solid Christian leaders are convinced that the New Testament teaches that we cannot have the victory over sin in this life. Well, for a start, the apostle Paul certainly exhorted Christians to always walk by the Holy Spirit so that they would not sin in Gal. 5:16. We'll be talking more about these super-important things as we continue. Everything I am sharing with you is good news, very good news!
Now I am going to turn to page 196 of my book and read part of what I said under Gal. 5:16, and I'll be making some additional comments too. Galatians 5:16 (in its setting with Gal. 5:13-25) is one of the most important verses in the New Testament which shows that Christians can (and should) always walk in holiness with the victory over sin. I could have said "which shows that Christians can (and should and must) always walk in holiness with the victory over sin." God never said that sin is a legitimate option for Christians. We should not make room for sin in our hearts and lives. God hates sin!
I didn't say we couldn't be forgiven, but we're not supposed to be sinning, "He bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed" (1 Pet. 2:24). That's good news, isn't it? Even if a Christian is not fully walking with the victory over sin, it is good news to learn that the victory is available. We don't have to continue living in sin. When we find out who Jesus is (God the Son) and the infinite price that was paid to redeem us from the kingdom of sin, it would be surprising, even shocking, if we could not have the victory over sin. Jesus didn't do all that He did just so we could be forgiven, as important as that is; He came to set us free from our former evil taskmaster of sin. Again, God hates sin! If it really is sin, it is against God, and it is a serious matter; for one thing, sin always messes things up and destroys divine order.
(I'll skip the next three paragraphs. We'll pick up the information contained in these paragraphs later.) "The desire of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16) is to do the "deeds [works] of the flesh." For Christians to not carry out the desire of the flesh (as they walk by the Spirit, the Holy Spirit) is for them to live above sin. A partial list of "the works of the flesh" is included in Gal. 5:19-21. We already read those verses. "The works of the flesh" as these words are used in Gal. 5:19-21 embrace all sin. Such things as sinful attitudes and motives are included in what the apostle means by "the works of the flesh." Note that he listed jealousy, envy, etc. Those sins are not associated with the physical body, and it is very important to know that sin is of the heart. In Mark chapter 7 Jesus taught us that sin is of the heart. The sin problem is not situated in the physical body. If it was centered in the body, it would be very easy for God to solve the sin problem. He could just kill all the bad bodies and take all the good spirits to heaven. But it's not like that; sin is of the heart/inner man. The root sins of pride and unbelief, for example, are sins of the heart.
In summary, the apostle Paul exhorts Christians to walk by the Spirit on a continuous basis so that they will not carry out the sinful desire of the flesh, so that the flesh will not be able to manifest itself in sinful works. It is very important to see that the flesh here equals the old man. The emphasis is not on the physical body, but the physical body is included. Those who walk by (or we could translate "after" or "in") the Spirit on a continuous basis will walk above sin, by grace. I am not speaking of self-righteousness or self-holiness, this is God's saving grace in Christ, and we appropriate this grace by faith. If I understand the apostle Paul (and I'm quite sure that I do), he did not at all consider it an unattainable ideal for Christians to continuously walk by the Holy Spirit. However, as Gal. 5:17, for example, shows, the apostle did not teach that a continuous walk by (after/in) the Spirit is automatic, or that it would always be easy. There is intense warfare taking place. The flesh/old man has not been annihilated yet, and Satan works in the realm of the flesh/old man. The old man can still live, and will still live to the extent we allow it.
It is all too obvious that Christians can sin. We will, in fact, sin to the extent that we do not walk by the Holy Spirit, by faith, on a continuous basis. We cannot walk by the Spirit apart from the knowledge of the Word of God (especially the gospel) because our faith must be based on the Word of God. And we must rightly divide God's Word and understand it or we cannot fully cooperate with God's saving grace through faith.
Now I'll quote the Amplified Bible on Gal. 5:16 (Quite often the Amplified Bible is helpful, and it is helpful here): "But I say, walk and live habitually in the (Holy) Spirit - responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit [capital S Spirit; the Holy Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh - of human nature without God."
Now we come to the heading, "The Meaning of 'The Flesh' As These Words Are Used in Gal. 5:13-25." I have several paragraphs here. It is common for the apostle Paul (and others) to use the words "the flesh" to speak of fallen man (man in spiritual death, man separated from the Spirit of life). The NIV has "the sinful nature" instead of "the flesh" throughout Gal. 5:13-25. The Amplified Bible at Gal. 5:16 defines the flesh as "human nature without God." Often, as here, there is a contrast between "the Spirit" (the Holy Spirit) and "the flesh" and I list quite a few verses. We'll look at some of these verses:
First we'll look at John 6:63. In John 6:63 Jesus said, "It is the Spirit [the Holy Spirit] who gives life [No matter what man does, he cannot generate the life of God; life must come from Him, and we're talking especially about spiritual life, which includes the power for man to be righteous and holy. It is the Spirit who gives life], the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit [Spirit] and are life."
Now I'll turn to Romans chapter 7 verses 5, 6, two very important verses. "For while we were in the flesh [The apostle Paul was speaking here of Christians from a Jewish background (Gentiles were not under the Mosaic Law, but all mankind was "in the flesh" apart from new-covenant salvation; we were spiritually dead; we were slaves of sin, as Paul showed for example in Romans chapters 1-6); we had a great need to be born again by the Holy Spirit.], the sinful passions which were aroused by the Law [The apostle was speaking of the Mosaic Law, which was the foundation for the old covenant. The Law could not solve the spiritual death and bondage to sin problem. In fact, as Paul frequently mentions, the Law intensifies the sin problem. Here he speaks of "the sinful passions which were aroused by the Law."], were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death." We (the Christians from a Jewish background) were bearing sinful fruit, and sin brings death. When they were in the flesh and under the Law (before they were born again), they did not have the power to fully keep the Law. Therefore they could not be saved by the Law. God always planned to save all believers through the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. As I mentioned, the Law intensified the sin problem rather than solve the sin problem. The Law could not save us from spiritual death and bondage to sin. We will be speaking much more about these important things as we continue with these studies on holiness and victory over sin.
I'll read Romans chapter 7, verse 5 again and then we'll go to verse 6, "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. (verse 6) But now we have been released from the Law [That is, the Christians from a Jewish background have now been now been released from the Mosaic Law and the old covenant.], having died to that by which we were bound [They were bound to the Mosaic Law, which could not save them (or us); but, more importantly, we were all slaves of sin in the kingdom of sin, spiritual death, and darkness], so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter [the letter of the Mosaic Law]." The newness of the Holy Spirit, who is given to us in new-covenant salvation, makes all the difference. He gives us life (the very life of God), which enables us to live in the righteousness and holiness of God. Once we are born again, we are in the Holy Spirit, not in the flesh, and we are enabled to (and required to) walk by the Spirit (on a continuous basis). Again, this is very good news!
God bless you!
My book "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ" is available ay my website and at amazon.com
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.