Here in Part 7, which is the last part, we will continue what I was saying in Part 6.
The dominant reason that so many Christians do not have faith to walk in holiness with the victory over sin is that it isn't being taught very much, or on a consistent basis. The majority of Christians in our day, including a large number of ministers, don't know (for one reason or another) that the New Testament makes it clear that God has called, enabled, and required us to walk by His Spirit on a continuous basis with the victory over all sin. One of the primary problems is that so many put all, or most, of the emphasis on positional righteousness. And rather than being taught and encouraged that we can have faith for holiness and victory over sin, we are often told that the New Testament teaches that we cannot have the victory over sin during this age. That is a gigantic error! I deal with this topic quite a bit in my book and other writings. For one thing, I deal with the three passages most often used to try to prove that Christians cannot have the victory over sin in this life in my book (starting on page 194). The three passages are Rom. 7:14-25; 1 John 1:8; and Gal. 5:17. I don't believe any of these passages teach that we cannot walk with the total victory over sin. This is very good news! I also have a paper dealing with the interpretation of Romans chapter 7. An abbreviated version of the paper is on my internet site. You could get a copy of the original version of the paper by contacting me.
I'll briefly comment on Rom. 7:14-25 here. It would be difficult to overstate how much damage has been done to the cause of righteousness, holiness, and the victory over sin through a serious misunderstanding of this passage. This is the passage where the apostle Paul said, "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold [having been sold] into bondage to sin. (15) For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate [namely sin] ... (19) For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want." About half the Christians in our day interpret the apostle Paul to be speaking of himself as a Christian here, and if he was in such bondage to sin, the rest of us Christians certainly cannot expect (cannot have faith) to walk with the victory over sin.
For one thing, that erroneous viewpoint glaringly contradicts what the apostle Paul just taught throughout Romans chapter 6 and the first part of chapter 7 and what will go on to say in Romans chapter 8. When Paul spoke of "having been sold into bondage to sin," he was speaking, as Romans chapter 5 shows, of what happened to mankind with the fall of Adam. However, the New Testament clearly and repeatedly shows that Christians have been redeemed out of that pitiful state through the Lord Jesus, "the last Adam" (1 Cor. 15:45). The apostle could not say as a Christian that "I am of flesh, sold [having been sold] into bondage to sin" without contradicting what he (and the other writers of the New Testament) so often said elsewhere, including Romans chapter 6 and the first part of chapter 7 and what he will go onto say in Romans chapter 8.
Paul was not speaking of himself as a Christian here. He was speaking for fallen mankind, especially that part of mankind that was under the Mosaic Law. While you are considering that idea, you should know that very few early Christian writers understood the apostle Paul to be speaking about himself in this passage before about AD 400; and the few writers who understood him to be speaking of himself as a Christian did not think he was saying that he was sinning. I'll comment on this important point as we continue.
The primary thing that Paul was demonstrating in Rom. 7:5-25 was that the Mosaic Law (the old covenant) was powerless to solve the spiritual death, bondage to sin problem. He showed, in fact, that the Law intensified the sin problem. As many scholars have pointed out, Paul was expanding here on what he said in Rom. 6:14, "For sin shall not have dominion over you [you who are saved in Christ Jesus], for you are not under law but under grace [the sufficient saving, sanctifying grace of God in Christ]." One of the primary things the apostle was doing in Romans chapter 7 was showing that the people of Israel needed new-covenant salvation. And the Gentiles needed to know that the Mosaic Law could not save them; they too needed new-covenant salvation. God only has one answer for the sin problem. He had that glorious plan before He created the world (1 Pet. 1:20).
It is very significant that there was very widespread agreement in the early Christian church up until about AD 400 that Paul was not speaking of himself as a Christian in Rom. 7:14-25. And it is very significant that the few Christian writers of those days (all such writers that I am aware of) who thought the apostle was speaking as a Christian in those verses made a very significant qualification in their interpretation. They said that those verses (like Rom. 7:14, 15, 19, which I quoted above) which speak of not doing the good he wants to do, but doing the very thing he hates, did not refer to Paul (the Christian) actually sinning, but of his having wrong thoughts and desires. It isn't sin to have wrong thoughts and desires if the Christian resists them by the grace of God in Christ. In other words, those few early Christian writers who wrongly thought that Paul was speaking as a Christian in those verses still had enough contact with the reality to know that the apostle Paul wouldn't say that Christians are still under the spiritual death and bondage to sin that came as a result of Adam's transgression. See my book ("Holiness and Victory Over Sin") and paper ("The Interpretation of Romans Chapter 7 and Righteousness and Holiness") for more details.
I'll include one more detail here. You often hear it said that the one speaking in Rom. 7:14-25 has to be a Christian because that person spoke of wanting to do good and to live in line with God's Law. That statement surprises me. The Old Testament (some of the Psalms, for example) frequently spoke of the people of Israel, and not just a few, who loved God and His Law and very much wanted to live in line with His Law. You don't have to be born-again through Christ to have a desire to please God and live in line with His Law.
I should also mention that some Christians who wrongly think Paul was speaking as a Christian in Rom. 7:14-25 believe we can walk with the victory over sin. They say things like, Paul was speaking of himself when he was under conviction before he was born again, or when he was a young Christian and had not yet learned to walk in victory. Those views don't fit the context, but at least they are a great improvement over the very widespread viewpoint that these verses prove that Christians cannot come close to walking with the victory over sin during this age. One thing you will notice is that the notes in many study Bibles wrongly interpret Rom. 7:14-25. Every error hurts, and that error has caused great damage to the Christian church.
I'll quote what Joseph says that involves Romans 7 on pages 147, 148 (also see page 167). "The law stirs up sinful desires in man's flesh. Let me tell you that as long as you are in your current body, you will have the propensity to sin. [[My dictionary defines "propensity" as "a natural tendency, or tendency; bent." I agree that Christians certainly have a very real potential to sin, and that to the extent we don't know that we are called, enabled, and required to walk with the victory over all sin, and to the extent we are not walking by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis by faith, we will be sinning. The flesh (the old man) certainly has a propensity to sin.]] I did not come up with this. It was Paul who said, 'For what I will to do, that I do not practice, but what I hate, that I do' (Rom. 7:15).
What does it mean? It means that as long as you are in this body, even though you hate to lose your temper and be angry, trust me, you will. No matter how hard you try not to, you will fail. [[Trying harder typically won't get the job done. Typically when we try harder, we strive in the flesh. However, we won't fail if we walk by the Spirit, which we are called, and enabled, to do on a continuous basis. I'm not going to say that we cannot do it. God's grace is sufficient for us to do what He has called us to do. Also, I should mention that being angry isn't always sinful, but we certainly must be careful because anger can lead to great sin.]] And when you fail, the devil will be ready to use God's law as a weapon to condemn you. [[He can't condemn us if we repent and confess our sin. And it is super-important for us to know that we don't have to commit this sin (or any other sin) again. I didn't say it would always be easy, but we must begin to think in line with God's Word in our hearts (that God's sanctifying, purifying grace in Christ is sufficient) and aim at the target of not sinning at all. As we have been discussing, the New Testament shows that God's sanctifying, purifying grace is sufficient.]] He knows that if he is able to put you under condemnation, you will start to fear. That fear will bring stress, and then all kinds of psychosomatic sicknesses and oppression can start to make inroads in your life. This is no joking matter - condemnation kills." The primary thing that kills is sin. Sin, not feeling condemned, is our primary enemy! And if we walk according to the New Testament, we will walk with the victory over all sin, and over feeling condemned too. God has us covered, but we must do what is required of us (in accordance with the covenant He has made with us) by His grace. And, of course, we must know what is required of us. As I have mentioned, we have a desperate need to learn the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches. All of us are responsible before God to do this.
On pages 252-254 Joseph spoke of his rejoicing that he had been led, while in a bookstore in New York, to a book written by Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones on Rom. 7:1-8:4. (I had a footnote, "Romans; An Exposition of Chapters 7:1-8:4; The Law: Its Functions and Limits" [Zondervan, 1973], pages 272, 273.) Lloyd-Jones was born in 1899 and died in 1981. He was born is South Wales.
The book "fell open to [Lloyd-Jones] teaching on Romans 8:1, which says, 'There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.' He said, 'The apostle [Paul] is asserting that if we are Christians, your sins and mine - past sins, present sins, future sins - have already been dealt with once and forever!' Wow, I was excited because this sounded like what I had been preaching, and there had been a dearth of such teachings. You don't hear much preaching like this these days. ...." Joseph went on to give a lengthier quotation from Lloyd-Jones. I'll read that quotation and quote a little more from Joseph. This discussion will help us discern the balanced truth of what the New Testament teaches.
"The apostle [Paul] is asserting that if we are Christians, your sins and mine - past sins, present sins, and future sins - have already been dealt with once and forever! Had you realized that? Most of our troubles come due to our failure to realize the truth of this verse. 'There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus' is so often understood to mean nothing more than that past sins have been dealt with. Of course it means that; but it also means your present sins; even more, it means that any sin you may ever chance to commit has already been dealt with. You will never, you cannot ever come under condemnation. [Lloyd-Jones doesn't mean that you cannot ever feel condemned. He means you cannot ever lose your salvation and be condemned to the lake of fire.] This is what the apostle is saying - nothing can ever bring the Christian again in a position of condemnation. ... The Christian can never be lost, the Christian can never come under condemnation. 'No condemnation' is an absolute word, and we must not detract from it. To do so is to contradict and to deny the Scripture. [I'll quote the sentence that Joseph skipped here, "This is the Apostle's way, at this point, of teaching the doctrine of the 'Final perseverance of the saints.' " This is another way of saying that true Christians cannot lose their salvation.]
[Lloyd-Jones is still speaking.] But why does the apostle say this, and on what grounds does he say it? Is it not a dangerous thing to say? Will it not incite people to sin? If we tell Christians that their past sins, their present and their future sins have already been put away by God, are we not more or less telling them that they are free to go out and sin? If you react in that way to my statements I am most happy, for I am obviously a good and true interpreter of the apostle Paul."
I have a lot of respect for the ministry of Lloyd-Jones, but I don't appreciate what he said here. I agree that what he said here seems to confirm much of what Joseph says in his book. One of my first thoughts when I read this quotation from Joseph's book was that Lloyd-Jones must have been saying these things in large part because he believed, as does Joseph, that Christians cannot lose their salvation. ((I had a footnote, At that time, I was surprised because I didn't know, or had forgotten, that Lloyd-Jones held that viewpoint. See pages 5, 6 of this paper on the idea that Christians cannot lose their salvation. One point that I made there is that I'm not too bothered by that doctrine if it isn't abused, but it very often is abused. True Christians shouldn't lose their salvation. It isn't the will of God for them to lose their salvation; however, the will of God isn't always done: He doesn't will for His children to rebel and sin, but....)) I understand that doctrine pretty well, having been converted in a Calvinistic (Presbyterian) church (The flyleaf of Lloyd-Jones book mentions that he was the minister in a Welsh Presbyterian church for some years), having strongly believed that doctrine myself for a couple of years, having graduated from a Calvinistic (Presbyterian) seminary, and having studied many books written by Calvinists. I have a lot of respect for born-again Calvinistic scholars who respect the Bible, and I have learned a whole lot of truth (biblical truth) from them.
My thought that Lloyd-Jones must have been saying the things he said here in large part because of his belief that Christians cannot lose their salvation was confirmed when I read the sentence that Joseph skipped, which I quoted above in brackets. It is obvious that IF you could not lose your salvation, your past, present, and future sins have to be dealt with somehow. You never could be condemned to hell.
I need to make two important points. In the first place, I think Lloyd-Jones has significantly overstated the case here, at least in part because of his belief that Christians cannot lose their salvation. When the Lord Jesus Christ (or the apostle Paul, or other writers of the New Testament) dealt with Christians living in sin, they made it clear that repentance was required with a high priority and that their salvation was at stake. I have given many examples to demonstrate this point in this paper. What the Lord Jesus said to the Christians in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 who needed to repent should suffice to make that point clear. He didn't tell them that they were secure because their present and even their future sins were already dealt with. Far from it!
And the second point I want to make here is very important to the topic of this paper. I will show, for one thing, that, although this quotation makes it sound like Lloyd-Jones would agree with much of what Joseph teaches in his book, he wouldn't agree. I'll give some quotations from later pages in Lloyd-Jones' book as we continue, to show that he didn't believe we can put all the emphasis on positional righteousness, like Joseph does. He wouldn't say that Christ fulfilled the law for us and that's all there is to it, like Joseph does. He believes we must also walk in the (actual) righteousness of God. He believes that Christians need the law of God, for one thing, to "remind us of the life God demands of us" (page 302). And, with those facts in view, I don't believe he would tell Christians that the Holy Spirit never convicts of sin or that ministers don't need to preach the Ten Commandments (God's moral law) or to preach on the need for Christians in sin to repent, or that Christians don't need to confess their sins to be forgiven, as Joseph does in this book.
I'll include some excerpts from Lloyd-Jones to demonstrate much of what I said in the preceding paragraph: "What the Law could not do [Rom. 8:3], then, was to secure that the righteousness which it demanded was fulfilled in us. That leaves us with the question, What does this mean? ... The Law has two objects, the first and foremost being to provide a representation of God's demand of righteousness from man. Secondarily, it punished and condemns. ... We must never forget the two aspects of the purpose of the Law; it is to indicate the way of righteousness, the way of life, to remind us of the life God demands of man, as well as to condemn. Indeed our condemnation arises out of our failure to live according to the Law. ..." (pages 301, 302).
"I need something further [than being delivered from guilt and punishment]. I need a positive righteousness [by living in accordance with God's moral law]. I cannot stand in the presence of God by means of the forgiveness of sins only; I need a positive righteousness [an actual righteousness; and as I have mentioned, this is the dominant use of the word righteousness in the Bible], the righteousness that the Law postulates [demands, requires]. The second element in salvation, therefore, is that I am clothed with the righteousness [the actual righteousness] of Jesus Christ. ... In verse 3 [Rom. 8:3], the Apostle tells us how God delivers us from the guilt of sin [Verse 3 definitely includes His setting us free from the authority and power of sin, from the kingdom of sin.]; in verse 4 how He gives us the positive righteousness, and how He will go on doing this increasingly through the work of the Spirit in sanctification until we are ultimately glorified, and free from sin altogether" (pages 302, 303).
"In other words, the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us in two ways. The righteousness of Christ is 'imputed' to us [positional, legal righteousness]; but, thank God, the righteousness of Christ is also 'imparted' to us (page 304)." Lloyd-Jones goes on to speak of progressive sanctification.
I knew that Lloyd Jones included (actual) righteousness and holiness as a big part of what Christianity is all about. I had included the following quotation in my audio series titled "Holiness and Victory Over Sin." I'll read part of what D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said under Eph. 1:4. I'm quoting from his book, "God's Ultimate Purpose, An Exposition of Ephesians Chapter 1," published by Baker in 1978. "So we must always start with holiness, as the Scripture does, and therefore the preaching of holiness is an essential part of evangelism. I stress this matter because there are certain quite different ideas about evangelism, some indeed that say the exact opposite. They maintain that in evangelism the preacher does not deal with holiness. [Lloyd-Jones is speaking of actual holiness, where the Christian is set apart for God from sin.] The one aim is 'to get people saved,' then later you can lead them on to holiness. But what is salvation? To be saved is to be rightly related to God, and that is holiness. The whole purpose of evangelism is primarily to tell men what sin has done to them, to tell them why they are what they are, namely, separated from God. It is to tell them what they need above everything else is not to be made to feel happy, but to be brought back into a right relationship with the God who is 'light and in him is no darkness at all.' But that means preaching holiness. To separate these two things, it seems to me, is to deny essential biblical teaching. We must start with holiness, and continue with it, because it is the end for which we are chosen and delivered." Amen!
There are many more passages and topics we could discuss, but I believe this would be a good place to stop.
May God's will be fully accomplished through this paper!
© Copyright by Karl Kemp
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.
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