Holiness and Victory Over Sin #7
by Karl Kemp 9/19/2011 / Bible Studies
Holy Father, we humble our hearts before you. We want to understand your Word. We want to live in the center of your will through new-covenant salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. We pray in His mighty, holy name! Amen!
I'll quote from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition unless otherwise noted. Frequently I'll make comments in the middle of quotations using brackets [ ] or [[ ]].
We have the great privilege to turn back to Romans chapter 8. Last week we looked at verses 1-4, which are super-important verses, but we didn't finish discussing verses 3, 4. I'll quote verses 1, 2 and comment briefly; then we'll go back to verses 3, 4. Verse 1, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law [or, the governing principle] of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law [or, the governing principle] of sin and of death." All true Christians are "in Christ Jesus," and the Spirit of life dwells in us (Rom. 8:9). Having been born again by the Holy Spirit of life, we are no longer under the governing principle of sin and of death. We are no longer spiritually dead and in bondage to sin.
Romans 8:3, "For what the Law could not do [The Mosaic Law was the foundation for the old covenant. What was it that the Mosaic Law could not do? It could not set us free from spiritual death and bondage to sin. The Law did not have the authority or power to dethrone spiritual death or the bondage to sin that comes with spiritual death. The Law came from God, and it was good, but it was not given for the purpose of solving the sin problem. In fact, the apostle Paul made it quite clear that the Mosaic Law intensified the sin problem. But that could work for good too. For one thing, the Law has helped many people see that they need the promised new-covenant salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.], weak as it was through the flesh [Man in the flesh; man in spiritual death; man without the indwelling Holy Spirit of life doesn't have the ability to fully keep God's Law.], God did: [How did He do it?], sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin [or, concerning sin], He condemned sin in the flesh." God the Father dethroned spiritual death and sin (and Satan and his demons) through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I'm going to turn to page 117 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ," and quote part of what I said under this verse (Rom. 8:3). I take the liberty to modify what I said in the book for these articles. I know that I do some repetition, but I believe this is worthy of repetition. We need to get this. We need to live this, by grace through faith.
"For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh." Apart from Christ, all people are in the flesh (see, for example, Rom. 7:5, 14; 8:5-9; John 3:6); they are not indwelled by the Spirit of life; they are under "the law [or, governing principle] of sin and of death." As we have discussed, man in the flesh does not have the power to fully keep the Mosaic Law. See Romans chapter 7, for example. In Romans chapter 7 the apostle Paul powerfully demonstrates that we need new-covenant salvation, since the Mosaic Law did not solve the sin problem, but rather intensified the sin problem. You could love the Law; you could memorize the Law, but Romans 7 powerfully demonstrates that man in the flesh cannot fully keep God's Law. We cannot be saved by the Law. We must be saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, including the believers from Old Testament days.
Galatians 3:21 says, "Is the Law [the Mosaic Law] then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! [Paul was speaking of "the promises" of new-covenant salvation in Christ Jesus. Of course the Mosaic Law and God's promises of new-covenant salvation were not contrary to one another. They both came from God. The Mosaic Law was a temporary covenant that helped prepare the way for new-covenant salvation. The New Testament makes it quite clear that God always planned to sacrifice His Son to save us, and to overthrow Satan's rebellion.] For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law." It is very important for us to understand that there was no law (including the Mosaic Law) that was able to impart life and overthrow the spiritual death that has been reigning over mankind since the rebellion and fall of Adam and Eve. The atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, however, does have the authority and power to overthrow spiritual death and impart spiritual life to all believers. Since the Mosaic Law could not bring life, it could not bring God's "righteousness." The Righteous Holy Spirit of life, however, who comes to dwell in believers through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, enables us to live in the righteousness of God. God imputes and imparts His righteousness to us through new-covenant salvation.
Romans 8:3 says that "God condemned sin in the flesh" through the Sacrifice of His Son. Sin (which had brought condemnation to mankind and had reigned over mankind since the fall [see Romans 8:1 and Romans chapter 5, for example] was condemned by God. He condemned sin, and He dethroned the sin (and the spiritual death) that had reigned over mankind, mankind that had been in the flesh since the fall. Romans 8:9, which we will discuss later, confirms that true Christians are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit (the Holy Spirit), and that if the Spirit of God does not dwell in us, we are not true Christians. True Christians are in the [Holy] Spirit, and we are enabled, and required, to walk by the Holy Spirit. We cannot walk by the Spirit until we are born again. As Gal. 5:16 shows, if we walk by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis, which we are called, and enabled, to do, we will not sin. That sounds good, doesn't it? That is the Christian ideal, and we must aim at that target.
"What the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin [or, concerning sin], He condemned sin in the flesh." God the Father sent His Son (His Son who had always been with Him in glory) into the world (see, for example, John 1:1-18; 3:16, 17; 17:3-5). He became a man (the God-man), born of the virgin Mary. He came "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (see, for example, Rom. 1:3; Phil. 2:6-8; Heb. 2:14-18). But He was not just a man. He never ceased being the eternal Son of God. He wasn't spiritually dead, and He never sinned. What a worthy Lamb! What a worthy Savior!
He was "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). He bore our sin with the guilt (so we could be forgiven) and with the penalties, including the penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin (so we could get out from under those penalties and live in the righteousness and holiness of God; see, for example, Isaiah chapter 53; Rom. 5:6-11; 1 Pet. 2:24, 25). In His atoning death, the Lord Jesus Christ condemned and dethroned sin, Satan, and death (see, for example, Rom. 5:14-6:23; John 12:31-33; Col. 2:11-15; Heb. 2:14-18; 7:11-10:39).
Now I'll quote Rom. 8:4, "so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit [the Holy Spirit]." Since Christians have been set free from the law [or, the governing principle] of sin and of death by the indwelling Spirit of life (see Rom. 8:2), we are enabled to fulfill "the requirement of the Law" [the Mosaic Law] in our daily lives. In other words, we are enabled to live righteous and holy lives, in accordance with the will of God, by the grace of God in Christ Jesus. This is the bottom line emphasis of Christianity. Our living in the righteousness of God is not an optional matter. We are called, enabled, and required to live in the righteousness of God, doing His will from the heart. This is good news!
In some ways Christians are not under the Mosaic Law (see, for example, Rom. 6:14; 7:1-6; Gal. 5:18); however, as we walk "according to the Spirit [the Holy Spirit]," the requirement of the Law is fulfilled in us (see, for example, Jer. 31:31-34 with Heb. 8:8-12; Ezek. 36:25-27; Rom. 2:26-29). Passages like Gal. 5:13-25 and Rom. 8:12-14 make it very clear that Christians do not just automatically walk "according to [or, by] the [Holy] Spirit," but they also show that we are called, enabled, and required to walk by the Spirit all the time, by faith. Both of these passages show that as we walk by the Spirit, we walk in the righteousness of God, keeping the requirements of His moral law, with the victory over all sin. The New Testament makes it clear that Christians are not required to keep the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, like circumcision (see, for example, Rom. 2:26-29; Gal. 5:1-12; Col. 2:8-23).
Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:25-27; and Rom. 2:26-29 are three important cross-references that speak of new-covenant believers keeping the requirements of God's Law in their daily lives. This is quite important! I'll take the time to read and briefly discuss these passages. I'll quote Jer. 31:31-34 and make several comments, " 'Behold, days are coming' declares the LORD [Yahweh], 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah [Now here's some good news, the New Testament shows that Gentiles are also invited to be saved through the new covenant in the blood of Christ.], (32) not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt [in the days of Moses], My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,' declares the LORD. [That was the problem. God gave Israel the old covenant through Moses, but (as the Old Testament shows) they rather consistently broke the covenant and did not fully keep His commandments.] (33) [This verse is of key importance!] 'But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the LORD [Yahweh], 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. [[Instead of handing Israel the Law at Mt. Sinai and telling the people to take the Law into their hearts and to live by its commandments, and then watching them break the commandments generation after generation; in the new covenant God changes our hearts and puts His Law on our hearts, and we end up keeping His Law (His moral law) in our daily lives, by the saving grace of God in Christ, by faith. "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God and they shall be My people (My obedient people)."]] (34) 'They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, "Know the LORD," for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,' declares the LORD, 'for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.' " Yes, when God solves the sin problem, which includes forgiving His people and making them righteous and holy through new-covenant salvation, all of His born-again children will know Him. It is significant that the book of Hebrews interprets Jer. 31:31-34 the way I have explained these verses (see Hebrews chapters 8 and 10; I discussed the relevant verses from the book of Hebrews in my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin").
Now I'll read Ezek. 36:25-27 and make several comments. This is another very important prophecy dealing with new-covenant salvation. "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. (26) Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (27) [This verse is of key importance for our present purposes. I am showing, for one primary thing, that the Bible teaches that Christians are enabled (and required) to keep God's Law (His moral law) in their daily lives.] I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." The indwelling Holy Spirit enables us to walk in the righteousness and holiness of God, doing His will (keeping His commandments) from the heart. We are called, enabled, and required to walk by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis. The requirement of God's Law is fulfilled in us (as Rom. 8:4 says) as we walk by the Holy Spirit. We receive the Holy Spirit through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
God's moral law, which gives His definition of righteousness, cannot change. It comes from His nature, from who He is. God hates sin, and He loves righteousness. He paid an infinite price in the Sacrifice of His Son to save us from spiritual death and bondage to sin. The ceremonial laws of the Old Testament were temporary; they could be set aside, and they have been set aside in the new covenant.
The third cross-reference I mentioned that demonstrates that Christians are called, and enabled, to keep the requirements of God's Law in their daily lives (which means the same thing as walking in His righteousness and holiness) is Rom. 2:26-29. This is good news, very good news! No true Christian wants to sin against God. Before I read these verses from Romans chapter 2 and make a few comments, I should mention that in this context the apostle Paul was showing why the sons of Israel (along with the Gentiles) needed new-covenant salvation. His primary point was that no one can fully keep God's Law until they receive the Holy Spirit through new-covenant salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. In the first three chapters of Romans, the apostle demonstrated that all people (all Jews and all Gentiles) need to be saved through the Lord Jesus Christ, because all are in bondage to sin.
I'll read Rom. 3:9, which is an important summarizing verse, "What then? Are we better than they? Not at all for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks [meaning Gentiles] are all under sin." "We have already charged [meaning earlier in this epistle to the Romans] that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin." All mankind is in spiritual death and under sin; that is why all mankind needs to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ and His salvation. We have to see why we need the Savior before we will submit to Him and His salvation in faith. We must see that sin is the primary problem, and that Jesus Christ is God's only solution to the sin problem, and that the day of judgment is coming.
Rom. 2:26, "So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?" Physical circumcision was part of the ceremonial law of the Old Testament. But who is this uncircumcised man who keeps the requirements of the Law? Paul makes it very clear that all people (all Jews and all Gentiles) are under sin. That is, all mankind apart from those who are united with the Lord Jesus Christ through new-covenant salvation are under sin. Those who have been born again and are living for God, walking in His righteousness and holiness by His grace through faith, are not under sin. That's what new-covenant salvation is all about. The uncircumcised man who keeps the requirements of the Law in his daily life is a Gentile Christian. Like Jer. 31:33 prophesied, the Law has been written on our hearts. Like Ezek. 36:27 prophesied, God puts His Spirit within us and causes us to walk in His commandments. Like Rom. 8:4 says, "so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit [the Holy Spirit]." We cannot walk by the Spirit until we have been born again by the Spirit through the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are required to walk by the Spirit on a continuous basis.
I should mention that the apostle spoke of "the uncircumcised man" keeping the requirements of the Law here in verse 26 because he was interacting with the circumcised sons of Israel in this context, trying to help them see that they needed new-covenant salvation too. It would also be true that Christians from a Jewish background are enabled to keep the requirements of the Law in their daily lives.
Rom. 2:27, "And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the law [The Greek doesn't have a word for "if" here. It would be better to translate, "And he who is physically uncircumcised, keeping the law," or the equivalent. The NIV, for example, has, "The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law."] will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law?" The uncircumcised man who is keeping the requirements of God's moral law, by the saving grace of God in Christ, is the one who will be ready to stand before God on the day of judgment. He will make the circumcised transgressor of the Law look bad by comparison.
Rom. 2:28, "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh." As Paul is going to show in the next verse, if we want to be part of God's true Israel, we must have our hearts circumcised by the Holy Spirit. And as the apostle shows repeatedly throughout his epistles, the only way we can receive the life-giving, sanctifying (making holy) Spirit of God is through the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning death.
Rom. 2:29, "But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit [the Holy Spirit], not by the letter [not by the letter of the Mosaic Law]; and his praise is not from men, but from God." The word "Jew" comes from "Judah" which means "praise." The ones who will be ready to stand before God will be the ones who have been transformed by the saving grace of God in Christ and have lived according to His moral law in His righteousness and holiness. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can transform a sinner into a saint. Of course, as Jeremiah 31:34, for example, shows, forgiveness is an important part of God's salvation too, but we must put the emphasis on our thinking and living as He requires us to live, by His grace through faith. We must (we have the privilege to) keep the requirement of God's Law in our daily lives. I should mention that all the believers from Old Testament days will be saved, but not because they fully kept God's Law. They will be saved through the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I'll read another verse from the writings of the apostle Paul that emphasizes our obligation to keep God's moral law, to keep His commandments, 1 Cor. 7:19, "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing [As far as the new covenant is concerned, such things are totally irrelevant.], but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God." God hates sin. He paid an infinite price so we could be set free from slavery to sin and live in His righteousness and holiness, keeping His commandments. We must make this top priority. God's grace is sufficient, but it isn't always easy. There is intense warfare engaged against us by the world, the flesh (the old man who wants to continue living in sin), and the devil, but nothing can keep us from doing God's will.
What God calls us to do; He enables us to do. And when we become Christians, we sign a contract (so to speak) agreeing to put God and His righteousness first place in our hearts and lives, and to walk by faith and walk by His Spirit on a continuous basis. We cannot change the terms of the new covenant. We must submit to the covenant God has given us. And we certainly need to make it a top priority to learn the terms of the new covenant, what He has provided for us, and what He requires of us. This will work for the glory of God and for our good.
I'll quote Rom. 8:1-4 again, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law [or, the governing principle] of the Spirit of life [the Holy Spirit of life] in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law [or, the governing principle] of sin and of death. (3) For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin [or, concerning sin], He condemned sin in the flesh, (4) so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."
Many Christians understand verse 4 to only say that the Lord Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the Law and that His righteousness is put down to our account in a legal sense. That interpretation falls very far short of what the apostle Paul teaches in Romans chapters 1-8 (including Rom. 2:26-29 and Romans chapter 6) and what many other passages throughout the New Testament teach (including 1 Cor. 7:19). So too, it falls very far short of fulfilling what was prophesied in passages like the ones we looked at in the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel (and there are many more similar prophecies in the Old Testament). The apostle Paul meant that the requirement of the Law is actually fulfilled in Christians as they walk by the Holy Spirit. This is confirmed, for example, by Gal. 5:16-25 and Romans chapter 6, passages we have discussed already, and it is confirmed by the verses that follow in Romans chapter 8, which we will discuss next.
But first I'll quote Gal. 5:16, 24, "But I say walk by the Spirit, and you [most certainly] will not carry out the desire of the flesh [the sinful desire of the flesh (of the old man)]." And Gal. 5:24, "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires [with its sinful passions and desires]." It must be understood, of course, that we crucify the flesh through the power of the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, as we walk by faith and by the Spirit on a continuous basis.
Let's go on to Rom. 8:5, "For those who are according to the flesh [Who is Paul talking about? All the people who have not become born-again Christians. If the Holy Spirit does not dwell in us through the Lord Jesus Christ, we are, by definition, in the flesh (see Rom. 7:5 and 8:9, for example).] set their minds on the things of the flesh [[I somewhat prefer the translation "think the ways of the flesh," instead of "set their minds on the things of the flesh." Thinking the ways of the flesh includes having wrong ideas about God and salvation; wrong attitudes; wrong motives; wrong priorities; and wrong desires. If we are in the flesh, we will think the sinful ways of the flesh, and we will sin. It is important to understand that our most important thinking takes place in our hearts, not in our heads. For us to think right, we need the Word of God and the Spirit of God. He enables us to think in line with God's Word, and He enables us to live right, in the righteousness and holiness of God. For one thing, the Holy Spirit enables us to resist every wrong thought and desire.
If we are going to include the word "mind" in the translation, we must understand that the word "mind" in the Bible is not at all limited to the head. As I mentioned, our primary thinking takes place in our hearts (in our inner man), even as faith is of the heart.]], but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit." That is, those who are according to the Holy Spirit (which means all born-again Christians) think the ways of the Holy Spirit. As I mentioned, the Holy Spirit enables us to think right (in agreement with God's Word), which includes our having right ideas about God and salvation, right attitudes, right motives, right priorities, and our having the desire to please God in our hearts.
Paul is assuming here that Christians who are indwelled by the Spirit of God will walk by the Spirit of God. However, as we have discussed, a walk by the Spirit does not come automatically. We must walk by, and after, the Spirit by faith on a continuous basis, or the flesh (the old man) will manifest itself in sin. In Rom. 8:12-14 the apostle warns born-again Christians that they are obligated to always walk by the Spirit. In verse 14 he says that it is only those who are being led by the Spirit of God who are true sons of God.
I'll read Rom. 8:6, "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace." I somewhat prefer the translation, "For the way of thinking of the flesh is death, but the way of thinking of the Spirit is life and peace." The way of thinking of the flesh is death (ultimately the second death, the lake of fire), because the way of thinking of the flesh yields sin, and sin yields death. But the Holy Spirit enables us to think right, and to live in the righteousness and holiness of God, which enables us to maintain a life-flowing relationship with Him and peace (peace with God, peace in the inner man; peace with other Christians; etc.). Those who think right and live right by the saving grace of God in Christ by faith will inherit the fullness of eternal life at the end of this age.
We'll come back to these important verses in the next article. God bless you!
My book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atoning Death" is available on my website (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching) and at amazon.com. The twenty-eight article study on holiness and victory over sin that we are doing is a good introduction for the book.
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.