The Sin Nature And The Sanctification Of The Saint - Part I
“Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord ….What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” —Romans 5:20-21, 6:1-2
The Presence of the Sin Nature
Over the next few months, I will endeavor to supply our readers with a simple overview and understanding of Romans 6. This chapter is vital to the progress of growth of each and every believer, bar none. I cannot stress this truth strong enough. A full view of the apostle Paul’s teaching on progressive sanctification to the early church is best exhibited in the content of the book of Romans. Immediately following the precious truths on justification by faith in Romans 4 and 5, Paul introduces the church in Rome to the subject of sanctification or progressive growth. As he begins his dissertation, he establishes truths that help the believer to better understand both the process and the pitfalls of growing up in Christ. So join me for the next few months as we travel through Romans 6 in a very concise and simplified manner. Let’s begin to learn the things needed for a successful life in Christ.
Only Grace Is Greater Than Sin
The subject of sanctification begins in Romans 5:20. Here Paul states that the law entered not to free us from sin but rather to expose sin for what it was in our lives. To be totally honest, the law irritates the heart of sinful man and actually can produce more sin than it stops. So our focus on sanctification must not be on law or works.
Paul makes the great and grandiose statement that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” The only thing greater than sin is the grace of God. The only solution for sin—its penalty and its power—is the grace given by a holy God to an undeserving member of lost humanity. But it is available; that which we don't earn, that which we didn't labor for. Grace can’t be purchased by works but is given freely by God when a human being expresses simple faith in Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord. It doesn't matter what sin has dominion over you right now. If you can learn to walk in the never-ending supply of God's grace, there is no sin that will have dominion over you. Shout now, saint of God, for grace is greater than your sin.
The Sin Nature Has Reigned
All of humanity is born with and has experienced the dominion of the sin nature. In his transitional verses from Romans 5:12-19, Paul reminds us that we all have been tainted by Adam's choices. Being the federal head of all humanity, Adam passed on the sin nature to all men. He was not created with the sin nature but suffered the entrance of the sin nature when he failed in the garden of Eden.
Since then, every man or woman ever born entered life with a sin nature that dominated. A nature is simply the characteristic of something or someone, that which is normal to his character. Men don't sin and then become sinners. They sin because they are sinners. The sin nature bends man toward selfishness and acts of ungodliness. This nature is personified in Romans 5:21 as a king that has reigned in the heart and produced death through acts of sin. The Greek word in verse 21 is transliterated hamartia. It is a singular noun, and this is very important to understand. It does not denote acts of sin. Rather, it indicates a person, place, or thing. In this case the word hamartia indicates the presence of the sin nature. So every man starts life with a sin nature reigning like a king on the throne of his heart.
It’s Time for Grace to Reign
Paul states next that it is time for a new king. For the believer, a new king is to sit on the throne of his heart. Paul personifies this person by using the term grace. He goes on to say that this grace is available only through the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only can He alone provide eternal life, but He alone can provide abundant life. So the believer needs to understand that the presence of the sin nature still exists within the framework of his flesh. Flesh simply describes that which pertains to man. God created man in the form of flesh. Encased in this flesh is not just the physical parts of man but the spiritual man as well. God created men in flesh with a heart, a mind, a free moral will, and a soul.
When the sin nature entered and took up residence in God’s highest creation, it began to corrupt everything about the “flesh.” As sin entered men, death became dominant, and the creation of God began to falter, weaken, and ultimately die. All of this occurred because of the entrance of the sin nature. The sin nature is not eradicated at salvation. It must still be present in the Christian because Paul says that there is an option to either let grace reign or to let the sin nature reign. As believers, we must learn how to live free from the sin nature that still exists within the framework of our flesh.
Shall We Continue Being Dominated by the Sin Nature?
Paul then asked the question, and I paraphrase: If indeed we are freed from the dominion of the sin nature, is it right that we should allow it to continually reign in our hearts like a king? Shall we continue existing under the nefarious and painful corrupting force that deals us death? Shall we simply count on the mercy and grace of God and continue living in defeat? I thank God for His mercy. I thank God for His long-suffering. But living under the dominion of the sin nature produces severe consequences. The abundant life that Christ died to provide for us cannot be realized as long as the sin nature continues to reign in our heart like a king. The truth is, as born-again believers, we have a choice. If we learn how to approach our relationship with God properly, we can learn how to live free from the influence and dominion of the sin nature.
Shall we continue living in sin and just counting on the grace of God to forgive us our never-ending failures? Paul’s answer: God forbid! Away with the thought! May it never be so! With our faith in Christ and what He's done for us at Calvary, we can find freedom from the reign of the sin nature.
This series will continue in the next issue of The Evangelist.