Even among Christians there are different messages about holiness. Some talk about sin and the flesh putting up a constant battle against the Christian. They say a life seeking holiness will struggle to maintain it. We try but we fail.
But does the Bible have a different message about our pursuit of holiness? Is it worth even trying? Many Christians muddle through battles with desire, temptation, and sin. There is a better way, and it all starts with understanding our place in Christ.
The book of Romans explains our journey to holiness. Chapters 6-8 solidify our understanding of God’s part in holiness and maturity. Paul lays out the main issues for holiness. Because of this passage, I’m thoroughly convinced every Christian should live a holy and victorious life.
We concentrate too much on trying to avoid temptation and sin. Honoring and pleasing God with every thought, word, and action is the better way. Understanding our identity in Christ begins in Romans 6:1. Paul asks if we should keep on sinning and increased God’s grace. Or, “Should we just give up and sin because we can’t stop?”
If a holy life without sin was out of reach, Paul would outline a theology of barely getting by. Instead, he tells us emphatically that we should not sin by any means. The two main sections of Romans 6 argue we are dead to sin. Paul uses the images of water baptism and slavery.
Going under the water symbolizes dying with Christ to sin. We are raised to new life (Romans 6:1-11). Paul follows up with commands to not let sin rule us (Romans 6:12-14). Jesus’ grace helps us resist temptation and sin. There is a battle, but it was won at the cross.
Romans 6:15-23 explains we are always a slave to something. Paul says we are no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness. This describes the separation from the old life to the new life, sin to holiness, law to grace.
When a hunter kills an animal and pokes it, if it’s dead it doesn’t move. When temptation and sin poke us, we don’t respond. It has no effect on us. We are not enticed because our door to sin is closed.
As slaves, we can only serve one master. Jesus also taught about having two masters (Luke 16:13). He spoke of money but the principle applies to serving sin or righteousness. With every thought, word, and action, we serve one of these two masters.
Paul illustrates being freed from the law and sin by speaking about marriage (Romans 7:1-6). A woman isn’t free from her marriage until her husband dies. The death of Christ secured our freedom from the law and sin.
Like a mirror, the law shows us our sin. It doesn’t cause it. It’s good even though it exposes and penalizes sin (Romans 7:7-12). Paul’s next illustration is confusing if we misunderstand his flow of thought (Hebrews 7:13-24).
Several scholars propose different interpretations for this man that wavers between doing good and bad. Some say it’s a believer who sins. But Paul tells us in verse 13 it’s a person struggling between law and sin.
This person knows the laws good and spiritual but he thinks with his physical desires controlling him. He wants to obey the law but does his own thing. The law punishes him and leads to death. The confusion is between his desire to obey the law and enjoy his own desires.
This passage doesn’t justify living the same way as someone under the law or in the world. Paul tells us we are under grace. We can’t excuse our sins because of this passage. We live under the new covenant and Jesus’ grace.
It’s even clearer in Romans 7:25. In Romans 7:24 the person under the law begs freedom from this struggle between law and desire. The answer is: thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! God frees us from sin by Jesus’ sacrifice.
Jesus paid that heavy price for us to live free of sin (Galatians 5:1). He never intends for us to go back to sin. It cost him too much. Then Paul summarizes the life seeking to please God without power to do it (Romans 7:25).
Enter Romans 8. We can desire to please God until were blue in the face when we still seek our own pleasures. But the Holy Spirit changes everything! He gives the power to follow through with our desire to please God (Romans 8:1-8).
Living between mind and body without the Spirit is confusing. But there’s no condemnation for those who turn to Jesus. The law lacked the Spirit’s power. If we don’t live by the Spirit we don’t have the power to please God.
We must choose to obey the Spirit and stead of our desires. Desire will always be there but we must remember and practice our death to sin. Only through obedience to the Holy Spirit can we please God (Romans 8:6-8).
Paul reminds us that we must live by the Spirit instead of our desires under the law (Romans 8:9-11). The Spirit’s power brings us life. We gain a privileged place as God’s children and his heirs (Romans 8:12-17). Our destiny is beyond this earth and a lifetime in heaven (Romans 8:18-25).
We are surrounded by decay. Creation groans as it waits for Jesus’ return (Romans 8:23). We also grown as we wait for God to fulfill his promises (Romans 8:24). But we are not alone. We have hope and the intercession of the Spirit, who groans as he expresses our needs to God (Romans 8:26).
The entire Godhead is thoroughly involved in our salvation, sanctification, and glorification. The Spirit helps us pray (Romans 8:26). The Father plans are salvation and conformity to Christ (Romans 8:28-30). As he works things out for our good, Jesus demonstrates his love on the cross, fulfilling the Father’s plan (Romans 8:31-32).
We aren’t condemned (Romans 8:1) because God went to bat for us. Only he can condemn us (Romans 8:32-34). Instead of condemnation we are his children. Jesus’ love demonstrated on the cross continues into our present and future. Jesus’ love conquers everything (Romans 8:35-39).
Should we struggle through our desires, temptation, and sin? Romans 6-8 is clear. God intends for us to live a victorious life. He planned for it, the Spirit intercedes and empowers our lives, and Jesus’ love conquers anything in its way.
God deeply desires you and I live in victory, pleasing him. How do we do that? It’s a combination of God working within us and us obeying him. He gave rules and principles as a roadmap to holiness.
What do you think about the clarity of God’s desire for our holy living in Romans 6-8? Leave a comment and tell me what you think or what you have gleaned from Scripture.