The Apostle Paul on Struggling With Sin Yet Still Under Grace

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The Apostle Paul on Struggling With Sin Yet Still Under Grace

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Paul highlighted the human struggle we experience. He knew that even those with God’s Spirit still had human nature and have to resist the selfish pulls of the flesh while seeking to obey God’s law. Paul summed up this struggle when he wrote: “I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Romans 7:22-24 Romans 7:22-24 [22] For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: [23] But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. [24] O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
American King James Version×
, NLT).

He gives the answer in what immediately follows in verse 25: “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin” (Romans 7:25 Romans 7:25I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
American King James Version×
, NLT). Continuing on in chapter 8 he says: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:1-2 Romans 8:1-2 [1] There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
American King James Version×
, NLT).

All Christians will struggle with temptation and sin throughout their physical lifetimes. Although God’s Holy Spirit helps us resist the pulls of our selfish-oriented nature, that nature will continue to trend toward sin. We must always be vigilant and strive against the pull of our sinful, selfish desires. But Paul says here that when we sin, we need not fear that we are condemned by God, that there is no more justification and grace. His relationship with us is not broken unless or until we deliberately and irrevocably sever it.

This means that if we have repented and come under grace and then slip up and sin, we are still under grace and do not immediately return to being under the penalty of the law. Though continuing to struggle with committing sin as Paul did, we are not condemned with each new sin. Rather, as Paul says, there remains “no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (verse 1). With every sin and subsequent repentance a Christian does not repeatedly drift back and forth between being under death and under grace. We remain under grace, with “no condemnation,” as God still accepts Christ’s sacrifice as our atonement.

Yet Paul qualifies this in Romans 8 by explaining that this remains so only if we continue in the process of living according to the Holy Spirit in following God’s law. That means continuing to repent, confessing our sins to God (1 John 1:9 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
American King James Version×
), seeking forgiveness and restoration, and striving with God’s help to obey Him. Otherwise, through neglect leading to willful sin and rejection of God, we would return to being under the law’s penalty of death—spurning Christ’s sacrifice and insulting the Spirit of grace, from which there is no return to repentance (Hebrews 2:1-3 Hebrews 2:1-3 [1] Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. [2] For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; [3] How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by them that heard him;
American King James Version×
; Hebrews 6:4-7 Hebrews 6:4-7 [4] For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, [5] And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, [6] If they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. [7] For the earth which drinks in the rain that comes oft on it, and brings forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receives blessing from God:
American King James Version×
; Hebrews 10:26-31 Hebrews 10:26-31 [26] For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, [27] But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. [28] He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: [29] Of how much sorer punishment, suppose you, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, with which he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite to the Spirit of grace? [30] For we know him that has said, Vengeance belongs to me, I will recompense, said the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. [31] It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
American King James Version×
; see also “Can Those God Has Forgiven Reject His Grace?”).

So it’s vital that we continue to repent and submit to God and the righteousness of His law. It’s in this way only that, as Paul said in Romans 6:14 Romans 6:14For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.
American King James Version×
, “sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (see “You Are Not Under Law, but Under Grace”).

Continuing in Romans 8, Paul further explains the process whereby God’s grace of ongoing forgiveness and help through Christ empowers obedience and makes us free: “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:2-4 Romans 8:2-4 [2] For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. [3] For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: [4] That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
American King James Version×
, English Standard Version).

The “Spirit of life” works in us, giving us the strength to make steady growth in spiritual character and overcome sin. With Christ in us (Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×
), the one who condemned sin in the flesh through a perfect unblemished human life, we live a Spirit-led life. As we obey the law of God with the help of His Spirit, the “righteous requirement of the law” is fulfilled in us. Thus, Christ helps us live a life of faith according to the law and produce righteous works of faith.

This new life we live in the grace of God is shown by the fruits of righteous works. So then grace, God’s kindness and goodness toward us, motivates us to change and helps create the desire to receive the divine nature, the mind of God. Grace, then, is inseparable from law, and law is inseparable from grace. Both work to produce righteousness in a child of God, keeping us free from sin and death.

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