The Sin Nature And The Sanctification Of The Saint - Part II
The Believer Is Dead To The Sin Nature
In Part I of this series, we emphasized a truth supplied through the grammar of Romans 5:20-6:2. That study revealed the inclusion of the sin nature and its role regarding a believer’s sanctification.
In Romans 5:21, Paul personifies the term sin—hamartia—as a king that reigns or expresses dominion over the heart of man. We determined that the only power greater than this sin principle, the sin nature, is grace. For “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
Paul reveals that grace has the potential and ability to reign over the power of the sin nature. Freedom from the sin nature’s dominion can only be found through faith in Jesus Christ. He ends with the question that basically asks, Since we, as believers, now have the ability to live free from the dominion of the sin nature, shall we continue allowing the sin nature to impact and produce acts of sin, with the thought that God’s grace will just cover it? God forbid!
As believers, we have to deal properly with the presence of the sin nature. In order to accomplish this, there are some things from Paul’s teachings in Romans 6 that we must learn and apply.
The Believer Is Dead To The Sin Nature
In Romans 6:2 Paul says, “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” The emphasis of this verse revisits the emphasis of Romans 6:1. Here we are confronted with our daily lifestyle. Shall we continually abide in the old processes of sin that once dominated us, now that there is an option? God forbid! In this verse, Paul also adds information we must both understand and apply. He says plainly that the believer is dead to the sin nature. The term dead does not apply directly to either the Christian or the sin nature itself. It applies to the relationship that once existed between the Christian and the sin nature.
Before salvation, the sin nature continuously corrupted the inward man. Humanity was bent in its heart toward selfishness and sin. The work of the sin nature (as seen in Eph. 4:22 and Rom. 7:8) corrupted everything within. It impacted the mind, the will, the soul, and the spirit of man. But Paul states that this relationship with the sin nature that once existed in all men can somehow be changed. One of the first things we must understand in this progressive sanctification process is that the relationship between the believer and sin nature has been broken.
What Does It Mean To Be Dead To The Sin Nature?
To be dead to something can be illustrated in several ways. In some cultures, when a family member does something despicable and embarrasses and degrades other family members by that action, that family may choose to disown him or her. To the offended family members, the offender is referred to as dead. In some extreme cases a mock funeral is held, which indicates that the offender is no longer welcome to consider himself a part of that family. One would say that the relationship between the offender and the offended is “dead.” While both parties still exist, and a relationship is certainly possible, the relationship between the two has ended. To the rest of the family, that denounced family member is “dead.” In reality, both parties still exist and under certain circumstances could reunite.
This illustration aptly reveals the status of the sin nature and the Christian. An event has occurred that has spiritually separated us from the sin nature. It is important to note that “dead” indicates separation but not extinction. The sin nature still exists and continues to reside within the framework of believers. We are not to have a relationship with the sin nature. We are not to continue in it. We are not to live any longer therein. How is this possible? Because the relationship that once dominated us and drove us toward sinful acts has somehow been “cut off,” and we are free from its dominion, provided that we continue to walk in the provision of Christ.
Is The Sin Nature Eradicated At Salvation?
Let us be perfectly clear. The sin nature will remain as a feature of human existence until the day that Christ returns. On that day, every believer will receive his glorified body. On that day, corruption will put on incorruption and mortality will put on immortality. And we (believers) shall be changed into a glorified state. It is at this point in time that the sin nature will be totally eliminated and not before. Our original relationship to the sin nature is changed as a result of our salvation experience. We have been severed from our relationship with the old nature.
I personally believe that the Holy Spirit had the apostle Paul use the term dead specifically. I believe it evidences that freedom from the sin nature has the potential of being complete. I do not believe that the sin nature continues to constantly impact me. As long as my faith remains exclusively in Christ and what He has done for me on Calvary, the sin nature should not cause me any problem. Dead is dead. A man who was a drunk and passes away no longer desires to drink. He is dead to that desire. He has been separated from it. The sin nature has corrupted my flesh. My heart (soul and spirit), which is encased in this flesh, needs to experience the renewing power of God. By being born again, grace can supply me with the ability to live life minus a relationship with the sin nature. Instead, I am now able to become a partaker of God’s nature.
Application Of The Truth
Paul knew that there was much to teach the body of Christ relative to progressive sanctification, but he was led by the Spirit to first encourage us with the truth that we are dead to the sin nature. Even though it is possible to revive our relationship with the sin nature, having an active sin nature should not be “normal” Christianity. We are dead to the sin nature. How did this happen? Don’t you know?
Next month we will get into the details of how the believer became dead to the sin nature.