“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” 2 Pet. 1:3
God has provided us with many things in His word to help us in our walk for Him. It is almost like a toolbox, where there is a tool for every job that we may need. If we faithfully read God’s word and practice it, we will have our toolbox full! We will make full use of “all things that pertain unto life and godliness”. God has told us that the tools work, and He has also told us how they work. One of the most important things for a believer to lean is the truth of “deliverance”. There are few subjects that are surrounded with more confusion and speculation than the means of Christian holiness. Some of the theories taught by well-meaning Christians are completely contrary to scripture. And yet, God has dedicated three full chapters in Romans, and a portion of Galatians to dealing with this subject of deliverance.
What is deliverance? One of the greatest struggles a Christian encounters is that of sin after conversion. We find within ourselves the desire to sin, and also the desire to please God. Very often, this struggle is a surprise to young converts. When we first believe the gospel, we naturally expect that all of our spiritual problems are solved, and that, more or less, it will be easy to live a holy life for God. After all, we can’t imagine ourselves falling back into sinful habits after believing the gospel. However, experience proves otherwise. We sin again, and again, and again. We become frustrated with ourselves, and discouraged that we can’t manage to stop sinning. We are seeking for deliverance from the power of sin in our lives.
A hopeless struggle? Many believers have concluded, whether from their own experience or from bad teaching, that the struggle with indwelling sin is hopeless. This is simply not true, and it is a travesty that stems from ignorance. Galatians 5:16-17 says “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and ye shall in no wise fulfil flesh’s lust. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these things are opposed one to another, that ye should not do those things which ye would” (W. Kelly Trans.). There is a conflict between the flesh and the Spirit, and the only thing that can oppose the flesh is the Spirit. These verses show that the believer is NOT helpless against the flesh, and if we “walk in the Spirit” we are guaranteed to find deliverance from sin. There is hope!
Errors of thinking. Wrong notions about deliverance from sin come from two common errors: (1) underestimating God’s power, and (2) applying wrong methods. First, many think that, while God is able to save us from hell, that somehow He is unable to deliver us from sin. This is completely false! God is able. He has not left us here to be slaves to sin for the rest of our lives. He has provided a way for deliverance from sin. Second, deliverance often presented as something that can be achieved through works, or human methods. Deliverance from the power of sin in our lives is obtained in the same way that deliverance from the penalty of sins is obtained. That is, on the basis of simple faith. Law-keeping will only result in more sin. Human inventions to suppress the flesh will only work for a limited time. God wants the believer to be totally free to serve Him!
Deliverance in Romans. The details of Romans 5:12 – 8:17 expound the subject of deliverance from sin. There are five major sections:
Firstly, the doctrine of deliverance, laid out in three basic points:
- The believer has been transferred from Adam’s race to Christ’s race (Rom. 5:12-21)
- By identification with Christ in death the believer is free from sin’s dominion (Rom. 6)
- By identification with Christ in death the believer is free from the Law (Rom. 7:1-6)
Secondly, the experience of deliverance:
- The experience of a quickened soul under law, leading to deliverance (Rom. 7:7-25), in which two great discoveries are made:
- The believer has two natures: the flesh and the new nature.
- The law cannot deliver us from the flesh, it only produces more sin.
Thirdly, the power and results of deliverance:
- The secret of the power needed for deliverance and the associated walk (Rom. 8:1-17); i.e. the Spirit of God indwelling the believer.
I heartily recommend the study of these chapters. The Spirit of God will unfold the meaning of these things. If you do not understand, ask a teacher to explain it, or read helpful commentary on the book of Romans. It is worth taking the time to understand what God has taken the time to explain.
Section 1: Two Heads and Two Races (Romans 5:12-21)
When We Receive the Gospel We Are Transferred Into Christ’s Race
Paul first begins by outlining two races of men that exist in this world, and how each race takes its characteristics from the head of that race (vv.15-17). The two races are Adam’s race and Christ’s race. All in Adam’s race are helpless sinners, destined to die (v.12). Every human (except Christ) born into this world starts out in Adam’s race; witnessed by the fact that everyone is a sinner, and everyone dies. When we receive God’s free gift of justification, we are then transferred from Adam’s race to Christ’s race (v.19). All in Christ’s race have been given a new life that is righteous (“justification of life”) and will enjoy eternal life (v.18).
Section 2: Two Masters (Romans 6)
Identification With Christ in His Death Frees Us From Sin’s Power
Paul next describes what Christ has done in death, and what that means for the believer as associated with Him, the federal head of the race. We are identified with Christ in His death (pictured by baptism, vv.3-4). When Christ died, “He died unto sin.” Death speaks of separation. Christ’s death separated Him from a “world” of sin, and His resurrection brought Him into a new “world” that sin can never touch (v.10). By identification with Him, we too have been removed from under sin’s dominion; sin is rendered powerless (v.7), and our old man is crucified with Christ (v.10). This truths are vital for the believer to “know”.
After “knowing” the facts of identification with the death of Christ; i.e. that we are dead to sin and no long under its dominion, we then must “reckon” these things to be true (v.11). This is the first point where people fail; they simply cannot accept what God has said about them! Then we must “yield” our spirits, souls, and bodies to the Lord Jesus (v.13), which is a very practical thing. God’s grace supplies the power for us to overcome the sin nature. He promises us (v.14) that sin will not overcome us if we do these things. He doesn’t tell us yet what that power is; that comes in Romans 8. These verbs give us a helpful summary of what the believer can do to find deliverance; “know”, “reckon”, and “yield”.
Paul follows up the doctrine of identification with the death of Christ by giving several cautionary principles. First, in if we respond to the flesh, sin – although we are not under its dominion – will become our master effectively (v.16). Second, we must understand how good bondage and bad bondage work (v.19). One righteousness leads to another, causing us to grow increasingly separated to the Lord (practical sanctification). On the other hand, one sin leads to another, a process called addiction. It is possible to be positionally free from sin, but practically still under its dominion.
…The following section is especially important for the Jews, who were under law…
Section 3: Two Husbands (Romans 7:1-6)
Identification With Christ in His Death Frees Us From Obligation to the Law
If I am a Jew, and deliverance is by grace not by law, is God okay with me ceasing to live in a legal way? I want this deliverance you speak of, but am I free to forget about the law and turn to Christ? The answer is “Yes”. Paul gives the principle first in v.1, that laws only apply to people before they die. Then in vv.2-3 he gives an example: a woman is free to remarry only after her husband dies, not before. Finally, he makes the application to us in vv.4-5: the believer has died with Christ, which makes him free from the law’s dominion, and free to be espoused to Christ. The relationship with the new husband (a love-response) is far different from the relationship with the old (fear-response). To summarize, is God okay with a Jew getting away from the Law in his mind and turning to Christ? The answer is “Yes, in fact, it is WRONG to stay under the law… you MUST leave it.”
—— — ——
At this point there is a break. Up to Rom. 7:6 Paul has been explaining how deliverance works doctrinally. From v.7 to the end of Romans 7 God gives us an experimental parenthesis….
Section 4: Two Natures (Romans 7:7-25)
The Experience of a Soul Under Law Leading To Deliverance
The passage described the struggle in a person who has conflicting desires. One one hand they desire to be please God, but on the other hand they find within themselves an evil nature that is bent on sin. The man giving his experience has a new nature (he calls it the “inner man”). We know it because he has a desire to please God, which can’t come from the flesh, so he must have new life from God. He does not find within himself power to live for God, and Rom. 8:2 tells us this power is the Spirit of God. He either does not have the Spirit yet, or has not yet realized practically what he has. At the end of the chapter, he looks outside of himself to Christ as deliverer (v.25). Just as in Eph. 1:13 where the sealing of the Spirit occurs AFTER receiving the gospel, so the Spirit as power for deliverance comes after the soul looks away from self to Christ for deliverance.
The Spirit isn’t mentioned once in Romans 5:12 – 7:25, but is mentioned in ten out of the first seventeen verses in Romans 8! The action of the Spirit of God in the believer is intentionally separated for an important reason: to show that the Spirit is the power of deliverance. Remember the difference: in quickening God gives man a new nature, making those who were spiritually dead alive, but in sealing the Spirit indwells us after we believe the gospel!
There is a question as to whether the man in Rom. 7 is quickened but not sealed, or whether he simply has not laid hold of the truth of deliverance. In a sense, the question is irrelevant because the point of the passage is to show the experience of a soul who is not walking in the Spirit, but rather is under law. There is no excuse for a sealed person to sin! Often a person will be quickened and sealed at the same time, but sometimes a soul remains for a while in the place of having two natures, yet without the having believed the gospel of their salvation. The amount of time a person remains quickened but not sealed varies person to person, and often it is a very short period. There may be very abnormal circumstances where a quickened person dies before hearing a clear gospel, but that is not the subject in Romans! God “desires all men to be saved” (and “saved” involves being sealed). Also, God does not specialize in half finished works; “He that has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ!” (Phil. 1:4). In reality, every believer has an experience similar to Romans 7, and they will continue in that state until they understand and practice the truth of deliverance.
The experience unfolds as follows:
- First, the soul discovers that they have a sin nature (vv.7-13). This is particularly manifest because the soul is under the law. He finds that far from giving the soul deliverance from sin, the law – which was never intended to deliver – only produces more sin and death. This is because the law addresses man in responsibility, and cannot not give life, therefore righteousness cannot not come by it (Gal. 3:21). Being under the law brings a curse to man (Gal. 3:10), and the law is called the “ministry of death” (2 Cor. 3:7). As the flesh is presented with a legal standard, “sin revives” or springs up into vigorous action.
- Second, He struggles to overcome the sin nature, and begins to treat sin as an enemy (vv.14-19). This is an important realization, but it doesn’t produce deliverance. Finally, he concludes that he has no power within himself to overcome the sin nature.
- Third, upon further reflection, he realizes that he must have two natures; a new nature as well as an old nature (vv.20-23). He learns to identify with the new nature, and treat the old nature as a foreign thing.
- Fourth, he finally gives up on looking within for power, and instead looks to the Lord Jesus Christ (a person) and finds deliverance (vv.24-25). Upon turning to the Lord Jesus Christ, he finds in the Spirit of God the needed power to live a holy life for God, which Romans 8 unfolds.
In Galatians 5 we have a similar conflict described, although there it is a sealed Christian who is NOT walking in the Spirit. They have the solution (indwelling Spirit) but they aren’t walking in the Spirit; the result is conflict between flesh and Spirit!
Section 5: Two Laws (Romans 8:1-17)