Monthly Archives: May 2016

Holiness, Sanctification, and Sin in the Christian

A clear understanding of sanctification is not possible with the theory that man is only body and soul and regeneration renews the soul.  The Christian ends up with a soul that is 1-99% holy and half or 3/4 “dead”, etc.  (See previous post as to Trichotomy.)

IDENTIFICATION:  What is often thought to be “baptism of the Holy Spirit” and/or “Second Blessing” is the tardy discovery that salvation is NOT simply substitution, but actual identification with Christ.  This is what makes a person perfect.  This removes all self-effort.  This alone makes salvation truly God-centered (see previous post on “In Christ”).  Salvation is not just forgiveness, but making a new person.  It is not “Paradise Restored”; innocent, mortal Adam was only a stepping-stone toward God’s goal of people made in the image of Christ.  Now we are partakers of the divine nature (II Peter 1); we reign with Christ.

SIN IN A CHRISTIAN.  There are not 2 persons, an “old man” and a “new”.  But like Jesus (1 person, 2 natures) the Christ-ian has an old nature, whose seat is in the soul (mind, emotions, will).  After regeneration, the old habits persist like a chicken with its head cut-off.  That is what Paul says we (the new man) must work to “put off”.  It is like telling an adult, “Be a man!”  (Romans 8:1-14; 7:17; Col 2:20-3:3)  The battle is between the real you and the “flesh” (see below). Gal 5:16-26; Col 3:5-17.

ROMANS 7:  This chapter is often thought to be a picture of the “normal” Christian life.  Watchman Nee and others show that this struggle is ab-normal.  In Romans 5 Paul says we are justified in Christ.  Chapter 6 says we must also be sanctified.  Chapter 7 then describes human effort, either the moral unbeliever or the carnal Christian, to become holy (“I” used 45 times!).  Romans 8 says that the Holy Spirit sanctifies!  The defeatism of Romans 7 is often used as a defense mechanism for persistent sin in church-members.  Paul condemns it just as in Gal. 3:3.

THE CHRISTIAN FIGHTING THE FLESH:  What is there different about THIS struggle (Col. 3:5-17)?  It is not a civil war; it is occupant vs invader.  Victory is certain ultimately, and possible always.  No Christian ever has to sin!  Christ is always superior to Satan.  (See “In Christ” post.)  If a Christian is not growing in Christ (Phil 3:8-16) he is either carnal or not genuine.  (John 15:1-9)  Sinning is not a Christian’s lifestyle.   I John 2:1 says, “If we sin,” not “whenever.”

FLESH:  What does the Bible mean by this?  It is not just our bodies, as though it is evil in itself; it is morally neutral.  Jesus had a body.  “Flesh” includes our souls;  many of the sins of the “flesh” are non-physical (Col 3).  The soul too, however, is not naturally bad; sin spoiled our minds, wills, emotions.  So, “flesh” is sinful soul/body as it has been since Adam.  The reason why soul is given that physical term too is that the physical is what Satan often uses to reach me (cf Eve).  Most sins are expressed through the body and it is the last part of us to be saved.  It has no eternity about it; we “share” it with animals and unbelievers.  Note: It is very likely that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was not something physical.

CROSS-BEARING:  This concept is related to all the foregoing.  It is not the trials we have in common with all men, even if we endure them in a Christian way, as we should.  They are not even sufferings that come to us because we are Christians, though they can be converted into “cross-bearing”.  What it is is dying to SELF.  This is much more important than the problem of sin.  Jesus says we have to lose our own, our old lives.  Here is where the unbeliever fails altogether, and the Christian has to die daily.

PERFECTIONISM:  No genuine Christian claims perfection in this life.  Those who do define “sin” to fit their attainment.  We (the “new man”) are perfect in Christ, now.  And it is possible – we are commanded! – to be perfect.  Alas, we fail.  But our guilt is the greater because it is not inevitable.  To say, “I have to sin” is blasphemy.  (I Cor 10:9-13; James 1:13, 15).  The Puritans had a perfect “cop-out” in the doctrine of total depravity for their failure to keep their own blue laws.  This – not their high ideals and standards – is what brought them and their faith into disrepute.

Body, Soul, and Spirit (Trichotomy)

The nature of man is a very important doctrine.  A lot of bad theology comes from ignorance as to this question of who we are and what makes a Christian.

DEFINITION:  Trichotomy is the theory that a Christian person is made up of three inseparable aspects – body, soul and spirit.  (Dichotomy says there is only body and soul; spirit is just another word for soul.)

The soul is commonly said to comprise our emotions, intellect, and will.  (“Heart, head, hand.”) The Bible word “heart” often includes all three.  The emotions were referred to as “reins, bowels,” etc., much like we may say, “I have a gut feeling.”  The soul is “spiritual” by being invisible, religious (all men are), and moral (everybody has a conscience).  Nevertheless, the soul by itself is non-spiritual, or “earthy”.  The Bible speaks of animals as being “souls”.  The soul is mortal.  It is capable of evil as well as good.  The soul of a person originates at conception.  The best explanation as to its method of origin is traducian, that is, our personality is inherited from our forebears in the same way as our bodies.  (The Bible word for the “natural” man is “psychical”.)

A person’s sprit is given him by God at the time of regeneration.  It is something new (not a change in what he already has), which is why it is called a “second birth”. (Ezk 36:25,26)  Such a person becomes a “new man”.  It (he) is perfect, cannot sin.  (I John 3:9)  It is immortal; this is “eternal life”, which begins at the moment of conversion, and not when a person leaves this earth.  It is the Holy Spirit (John 3:5), the Spirit of Christ (the God-man).  This is “Christ in us” or being “in Christ”, an expression used 150 times in the New Testament.  Needless to say, a born-again individual does not lose his identity by being “swallowed up in God”; it is like the “one flesh” which two persons become by means of marriage.  (Ephesians 5:22-ff)

When a person becomes a Christian his old “man” is regarded as dead and buried (Romans 6:1-11, Col. 3:3, Gal 2:20).  He is no longer depraved.  He is no longer a “sinner” – saved, forgiven, or acquitted.  He is now a saint.  The two are mutually exclusive, just as a person cannot be regenerate and unregenerate at the same time.

Immediately upon regeneration the “new man”, the perfect spirit, begins to make the soul holy.  This is what we usually regard as “sanctification”.  (And it is Christ who is our sanctification in this sense as well as being the perfect person within us.  I Cor. 1:30)  The mind is renewed (Romans 12:2) so that we have the very “mind of Christ.”  (I Cor. 2)  The affections are centered on new objects (Col 3:2); his very will becomes “God’s will” (John 7:17; compare Romans 7:18 with Phil. 2:13).  This process of perfection (Phil. 3:12) is completed at the moment of death.

The human body is the last to be “saved” (Rom. 8:23, II Cor 5:1-8, I Cor. 15:45-58), along with the physical creation (Rms 8:18-22, II Peter 3:10-13).  But already here and now a Christian’s body shares in his present salvation (Ps. 103:3, Matt 8:18).  This is because the soul and body affect each other for good as well as ill; God also effects miraculous healing of the mind and body whenever this serves His perfect purposes.

In addition to the texts quoted above, two important proofs of biblical evidence for trichotomy are I Thes. 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12.  (The analogous doctrine of the Trinity – a word not found in scripture – has but 2 “proof texts”.)  Old Testament texts are often quoted to “show” that soul and spirit are synonyms.  However, the Spirit of Christ did not “exist” in the Old Testament (John 7:39) anymore than Jesus.  Old Testament anthropology is as general as its doctrine of redemption and even of God, emphasizing His unity rather than tri-unity. (Harper Bible, p.1775).