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.