Free from indwelling sin

by Mike Ratliff

1 Οὐδὲν ἄρα νῦν κατάκριμα τοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Romans 8:1 (NA28)

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to the ones in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

 Romans 8 is best understood after reading the Apostle Paul’s exposition of his own “wretched man” trapped in a “body of death” in Romans 7:14-25. 

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to 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 will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I 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. Romans 7:14-25 (NKJV)

There are some who teach from this passage saying that it describes Paul’s life before Christ citing that this description is contrary to his own account or description of true believers in Romans 6 (cf. vv. 2,6,7,11,17,18,22) . However, as we read this passage it is obvious that this is a believer because he desires to obey God’s law and hates his sin. He is humble, recognizing that nothing good dwells in his humanness. He sees sin in himself, but not as all that there is, and he serves Jesus Christ with his mind. This very struggle was my desperate struggle for a couple of decades and I get private emails from many readers in the same boat, doubting the veracity of their salvation because they are in the same battle. Why are they in despair? Why was I in despair for so long? The churches, the religious systems of which we were part of told us in their pragmatism that there would be some point when we would outgrow this and reach some level of maturity through which we would no longer struggle like this. If that did not happen either we were very immature or not Christians at all.

While I agree that we are sanctified in this life and we are transformed through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) this battle over the mortification of sin is an ongoing battle that could last until the day our Lord takes us home. Thank the Lord that Paul finished his dialog above with v25 then took it up again with Romans 8.

Read again Romans 8:1 that I placed at the top of this post. The noun condemnation translates κατάκριμα or katakrima. It is something to be decided against anyone, a condemnatory judgment and is the opposite of justification. What is Paul saying here? Those who are in Christ are justified, and, therefore, are under no condemnation whatsoever. No sin a believer can commit—past, present, or future—can be held against him, since Christ paid the penalty and righteousness was imputed to the believer. No sin will ever reverse this divine legal decision. In the King James Version, the New King James Version of this passage (see below), v1 continues with, “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” This phrase is not found in v1 in the earliest manuscripts, but it is found at the end of v4, which makes this a textual variant indicating that this is perhaps a case of an inadvertent copyist insertion. However, if you look at what Paul is saying, our Justification is not based on this, but on the work of Christ. Our Justification does not transform us. Imputation does not change us. Our regeneration unto faith does though and as we shall see in the following verses, we are not the same after faith in Christ as we were before.

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to 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. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. Romans 8:1-17 (NKJV) 

Were we saved to be able to be super-saints who never sin in this life? Well, I do admit that I would like that very much, but as Paul said very clearly in Romans 7:14-25, we have this thing called the flesh. We deny our Old Man, who was crucified with Christ on the Cross, and put on our New Man when we deny our flesh daily by the Spirit and submit to our Lord as living sacrifices. In this denial we will find that God will be continually putting us through fiery trials that test our faith. We are commanded to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, to become living sacrifices, to be transformed through the renewing of our minds, to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, yet the reality is that our Lord Jesus told us in John 15 that without him we can do nothing.

How are you doing with abiding in him in all parts of your life all day long?

Soli Deo Gloria!