A Vital Truth – Growing In Grace

But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were taught, and having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. Romans 6:17-18

Romans 6:17-18

Old or New
A believer must know and understand the nature of his new life in Christ and apply it, and he must understand the nature of his old sinful life to oppose it. Man is born with an old sin-nature, which means he is physically alive but spiritually dead. In Ephesians 2 Paul tells us that everyone is born dead in their sins, which means they are physically alive but spiritually dead. It means that the essence of their being is rooted in an old sin-nature. They have no link to God, because they have not yet trusted in Christ as their Saviour and been given a new, born-again spirit.

Dead or Alive
In Romans 6 Paul describes the condition of the natural man.. the unbeliever, who is dead in his sin, and he reminds the Roman believers that they were like this before they were saved. He looks back to their pre-salvation life and reminds them: at one time you also were servants and slaves of sin. Before salvation they were enslaved by the old sin-nature – they were in bondage to sin and slaves of sin, but after salvation, they were given a new nature and became servants of Christ – with a new life and a born-again spirit.

Sins or Sin-Nature
Sin in this verse does not refer to the actual acts of sinning, which are specific sins we actually commit, whether in the body or mind. Sin is anything we do that is performed in our own strength and apart from God. The word ‘sin’  in Romans 6 refers to the inner being of man – the old sin-nature within man, that everyone inherits from Adam. An unbeliever has only one way to function – through the old sin-nature, which makes every human being a servant to sin and incapable of pleasing God.

Slaves of Righteousness
But Paul reminds the Christians in Rome that although they used to be slaves of sin and serve the sin-nature they were born with, they believed the gospel of grace, trusted Christ and obeyed from the heart. They obeyed all Paul taught them about how to live as a Christian. They paid attention to the new spirit of Christ they received at rebirth, which set them free from slavery to sin and made them slaves to righteousness.

Spirit, not Flesh
Paul explains that by trusting Christ we have now become servants of righteousness. We have been set from sin and from serving the fleshly old sin-nature because we are born from above. Now we are serving the spirit and not the flesh. Now we are servants of the new nature in Christ rather than the old sin-nature, and these verses contrast an unbeliever’s former relationship as slaves of sin with a believer’s new relationship to their new life-in-Christ, which we all receive at salvation and which has made us all servants of righteousness.

Death or Life
A slave of sin functions through the old sin-nature, while a slave of righteousness functions through the new life in Christ. A servant of sin relates to the old sin-nature, while a servant of righteousness relates to the new life in Christ. The old sin-nature is in servitude to sin and functions under the law of sin and death, while the new life in Christ is in servitude to righteousness and functions under the law of Christ – the Spirit of life.

Law of Sin and Death
The unbeliever can only function as a slave of sin, which is automatically and uniquely under the law of sin and death from physical birth. Whether an unbeliever does good works or evil actions – whether he shows kindnesses or behaves wickedly, all he does emanates from the old sin-nature. The unbeliever is dead in sins (i.e. he has no relationship to God) but he is alive to sin (i.e. he functions under the law of sin). The believer is dead TO sins (i.e. he has a relationship to God) and he is alive to God (i.e. he functions under the law of Christ).

Law or Grace
The believer has only two ways to function – either as a slave to sin or as a servant of Christ. He has two ways to live his Christian life – either under law or under grace. A believer has two choices – he can either submit to the evil enticements of the sin-nature, or he lives his life through the new life in Christ. And the believer is empowered to live his life this way, by virtue of what Christ did on the cross – because we are now free from sin. Remember the nature that we ‘feed’ is the one that will grow.

Lifelong Influence
Now, this is vital.. at salvation, connection with the sin-nature was severed, but sin’s influence remains throughout our life. Although severed, the sin-nature doesn’t disappear when an unbeliever is saved, although as believers we are empowered to function apart from it. The sin-nature does not cease its demands on a believer when he receives his new nature. The connection with the sin-nature is severed but the influence of the sin-nature remains throughout our life. However, the more we starve sin by submitting to the new life in Christ, the more our new nature will grow.

Inner Conflict
At salvation the believer also receives the permanent presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit, causing two sets of demands to have an influence on a believer’s life. The spirit makes demands because we are now servants of righteousness, but the severed sin-nature also makes demands, by enticing us back into slavery to sin. A believer should respond to the spirit but may respond to the sin-nature – often causing inner conflict and confusion. But choices must be made and in Galatians chapter 5, Paul gives the prescription:- Walk by means of the spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16

Opposing Forces
The lust of the flesh does not refer to any physical activity of sin, (which is the fruit of sin). It refers to the inner nature and origin of sin, (which is the root of sin). The new nature in Christ (the spirit of righteousness) is able to cancel out the activity of the old nature, but the choice remains with the believer, and so an inner conflict begins to rage: for the flesh has a strong desire against the spirit, and the spirit has a strong desire against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. Galatians 5:17

Submission to the Spirit
From rebirth, ALL believers start to have this inner conflict with these two actively opposing forces, and so a believer must learn to walk by means of his new born again spirit, and this can only be done through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Only as he submits to the leading and guiding of the Spirit in his life will his new born-again spirit be empowered to live in newness of life. To understand that this inner conflict is a normal part of the spiritual growth of a believer is an important step toward learning to walk in spirit and truth rather than walking in the flesh.


Bible References

17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

Psalm 30

Psalm 41

Psalm 62-64

30 I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.

Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.

Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.

For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.

Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.

I cried to thee, O Lord; and unto the Lord I made supplication.

What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?

10 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my helper.

11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;

12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.


Psalm 41

41 Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.

The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.

The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.

I said, Lord, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee.

Mine enemies speak evil of me, When shall he die, and his name perish?

And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity: his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; when he goeth abroad, he telleth it.

All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt.

An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth he shall rise up no more.

Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.

10 But thou, O Lord, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them.

11 By this I know that thou favourest me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me.

12 And as for me, thou upholdest me in mine integrity, and settest me before thy face for ever.

13 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.


Ephesians 2

Proverbs 16

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast.

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.

18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:

22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits.

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.

The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.

By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.

When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.

Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.

A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.

10 A divine sentence is in the lips of the king: his mouth transgresseth not in judgment.

11 A just weight and balance are the Lord‘s: all the weights of the bag are his work.

12 It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness.

13 Righteous lips are the delight of kings; and they love him that speaketh right.

14 The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will pacify it.

15 In the light of the king’s countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain.

16 How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!

17 The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul.

18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

19 Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.

20 He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.

21 The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning.

22 Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly.

23 The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.

24 Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

25 There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

26 He that laboureth laboureth for himself; for his mouth craveth it of him.

27 An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire.

28 A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.

29 A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good.

30 He shutteth his eyes to devise froward things: moving his lips he bringeth evil to pass.

31 The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.

32 He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.

33 The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.

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