Systematic Theology I - Lesson 27
The facets of the Fall, theories of Original Sin, and God's triumph over sin
Doctrine of Sin
IV. Original Sin
B. Facets of the Fall
1. Humanity created good
2. Adam and his one sin the fountainhead for all human sin
3. Individual human moral responsibility for sin
4. Universality of sin and death
C. Theories of Original Sin
1. Federal or Representative Theory
a. The View
2. Realist or Augustinian Theory
a. The View
V. The Triumph of God over Sin
A. God's Triumph over Sin in His People
B. God's Cosmic Triumph over Sin
An introduction to theology, answering the questions of what is EST (Evangelical Systematic Theology), why study EST, and how it relates to other theological disciplines.
Introductory issues of how to do EST and the criteria for assessing theological formulations.
Issues of cultural Christianity, and the evangelical position of "contextualized normativity."
Begins with a discussion of the background to the discussion (Pelagius, Augustine, Council of Carthage, and semi-Pelagianism), and then a discussion of Luther, Calvin, Arminius, the Synod of Dort and the Five Points of Calvinism.
Covenant Theology, Dispensationalism, and their views of Israel and the church
A discussion of these three positions and the key figures in each (Schleiermacher, Ritschl, von Harnack; Barth, Brunner, Niebuhr; Carnell, Henry, Graham)
The beginning discussion of revelation and the specifics of General Revelation
A continuation of the discussion of revelation with an emphasis on Special Revelation, moving into the topic of Inspiration (definition and key passages).
A survey of the recent debate, defining inerrancy (including the relationship of hermeneutics and inerrancy), and its relationship to authority.
The definition of illumination, why it is necessary, and how we come to know truth. The critceria for canonicity is then discussed and why the canon is now closed (i.e., why no more books would be accepted into the Bible).
Why there is a need to know God, and "theism" (arguments as to whether there is a God or not).
Can God be known? The Doctrine of the Trinity (Scriptural basis; historical background; Monarchian heresies)
Continuation of the discussion of the Trinity and the church's rejection of Monarchianism
Beginning of the discussion of the attributes of God's character, and how the discussion is organized.
The related doctrines of God's self-sufficiency and his love. (The lecture begins in the middle of a sentence but not much content is missing. Point V., subpoints 1 and 2 were covered in lecture 14. See Outline tab.)
God's incommunicable attributes are those that he does not share with us: self-existence; self-sufficiency; infinity; omnipresence; eternity
Completes the discussion of God's incommunicable attributes by discussing immutability, the doctrine that God does not change.
Discussion of those attributes of God's character that he shares (to some degee) with his creation, beginning with his intellectual attributes (omniscience).
A continuing discussion of God communicable attributes, both intellectual (Omnisapience; truth) and moral (goodness; love).
Continuation of the discussion of God's communicable moral attributes (love, grace, mercy; holiness, righteousness, justice) and the attributes of God's rulership (freedom; omnipotence).
The Scriptural teaching and issues related to this central question
Hyper-Calvinism, Process Theology, Arminianism, and Calvinism
Concluding discussion on Calvinism
An introduction to the doctrine of humanity and the doctrine of humanity's origin (Adam and Eve)
Theories on the structure of the human soul (Monism, Dichotomy, Trichotomy) and the transmission of the soul (Creationism, Traducianism).
Sin is one of the most foundational and significant topics in Scripture. The doctrines of salvation and sanctification are meaningless without an accurate understanding of sin. The Old Testament teaches both the personal and corporate aspects of sin. New Testament teachings include the essence of sin and total depravity.
The facets of the Fall, theories of Original Sin, and God's triumph over sin
What value is there to attempt to know the unknowable or to try to understand someone that, by their own description, is beyond our understanding?
Even though we cannot know everything there is to know about God, there are some things you can know because he has revealed them to you. You can develop a systematic theology as you contemplate what you experience in nature, what you can read in the Bible and what you can know from history. This will give you insights into who God is, how you can have a relationship with him, and how you will live your life differently. Dr. Ware begins by giving you a systematic theology definition and explains systematic theology teachings and concepts that you will find in systematic theology books. He also helps you to learn both the inductive and deductive approaches in assessing various criteria so you can determine for yourself the validity of any theological position.
Some of the first lectures in Dr. Ware’s Systematic Theology I give you the core theological positions of major movements like Calvinism, Arminianism, Covenant, Liberalism and Neo Orthodoxy and help you compare and contrast their different perspectives. Also, since the Bible is the primary source for determining your systematic theology, Dr. Ware defines and explains key terms like inspiration, revelation, inerrancy, illumination and canonicity. God’s existence and attributes make up a major part of this class. The final lectures in Systematic Theology I focus on what the Bible teaches us about humans and sin.
The study of systematic theology is a mixture of science, art and faith. Join Dr. Ware as he leads you in understanding the core teachings of Scripture in a way that help you articulate your systematic theology, deepen your relationship with God and live out your life as a changed person.
This is the first of a two semester class on systematic theology. We recommend the book Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem as a companion book for this class. Dr. Grudem also wrote an abridged version entitled Bible Doctrines that includes discussion questions that are helpful for using in a small group/classroom situation.
IV. Original Sin
The word "original" in the phrase original sin is ambiguous. It seems to a lot of people when they hear this, that original sin must mean how sin originated; like where sin came from in the first place. The doctrine is not about that. It is not about where sin originated in the first place. Original sin has to do with how the bias toward sinfulness is passed on to, or originates in, each individual person subsequent to Adam or after Adam and his sin. So it doesn't have to do with the origination of sin.
So how did sin originate with Satan? Honestly, there is not a full decisive answer to that question. God made a good world; all there is is good, so how do you end up with evil from what is entirely universally good. This is a tough issue. It is one of the advantages, if want to think of it that way, of the Manichaean dualism that Augustine came out of; at least there you have good and evil as eternal realities. You don't have to try to explain evil coming out of good. It is just that evil is and good is. But if you hold a Christian view where only good exists, how do you get evil? Augustine has some help on that question. He had to really face it head on because of Manichaeism in his day.
This doctrine is not about that: sin originating with Satan or sin originating in the Garden of Eden. It has to do with how sin originates in you and me; that is, how is it that we become sinners? How do we take on the sin of Adam into our own lives?
B. Facets of the Fall
There are certain elements to what happened in the Fall and surrounding that. The whole situation with God creating the world as he did and human beings falling from their state of innocence and holiness need to be considered in this doctrine.
1. Humanity created good
Humanity was created good. In Genesis 1:31 where God looked at all he had made, and this was after the creation of the woman and the man in God's image; God looked at all that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
Gen 1:31 God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
So we cannot answer the question, "How do we become sinners?" by saying that God made us sinners or that he made Adam a sinner. No, he didn't; he made them good; all of it was good.
2. Adam and his one sin is the fountainhead for all human sin
This is clear biblically. This is made extremely clear by Paul in Romans 5. It is obvious that he wants to make the point that it is one sin that brought this devastation to all of humanity because he keeps repeating it.
Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned
His emphasis in Romans 15:12 is that through one man, Adam, sin entered the world.
Rom 5:15a But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died,
Rom 5:16a The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation,
Rom 5:17a For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one,
Rom 5:18a So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men,
Rom 5:19a For as through the one man's disobedience
He is obviously contrasting Adam and Christ; that is clear. But he is also making this point that one sin brought sin, condemnation, and death to every one who is in Adam, all subsequent human beings. This is one thing that we have to account for in this doctrine of original.Adam and his one sin is the fountainhead of all sins.
3. Individual human moral responsibility for sin
Nowhere in the Scriptures are we allowed to think that because Adam did this and we are all in him, and his one sin brought condemnation to all of us, then we are off the hook. We are not permitted to think this way. Rather we are held accountable for our own sin. Paul in particular is the one who most explicitly lays the blame of sin's origin on Adam, but he refuses to invoke Adam's sin as an excuse for his or anyone else's sin. Think of how Romans begins.
Rom 1:18 ff. The wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
This is the very same Paul who a few chapters later is going to tell us that in one sin, all of this condemnation and judgment and death comes to all of humanity. Romans 1 and Romans 5 are written by the same guy, the same author, understanding that we have to hold together this dual truth that we are all sinners in Adam and we are guilty individually and personally for sin.
4. Universality of sin and death
Both Old and New Testaments affirm the fact that all humans since Adam and Eve, Christ excepted, have been sinful in nature and have been subject to the penalty of sin, namely death. For example Paul in Romans 3:10-18 strings together all of these Old Testament teachings indicating that everyone has sinned.
Rom 3:9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; Rom 3:10 as it is written, "There is none righteous, not even one; Rom 3:11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; Rom 3:12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one."
The conclusion of that is in verse 23.
Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
So sin is universal in its scope and brings with it the judgment of death.
These four things have to be held together. What makes it difficult, in my judgment, to deal with this doctrine of original sin is really the fact that everybody is implicated, nobody is off the hook; it is universal, and it is really putting together 2 and 3 that becomes the tension; why is it that you and I are responsible if Adam is the one who did it? How do we make sense of this? How is it that we get implicated in what Adam did? How does this work that that is true? Furthermore, how can this be just and right? How can this come about from a God that creates only good? God is good; his ways are right, so how can this be just? It is one of the knottiest problems in theology. It rivals several others in terms of wresting with complex passages, issues and moral problems and trying to come to terms with it.
C. Theories of Original Sin
We will talk about the two main ones that have been proposed, though there are others; Pelagius held that everyone is born into this world morally neutral. We will talk about the major evangelical options.
1. Federal or Representative Theory
a. The View
This is the view that was developed by and held largely in the Reformed tradition; it is very widely advocated by Reformed theologians. Most advocates of this view hold to a Creationist Theory on the origin of the soul. So they will argue that every person comes about as God gives to the forming body, the fetus, a soul. This is where that theory takes shape. As God gives that soul to the body and joins the two together, he then legally imputes the sins of Adam to that soul so that ensoulment takes place in such a way that there is in the very formation of that human being sinfulness. He creates a soul, and as he unites the soul with the body, he imputes to the soul the sin of Adam. By this doctrine of imputation it is not meant that others were responsible for Adams sin. It is not that the fetus had anything to do with what Adam did. Rather, it was that Adam was the Federal head; Adam was the legal representative who acted legally on behalf of those who were in his line, namely all human beings, except Christ. Christ is the second Adam, so he doesn't fall under this judgment. But all who are in Adam, all who are in the line of Adam are then subject to the penalty that was given to Adam because Adam acted as the representative, the Federal legal head of all those who were in him. That includes you and me; we all come from Adam. Adam's sin then forms the judicial ground for the condemnation of the entire human race.
It is very important in this Covenant view of Federal headship to see the parallel that they want to make between how Christ is our head and how his work on the cross comes to us, and how Adam is our head and how his work, his sin in the Garden comes to us; these are viewed as parallels. If you think of Christ first of all in this, you realize that Christ is our head by representing us; it is not that we become Christ; you wouldn't talk about us participating in his atoning death. Would you talk about us with him bearing our sins on the cross? No, he bore our sins. The whole notion of imputation is crucial in understanding what Christ does on our behalf. Our sin is imputed to Christ; it is charged to Christ's account. It is like if somebody took your credit card and charged something to your credit card; it is charged to you and you have to pay for it. Our sin is charged to Christ. So he has to pay for our sin. It is not that we are with him in some kind of real way as if we are making the payment in Christ. No, he makes the payment on our behalf. Do we participate in this? Absolutely not. To say that we participate in it is to at least border on the heresy of saying that we have something to contribute to the atonement; the fact is that we have nothing to contribute to the atonement. Christ does it all. We are saved by Christ alone, through faith alone. This imputation means that Christ, as our legal representative, does the work. There is a second imputation when by faith we believe in Christ and his righteousness is imputed to us; this is justification. There is dual imputation that takes place in salvation; our sin is imputed to Christ, and Christ's righteousness is imputed to us.
Because Reformed theologians have such a strong emphasis on the imputation of our sin to Christ in which we have no part in the work that he does; likewise, Adam does his work as it were, and we have no part in that work. He stands as our representative or head, just as Christ stands as our representative or our head. Just as with the work of Christ we do not participate in his work or contribute to the atonement that he accomplished; likewise, with Adam and his work, we do not participate in Adam's sin. We don't act with Adam in his sin, rather we receive the consequences of his sin, namely the sin nature and condemnation that comes by imputation. So in both cases, the case of Adam and the case of Christ, those in Adam and those in Christ stand in a legal relationship. It is not a real or biological or any kind of metaphysical relationship of actually being together, but it is a legal relationship in which, as they act, it implicates all of us. As Adam acts, his act of sin implicates all of us in his sin. As Christ pays the penalty for our sin, our sin is paid for by his death on the cross. In either case we do not have anything to do with it.
Their understanding of imputation is really driven by this parallel of Christ and Adam.
The main support given is the parallel way in which Paul talks about Christ and Adam..
1 Cor 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
Here is Christ, the second Adam. So we ought to understand the work of Adam and the work of Christ in parallel kinds of ways.
All the way through Romans 5, Paul makes parallel what Adam did and what Christ does. Obviously they accomplish very different things. One accomplishes death, and one accomplishes life, but nonetheless, the one act in each case does this on behalf of all in him, in Adam, and in Christ, respectively.
Rom 5:16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. Rom 5:17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.
What, then, are the effects of Adam's sin that come to us? They are comprehensive: his sin nature, his guilt and his condemnation. In the same way what comes to us in Christ is all the riches of Christ, full pardon, full acceptance, and inheritance with Christ in all of his riches. So just as we receive all that Christ possesses, and we are co-inheritors with Christ, so we receive all that Adam deserved: guilt, punishment, eternal condemnation.
On what basis is this legal to do this? It obviously invokes a legal structure that in some ways is out of step with contemporary American culture where we are much more inclined to think in terms of each individual and his or her responsibility. But even in our culture there are exceptions to that. For example, my wife right now could be on a shopping spree; perhaps this morning after I left home she flew to New York City with a credit card bearing my name and is charging all of this stuff. She could be spending tens of thousands of dollars, and if these bills come to me in the mail and I say, "Wait a minute, I did not make these charges, I did not buy these things." They are going to say to me, "So what, because you have signed with your wife a legal agreement by which you bear responsibility for her charges, and she bears responsibility for yours; it is a joint account; you have to pay." This is an example where some individual bears the responsibility for the actions of another. Certainly we know this is the case in families. Parents can be charged with legal wrong doing for action of their children in certain circumstances where they should have been responsible for what they did. Even though it is not as common with us, it certainly is understandable with this notion of male headship.
Another concept biblically is corporate solidarity, in which God views the whole of the people as united to one person. An example of that is Achan and his sin in Joshua 7. Isn't that staggering how Joshua 7 begins?
Josh 7:1 But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel.
The Lord was angry with Israel because Israel took things under the ban when Achan took things under the ban; Israel did this, but really it was just Achan. Achan is a representative of the whole in this case, so there is this broader sense of responsibility.
Support for this Federalist view is very straight forward. It is this notion of the parallel nature of Christ and Adam as given by Paul in Romans and 1 Corinthians.
There is no question that Paul sees Christ and Adam as the head of the race. There is a sense in which I am very much in favor of this view except that I don't think that this view correctly represents everything the Scripture teaches about the relationship of Adam and us, Adam and the rest of the race.
2. Realist or Augustinian Theory
This is called the Augustinian view because Augustine was the one who really developed this in his study on Romans 5.
a. The View
The Realist view has been held by the wider church population besides the Reformed tradition. The Reformed tradition has been dominated by the Representative or Federal Headship view. Most of the rest of the major movements within Christendom have followed Augustine on this, perhaps just because it came from him, and he affected so much in the church. According to this view when Adam sinned, in his act of sinning the entire human race was really in some real sense present and active in his sin. It is not wrong to say, when Adam sinned, we sinned with him. Not that we were there as we are here now, but that we were in Adam when he committed his sin. It is very much like an oak tree. Everything about that oak tree is found in the acorn before there ever is an oak tree. It is an analogy, but it is a helpful one to get the idea. Suppose this acorn had a genetic defect; that genetic defect will show up when the oak tree grows and develops. You will see in the oak tree what was true in the acorn. What Augustine argued was that there is a sense in which we are really present, all of humanity, in Adam when he sinned. Sometimes this view is called the Seminal Presence view. We are seminally present, so as Adam's seed is passed on to the next generation and the next and the next then what was in Adam carries forward; in this case, it was his sin.
In the Creationist view most creationists also hold to a Realist view of the origin of sin. The reason is that it makes the best sense of it. God creates; this is the body; this is soul, and he unites the soul to the body at some point between conception and birth. Because of Adam's sin, because Adam was the legal head, then he imputes the sin of Adam to the soul, which is then united to the body. So you can see where the Creationist view of the transmission of the soul and the Federal Headship view of the origin of sin work together well.
In a similar way, if you hold that both soul and body are passed on from Adam and Eve through procreation, which the Traducian view holds, then it is most natural to see sin passed on through the act of procreation. So, in Adam, as he sins you can see that the person conceived today can trace him or her self all the way back to Adam ultimately. So when Adam sinned he had this person in him, seminally present in him. So there is a sense in which we all, in Adam, sinned. We all, as humanity in Adam, sinned and therefore the sin that comes to us is simply a function of reproducing what we are in procreation; human but sinful humans which then need to be regenerated and forgiven and remade through Christ. Humans yes, but sinful humans are created. You can also see here why the Traducian view of the transmission of the soul is most commonly held along with the Realist view of the origin of sin because both have to do with biological reproduction or procreation as the mechanism in both for the soul being passed on and for sin being passed on subsequently.
Augustine's main support for this was Romans 5:12. There is an irony in this; Augustine did not know Greek well at all; all he had was the Latin Vulgate. It is agreed by almost everyone today that the Latin Vulgate mistranslated Romans 5:12 at the end of it. His Latin Vulgate translation would have read, "as one man's sin entered the world so death through sin, so death spread to all men in whom all sinned." So Augustine with that relative pronoun "in whom" obviously interpreted that as in Adam all sinned. But the phrase in Greek should be translated "in that all sinned" or "because all sinned." It is my judgment Augustine got the right conclusion from the wrong exegetical basis. Don't get your hopes up; I don't think that this happens very often. I think that his conclusions actually do fit what this text says.
Rom 5:12a Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world,
Here it is clear that he is talking about the one act of Adam's sin brings sin to the whole world.
Rom 5:12b and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-
The consequence is not just sin nature, but the consequence of sin is death.
Rom 5:12c and so death spread to all men, because all sinned
If you hold that what he means by that is all subsequently sinned, then that conflicts with the notion that this all takes place in the one sin of Adam. This is the problem with interpreting the end of verse 12 to mean, "and so death spread to all men, because all people eventually end up sinning." Think about the flow of the argument as it goes from here; through one transgression, through one act of unrighteousness, not through a whole bunch of them, but through this one, death spread to all people. It seems to me what he is meaning is, so death spread to all men in that all sinned (in the sin of Adam); all sinned in Adam's sin. In my judgment Romans 5:13,14 support this.
Rom 5:13a for until the Law sin was in the world,
There is no question everybody out there from Adam on has been sinners.
Rom 5:13b but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
That is, sin is not charged against the account of people if there is no law telling them what sin is and what the consequence is if they break the law. So, until the Law of Moses, sin is in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
Rom 5:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of him who was to come.
So why is it that people between Adam and Moses die? In that time period between Adam and Moses there is no law that says, if you break this law you will die. There was for Adam in the Garden; if you eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you will die. Through Moses, repeatedly God said, if you go against me I will bring judgment upon you, and you will die. For Adam there was a law; for Moses there was a law, but in between, there is no law that says, if you break this law you will die. Hence no law could be imputed to them; that is, they couldn't be charged with the violation of a law that doesn't exist. So on what basis do they die? Answer: in Adam's sin. So it looks to me that verses 13 and 14 are giving support for the notion that we all die because of Adam's one sin. Not because of things we do, sure we are sinners, but because of what Adam did in our place with him.
In my judgment the interpretation of Romans 5:12, I do think requires a fundamentally Realist understanding of what Paul is saying there. In other words, I do think that Romans 5:12 means that because all sinned is about us in Adam when he sinned, it can't be subsequent sins. Think of the time between Adam and Moses; we can't be held accountable, but we die. So it looks like, in my judgment, Romans 5:12 is best understood as Realists understand it; namely, we are in Adam when he dies. There is also the fact that the Realist view stands in keeping with a larger biblical theology that indicates this kind of seminal presence. In Hebrews 7, where Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek, how could that be because Levi was born hundreds of years after Melchizedek?
Heb 7:9 And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, Heb 7:10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
It is the same kind of a thing. Levi hadn't been born yet, but he was in the loins of Abraham. So when Abraham did this he was acting in a sense for Levi, the one who would come from him. So when Adam sinned he is acting in a sense for us who come out of him.
3. A Hybrid view
This is very much like Hoekema's. Is it true that both Adam and Christ represent us? Yes, absolutely; there is no question, but they are heads of the races, and we are in them. However, where I disagree with the Reformed people is in thinking that the way that we are in each of them has to be the same. They say you have to conclude that because in Adam all died, and in Christ all are made alive, that we are in Adam and in Christ in the same way. I don't see why you have to do that. In fact, I think that there is good reason for thinking that we ought not see these as parallel realities.
Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Doesn't the Bible want us to think that in relation to sin we earned it; we get what we worked for. The wages of sin is death. That is right after chapter 5 where death came in the human race through Adam. So do we say that we had nothing to do with this receiving condemnation and death? No, we earned it. But over here, isn't the point of it that it is not by works; it is by grace; we have nothing to do with this. It strikes me that, in fact, the Adam-Christ parallel is deliberately asymmetrical on the point of culpability. What culpability do we have in the sin that we get from Adam? The answer is nature. What culpability, what responsibility do we bear for the salvation that we have received by grace? Answer: none whatsoever. So I cannot follow the reformed formula on this, although I do think it is right to think of Adam as a head and Christ as a head, but the way we are in each of them strikes me as different basis. In Adam, we are in him, and we do the sin he commits and so work for our condemnation. In Christ we receive what we had nothing to do with and so accept grace through faith that gives us salvation. That is my way of putting the two together. It tips in favor of the realist view, but it also acknowledges the legitimacy of the Federal headship notion which is true in the Federal Headship view.
V. The Triumph of God over Sin
I would hate to end with a discussion on original sin and not indicate the Bible's wonderful triumphant message that sin is conquered in Christ. In Scripture there really are two broad ways in which the triumph over sin is addressed.
A. God's Triumph over Sin in His People
In the elect, in the people of God, the people who are his own, God will triumph over their sin, both its penalty and its power. Justification and sanctification are both true. In justification, the penalty of sin is paid for fully. By faith in Christ we are declared righteous, justified. The power of sin, and its hold upon us, causes us to be slaves of sin. It is broken, and in the end it is totally eradicated but not until we see Jesus. When we see him then we will be like him because we will see him as he really is. Nonetheless, in this life, at the point of regeneration, think about what happens at that moment of true saving faith; you are transferred from the dominion of Satan into the kingdom of his beloved son. You are made a temple of the Holy Spirit. You are adopted into the family of God. You are made a co-heir with Christ. You are given life, sight, and spiritual capabilities you never had before. All of this happens at the point of regeneration.
Romans 5-8 has so much to do with God's triumph over sin in Christ. Where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more, said Paul. This raises for him the question in Romans 6; shall we sin all the more that grace might abound all the more? God forbid, he says, don't you know that you have died and been raised with Christ that the body of sin might be done away with, that we shall no longer be slaves to sin. The whole point of the triumph of grace is to minimize, reduce and eventually eliminate sin's hold upon us, not free us up to sin all the more. That totally misses the point of grace.
Gal 5:13-24 where clearly Spirit and flesh are against one another.
Gal 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; Eph 2:9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Again there is this triumph over sin as we carry out the works that God has called us to.
Col 1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, Col 1:22 yet he has now reconciled you in his fleshly body through death, in order to present you before him holy and blameless and beyond reproach- Col 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
2 Cor 5:21 He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
1 Pet 2:21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in his steps, 1 Pet 2:22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; 1 Pet 2:23 and while being reviled, he did not revile in return; while suffering, he uttered no threats, but kept entrusting himself to him who judges righteously; 1 Pet 2:24 and he himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by his wounds you were healed. 1 Pet 2:25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
Tit 2:13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, Tit 2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for himself a people for his own possession, zealous for good deeds.
Looking at Romans 7:14-25, I am going to tell you in the briefest of terms my interpretation of that text. In my judgment I really wish that we didn't have this disagreement within evangelicalism on this passage because I think that this passage lends comfort to carnal Christians, totally illegitimately, but nonetheless it does. If this was Paul the Apostle and this was his experience (the things I want to do I don't do, and the things I don't want to do I do, what hope is there for me?) then we end up with a defeatist attitude. I follow Doug Moo in his commentary on this; he argues basically that Romans 7:7 to Romans 8:1 is a parenthesis. In this chapter he is addressing the question, "Was the law sin?" Was this what the problem was? He just said in Romans 7:6 that we have been released from the law.
Rom 7:6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
So the obvious question is now we know what the culprit has been all of this time; it has been the law; that is the problem. Paul's answer to that question is, no way. The Law is righteous and holy and good. The problem is us. It is our flesh. It is sin that infests us. So when we see the law, we can see it and say, that is what I want to do but can't do it. Good high-minded Jews wanted to keep the law. I hear this argument against my interpretation. No non-Christian could say, "I delight to keep the law." Oh yes they can, haven't you met Orthodox Jews before? Romans 2 has these people in it. If you want to see people that Paul has in his mind, look at Romans 2:15,16 ff. Theses are Jews who love the Law, want to keep the Law, to teach the Law, but they are not saved. They violate the Law left and right. He talks about them in Romans 2. These are the people I believe he has in mind in Romans 7; they are high-minded Jews, people who want to keep the law but they can't keep it. What do they need? In Chapter 8 it is evident; they need Christ; they need the Spirit. Romans 7 is about total bondage to sin. This is not about a Christian's struggle with sin. It is abject defeat. Paul describes himself as slave to sin and in bondage to sin which is just exactly opposite from the language he uses in Chapters 6 and 8 to describe himself now in relation to sin; mainly free from sin not under its mastery anymore. So I commend to you an interpretation of Romans 7 that shows, in fact, that in Christ the bondage to sin is over. It is over; this is not the Christian experience. It is Paul thinking of himself as a Jew, a representative high-minded Jew very much like the one he was, realizing that he could never keep the Law; what he needs is the Holy Spirit; what he needs Christ; hence Romans 8.
B. God's Cosmic Triumph over Sin
Not only does God defeat sin in relation to believers, to his own his elect, but as glorious as that is, Scripture is also clear that God defeats sin cosmically, universally. This doesn't entail Universalism, but it does entail all the rebellion is over. Sin has been defeated. It is a vanquished foe. I disagree with all my heart with C. S. Lewis who thinks of Hell as a place where the doors are locked from the inside. Think about that image; people want to be in Hell. Then I guess it is the sinners Heaven. They want to be in Hell. The rebel's flag is planted in Hell, he says. My response to that is absolutely no way. What does Philippians 2 mean when it says the following?
Phil 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, Phil 2:11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The deception is over. God will be known as God by every single person in Hell. Christ will be known as Lord to every single person in Hell. The rebellion is over. In my judgment this is what will constitute so much of the horror of Hell is that people will live forever knowing God is God, God is good, God is beautiful, God is joy-filled, God is life, and I can have nothing ever to do with him. There is no rebel's flag planted in Hell.
In I Corinthians 15:20-28 the Father put everything in subjection to Christ and he has brought everything in subjection to him and he hands it over to the father that God may be all in all.
1 Cor 15:28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself also will be subjected to the one who subjected all things to him, so that God may be all in all.
There is no way that you can finish that passage and say that there is still this outpost of sin out there in rebellion against God. No way is there. The rebellion is over. God has won, people know the truth. Unfortunately in this the case the truth cannot set them free; it is too late. But they know God is God and Christ is Lord.
Eph 1:9 He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his kind intention which he purposed in him Eph 1:10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.
Phil 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; Phil 3:21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of his glory, by the exertion of the power that he has even to subject all things to himself.
Remember in Isaiah 11:6-9; the lion and the bear and the child will go by the hole of the Cobra, everything is made right.
Is 11:6 And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them. Is 11:7 Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox. Is 11:8 The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den. Is 11:9 They will not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Is 65:17 For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. Is 65:18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing and her people for gladness. Is 65:19 I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; and there will no longer be heard in her the voice of weeping and the sound of crying. Is 65:20 No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; For the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred will be thought accursed. Is 65:21 They will build houses and inhabit them; they will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit. Is 65:22 They will not build and another inhabit, they will not plant and another eat; for as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of my people, and my chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands. Is 65:23 They will not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they are the offspring of those blessed by the Lord, and their descendants with them. Is 65:24 It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. Is 65:25 The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent's food. They will do no evil or harm in all my holy mountain, says the Lord.
Mic 4:1 And it will come about in the last days that the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains. It will be raised above the hills, and the peoples will stream to it. Mic 4:2 Many nations will come and say, "Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us about his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Mic 4:3 And he will judge between many peoples and render decisions for mighty, distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they train for war. Mic 4:4 Each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. Mic 4:5 Though all the peoples walk each in the name of his god, as for us, we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.
So the glorious truth is that we can anticipate a day when all of sin, and the urge for independence from God is ended, and there will be the glorious reign of God, of righteousness over everything, including Hell. God will reign righteously over Hell. People will acknowledge their guilt. There won't be a single person thinking that there is no way I deserve this; every one of them will be totally aware of their sin, who God is and the justice of their condemnation forever. Those of us who are united with Christ by faith enjoy forever freedom from sin, all together. Can you imagine how glorious that day will be? Never a pang of jealously again, never again looking at someone else's car or house or clothes or books or computer and thinking, woe is me. Never again being angry for self vindication. Never again lusting, never again tempted to steal, cheat, lie, or defraud. Always and only fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and doing the work of God for ever and ever. Wow what a day. Hasten that day, come Lord Jesus.