The following is a discussion that ensued from a quote from my friend Brett Burrowes. This is an excerpt, mind you, of a larger article, but I think it is sufficient to stand on its own. After reading this in full feel free to comment. Thanks!
Brett: “Sin is not the corruption of an independently operating human nature, but the enslaving spirit of Satan. Humans do not operate themselves, since Paul says that we are either operated by the spirit of sin which indwells us, “it is no longer I but sin” (Romans 7:17,20), or we are operated by the Spirit of Christ, “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). So when is it just me? Never; there is no independently operating human self or nature in the New Testament. So does this abolish our free will? By no means, recognizing what we do not control enables us to recognize what is within our control; we have the choice to take God at His word and trust Him, or we can continue to trust Satan’s deception that we autonomously run our own lives. The choice and the consequences are ours: but why would we continue to trust one whose aim is theft and destruction instead of the One who loves us and has predestined us to share in His own glory?”
Tom: Much of this is not Biblical. God holds US responsible for ALL of our sin and it is ALL ours.We make those choices concerning what we choose to do or not do. Paul was speaking of the war between the man’s natural sin nature and the indwelling Holy Spirit working in us to resist sin, not another self that commits sin without our consent. This is New Age twisting of Biblical teaching, not New Testament. Looks like Kenneth Copeland-Kenneth Hagin New Age interpretations. Be wary of any teaching that seems to absolve us from our choice. It is always a deception.
Louie: Well Tom, I don’t see how this “absolves us from our choice.” When Paul wrote “It is no longer I but sin” he is differentiating between himself and the “sin” is he not? If he was talking about having a “natural sin nature” how could he talk as if “sin” was something IN him doing it? Sin here is definitely a personal pronoun therefore it appears to be something, or someone, other than Paul himself. Jesus did say, “I am the true vine” which brings with it the implication there is a “false vine” correct? The point is we are always and only a branch, therefore we have “No independent” nature of our own. We are either partaking of the “sin” nature inherited from the fall, or we have been born again and are now partakers of the “divine nature.” Either way we have no nature of our own. Humans were created to be an expressor of the God who created them. In the fall a lesser being, otherwise known as Satan, made his way into us. This is why we must be born again of God’s Spirit from above. I would encourage you to look into this a bit closer.
Tom: “So when is it just me? Never; there is no independently operating human self or nature in the New Testament.” This is the phrase that reveals the falsehood. It is always “me.” That is why God holds us accountable. We cannot excuse our sin by saying we were not responsible. We are responsible…always. This philosophy is falsehood, Louie. Don’t buy it.
Louie: Thankfully we don’t have to buy anything Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe! Tom who said we’re not responsible? We are responsible for who we are obeying either sin or righteousness (Jesus) Romans 6:16. This is why Paul told us to count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God and to stop presenting our members to sin but rather present ourselves to God. You see presenting is choosing.
Tom: “So when is it just me? Never; there is no independently operating human self or nature in the New Testament.” Where did this come from. That’s who said we are not responsible.
Louie: We are not the sole one responsible we are in allegiance with the evil one when we sin but we’re still responsible. If you and I go to rob a bank, you stay in the getaway car and I go in to hold them up. When I come out and you drive us away who’s responsible?
Tom: Yes, but we are the one that allows Satan’s influence over us. God will judge us and only us for our sin, not Satan. The fact that we ARE an independently operating human self is the very central doctrine of the New Testament. That man denied that in his statement. That’ is where the falsehood lies.
Louie: Who actually told you we have an independent nature? Why would Jesus tell us we are a branch only? We are the body but not the head. We are a vessel but not the contents. We are a temple not the deity that lives within it. You see we were created to house God’s Spirit. Therefore once the “spirit of error” took up residence within, deception was sure to follow. This is why we have to receive Christ but that only happens with the hearing of the Good news. What’s the Good news you might ask. Well, the good news is we have been crucified, buried and raised with Christ and we are forever joined to Him “Spirit to spirit.” We have been set free from the “the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience” Ephesians 2:2! Amen!
Louie Check out Brett’s blog if you want to study a bit deeper on this subject. I think it will be worth your time. https://brettburrowes.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/sin-and-satan-part-2/
Reading through Romans six and hearing how we have died to sin never gets old. It seems to be just as fresh this time as it has been in the past. Verse 13 jumped out at me recently though, it says, “Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” The word instrument, as used here, is defined “an implement, or utensil or tool (offensive for war)–armour, instrument, weapon.”
Tracey and I recently watched the movie Thor with Anthony Hopkins playing Thor’s father Oden. In the beginning of the movie Odin, and all the citizens of Asgard, are conducting a ceremony to announce Thor as the new king. For those unfamiliar with the story, Thor carries a large hammer which is where his real power lies. During the ceremony scene, Anthony Hopkins is narrating and makes a statement that applies to this verse. Speaking of the Hammer, Odin says, “it can be used as a weapon to destroy or a tool to build.”
I’m not going to attempt to tell the full mythology behind Thor’s hammer but I wanted to share a few insights with you. The day after Tracey and I watched this movie I sat in a small circle of men at our jail as we worked our way through Romans six. When we came to verse 13 and its description of us as an instrument I couldn’t help but recall Thor’s hammer. In other words, Thor was a god and he wielded a hammer. We too have a God or “god”, either sin or righteousness, and how we operate depends upon who we are presenting ourselves to.
As our lesson progressed we read about how we are always a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness, never are we the master. This means everyday we are either presenting ourselves as a weapon in the hands of the enemy or the hands of our Savior. You see there are times when our God does operate through us as a weapon; after all in Exodus 15:3 we read “The Lord is a warrior”, but at the same time we know from Ephesians 6 “our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” So whether we are being operated as a weapon to destroy or a tool to build is decided by the one wielding the hammer not the hammer itself.
There are several examples throughout the scriptures where the enemy finds his way into people’s lives and attacks others. As we discussed how the enemy operates, we read a few verses in the book of Job. Chapter 1 verse 11 we read what Satan said to God about Job. He said, “But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” Then if you jump ahead a bit to 2:9-10 we read what Job’s wife tells him after his livestock and children have been killed. “Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not adversity/evil?” So Job’s wife was obviously being operated by Satan wasn’t she?
We learn a bit more about the enemy’s tactics when we look at how he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. At the root, all of Satan’s temptations were attacks on Jesus’ identity. He said, “If you’re the Son of God then…” Then throughout the gospels we see the exact same tactics coming through the religious leaders of the day. Most of, if not all the times, Jesus was confronted by them they were attacking His identity saying something like, “If you’re the Son of God, what sign will you show us?” Even all the way up to Jesus’ death on the cross the enemy shouted “If you’re the Son of God why don’t you come down from there? Save yourself and save us!”
At the root of all of this seems to be accusation, manipulation and condemnation. Once we start to recognize the enemy’s tactics we will be quicker to respond effectively. Paul told Timothy in his second letter “Refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord’s bond-servant, or hammer, must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” In other words, pray that they may come to see they are being used as a weapon in the hands of the enemy, come to their senses and begin to present themselves as a weapon, or tool, for righteousness instead.
Romans six teaches us: those of us who have placed our faith in Christ, and his work on the cross, are to reckon ourselves dead to sin. You see, just as all were originally born in Adam and are therefore sinners, those of us who have been born again have been born into Christ and made righteous. In other words, the cross is the means by which God transfers us from the first Adam to the last.
Human beings have never been independent we have always been in union with another spirit. For instance we are either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. Notice we are always a slave and never our own master. The good news is in Christ our old boss is out and our new one is in. This is what Paul means with his frequent use of the term “Christ in you” and “In Christ.”
As we move from Romans six into Romans seven we read about a wife who simply cannot please her husband and needs to be separated from him, but the law won’t allow it. You see unless he dies, she has to remain married to him and the truth is he simply will not die. This is a picture of our relationship with the Law/sin meaning the Law isn’t going to die, and it is the means by which sin gets its power, so she/we are in a quandary. How will she/we get away from her old husband if he won’t die? God has a solution.
You see God has always known the husband wouldn’t die, but His plan involves the wife/us dying instead. If God crucifies us with Christ and raised us back up with him there would be legal grounds for divorce from the old husband, and we could then be joined to a new one, namely Christ himself. That’s exactly what He did.
The reason Paul uses a wife here as an illustration is because God is looking to produce fruit through His people but like a wife we have to have Him to do it. Just as a wife needs a husband to produce children we too have to have God in order to produce fruit for God. This analogy is teaching us that there is absolutely no way for us to produce fruit for God by way of the Law. Us attempting to produce fruit for God by the Law is the same as a wife trying to have a baby without her husband. It just simply cannot happen. The fruit bearing process requires the husband. Just as a wife has to become one flesh with her husband we must be one spirit with the Lord.
Essentially Romans six and the first part of seven is telling us we have died to sin by being severed from our union in Adam. Through the cross, and our being co-crucified, dead, buried and risen with Christ we walk in newness of life. Now that we are in union with Christ He can produce His fruit through our lives.
If I wanted you to do my bidding, but I knew you wouldn’t go along with my plan, what would be the best way for me to accomplish my goal? For instance, if I didn’t want to mow my yard and I would rather get you to do it, my best move would be to somehow get you to think it is your idea to mow my yard. I couldn’t just walk up to you and say, “You’re going to mow my yard and like it”; but if I could manipulate you into thinking it was your idea you would do it with gusto!
The Bible tells us “the whole world lies in the wicked one.” In other words we have all been deceived. Jesus called Satan the “Father of lies” and when he lies “he speaks his native tongue.” His whole operating procedure is based on manipulation. From the beginning he told Adam and Eve “The day you eat of this your eyes will be opened and you will be as God.” You see Satan wants to replace God and the only way he can do this is by manipulating his greatest creation. That’s right! Man is God’s greatest creation because we were made in his image. God’s plan has always been to live within man so we might be the fullest expression of His character and have dominion over his creation. Essentially he was, is and always will be God, and he’s the one in charge, it’s just that we would be the means in which he rules.
So let’s see if we can run through this plan. God designed mankind to be his dwelling place. The Bible calls us vessels and Temples signifying that we were to be a container, if you will, in which God’s Spirit would live. He is, and will always be, the All in our nothing. After all what’s a cup of coffee without the coffee? Or what’s a Temple if there’s no God living within?
Okay so let’s review what went wrong. Satan deceived Eve into thinking she could be independent from God and essentially be God herself. By listening to the enemy the whole of humanity took a tumble. In the New Testament we discover it was actually a little more than just a fall in fact Satan holed up in mankind in order to get us to do his bidding. We became what Paul called “dead in our trespasses and sins, we used to walk according to the course of the world, according to the “prince of the power of the air” (Satan), the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” So you see man not only broke God’s law he opened himself up for another spirit to become his ruler. One great secret about man is man has always been the slave of another. We are either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness but either way always a slave. The great deception is that we can be our own boss. Are you starting to catch on to the manipulation?
Satan wanted to dethrone God and take his place. Obviously he can’t do that but he did manage to do the next best thing didn’t he? He managed to get into Man and rule us even though it was by trickery. This is why sharing the gospel message is so important. We must tell others they don’t have to listen to the enemy anymore. Because of Jesus Christ, and his perfect sacrifice for mankind, we are free from his power! Once you know the truth the truth will set you free!
In the gospel of John, during one of Jesus’ many conflicts with the religious leaders of his day, Jesus told them “You are of your father the devil, and his lusts (desires) you do.” Wow! Did you catch that? Unbelievers aren’t even doing their own desires they’re doing the desires of their master. “The whole world lies in the wicked one.” Everyone of us have been affected by this deception. We all live our lives as if they are our own and we can do with them as we please. We say things like “Leave me alone, it’s my life, I’m not hurting anyone but myself” or “Your’e not the boss of me.” We’re saying and doing these things and the enemy has us believing it’s our idea. Thank God for the light of the gospel.
Even sharing the gospel can sometimes be difficult because the deception runs so deep. In fact “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” He’s going to do all he can to keep us in the dark so we continue to do his bidding. When it comes right down to it we can only walk in the light we have been given. My prayer is that “God would give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.”
In Romans six we discover all people are slaves. We are either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness but either way we are still a slave. This means we are never acting independently as if we are just ourselves operating from our own supply or power source. Jesus said, “you are the branches.” Being a branch means we can’t live or produce fruit of any kind without another. In this case it’s Jesus who said he was the true vine. Could this imply the presence of a false one?
In the first few verses of Romans seven we discover we are likened unto a wife. Paul uses a wife and husband to illustrate this same thing. The wife can never produce children apart from her husband. Without a man a woman will not be able to become pregnant and give birth. Chapter seven is revealing to us that the first husband is impossible to please and this marriage will only bear fruit unto death. The problem is much deeper than that though because the only way for her to be removed from the marriage is if the husband dies. Guess what? He won’t die. The good news is God’s plan provided a way for the woman (we) to die with Christ, but thank God death didn’t have the final word. We rose again and now we are joined to our new husband, Jesus, and he will produce fruit for God through us. You see without Christ himself producing the life he wants from us it can never happen. Apart from him we can do nothing.
As we look a little further in Romans seven we read “But if I am doing the very thing I do not want , I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” Here we discover “sin” is the real culprit not me. Of course this doesn’t mean we aren’t responsible if we commit sin, but it means once again we are a slave, branch and wife and not the originator. This works in the opposite way too. In Galatians two we read, “…it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” So the truth is we are not the originator of sin or righteousness rather we are a slave, branch or wife of the one who is. Either we are a slave to sin (Satan) or a slave to righteousness (Christ). Either way we do not and cannot produce the fruit of either of them on our own.
So many times, when hearing a presentation of the gospel, you’ll hear someone say something like “You need to give your life to God”. If the truth is told the gospel message isn’t really us giving our lives to God rather it is God giving his life to us. Making statements about us giving our lives to God comes from a misunderstanding of us having our own independent lives when in reality we are not our own…ever.
Before someone is born again they are “of your father the devil” and “slave to sin.” After one is born again they are “children of God”, “slave to righteousness”, a “branch”. In other words the human being is never their own as in “just myself” because we are always joined to another. As in Adam all die; in Christ all are made alive. We are sinners by birth therefore we must be born again of the Spirit of God in order to be transferred out of Adam/Sin and put into Christ/righteousness and for Christ to be put into us. All of this can only happen because “God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son…” We are told, “To them that received him to them he gave the power to become the sons of God…”
The lie that we humans are independent beings has been deeply rooted in us since the fall of Adam and seems to be the last thing to go, even after being born again. Our thinking goes something like this “Well, God saved me so now I need to imitate Jesus and do my best to serve God.” The reality is even after becoming a new creature in Christ we are still powerless to live the life. This is where God giving us his life is so valuable. Without him we can do nothing.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians how he longed for “Christ to be formed in them.” This is what we all need. We all need to realize Christ in us is what is pleasing to God. God doesn’t give us eternal life as something separate from himself. “He that has the Son has the life; he that doesn’t have the Son has not the life.”