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Theology in Romans - Theology and the fight against sin Print E-mail
Theology in Romans

I.  Introduction:

 For the last couple of weeks in our study through Romans we have been talking about the relationship between the believer and sin.  Last week we spoke of our union with Christ as our greatest weapon against sin.  This morning we looked at the Law and its relation to our struggle with sin.  At some point in this series on Sunday nights, I want to look more at the Law and our relationship to it as believers.  Yet, tonight, I want to return to the idea of battling against sin by remembering who we are in Christ.  We noted how Paul often builds his imperatives (commands) upon the sure foundation of his indicatives (who we are).  Thus, as we argued last week, we can fight against sin (imperative) by remembering who we are in Christ (indicative).  Tonight, I just want to look at a couple of other places where Paul argues in this way.

II.  Other Passages:

 A.  Sometimes it is good for us to consider a letter in the New Testament as a whole.  We might do this on occasion with the smaller letters, but we do not do it as much with the larger ones.  Thus, we know some of the various components of 1 Corinthians (chapter 5 on church discipline, chapters 12-14 on spiritual gifts, chapter 13 on love) but we donít always think of it as one letter.  Of course, it is good to do both (we need to think hard about individual passages and verses), but tonight I want to do a quick survey through the letter, looking particularly at how Paul tells the Corinthians to deal with the various struggles they are having.  The letter was written by Paul to a Church that had various troubles.  They were battling against sin and not doing a great job on certain fronts.  Paul writes to encourage them in these areas and give them instructions for dealing with these sins.  The simple point that I want to note tonight is that he repeatedly encourages them to look to Christ (and their union with Him) in their battle against sin.  It is not all that he tells them and it varies according to the issue, but it is a constant theme throughout the whole letter.  Let me try and demonstrate that by commenting on a few passages.

  1.  1 Corinthians 1:10-13 One of the problems in the Corinthian Church was disunity.  Paul says that some were following him and some were following Apollos and some were following Cephas, and some even claimed to be following Christ.  This choosing of sides resulted in factions in the Church.  Paul writes to correct this error.  How does he begin?  Is Christ divided?  In other words, is there division in Christ?  The  obvious answer is Ďno.í  Christ is not divided.  Thus, the Church in Corinth, who are  united in Christ, one body in Christ, should not be divided.  They are one in Christ (indicative).  Therefore, they should be unified together (imperative).  He makes a similar argument in chapter 3, where he concludes: So let no one boast in men (imperative).  For all things are yoursÖand you are Christís and Christ is Godís (indicative) (v. 21, 23).

  2.  1 Corinthians 5:6-8 Paul is confronting blatant, public sexual sin in this  chapter.  Verse 1 tells us: It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his fatherís  wife.  This is a serious issue.  Thus, Paul instructs the Church to confront the man and put  him out of the Church.  Yet, what I want to note is the reason why such action is so important.  Paul says in verses 6-8 that this sin (or any blatant, public sin that is not repented of) must be dealt with because a little leaven leavens the whole lump.  This is a reference to the Passover celebration, where Israel celebrated Godís delivery of them out of Egypt by eating unleavened bread.  He tells them to clean out the leaven (the sin), which is the imperative of the passage.  Then he connects the command with who they  are in Christ, namely a new lump that is unleavened.  How did they get to be that?  He  answers: For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  We are to be a holy (unleavened) people because of who we are in Christ through His work at the cross.  The imperative (clean out the old leaven) is built upon the indicative (you are a new lump in Christ).

  3.  1 Corinthians 6:14-17 In this passage Paul is urging the Corinthians to avoid sexual sin in general.  His argument is straight forward: you are members of Christ (through your union with him) and to have sex with a prostitute is to become Ďmembersí with her.  Thus, since you are united to Christ (indicative), do not be joined to a prostitute (imperative).  If you are struggling with lust and tempted by sexual sin, then fight it by remembering that you are joined to Christ and belong to Him.

  4.  1 Corinthians 11:17-22 The Corinthians were shaming the poor among them by coming to the table without them.  Yet, Paul reminds them that they are supposed to be eating the Lordís supper together.  He describes the night that Jesus instituted the meal and concludes: For as often as you eat the bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lordís death until he comes.  The Lordís supper is about proclaiming together our belief in the death of Christ and His imminent return.  This is who we are: believers in the death of Christ our Lord.  We are brought together by faith in Him and His work.  From these truths (who we are), Paul builds the imperative: Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.  They must stop shaming each other (imperative) by remembering who they are in Christ and what He has done for them at the cross (indicative).  

  5.  1 Corinthians 12:12-13 Paul uses the body analogy to refer to the Church in chapter 12.  He is discussing spiritual gifts and the Corinthians sin of viewing one gift as  more important than another.  He reminds them that in Christ they are all one body and  all the parts of the body are important.  Thus again, our identity in Christ is the foundation for our fight against such sin.  To avoid arrogance and division in our gifts, we must remember that we are one body in Christ. 

 Thus, I think we can see even from this quick survey of 1 Corinthians that Paul instructs us to battle sin by knowing who we are in Christ.  By meditating on the fact that Christ is one, that He has died for our sins, and that we are brothers and sisters through faith in Him, we can make war on our sins.

 B.  I just want to point out one more place where Paul builds the imperative on the indicative.  Like the letter to the Romans, Ephesians can be broken up into two parts: who we are in Christ (ch. 1-3) and how we are to live (ch. 4-6).  To see this, look at how chapter 4 begins.  He tells them and us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.  What calling is that?  The calling to turn from our sins and believe in Christ that he has been writing about in the letter up to that point.  Because God the Father has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (1:3) and sealed (us) with the promised Holy Spirit (1:13) and made us alive together with Christ (2:5), we should walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called (4:1).  We are to be who we are becoming, or as Paul says it: but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light (5:8).

III.  Conclusion:

 As I have stated, I think it is important that we see the connection between the indicative and the imperative.  We need to realize that the greatest weapon we have against sin is our union with Christ.  Because of who we are in Him, because of the gift of the Spirit, we can have victory over sin in our lives.  May we indeed live by Godís grace in a manner that is worthy of such a high calling.  Amen. 

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 September 2010 )

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