“We preach Christ crucified”
1 Corinthians 1:23

Questions and Answers

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?”
Romans 6:3

Questions

  1. Why did God allow His Son, Jesus Christ, to be crucified?
  2. What is the purpose of your teaching this message of the cross?
  3. What is the gospel of Christ crucified?
  4. Why do you emphasize Christ crucified instead of Christ risen?
  5. Why does your teaching have the recurrent theme of Christ’s crucifixion?
  6. What does the Bible mean by “we have been crucified with Christ?”
  7. Why not just proclaim Jesus Christ instead of focusing on Christ crucified?
  8. Where does the Bible say our sinful nature is dead after we receive Christ?
  9. Why do some Christians think our sinful nature has died but not been removed from us?
  10. Aren’t we just “reformed sinners” after we are saved?
  11. If my sinful nature is dead and removed, then why do I keep on sinning?
  12. Are you teaching that we will never sin again?
  13. Isn’t this just the same basic teaching we heard as new Christians when we were water baptized?
  14. Why is the message of the cross so important to the church?
  15. How do we know the removal of the “body of flesh” in Colossians 2:11 refers to the removal of our sinful nature?
  16. I was baptized years ago by sprinkling. Should I now be baptized again by immersion?
  17. My children were baptized when they were infants. Should they be baptized again now that they are older?
  18. In Galatians 2:20, the apostle Paul says it is not I but Christ who dwells in me. But then in Romans 7:17, Paul says it is not I but sin which dwells in me. How do we reconcile these two contradictory statements?
  19. Don’t Christians just have two natures like a white dog and a black dog fighting within them and whichever one they feed the most gets stronger?
  20. When the apostle Paul reviews the facts (1 Corinthians 15:3) upon which the gospel is based, why does he list “Christ died for our sins” but not “we died with Christ?”
  21. I don’t find the term “the divine exchange” in the Bible. What is this?
  22. If Jesus baptizes us in the Holy Spirit to empower us, then why do we need to know we died with Christ?
  23. Isn’t faith in Jesus all that I need?
  24. But doesn’t the message of the cross add to the gospel? Didn’t Jesus ask people to just believe in Him?
  25. If our old man of sin has died and been removed, then why does the apostle Paul tell us to put off the old man and put on the new man?
  26. Is this teaching on the cross of Christ the same as ”Christian” mysticism?
  27. Do I need to know that I died with Christ in order to be His disciple?
  28. I want to believe I died to sin. However, I can’t seem to get past just mentally understanding this concept and I still can’t stop practicing sin. What can I do?
  29. What did the apostle Paul mean when he said he wanted to be conformed to Christ’s death (Philippians 3:10) when he already had said he was crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20)?
  30. Is the apostle Paul's gospel different than the other apostles' gospel?
  31. What did Jesus mean when He said we must “bear our own cross?”
  32. What did Jesus mean when He said we must “lose our soul-life?”
  33. How can the church fulfill God’s eternal purpose?
  34. I thought I was already holy in God’s eyes because of Jesus' Atonement. Then why is practicing holiness important to me?
  35. What does the “Spirit-filled life” mean and how do I live it?
  36. Is this the same teaching that some Christians call “union life?”
  37. How can I consecrate myself to God for His service?
  38. Is your teaching on the cross of Christ (with its emphasis on holiness) a form of legalism?
  39. I am trying my best to be a good Christian. Why do I need to know that my sinful nature has died in Christ?
  40. Why does it matter whether I know the difference between the sinful nature and the unrenewed mind, as long as I just try to follow Jesus?
  41. How can anyone possibly be saved by your gospel? It seems too hard.
  42. Do you teach sin eradication or sinless perfection?
  43. Galatians 5:17 states, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” Does this verse mean that born again Christians still have a sinful nature that prevents them from doing God’s will?
  44. What is the difference between the law of Moses and the law of Christ?
  45. Why do I need to overcome sin by faith, when I can use my own natural self-discipline instead?
  46. In this age of darkness and deception, how can I be sure I am really walking with the Lord?
  47. What is the Biblical evidence that we are walking in the truth?
  48. How can I deny myself and give up my whole life to follow Jesus Christ without becoming an uptight, legalistic and miserable Christian?
  49. Many Christians think there is something crucial missing in the church today. How does the message of the cross address this?
  50. Why is it not enough to just believe that I am a new creation in Christ? Why must I also believe that I no longer have a sin nature?
  51. I feel defeated as a Christian because I keep falling into the same compromising sin over and over again. Can I ever be freed from my deeply ingrained, sinful habit?
  52. What is the practice of “methodism” and can it help me live a sanctified Christian life?
  53. Even though I have been a Christian for a long time and I appear to have controlled many of my sinful habits, I still always struggle with my pride. What can I do to overcome this terrible sin and become more humble?
  54. What does the term the “blood of Christ” mean?
  55. Is it ever right to judge another Christian?
  56. What is the relationship between grace and faith?
  57. Why don’t you teach more on how the New Testament church functions?


Questions and Answers

Q 1.. Why did God allow His Son, Jesus Christ, to be crucified?

A. God has a Father’s heart. Every good earthly father lovingly wants to have fellowship with his children. Every good earthly father hopes that, after his constant love and sacrifice, the end result will be a relationship of real affection and trust with his children. Every good father hopes that his children will thankfully acknowledge him and recognize his selfless love by responding with a love of their own. This is the desire of every good earthly father, and even more so, the desire of our heavenly Father! And so God created man to have a divine family and to have spiritual fellowship, but man chose to break that fellowship through disobedience and rebellion. Yet God knew that man would rebel against Him and be lost in spiritual darkness and death. In His eternal foresight, God planned for this event. Thus God, in His Father’s love, procured our redemption from spiritual separation through Christ’s obedience (even to death on the cross). Jesus Christ was crucified for this purpose: to redeem God’s children back to Himself and restore our fellowship and communion with Him. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3).”

To fulfill the desire of His Father’s heart, Jesus Christ died on the cross to provide for our complete redemption and reconciliation to God. “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Romans 5:10).” Therefore, Christ not only died to provide us forgiveness for our sins; He died to provide us freedom from our sinful nature. For when Christ died on the cross, God performed a divine heart transplant. God exchanged our terminally sin-sick heart with Christ’s divine heart so that we would no longer be slaves to sin but would be sons and daughters of God. “When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that they may receive adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father! (Galatians 4:4-6).” This is the divine transformation that occurred within us when we received Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and were born again of the Spirit. Whereas once we had been naturally born into sin and were the captive children of the devil; now, by Christ’s death on the cross, we have been born again of God’s Spirit so we might be His holy sons and daughters. Thus Christ’s death on the cross was planned by God before time began and is the most momentous event in human history and the eternal triumph of God’s love.

Jesus Christ’s willingness to be crucified for fallen mankind was a witness to the heavenly host of the Father’s righteousness and selfless love. When just one person comes into a relationship with God because of Christ’s death on the cross and then values the Person of God so much that he lays aside his very life – “selling all for the Pearl of Great Price” – when just one person “sees” God to the extent that they respond by turning away from all forms of evil and they begin to practice doing the will of God, this brings glory to God. It reveals to all the heavenly creation who God is, because all the heavenly host know the magnetic power and pull of sin. When just one person sees and knows God enough to choose God instead of choosing sin – that reveals the power and majesty of God. “No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him (1 John 3:6).”

Therefore, Jesus Christ died for this purpose: to bring God His just due of glory and honor and majesty – that mankind, so born of the earth, could be reborn into the heavenly realm and “see” God and, therefore, know God the Father and fellowship with Him. Jesus said, “The glory which You have given Me I have given them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me (John 17:22-23).”

Q 2. What is the purpose of your teaching this message of the cross?

A. We have two purposes. The first goal of our teaching is to open the eyes of all believers to a true knowledge of Jesus Christ and His completed work on the cross so they might bear His fruit. Most professing Christians know that Christ died for them (Romans 5:8), but they do not know that their sinful nature also died with Christ (Romans 6:6-8). Spiritual ignorance concerning this crucial aspect of Christ’s Atonement, which is central to the New Covenant, has compromised their sanctification in Christ. This is extremely tragic because “without sanctification no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).” Due to this grave concern, we believe that preaching and teaching the message of the cross should be given the highest priority in the church. Once you know that your sinful nature has died with Christ, you can abide (stay rooted by faith) in the power of His death and His resurrection (Romans 6:5: Galatians 2:20). Jesus said, “He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit (John 15:5).” When you abide in Christ by acting on the truth of your inclusion in His death, Christ’s life will be formed within you and you will bear His fruit (Galatians 4:19; John 15:8). The apostle Paul describes this fruit as love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5). This is the fruit of our sanctification in Christ. This is the evidence of true Christianity in our lives and the expression of the kingdom of God here on earth. This was the goal of Paul’s apostolic teaching.

The other goal of our teaching is to spiritually prepare the church for the coming tribulation and persecution. God the Father has given us His Son to be our hiding place in time of trouble. “You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble. You will surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7).” This is a great promise but if you don’t know how to abide in the truth that Jesus Christ is your hiding place, you won’t be able to experience God’s provision when you truly need Him. This understanding begins at the cross: What really happened at the cross? How did God, through the cross, secure for all time our deliverance and protection from Satan and sin? It is our mission to sound God’s trumpet and warn the body of Christ that a great storm is coming soon upon the whole earth and to share with everyone who hears us how they can spiritually prepare for it. “For if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle (1 Corinthians 14:8)?”

This is similar to getting ready for a hurricane. You must prepare beforehand by diligently securing your house. If you wait to secure your house when the storm hits you with full fury, it is too late. In the same way, if you think you can get spiritually ready and find the hiding place when the great storm of trouble is already upon you, it may be too late (Matthew 7:24-28). The only secure way to prepare for the great storm ahead is to know what it means to be crucified with Christ and live each day trusting in this divine truth. Then Jesus Christ can sovereignly live through you. “For in the day of trouble He will hide me in His shelter; in the secret place of His tabernacle He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock (Psalm 27:5).”

Our trumpet call, then, is this: Be saved! Be sanctified! Know the Lord intimately, and be prepared for the turbulent days ahead by building your life on the Rock (Christ) and not on sand (all that is godless). “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock (Matthew 7:24-25).” For more information on this subject, see our Teaching Tract: The Hiding Place.


Q. 3 What is the gospel of Christ crucified?

A. The gospel of Jesus Christ and His crucifixion is the cornerstone of the house of God, His church (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23; 2:2; 3:11). The gospel of Christ crucified can be summed up as follows: Christ died for us and included us in His death so that He might sovereignly live in us (Romans 5:8; 6:6; Galatians 2:20).

Here is a fuller explanation of this glorious gospel: Jesus Christ was crucified as the sacrificial Lamb of God to redeem us from slavery to sin. By His death, Jesus Christ purchased for us forgiveness from the penalty of our sins as well as deliverance from the power of sin. When Christ was crucified, we were crucified with Him. Therefore, our old man of sin died with Christ and Christ now lives in us through His Holy Spirit. Thus, by the power of His crucifixion, Jesus Christ exchanged our sinful nature with His holy nature. We might consider this a divine heart transplant by which God replaced our terminally sin-sick heart with His Son’s divine heart and saved us from the power of sin and certain doom. The power of Christ’s crucifixion is, therefore, the foundation of our entire relationship with God - our justification and salvation, our spiritual life and growth, our sanctification and transformation, and ultimately our glorification and co-regency with Christ. This is why God the Father ordained the practice of water baptism for all new disciples because baptism outwardly expresses our spiritual union with Jesus Christ and His death, burial and resurrection. Water baptism thus continually serves to remind the church how the power of Christ’s death on the cross has spiritually transformed us by removing our sinful nature and making us a holy new creation in Christ.

Some Christians might think this is the ABCs of the gospel. Yes, it is the ABCs but it is also the XYZs. Our faith must begin and end with the power of Christ’s crucifixion. The trouble is many of us have bypassed the cross of Christ and are trying to grow in Christ by our own willpower and natural strength. This is Galatianism. Having started our Christian life in the Spirit, we are now trying to perfect ourselves in the soul (Galatians 3:3). This is a wrong and dangerous path. The Bible says Jesus Christ is not only the author of our faith; He is also the finisher or perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). When we live by the power of our soul instead of by the power of the Spirit, we are living in unbelief and actually strengthening our will to be independent of God. If we persist in not having faith in the power of Christ’s Atonement, our unbelief becomes disobedience to God’s Word, lawlessness to the Holy Spirit and a gateway to demonic deception even though it may outwardly appear that we are behaving in a righteous “Christian” manner.

However, when we know we have been crucified with Christ, we will realize that we no longer live but Christ is our life. In other words, we will know our old sinful nature is dead and removed and, in its place, the Holy Spirit now indwells us. When we know we have died with Christ, we will see the futility and evil of depending on our natural personality and ability to try to live the Christian life and do Christ’s work. From that time on, we will want to no longer depend on our natural ability to serve Christ but instead we will want look by faith to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to sovereignly live His life through us as our Lord and King.



Q. 4 Why do you emphasize Christ crucified instead of Christ risen?

A. A similar question might be asked why the apostle Paul focused his foundational teaching on Christ crucified rather than Christ risen? Paul and his fellow apostles were determined to proclaim nothing else except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2). Of course, the whole gospel that Paul and the other apostles preached included both the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it’s not a question of the relative importance of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection but of their divine order. The importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ cannot be overstated. As the apostle Paul declared, “If Christ has not risen, then our faith is worthless and our preaching is futile (1 Corinthians 15:14-17).” However, there is a divine principle: Death must come before resurrection life (Romans 6:5; 1 Corinthians 15:42). Therefore to enter into the power of Christ’s resurrection, we must first enter into the power of Christ’s crucifixion. This divine fact is clearly portrayed through the practice of water baptism. Water baptism outwardly demonstrates the spiritual regeneration that inwardly occurred within us when we were saved. In water baptism, our old man is first immersed or buried in a watery “grave,” after which we are raised or resurrected from this “grave” as a new man in Christ. Water baptism, therefore, illustrates the Biblical truth that our sinful nature had to die and be removed before Jesus Christ could sovereignly live in us. This is what it means to be born again of the Spirit.

Until we see by divine revelation that God has dealt a death-blow (our co-crucifixion with Christ) to our sinful nature, we can mistakenly think we possess (even if we acknowledge we are weak) something of spiritual virtue within ourselves, which makes us morally able to serve Christ. However, God wants us to know a central purpose of the cross was to make sure we (our old man of sin) died with Christ. When we see God’s verdict for our sinful nature was a death sentence (execution not reformation), we will cease to have any confidence in our natural ability to reproduce Christ’s life. As we abide in the power of Christ’s crucifixion, we will then experience the power of His resurrection. This is the true Christian life as God ordained it and the apostle Paul described it in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me; and the life which I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”



Q. 5 Why does your teaching have the recurrent theme of Christ’s crucifixion?

A. Most Christians agree that the ultimate goal of the gospel is to produce a church that is holy devoted to Christ (2 Corinthians 12:2-3; Ephesians 5:25-27; Colossians 1:22). Yet there are many different opinions among Christians on the way to achieve this goal. We are convinced that believing and acting on what Jesus accomplished on the cross is the only way to fully realize God’s eternal purpose. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way (John 14:6)” and that the power of His crucifixion would spiritually draw the elect to Himself (John 12:32). We are also convinced and have seen from our personal experience that the cross of Christ can provide total victory over sin and the devil.

Therefore, we believe the gospel of Christ crucified is the only sure foundation for the birth, growth and vitality of the church. Like the apostle Paul, we are determined to proclaim nothing else except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). We believe teaching on all other Christian subjects such as church or body life, evangelism, ministry, marriage, parenting, relationships, spiritual fruit, spiritual gifts, praise and worship and spiritual warfare must always be grounded and centered in this truth – the victory of the cross of Christ. The cross is the fixed center of true Christianity. All other Christian teachings are like spokes of the wheel, which radiate out from the hub - the cross of Christ. The cross is the very basis of our relationship with Jesus Christ and His holy work in us. We may be saved, but unless our spiritual eyes are opened to believe and act on what Christ has accomplished through His death on the cross, we will not be able to consistently walk in holiness and know our Lord Jesus in fullness.

Without the power of the cross in our lives, Christianity becomes a Biblical behavioral standard or cultural model to try to follow by our best efforts rather than believing that Jesus Christ can live His life in us. This might be called churchianity rather than Christianity. Teaching about Christianity without focusing on the cross of Christ would be like teaching how the solar system works and omitting the power of the sun. Such a world would be lifeless! That is why the apostle Paul always emphasized the power of Christ’s crucifixion when establishing the first century church. Consequently, all of Paul’s subsequent teaching on church life and ministry was based on the assumption that the Christians in his field of work already knew their inclusion in the cross of Christ was the foundation of the New Covenant. Whenever Paul discovered that any of the churches that he had planted had strayed from this message of Christ crucified, he would always remind them of this vital truth of the cross (see Romans 6:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:17-18, 23; 2:2; 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 2:20-21; 3:1-5).



Q. 6 What does the Bible mean by “we have been crucified with Christ?”

A. It is essential that we understand what this Biblical truth means. Otherwise our spiritual growth in Christ will be stunted and may even die. Since there are common misconceptions about what the apostle Paul meant by this statement (see Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20 and 6:14), we will first examine these misunderstandings.

First of all, Paul didn’t mean that we must now emotionally identify with Christ’s torturous death on the cross to be holy. He didn’t mean we must vicariously experience Christ’s death by visualizing and empathizing with the physical pain and spiritual darkness of His crucifixion before we can appreciate our salvation. This is a man-made idea that is soulish and therefore ineffectual. It cannot substitute for true understanding of the transforming power of the cross of Christ within us.

Paul also didn’t mean that we must now crucify ourselves to be holy. Many Christians mistakenly practice some form of counterfeit crucifixion because they have never been accurately taught what Jesus Christ accomplished for them on the cross. They find themselves continually tripped up by sin and regret their spiritual weakness and their failure to lead a holy life. As a result, they become preoccupied with the power of sin and their inability to conquer it. They naturally think that if only they were stronger, they could finally overcome sin. Therefore, they redouble their “religious” efforts. But this only makes them more “religious” and does not deliver them from the power and deception of sin. Other Christians try to put to death their sinful nature through self-denial and self-sacrifice. However, this focus on self-discipline is self-motivated and self-empowered. It’s impossible for self to kill self. Self can only reinforce and strengthen self, which leads to pride and further alienation from God.

Our willpower or self-determination will never be strong enough to overcome Satan and the deceitful power of sin. These efforts at controlling and dealing with the “sin question” pale in the light of the cross of Christ. They are self-deceiving and self-defeating. They are not what the Bible means to be crucified with Christ. The idea that we must crucify ourselves through self-discipline and self-denial originates from man and not God and is self-destructive. There are many subtle variations of this kind of counterfeit crucifixion. For example, many Christians think that when they suffer affliction, such as an illness, they are “bearing their own cross.” Although God certainly uses adversity to achieve His eternal purpose in us, this is not what Jesus meant when He said we must bear our own cross. Unfortunately without sound Biblical teaching on this subject, we can simply develop a soulish capacity to stoically endure adversity, rather than coming into a divine revelation of what it means to be crucified with Christ (For more information on this subject, see the Teaching Tracts: Destined to Suffer for Christ’s Sake and They Loved Not their Lives).

Besides these well-intended but misguided efforts, one of the more deceptive ways that Christians try to crucify their flesh is by suffering in difficult interpersonal relationships. Many Christians mistakenly think they are crucifying their flesh by yielding, accommodating, deferring and submitting to others in trying situations. For example, they may work for a demanding or even dysfunctional boss or find themselves in an extremely difficult marriage. Or, they may be members of a local Christian community and think they are crucifying their flesh by always submitting to the church/community leadership and deferring to others in the community. However, many people are born with what is called a natural “emotional intelligence” or develop the kind of emotional intelligence needed to successfully live and work with others, including those who may be difficult or demanding. Our self-development of these interpersonal relational skills (even if gained from trying experiences) may have practical merit and benefit; nevertheless; but it is another form of soul-power and has nothing to do with truly being crucified with Christ. Nor does it produce authentic sanctification in Christ which is essential to knowing God. As we said before, this does not mean that God does not use difficult circumstances and relationships to achieve His eternal purpose in us. However, all our futile attempts at self-crucifixion (whether as individuals or a group) only strengthen our self-identity leading to further spiritual deception. Instead of really being crucified with Christ, we are merely feeding our secret religious pride. We may appear to be crucified with Christ, but actually we are projecting a fleshly imitation that may fool others but not God. The unrenewed mind of a saved person can be just as self-satisfied and proud of their moral dedication, Christian service and sacrifice, and identification with their Christian community as the unsaved person is as proud of their moral dedication, humanitarian service, and identification with their community. The Adam way of thinking (the unrenewed mind) is extremely treacherous and deceptive and will strive to find any way, even so-called “Christian” ways, to avoid depending only on Christ and His completed work on the cross for righteousness. Every form of counterfeit crucifixion invented by man stems from the primal desire of the unrenewed mind to be independent of Christ’s Sovereignty and righteousness.

Finally, when Paul taught that we have been crucified with Christ, he did not mean that we can continue to practice sin because Christ’s crucifixion was substitutionary on our behalf. Many Christians mistakenly believe that since Christ’s death on the cross atoned for their sins, they can now keep sinning as much as they want and Christ will forgive them. Paul addressed this doctrinal error when he said, “Should we continue in sin so that grace may increase? God forbid! (Romans 6:1-2)” If we use 1 John 1:9 as an excuse for practicing sin each day, we are actually practicing lawlessness instead of obedience to Christ. We are insulting God’s grace and making Christ’s death to have no effect in our lives. This most certainly is not why the Son of God died on the cross for us. Of course this is not what the Bible means to be “crucified with Christ.” Other Christians have sincerely tried to stop sinning but found it impossible to live up to the Bible’s standard of holiness. The Bible commands us to “be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy for I am Holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).’” And Jesus taught, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).” Because many Christians do not understand how they can live a holy life, they have become discouraged and lost hope. They have resigned themselves into thinking that the Bible’s standard of holiness is a noble but distant goal that they might try slowly working toward. They mistakenly presume that God “understands” why they are practicing sin and that He does not expect them to be holy, when nothing could be further from the truth. Tragically, they have been beaten down by sin and become apathetic toward the sins that beset and compromise them. As a result, they are experiencing Christian lives that are constantly defeated and distressed by power of sin and they eventually give up trying to be holy.

Now that we have briefly reviewed what the Biblical statement “we have been crucified with Christ” does not mean, let look at what it does mean. “We have been crucified with Christ” simply means our Adam nature (our sinful spiritual nature) died with Christ when He was crucified. The real crucifixion of our sinful nature could only be done by God Himself. Since bondage to sin came by our birth, deliverance from sin had to come by our death (Romans 6:7). Since we couldn’t spiritually kill ourselves to escape sin’s captivity, God in His wisdom and power delivered us from slavery to our sinful nature by including us in His Son’s death (Romans 6:3-5). Thus God’s plan of redemption wasn’t to sanctify or improve our sinful nature but to kill it and remove it (Romans 6:6; Colossians 2:11). Therefore, when Christ died, we died with Him (Romans 6:3-8; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Colossians 3:3). When Christ died on the cross, He took our sinful nature upon Himself (Isaiah 53:5-12; Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Through His Son’s crucifixion, God destroyed that spiritual “sin factory” within us that continually produced sinful attitudes and actions. Therefore, we now work out our salvation and overcome sin solely by faith in Jesus Christ and what He accomplished for us on the cross. Christ is not only the author of our faith; He is the finisher of our faith. This is God’s wisdom and power in the cross of Christ.

We would make one final point on this divine truth. God did not reserve this Biblical experience of overcoming sin for a special class of super Christians. When Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me,” he was declaring what God intended to be the normal Christian life. This is why God ordained the act of water baptism to clearly demonstrate this foundational truth to all new believers and to regularly remind the church of the power of the cross of Christ to bring us into Christ’s resurrection life.



Q. 7 Why not just proclaim Jesus Christ instead of focusing on Christ crucified?

A. We definitely believe in boldly and clearly proclaiming Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul proclaimed that the mystery of the gospel is Christ in us - Christ our riches, Christ our life, and Christ our all (Colossians 1:27; 3:4; 3:11). However, Paul also proclaimed the cross is the only way we can know Christ and fully experience His life in us. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the sole foundation of our salvation (our spiritual birth in Christ), our sanctification (our spiritual growth in Christ) and our overcoming sin and the devil (our spiritual triumph in Christ). This is why Paul declared, “We preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23) and “I am determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).” Paul, more than anyone, understood the only way to truly know that the resurrected Christ lives in you is to truly know that you have died in Christ. This was his personal testimony, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20).” The message of the cross is the power of the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:17-18). This is the gospel that Paul personally received from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-12) and this is the gospel we preach and teach.

Jesus said, “If I am lifted up from the earth (die on the cross), I will draw all men to Myself (John 12:32-33/parenthetical for clarity).” By this, Jesus meant that all who are destined for salvation would be drawn to Him by the power of His crucifixion. This is the Biblical truth: We cannot know God except through His Son Jesus Christ and we cannot know Christ except through His cross. The goal of the gospel is “Christ living in us” and the way of the gospel is “the cross of Christ.” Our life in God through Christ must not only begin by faith, it must be sustained by faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross and this same faith must endure to the end.

Sharing Christ without sharing the power of His cross (for deliverance from both the penalty and the power of sin) is an incomplete gospel. Proclaiming Jesus Christ without explaining the full power of His crucifixion will not produce the fruit of Christ’s sanctification or a true knowledge of Jesus Christ. Omitting the power of the cross - to not only save but to also sanctify the elect - from the gospel of Christ is not just a harmless oversight. For without sanctification no one can see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). To sum up, we cannot know Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection unless we abide in the power of His death. This is why Paul testified, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection… being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:10).” This is why we proclaim and explain Christ crucified to all “so that they may know the mystery of God - Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:2-3).”



Q. 8 Where does the Bible say our sinful nature is dead after we receive Christ?

A. There are a dozen Scripture verses that state we died with Christ (see the Bible References section of our website for a complete listing). The New Testament Greek word used in many of these verses is apothnesko, which means expired or died and conveys a sense of finality - of being very dead. For example, in Romans 6:7-8, the apostle Paul declared, “Because anyone who has died has been freed from sin... we have died with Christ (see also Colossian 3:3).” Based on the New Testament Greek, this is clearly not just a figurative or symbolic or even merely a positional death. Our sinful nature, which was central to who we were and at the very core of our self-identity, actually died when we received Christ. A key verse explaining what died within us is found in Romans 6:6, “Our old man has been crucified with Christ in order that our sinful nature (our body of sin) might be done away with.” Our old man of sin (otherwise known as our sinful nature) died and was removed from us when we received Christ. The fact that our old nature died and was removed is confirmed by Colossians 2:11: “And in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the sinful nature (the body of flesh) by the circumcision of Christ.”

The Bible says we have died with Christ (Romans 6:8; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Colossians 2:20; 3:3), we were buried with Christ (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12) and we were raised with Christ (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12; 3:1). Consider this divine fact. Resurrection means to be raised from the dead. Just as Christ was raised from the dead, we were raised from the dead with Him. Therefore, we had to die and be buried before we could be raised from the dead. Water baptism outwardly demonstrates this divine truth by burying the old man of sin in a watery “grave.” But when we died with Christ, who died and was then buried? Was it our physical body? No. We know our physical body did not die when we received Christ. Was it our soul? No. We know our soul (our natural personality) did not die when we received Christ. Yet, the Bible clearly states that we died with Christ when we received Christ. Then who died? According to the Bible, our sinful spiritual nature died. The question we must ask ourselves is this: Do we believe what the Bible says, that as born again believers, our sinful nature has been killed and removed from us? Do we believe this Biblical truth to the point that we act on it? When faced with an opportunity to sin, do we believe this truth to the point that we resist that sin because we know we have been delivered from that sin’s power over us?



Q. 9 Why do some Christians think our sinful nature has died but not been removed from us?

A. This theory is not Biblically correct and is likely based on the repeated failure of many Christians to overcome sin. Therefore, some teachers have wrongly concluded that although our sin nature died with Christ, it was never actually removed from us. They then mistakenly think that the old man of sin can be reactivated or resurrected whenever a Christian sins. This in turn has led to the wrong belief that Christians will always experience the inner conflict of two opposing natures (their new nature and their sinful nature). We believe that this mistaken thinking stems from unbelief and ignorance of the power of Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus said, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God (Mark 12:24)?” Unfortunately, this mistaken belief that we still have an old sin nature also provides a convenient religious excuse for those Christians who want to keep sinning. In this regard, we should heed the apostle Peter’s warning, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God (1 Peter 2:16).”

Sometimes those who think that their old sin nature is still resident within them focus their argument on the interpretation of one Greek word, katargeo, as it appears in the following verse in the Book of Romans: “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin (Romans 6:6/emphasis added).” In this verse, the New American Standard Bible translates the Greek word katargeo by the phrase, “done away with.” We believe this is an appropriate translation within this Scriptural context since our old man of sin has died and was buried (done away with) by baptism. “We have been buried with Him through baptism into death (Romans 6:4).” The King James Version translates katargeo in this verse as “destroyed,” which also fits this Scriptural context. Those who mistakenly believe our old man of sin still resides within us think the word katargeo should be translated as “idle” or “unemployed.” In other words, they think the old man of sin is sitting “idle” in a Christian and that a Christian can unwittingly “reemploy” or “reactivate” their old sinful nature whenever they sin.

However, we believe this is neither Scriptural nor logical. We believe a careful review of the 27 times that katargeo is used in the New Testament reveals that “done away with” or “destroyed” is the proper translation of katargeo in Romans 6:6. In fact, katargeo could even be more accurately and clearly translated as “removed” within the context of this verse. This is exactly how katargeo is translated in 2 Corinthians 3:14 to describe how the Old Covenant veil that blinds Jews to seeing Jesus as their Messiah is removed whenever someone turned to Christ. This spiritual veil certainly was not just rendered idle or unemployed! It was forever taken away! With this in view, the Old Covenant prophet Ezekiel foretold of the divine heart transplant that God would perform in the New Covenant: “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26/emphasis added; see also Jeremiah 31:31-33).” The Bible here does not need any subjective interpretation; it is very straightforward. God, through His prophet Ezekiel, declared our heart of stone (our sinful nature) would be removed by the New Covenant (which was put into operation by Christ’s death on the cross)!

The apostle Paul confirms this Biblical truth that our sinful nature was removed in his letter to the Colossians. Here, Paul uses the picture of circumcision to describe what happened to our old man when we were saved. “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the sinful nature, by the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 2:11/emphasis added; see also Romans 2:28-29).” We can say with absolute certainty when someone is circumcised their foreskin is definitely removed. It is not left attached in an idle or dormant manner to continually cause infection and disease.

Therefore, in this passage of Scripture (Colossians 2:11), Paul declares our sinful nature has been removed. Paul then shifts in the very next verse (Colossians 2:12) from using the Old Covenant seal of righteousness (circumcision) to using the New Covenant seal of righteousness (baptism) to further prove that the old sinful nature was removed. Paul logically states that since our old sinful nature died and was removed (verse 11), it was then disposed of by burial: “Having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead (verse 12).” Thus, by linking Old Covenant circumcision with New Covenant baptism, Paul leaves no doubt that the death and removal of the sinful nature, as symbolized by foreskin circumcision, is also portrayed by the burial stage of water baptism. Again, we can say with absolute certainty, that when someone dies and is buried, their body has definitely been removed once from the household of the living and for all time. In this way, water baptism confirms (just as circumcision also did) that our old sinful nature not only died but was removed once and for all time.

To sum up, both the Old Covenant and New Covenant portray what happened to our sinful nature when we were born again of the Spirit. Our old man of sin died and God completely removed it from our being. The old sinful man is not hiding somewhere within us just waiting to resurrect its satanic power of sin over us. God does not mix what is holy with what is unholy. God would never pour His Holy Spirit into an unholy vessel such as the old man of sin. Jesus said, “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins (Mark 2:22).” The reason God was able to pour His Holy Spirit (His new wine) into our spiritual being is because he has made us a new creation, a new wine skin in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Our unholy sinful nature is dead and removed from us for all eternity! How can we possibly be betrothed as a pure holy virgin to our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2), if we still have an evil sinful nature residing within our body that lusts to commit spiritual adultery? Therefore, if we preach and teach anything less than the complete removal of our old man of sin by the power of Christ’s crucifixion, we are treating as unclean the holy blood of Christ and insulting God’s Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:26-31). Anyone who teaches that Christians have two conflicting inner natures of good and evil, or that God never actually removed our sinful nature through Christ’s death, is impeding the church from entering into Christ’s fullness and God’s eternal purpose. Some teach this falsehood out of spiritual ignorance but others deliberately teach it because they themselves are willfully practicing sin. In their case, Jesus’ warning is appropriate, “Woe to you… For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering (Luke 11:52).” (For more information on this subject, see 7 Reasons Why Christians Don’t Have a Sinful Nature).



Q. 10 Aren’t we just “reformed sinners” after we are saved?

A. Many Christians call themselves (or at least inwardly think of themselves as) “sinners” or “reformed sinners.” However, this is not Biblically true. After you are saved, it is crucial for your spiritual growth in Christ that your identity be based solely on the Word of God and not on man’s opinion or the devil’s lie. Faith is seeing God as He is and seeing ourselves the way God sees us. The Bible says that, once we are saved, we are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and we are holy and beloved of God (Colossians 3:12). But the Bible also says that before God could make us a new creation, He had to first deal with the old creation. Therefore, by the power of His Son’s crucifixion, God dealt not only with its fruit (our sinful actions); God removed its very root (our sinful nature). Therefore, by Christ’s death, we have been reconciled to God and we are no longer sinners and enemies of God (Romans 5:8-10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Ephesians 2:12-19). Although we may occasionally carelessly sin, we should no longer be practicing sin because we are no longer sinners by nature. We are saints who have God’s divine nature within us (2 Peter 1:4). This is a divinely important distinction.

Some Christians cite the apostle Paul’s testimony that he was the worst sinner of all as evidence that we are all just reformed sinners. But let’s carefully examine Paul’s overall testimony. Paul said, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all (1 Timothy 1:15).” Just before this statement, Paul used the past tense to describe himself as a sinner. “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13).” Before he was saved, Paul had been responsible for organizing the imprisonment and murder of Christians. Therefore, in this letter to Timothy, Paul used his own personal testimony of salvation as an example of God’s amazing grace toward sinners. However, we cannot and should not draw any theological conclusion or formulate any Christian doctrine based on the fact that Paul starts his personal testimony in the past tense and then switches to the present tense. At other times in his letters to the churches, Paul also switched from past to present tense to dramatically illustrate an example or personally demonstrate a case in point. Therefore, Paul’s use of tense in one particular verse should not be used as the deciding factor in determining Christian doctrine. Instead, the context of the individual verse and the overall body of Scriptural evidence should be carefully examined.

A comprehensive review of all of Paul’s letters in the New Testament makes it very clear that Paul believed once you were born again you now have a totally new spiritual identity in Christ – you are no longer a sinner, you are now a saint! The New Testament Greek word for saints is hagios, which means holy ones. In his letters to the churches, Paul used the word “saints” over three dozen times to address those who are called as Christ’s disciples. It is interesting to note that although Christ’s disciples are called “Christians” only three times in the entire New Testament; they are called “saints” sixty times. In fact, Paul did not even use the term “disciples” in any of his letters to the churches; he always called Christ’s followers saints. In his letters to the churches, Paul never once calls Christ’s devoted followers “sinners.” For example, Paul never wrote, “To the reformed sinners in Ephesus.” Instead Paul wrote, “To the saints who are at Ephesus.” In fact, in his letter to the Romans, Paul clearly stated that before we were saved by Christ, we were ungodly “sinners” and enemies of God (Romans 5:8, 10). Paul’s judgment that the term “sinner” refers to someone who is unrighteous in the eyes of God is perfectly consistent with the whole Bible. A review of both the Old and New Testaments reveals the term “sinner” is almost exclusively used to designate either unbelievers or backslidden believers (see Psalm 1:1; 53;:12; Proverbs 23:17; Ecclesiastes 9:2; Romans 5:8; Galatians 2:15, 17; 1 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 4:18; Hebrews 12:13).”

Paul, more than any of the apostles, was keenly aware of the dynamic spiritual transformation that occurred in a person’s heart when they received Christ as their Lord and Savior and were born again of the Holy Spirit. This is the gospel that Christ personally revealed to Paul (Galatians 1:11-12). When we were physically born, we were born sinners because we spiritually inherited Adam’s sinful nature (Romans 5:19). However, God used the crucifixion of His only Son to perform a divine heart transplant. When Jesus Christ died, God replaced our terminally sin-sick heart with His Son’s divine heart (Romans 6:3-11; Galatians 2:20). Therefore, we are no longer sinners by nature because our sinful nature has been removed from us (Romans 6:6; Colossians 2:11). Instead, we now have Christ’s holy nature indwelling us (2 Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 1:27). Since our sinful nature is dead and gone, we have been freed from the power of sin (Romans 6:7). The Bible says that by Adam’s disobedience, the many were made sinners, and by Christ’s obedience the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19). Therefore, by the power of Christ’s death on the cross, God the Father has made us righteous saints (holy ones) and members of Christ’s body and His heavenly family.

Jesus Christ died to make us saints! Why would we want to call ourselves “sinners” and negate what He accomplished on the cross? From a Biblical perspective, the term “reformed sinner” actually means someone who is an unbeliever (one who has not been born again and still has a sinful nature) but who is applying his willpower to reform his behavior. Unfortunately, there are many unsaved individuals who fit this description that are populating our churches today. The term “reformed sinner” reveals a fundamental misunderstanding and spiritual ignorance of Christ’s completed work on the cross. God is not in the business of reforming sinners. God knew sinners were beyond reformation (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23). God’s verdict for sinners is never reformation; it is always execution. Since we were born sinners, we could only be freed from sin through our death (Romans 6:7). Therefore, when Jesus Christ died on the cross, God included us in His Son’s death so that our sinful nature would be crucified (executed) and buried (removed) in Him (Romans 6:3-6; Colossians 2:11-12). This is the spiritual lesson of water baptism. The truth is that we were sinners saved by grace, but we are now sons of God sustained by grace because God has put the Spirit of His Son into our hearts (Galatians 4:6). By the power of Christ’s crucifixion, God has spiritually translated us from sinners into saints!

The Bible says there will be no sinners in the congregation of the righteous (Psalm 1:5). As the blind man who Jesus healed said, “We know that God does not hear sinners but if anyone fears God and does His will, He hears him (John 9:31).” What is the difference between a righteous saint and an unbelieving sinner? A saint is holy by nature. A saint has been freed from the power of sin. A saint is living under God’s sovereignty and authority. A sinner is unholy by nature. A sinner is captive to sin. A sinner is living under the sovereignty and authority of his own soul; not under God’s Kingship and rule. Therefore, a sinner cannot do anything but sin, whereas a saint can choose not to sin. Before we were saved, we sinned because we were sinners by nature. Our sinful nature was like a “sin factory” within us, which day and night could only produce sinful attitudes and actions. But God, through Christ’s death, has completely destroyed and removed the sin factory from us. After we have been saved, there are three reasons why Christians might continue to habitually practice sin, which is different than unintentionally or occasionally sinning. 1) They do not know (believe and act on) the divine truth that they are dead to sin and freed from the power of sin, or 2) They have forgotten the truth that they are dead to sin, or 3) They do not want to come under God’s Sovereignty and they want to continue to willfully and disobediently practice sin. In this last case, since they are willfully practicing sin, it is appropriate to call these backslidden Christians “sinners” and not saints. Since they willfully continue to practice sin, they have proven themselves to be “sinners” and not saints (see Galatians 2:17). “Of them, the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit’ and ‘A sow that is washed goes back to wallowing in the mud (2 Peter 2:22).’” The apostle James wrote of Christians who have returned to willfully practicing sin, “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19).”

The divine truth is God has removed our sinful nature and replaced it with His Son’s holy nature. The devil would like nothing better than to trick the saints into thinking of themselves as still sinners with a sinful nature. After succumbing to sin many times, many Christians begin to erroneously believe this “boogie man of sin” still lives in them and will eventually overpower them anyway. Then whenever the devil tempts them to sin, they put up very little resistance since they mistakenly think it’s natural, normal and inevitable for them to succumb to sin since they still have a sinful nature. This is the devil’s strategy is to prevent Christians from ever entering into the overcoming spiritual life, which Christ sacrificially purchased for us by His death on the cross. This has grave consequences since overcoming sin is not optional for a Christian. Jesus Christ warned that only those Christians who overcome sin would share in His spiritual inheritance and have their names written in His Book of Life and rule with Him in the age to come (Revelation 2:26; 3:5; 21:7).

This is why Christians need to renew their minds by the truth of God’s Word (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23). When we believe and act on the truth and not merely mentally consent to what Jesus Christ accomplished through His death to transform us from sinners into saints, we will no longer call ourselves sinners. From that moment on, we will believe and confess that we are saints of God through Jesus Christ. Christ died to free us completely free us from sin. He died to not only set us free from the penalty of sin; He also died to set us free from the power of sin. By His death, Jesus Christ has given us a new spiritual birthright and identity - we are no longer the devil’s sinners; we are now God’s saints. This is our spiritual inheritance in Christ. But if we don’t know (believe and act on) the power of Christ’s crucifixion, we won’t experience the overcoming Christian life and freedom from the power of sin. This is why Paul said, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints (Ephesians 1:18).“



Q. 11 If my sinful nature is dead and removed, then why do I keep on sinning?

A. This is a very common question for Christians. The truth is Jesus Christ has freed us from sin’s power over us by His death on the cross so that we do not need to practice sin. However, most Christians still live in sin and thereby fulfill the words that the apostle Paul wrote, “Shall we continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! (Romans 6:1-2)” Just because Christians are beset with entangling sins, God’s Word is still true. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13).” How then can we stop practicing besetting and compromising sins? The Bible gives us the clear answer, “Anyone who has died has been (past tense) freed from the power of sin (Romans 6:7).” Therefore, if we do not know (believe and act on) the truth that we have died with Christ, we cannot overcome sin. For example, if we do not know (believe and act on) the truth that Christ died for the forgiveness of our sins, how can we possibly experience freedom from guilt and condemnation? In the same way, if we do not know (believe and act on) the truth that our sinful nature has died with Christ, how can we possibly experience freedom from the power of sin? The Bible says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).” We need to remember that spiritual knowledge is not the same as mental knowledge. A key New Testament Greek word for “knowledge” is gnosis, which means knowledge based on personal experience. This is the Greek word used by the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:10: “I want to know Christ.” Spiritual knowledge is divine truth (the Word of God) that the Spirit of God has revealed to your spirit so that it becomes so real in your personal experience that you act on it and depend on it. This is also the Greek word which Paul used when he declared, “For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that our body of sin (our sinful nature) might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin (Romans 6:6).”

Another reason that we continue to sin is because our mind needs to be spiritually renewed by the Word of God (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23). Our sinful nature is dead, but our unrenewed mind will still continue in the habit of worldly thinking until it is transformed by God’s Spirit of truth. This is like the sound of a ringing church bell. Long after the bell has stopped ringing, the sound of its repeated ringing can still echo in your mind. Although you mentally know the bell has stopped, you can still experience the after-effects of its ringing. This is why we must stand firm by faith in the divine fact that our sinful nature has died with Christ and we have been freed from sin. As we continue to persevere in faith over time, the Holy Spirit will confirm and establish this spiritual truth within our soul (in our thoughts and emotions). The unrenewed, ungodly thinking of our dead and removed sinful nature will then fade away.

It is also important to remember that no matter how mature we are in Christ, if we begin to look inward instead of at Christ, we will fail to overcome sin and the devil. This is because faith requires that we “fix our eyes on Jesus” not on ourselves. It is only by remaining united with Him that we can walk steadily and successfully in the Spirit. We shouldn’t become overly self-conscious or introspective! That is the devil’s trick to get us “cut off” from the source of our power – Jesus Christ! If we look to anything or anyone besides Christ and His completed work, we will give Satan an opportunity to deceive and accuse us of being very much alive to sin. Therefore, we must resist believing anything, especially Satan’s distortion of the truth, which contradicts God’s Word that we have died in Christ (Romans 6:3-11). Of course, when we do sin, we repent and ask Christ’s forgiveness for our sins. However, there is a difference between carelessly and occasionally committing a sin and willfully and continually practicing sin. By Christ’s death, we have been freed from the power of sin, including all entangling sins. If we stand firm by faith in this powerful truth of the cross of Christ, over time and through testing, our experience will conform to the Word of God. Our lives will then be transformed into the image of Christ.

You may have heard the children’s story of how Jesus and Mr. Faith and Mr. Feeling were walking along on top of a wall. Jesus was in first place and walked steadily on top of the wall in front of Mr. Faith. As long as Mr. Faith kept his eyes fixed on Jesus, he walked steadily behind Jesus and Mr. Feeling followed right behind Mr. Faith. But as soon as Mr. Faith became anxious and turned around to see how Mr. Feeling was doing, Mr. Faith lost his balance and fell off the wall and poor Mr. Feeling tumbled down on top of him. This story is very similar to the poor person in Romans Seven who doesn’t know he has died in Christ. Because he looks at his personal experience and feelings rather than to Jesus Christ and what Jesus has accomplished on the cross, he still believes he is in bondage to sin. Finally, in his misery, he cries out, “Wretched man that I am; who will deliver me from my sinful nature?” How sad when the truth is that Jesus Christ has already delivered him from his sinful nature and has already freed him from slavery to sin. And until he knows this, he will continue to be in bondage to sin.

It is said this is the way elephants are trained after they are captured in the wild. The elephants are initially held captive by strong chains around their ankles. Over time, these leg irons are replaced by strong ropes, which are then gradually replaced with thinner ropes. Although the elephants could easily break free from the thin rope, they have been conditioned by their experience into believing they are not free. As a result of this mistaken belief, they are tricked into believing they are still captive. This is the same way the devil can deceive us into believing we are still slaves to sin even though the Bible clearly says we have been freed from sin because we no longer have a sinful nature (Romans 6:6-7).

The whole gospel of God is summed up this way: Christ died for us and included us in His death so that He might sovereignly live in us. If we wholeheartedly obey this gospel to the point of acting on the truth, we will overcome sin and be Christ’s witnesses in the midst of this sin-filled world.



Q. 12 Are you teaching that we will never sin again?

A. Of course not. The Bible declares there is only one person on earth who ever lived a sinless life – the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:15; 9:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19). “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens (Hebrews 7:26).” The Bible says Jesus Christ has sanctified us (made us holy) by His sacrificial death as the Lamb of God (Hebrews 10:10). This is the divine exchange of the cross by which Christ replaced our sinful nature with His holy nature when we were born again. Following our initial salvation and sanctification in Christ, we must now by faith in Christ work out our salvation in progressive sanctification. The Bible says, “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).” Therefore, in one sense, we are made perfectly holy because Christ the Holy One now lives in us. But, in another sense, we are becoming more holy as Christ’s life becomes more fully formed in us. “By one sacrifice Christ has made perfect forever those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14).”

Therefore, even as our faith in Jesus Christ grows in maturity, we will still occasionally and unintentionally sin and always need Christ’s forgiveness for our sins. With this in mind, the apostle John wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us (1 John 1:8-10).”

However, there is a great difference between overcoming sin and being overcome by sin. This is the powerful difference that Christ’s crucifixion makes in all those who believe and act on what our Lord accomplished for us by the cross. Although we may still occasionally sin as we learn to walk in the power of Christ’s overcoming life, this is far cry from continually being defeated and practicing besetting and compromising sins. The Biblical truth is that because we have died with Christ and our sinful nature has been removed from us, we have been decisively freed from the power of sin. “Because when anyone has died, they have been freed from sin (Romans 6:7).” With this in view, the apostle John also wrote, “No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him… No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God (1 John 3:6, 9).” Thank God for the entirety of Jesus Christ’s completed work on the cross and our deliverance from the power of sin. Because of Christ’s completed work on the cross, every Christian has been completely freed from entangling and tormenting sins. Because of the power of Christ’s crucifixion, every Christian can overcome their natural temperament and carnal desires, which stem from their unrenewed minds. This is why the apostle Paul declared, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? Absolutely not! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer (Romans 6:1-2).” Paul then goes on to say that if you continue to sin, it is because you do not yet truly know you have died with Christ and have been freed from sin (Romans 6:3-11).

At this point, we need to note the difference between the Christian who “overcomes” sin by trusting in his own morality and willpower and the Christian who overcomes sin solely by trusting what Jesus Christ has accomplished by His death on the cross (when Christ died, He included us in His death so He might sovereignly live in us). The Christian who “overcomes” sin by his own ability does so by his naturally-endowed determination and/or his naturally-developed discipline. This type of naturally-controlled moral behavior may sometimes even appear outwardly “more together” than the life of a Christian who is just beginning to trust solely in Jesus Christ to transform his attitudes and actions. This does not mean that real faith does not also have its own actions but, in this case, the actions spring from our faith in the cross of Christ and not faith in our natural strength. In the Day of Judgment, God who knows the secret motives and attitudes of men’s hearts and will appraise each Christian’s deeds. Those deeds that were birthed from the power of the Holy Spirit will be rewarded by God and treated as gold, silver and precious stones. Those deeds that were generated by our own soul strength will be deemed worthless to God. They will be treated as wood, hay and straw and burned up. Whenever Christians practice man-made morality they are actually disobeying Christ’s authority and abusing Christ’s crucifixion. We should all repent from the sin of practicing carnal morality, the root of which is unbelief in Jesus Christ and His completed work on the cross. This man-made “morality” apart from Christ’s Sovereignty is actually hostile to the gospel message.

In summary, the Bible does not say we will never sin again after we are saved. However, the Bible does say that we do not have to ever sin again after we are saved. Now that we have died with Christ and been freed from sin (Romans 6:7), we have a choice whether to sin or not. Before our redemption by Christ, we were slaves to sin and had no choice. But we no longer have an excuse to sin now that we no longer have a sinful nature and Christ lives in us. No temptation is so great that we cannot overcome it by faith in the cross of Christ and no sin is so great that we have to commit it. The Bible goes on to say that if we willfully persist in practicing sin, we cannot claim to know Christ. Our Lord Jesus also emphasized this fundamental truth when He said to those who professed to know Him as their Lord but who willfully practiced sin, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness (Matthew 7:23).” Jesus would say to anyone who teaches that Christians can never stop practicing sin, “You are mistaken because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God (Mark 12:24).”



Q. 13 Isn’t this just the same basic teaching we heard as new Christians when we were water baptized?

A. Yes, if we were correctly taught on the spiritual meaning of water baptism. Water baptism is a public commitment of our decision to follow Christ as our Lord and Savior. Therefore, water baptism is the outward expression of the divine transformation which inwardly occurred within us when we were saved. The basis for our teaching on water baptism should be Romans Chapter Six. Here the apostle Paul teaches what spiritually transpired when we were born again. The Greek word for baptism is baptizo, which means immersion. When we receive Christ into our heart as our Lord and Savior, we are spiritually immersed and united into Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5). “We have been buried with Him through baptism into death (Romans 6:4).” Therefore, when we are water baptized, we are first immersed into a “watery grave.” This burial demonstrates the fact that our old sinful nature has died in Christ (Romans 6:6). Burial also demonstrates that God has removed that dead man of sin from us (see also Colossians 2:11). Next, we are raised out of that watery grave. This demonstrates the fact that we now have a new resurrection life in Jesus Christ who lives in us and we are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:4-7). Water baptism is the outward demonstration that we are now “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).”

Since water baptism is for new believers, we can mistakenly think teaching on water baptism is only elementary and not for older Christians. However, the fact that “we have died in Christ and Christ now lives in us (Galatians 2:20)” is the central truth of the gospel and the New Covenant. Therefore, God has expressly commanded that we observe the water baptism of new believers to continually remind the church of this crucial truth. God knows it is impossible for us to live the overcoming Christian life, grow strong into spiritual maturity, bear healthy spiritual fruit, wage effective spiritual warfare and serve Christ wholeheartedly unless we are firmly established in this vital truth that our sin nature was removed from us at spiritual birth and that we were then freed from the power of sin. This is what Jesus accomplished when he triumphed over the devil and disarmed him by the cross (Colossians 2:15). Therefore, Christ crucified isn’t just basic teaching; it is deeper life teaching, since we can experience no deeper spiritual life apart from walking by faith in the true knowledge of Jesus Christ and the power of His cross.



Q. 14 Why is the message of the cross so important to the church?

A. The church is central to God’s purpose and the cross is central to the church. God’s divine plan is to reveal His Son Jesus Christ through the church. Christ put God’s plan into effect by coming to earth to die on the cross. Apart from the cross, there simply would be no church since the church was birthed from Christ’s death. By Christ’s death on the cross, we have been rescued from Satan’s dominion and brought into God’s kingdom. By Christ’s death on the cross, we have been forgiven for our sinful attitudes and actions. By Christ’s death on the cross, we have been forever freed from our sinful nature, which has been crucified with Christ and been removed from us. By Christ’s death on the cross, we have been delivered once and for all time from the power of sin. By Christ’s death on the cross, we have Christ’s Spirit indwelling us. By Christ’s death on the cross, we now have the mind of Christ. By Christ’ death on the cross, we have become God’s new creation, Christ’s body, His church. By Christ’s death on the cross, we become willingly enslaved to God. By Christ’s death on the cross, we can overcome the sin of the world and walk in the holiness and love of God. By Christ’s death on the cross, we can lose our soul-life for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s sake. By Christ’s death on the cross, we can suffer with Christ so that we might reign with Him. By Christ’s death on the cross, we will triumph over Satan. Once the church sees what Christ has fully accomplished by His death on the cross for her, she will be able to fully experience and express Christ’s life and His kingdom purpose here on earth. The church will then be ready to be Christ’s glorious bride and co-regent in the age to come.

Everyone who has the Holy Spirit living in them makes up the church. If Christ lives in you, you are a member of His church, His body. The spiritual health of Christ’s body is made up of the health of all its members. Therefore, when one member is weak, the whole body is weak. If one member is overcome by sin, the whole body suffers. The power of Christ’s death is the only basis for the body of Christ’s resurrection life and power. Therefore, we cannot teach on church life or body life without teaching on the divine meaning and practical application of the power of Christ’s crucifixion. Apart from the cross of Christ, the church can do nothing of any spiritual value. Apart from the cross of Christ, the church’s morality is at best worthless; at worst it is hypocrisy, lawlessness and rebellion against God. Apart from the cross of Christ, the church is filled with selfish ambition and every evil thing. Apart from the cross of Christ, the church does more harm than good. To put it plainly, apart from the cross of Christ, the church cannot and will not fulfill God’s eternal purpose.

The only way the church will walk in the power of Christ’s life is if she knows how to abide (stay rooted by faith) in the power of Christ’s death. This is why we proclaim the gospel of Christ crucified to enable the church to have unbroken fellowship with Christ (1 John 1:3-7); equip the church for ministry in the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13); and prepare the church for the coming tribulation and the return of Christ (Matthew 24:9-31).

Q. 15 How do we know the removal of the “body of flesh” in Colossians 2:11 refers to the removal of our sinful nature?

A. The New Testament Greek word for flesh is sarx. One of the contributing factors to Christians’ misunderstanding on how God has dealt with their old sinful nature is the translation of the Greek word sarx, which appears 140 times in the New Testament. The King James Version (KJV) translated sarx simply as “flesh.” Most versions of the Bible since then have followed the KJV’s lead and also translated sarx as “flesh.” However, the word “flesh” is not only archaic and rarely used; it is vague, ambiguous and has multiple meanings.

The New Testament Greek word for sarx actually has four possible meanings depending on the Scriptural context. The first possible meaning of sarx is “flesh” or “skin,” the thin, soft living membrane that covers the body. However, the word “flesh” is only appropriately used in one tenth of all the Scriptures that contain the Greek word sarx. One of the few cases in which sarx is fittingly translated as flesh is the following verse: (sarx) flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:51).”

The second possible meaning of sarx is the physical or natural body. This is the meaning of sarx in the following verse: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one (sarx) body (Ephesians 5:23).” The third possible meaning of sarx is the human or natural soul when it is not submitted to Christ’s authority. This can also be described as the natural man (with his will and inherent abilities) or the natural mind, which is also called the unrenewed, carnal mind. This is the meaning of sarx when Paul said, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by your (sarx) natural ability? (Galatians 3:3).” One version of the Bible aptly translates this verse, “Are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?"

The fourth possible meaning of sarx is the sinful nature. This is man’s fallen spiritual nature (before he is born again of the Spirit) which he inherited from his spiritual ancestor Adam. This sinful nature, which the Bible also refers to as the old man or the old self, is hostile and rebellious to God. Since this is man’s inward nature before he is born again of the Spirit, it controls man’s attitudes and actions and compels man to sin. The sinful nature is like a “sin factory” inside unregenerate man that continuously produces sinful thoughts and behavior that are alien and hostile to God. This is the meaning of sarx when Paul wrote, ““For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the (sarx) sinful nature (Romans 8:3).” In this context, sarx means more than just the body or soul; it means man’s sinful nature or spiritual sin factory within him. Paul continues, “However, you are not controlled by the (sarx) sinful nature but by the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you (Romans 8:9).” In other words, you no longer have Adam’s spiritual nature but Christ’s spiritual nature, if the Spirit of God lives in you.

With these four definitions of the Greek word sarx in mind, let’s now return to Colossians 2:11. After examining the Scriptural context of this verse, we must conclude that the “body of flesh,” which Christ removed through spiritual circumcision, could not have been our physical body nor could it have been our human soul. Therefore, it is both Scriptural and logical to state that Jesus Christ removed our sinful nature through spiritual circumcision when we were born again of the Spirit.

We believe there is a reason why most modern Bible translations continue to use the archaic and ambiguous word “flesh” instead of translating sarx in a more accurate and understandable manner depending upon the Scriptural context. Most Christians, even most contemporary Bible scholars, lack divine clarity on the Biblical truth that when we were born again, our sinful nature was crucified with Christ and totally removed from us (Romans 6:6). Consequently, almost all translations of the Bible continue to use the confusing term “flesh,” which obscures the powerful and liberating truth that God decisively removed our sinful nature from us by Christ’s crucifixion. Even the New International Version (NIV), which attempted to more specifically translate sarx, has compounded the problem by using a “shotgun” approach. By translating the Greek word sarx as “sinful nature” in nearly all instances, the NIV occasionally hits the target (see Romans 8:3 & 9; Colossians 2:11); but, more often than not, it misses the target. For example in Romans 8:12-13, the NIV translates sarx as sinful nature. However, this mistranslation has given the mistaken impression to many Christians that a born again believer still has a sinful nature. The word sarx in this Scripture passage should have been translated as the carnal mind. The passage would then properly read as follows: “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation - but it is not to the carnal mind, to live according to the carnal mind. For if you are living according to the carnal mind, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:12-13).”

In closing, we thank God there can be no doubt that when Paul used the picture of circumcision; he meant to graphically and decisively show that God completely removed our sinful nature when we were born again. Just as the foreskin is definitely cut off and removed by physical circumcision, our sinful nature is definitely crucified and removed from us by Christ’s spiritual circumcision of our heart through the operation of the cross. It is also worth noting that God’s removal of our sinful nature in the New Covenant is the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s Old Testament prophecy, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances (Ezekiel 36:26).” For a more comprehensive study on the Greek word sarx, see The Biblical Meaning of Flesh.

Q. 16 I was baptized years ago by sprinkling. Should I now be baptized again by immersion?

A. Immersion under water is the Biblical form of baptism. The Greek word baptizo means to immerse” or to “dip under fluid.” There would not be any confusion over the correct Biblical means of baptism if the translators of the King James Bible in 1611 had accurately translated the Greek word baptizo as immersion. However, Britain’s King James directed the translators to not introduce any controversy into his authorized translation that would be contrary to the practices of the State-sanctioned institutional church (the Anglican Church). Since the Anglican Church practiced sprinkling instead of immersion, the translators avoided controversy over this Biblical truth by simply making up a new English word “baptize” from the Greek word baptizo. This subterfuge of coining a new English word “baptize” in the King James Version has inadvertently been carried over to all subsequent versions of the Bible. This has resulted in some confusion over the correct way to baptize new believers. Therefore, you might find it helpful to visualize immersion under water whenever you read about water baptism in the New Testament.

Everyone who was baptized in the early church was baptized by immersion under water. The Greek word baptizo in the New Testament always meant to be immersed or plunged under water. For example, the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized by immersion under water. “Then both Philip and the eunuch went down to the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water… (Acts 8:38-39). Even Jesus Himself was immersed under water. “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water… (Matthew 3:16).” God has ordained baptism by immersion under water because this provides the best picture to show us that our old sinful man died and was buried. It is difficult to visualize how our old man could be dead if we are only sprinkled with water. In fact, sprinkling a new believer with a little “holy” water actually portrays a misleading picture that we can be Christ’s disciples with just a little help from the Holy Spirit above.

The Biblical truth, however, is exactly the opposite. God knew we couldn’t live the Christian life even with His help. Therefore, He had to kill off and get rid of our old man of sin by crucifying us with Christ. Once we no longer had an unholy nature, His Holy Son Jesus could then come into our innermost being by His Holy Spirit and live His holy life in us. This is the clear message of baptism by immersion. Therefore, we strongly encourage all believers who were previously baptized by sprinkling to be baptized by immersion under water so they can fully appreciate and rejoice in the truth of Jesus Christ’s triumph on the cross. For more information on this subject, see our Teaching Tract: Water Baptism – Our Betrothal to the Bridegroom.

Q. 17 My children were baptized when they were infants. Should they be baptized again now that they are older?

A. Infant baptism is not Biblical and was never practiced by the early church. Water baptism was reserved for those believers who understood and confessed that Jesus died and rose again on their behalf. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).” The Biblical requirement for salvation has always been repentance and faith. Jesus said, “Repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).” In the same way, the Biblical requirement for baptism has also been repentance and faith. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. (Acts 2:38)” and “He who believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:16).” This last Scripture does not mean you need to be water baptized in order to be saved, but that baptism outwardly confirms and publicly testifies to the inward transformation and reality of your salvation.

Infants do not have the Biblical understanding to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Infants cannot make an informed decision to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and to follow Him in discipleship. For example, the Book of Acts records Cornelius and his household were saved and baptized when they heard the apostle Peter preach the gospel. This “household salvation” included Cornelius’ relatives and his close friends who were of the age at which they could consciously understand and respond in faith and repentance to the gospel message (Acts 10:24, 33; 11:14). Some churches today mistakenly teach that infants may also have been included during this “household salvation.” There is no Scriptural evidence to support this and it could not be true since infants do not meet the Biblical conditions for salvation and baptism.

Some churches today practice infant baptism as a way of incorporating infants into the New Covenant and into their church. This is not Biblical. The first century church did not practice infant baptism. No infants of Cornelius’ household became members of the church through water baptism. Infant baptism confuses and compromises the meaning of true Biblical baptism of true converts to Christ. The only way for anyone to be under God’s New Covenant and a member of Christ’s New Covenant church is to be born again of the Spirit, which requires a New Covenant salvation. Of course, we can dedicate our babies to the Lord and we can pray in faith that our children will come to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And when our children are old enough to understand the gospel and if they receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they can then be water baptized.

If your children now want to be properly water baptized to publicly demonstrate their commitment to following Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, then rejoice and encourage them be baptized. Please make sure someone properly instructs them on the true meaning of water baptism from Romans Chapter Six. Remember that the death of their old nature when they receive and believe in Jesus Christ is not conceptual, intellectual or theoretical. If your children have been born again by the Spirit, then their old sinful nature has died and Jesus Christ now lives in them. You will now want to instruct and encourage them to live by faith in the Son of God.

Q. 18 In Galatians 2:20, the apostle Paul says it is not I but Christ who dwells in me. But then in Romans 7:17, Paul says it is not I but sin which dwells in me. How do we reconcile these two contradictory statements?

A. In Galatians 2:20, Paul is expressing how he is presently lives and how every believer should live free from sin if they know their sinful nature has died and been removed by Christ’s death on the cross. In Romans 7:17, Paul is expressing how an unbeliever who wants to serve God is driven to frustration, futility and failure in his attempts to obey God because he is still a slave to sin and his sinful nature. Paul writes this passage in the first person since this was an experience he himself had passed through. Therefore, these two contrasting statements (Galatians 2:20 and Romans 7:17) illustrate the great divide between a believer who is freed from sin and an unbeliever who is enslaved to sin. However, Romans 7:17 can also express what a believer feels if he does not know his sinful nature is dead and, therefore, mistakenly thinks he is still enslaved to sin. In this case, these two contrasting statements (Galatians 2:20 and Romans 7:17) illustrate the dramatic difference between a believer who knows he has died to sin and a believer who does not know he has died to sin.

In Galatians 2:20, it is clear Paul knows sin no longer dwells in him because his sinful nature has been crucified with Christ (see also Romans 6:6). In Romans 7:17, Paul uses the present tense to describe the awful predicament of someone who zealously wants to obey God but is still enslaved to sin. For example, Paul states this is the case of Jews who “are zealous for God but their zeal is not based on knowledge (Romans 10:2).”

It would be a serious mistake to think Romans 7:14-24 is how the apostle Paul viewed himself after he was born of the Spirit in light of God’s personal revelation to him (“God was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I may preach Him (Galatians 1:15-16).”) It would be inconceivable for Paul, who was a bondslave to God and so fully indwelt by Jesus Christ, to declare he was a slave to sin (v. 14) because evil indwelt him (v. 21). If this were the case, Paul would have suffered a form of religious schizophrenia. If this were Paul’s spiritual condition, it would deny the power of Jesus Christ’s work in him. It would also directly contradict his own previous statement in Romans 6:6 where he clearly declared our old man was crucified with Christ and our sinful nature (this body of sin) has been removed. Paul further adds that since our sinful nature is dead; we have been freed from slavery to sin (verses 7, 14, 18, 22). In Colossians 2:11, Paul also declares Christ has removed our sinful nature (this body of flesh). Finally at the end of Romans Chapter Seven, Paul solves the dilemma of this confused and conflicted person by answering the question of who delivers us from our sinful nature (this body of sin) with the triumphant response, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:25)!” This also described Paul’s personal experience and testimony.

When we are born again of the Spirit, God removes our old sinful nature and replaces it with His Son’s holy nature. This is the present spiritual reality and identity of every true believer in Christ and why Paul could confidently proclaim, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20).” For a more in-depth study on this subject, see The Purpose and Meaning of Romans Chapter Seven.

Q. 19 Don’t Christians just have two natures like a white dog and a black dog fighting within them and whichever one they feed the most gets stronger?

A. Many Christians erroneously believe, after they are saved, they have a new man, who is righteous and holy, and an old man, who is depraved and evil, living within them. They believe the life of a born again Christian depends on the outcome of the war between these two natures within them. They compare this internal conflict to having a white dog and a black dog living within them who are always fighting each other for supremacy. They mistakenly think that as long as they keep the black dog under control and the white dog properly fed, they will have victory and peace.

The main reason this thinking is not correct is because it is not Scriptural. There are many Bible verses that clearly indicate that our old nature is dead and removed. If we are in Christ, there is no black dog living in us. There is only Christ living in us. This thinking also reveals an ignorance and misunderstanding about God’s eternal purpose. The Bible declares that man is born a sinner and needs Christ the Savior to deliver him from sin, death and eternal hell. We could never become good enough to be saved and, once saved, we could never become good enough to be holy in God’s eyes. That’s why Jesus Christ had to die on the cross for us in the first place. By the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, God dealt with the guilt of our sinful actions once for all eternity by providing His forgiveness of sins. At the same time, God also dealt with our sinful nature once for all eternity by crucifying it on the cross with His Son (Romans 6:6; Colossians 2:11). Once we are born again, Jesus Christ dwells in us (1 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27).

Since our sinful nature died, which compelled us to sin, was removed from us when we were born again, we have been freed from the power of sin. However, this does not mean our minds were instantly transformed to never sin again. After we are saved, we need to stand firm by faith in the word of the cross so that our minds will be renewed by the Spirit of truth. This is what the Bible calls the process of sanctification by which our souls are transformed to express the image of Christ. There is a great difference between the old sinful nature and the unrenewed mind. Our old sinful nature was like a continuously operating “sin factory” that had to be destroyed by Christ’s death on the cross before we could be set free from sin. The unrenewed mind, on the other hand, is simply our mindset, which the Holy Spirit within us can transform now that we no longer have a sinful nature. Since our sinful nature has been removed and replaced with Christ’s holy nature, we now have the spiritual capability by faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross to stop practicing sin and to practice righteousness instead.

To sum up, we are Christ’s body and Christ’s home (the temple of the Holy Spirit). Jesus said a house divided against itself cannot stand. There is no way Jesus Christ would ever share His body and His home with a devil dog (that old man of sin) who wanted to divide and destroy His home and His body. Thank God, that through Jesus Christ, He has killed and gotten rid of that “evil dog” - our sinful nature which was controlled by Satan and whose sole aim was to deceive and devour us. For more information on this subject, see our Teaching Tract: Can a Christian Have Two Natures?

Q. 20 When the apostle Paul reviews the facts (1 Corinthians 15:3) upon which the gospel is based, why does he list “Christ died for our sins” but not “we died with Christ?”

A. “We died with Christ” is a divine event that occurred simultaneously when “Christ died for us.” Therefore, this provision of Christ’s Atonement is included in the gospel which declares Christ died for us. This is the full divine meaning of what happened when Jesus Christ was crucified. Jesus died to free us from the penalty of our sins; He also died to free us from the power of sin. God accomplished this latter provision of Christ’s Atonement by spiritually including us in Christ’s death on the cross. God intended that this truth be taught to new believers immediately upon their salvation by means of water baptism. Whenever someone was saved in the first century church, they were normally water baptized that same day. This is God’s way for all new disciples to be immediately instructed and for the whole church to be continually reminded that their old sin-driven nature is dead, buried and removed and they are now a new spiritual person in Christ, capable of being Spirit-led and overcoming sin. It is not necessary to understand the full implications of “you died with Christ” to be saved. However, once you are saved, it is essential to believe this vital truth of the gospel. Otherwise, you will not be able to come into your full inheritance in Christ because knowing that you have died with Christ is the door that leads to sanctification and truly knowing Christ and walking in His power.

Q. 21 I don’t find the term “the divine exchange” in the Bible. What is this?

A. The term “trinity” also does not appear in the Bible but the doctrine of the trinity of God is established, confirmed and supported by many Scriptures throughout the Bible. The termtrinity” is used to explain the eternal triune (three-in-one) relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In the same manner, the term the “divine exchange” can be used to explain how God, by His Son’s death, exchanged our sinful nature with Christ’s holy nature. It also can be used to explain how we live the Christian life - not by trying to live like Christ but by trusting Christ to live His life in us. Thus the Christian life is not a changed life; it is an exchanged life. God knew man’s sinful nature was completely corrupt and beyond reform; therefore, His divine plan was not to “improve” our sinful nature. Instead, He “executed” our sinful nature with Christ on the cross and exchanged it with His Son’s nature. This “divine exchange” describes the inward spiritual transformation that occurred when we were “born again.”

There are many Scriptures that support the Biblical principle of the “divine exchange.” One Bible verse that sums up the divine exchange is 2 Corinthians 5:21: “God made Christ who had no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God.” Thus, by His death, Christ exchanged His holy nature for our sinful nature and reconciled us to God (Romans 5:10; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 1:21-22; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 5:11-12). Therefore, when we received Jesus as our Lord and were born again by God’s Spirit (John 3:3-8); our sinful nature was crucified and removed (Romans 6:6; Colossians 2:11) and we have become a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). By Christ’s sacrifice, God translated us from our sinful nature into His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). The Son of God now lives in us (Romans 8:10; 2 Corinthians 12:9; 13:5; Galatians 1:16; 2:20; Colossians 1:27). Our body is no longer a temple of sin but is now a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19). We were born sinners; but now by the power of the cross of Christ, God has transformed us into His saints (holy ones). We were once sons of the devil by nature; but now by the power of Christ’s crucifixion, we have become sons of God with His holy nature.

The divine exchange is like receiving a divine heart transplant since God replaced our terminally sin-sick heart with His Son’s divine heart. Of course, Jesus had to die for this heart transplant to take place. Since we have been born again of the Spirit and Christ now lives in us, we now have God’s “DNA - Divine Nature from Above.” The Bible also describes this divine surgery in terms of spiritual circumcision: “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the sinful nature by the circumcision of Christ… When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ (Colossians 2:11-13).”

The term the “exchanged life” or what we call the divine exchange may have originated in 1869 with Hudson Taylor, pioneer missionary to China, who wrote, “The Lord Jesus tells me I am a branch. I am part of Him and I have just to believe and act upon it. I have seen it long enough in the Bible but I believe it now as a living reality. In a word, ‘whereas once I was blind, now I see.’ I am dead and buried with Christ - aye, and risen too and ascended; and now Christ lives in me. I now believe I am dead to sin. God reckons me so and tells me to reckon myself so. Oh, the joy of seeing this truth: I pray that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened, that you may know and enjoy the riches freely given us in Christ.”

The apostle Paul may have best summed up the divine exchange with his statement, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20).” For more information on this subject, see our Teaching Tract: The Divine Exchange.

Q. 22 If Jesus baptizes us in the Holy Spirit to empower us, then why do we need to know we died with Christ?

A. Jesus does not intend the baptism in the Holy Spirit to have only a one-time impact in our life; He means it to be the spiritual gateway for us to be continually empowered by the Holy Spirit and be able to exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit to build up His body (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-13). However, the only way the power of the Holy Spirit can be manifested continually in our lives is if we know (and act on this knowledge) that we have been crucified with Christ. Calvary must come before Pentecost. This is the divine principle: Jesus had to be crucified at Calvary and ascend to His Father before the power of His Spirit could be poured out at Pentecost (John 7:39). In the same way, our baptism (immersion) into the power of Christ’s resurrection is only effective if we have also been baptized (immersed) into the power of Christ’s death. The divine truth is that we have already been baptized into Christ’s death. We were baptized into Christ’s death when we were born again (Romans 6:3) and our sinful nature was removed from us (Romans 6:6). Therefore, we now need to abide (remain united by faith) in the power of Christ’s crucifixion so that the power of Christ’s resurrection might abide in us.

If we don’t know this divine fact (that we have died with Christ and our sinful nature has been removed) by divine revelation, we won’t be able to act on this divine truth and overcome sin. We will mistakenly try to live the Christian life by the strength of our soul (our natural personality and ability) and also mistakenly think it’s with the help of the Holy Spirit. However, when we choose to live by the strength of our soul, we are not trusting in the power of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. This is practicing unbelief, which has serious spiritual consequences. When we do not live in the obedience of faith to the truth of God’s Word, we are blocking the Holy Spirit’s power from being expressed in us. If continue to live by the strength of our soul, we become open to deception since the soul not governed by the Holy Spirit is a gateway to demonic influence. We simply cannot expect to be filled and empowered with the Holy Spirit if we are not obeying God and His Word.

Therefore, it’s essential that we know (believe and act on) the Word of God: We have been crucified with Christ (Romans 6:8; Galatians 2:20; 6:14) so that Christ can express the power of His Holy Spirit through us. Otherwise, even if we may have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, we will end up living in the power of our soul. This is Galatianism or “starting in the Spirit but finishing in the flesh (Galatians 3:3).” Tragically, this has been an all too common experience for many Christians, even “charismatic” Christians. However, when we have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and know (believe and act on) the truth that our sinful nature died on the cross with Christ, Jesus Christ can train us daily to walk in the power of His Spirit and to place no confidence in the strength of our soul (our natural ability). Then we will truly be Christ’s witnesses and disciples. “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).” For more information on this subject, see our Bible Teaching on The Baptism in the Holy Spirit – Its Purpose and Power.

Q. 23 Isn’t faith in Jesus all that I need?

A. Yes, if your faith is based on the real Jesus and the real gospel. To more fully answer your question, let’s review what the Bible says about faith. Six centuries before Christ’s birth, God gave the prophet Habakkuk divine revelation that “the righteous will live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4).” This Scripture expresses the theme of God’s relationship with man. Habakkuk’s prophecy is fulfilled in the New Covenant where it provides the basis for the gospel. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes… For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith (Romans 1:16-17; see also Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).’” The Greek word for faith is pistis, which in its various forms (faith, believe, belief, faithful, etc.) is used 600 times in the New Testament. It is clear that faith is the underlying theme of the New Covenant and the very foundation of the gospel.

The Biblical definition of faith is found in the Book of Hebrews, which says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1/The New American Standard Bible). Another translation says “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (The New International Version). And yet another translation says “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (The King James Version).” From a Biblical perspective, faith enables us to see God and see things the way God sees them. The Bible says that Moses “endured by seeing Him who is unseen (Hebrews 11:27).” And the apostle Paul wrote, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).” Biblical faith is not faith in faith for faith’s sake or a philosophy of “whatever you believe, you can achieve.” Biblical faith is not some kind of “mind over matter” pop psychology or visualization technique. That kind of counterfeit faith is based on man’s psychic/soul power and is actually hostile to the Spirit of God.

Biblical faith is based solely on the Word (the Logos) of God revealed to us. The Bible says Jesus Christ is the Word (the Logos) of God (John 1:1). Therefore, Biblical faith is based on God’s revelation of His Son to us. All true faith comes from seeing the Lord Jesus Christ - who He is and what He has done on the cross. When Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build the church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it (Matthew 16:17-18).” Thus God’s revelation of Jesus Christ to us is the bedrock of our faith, the foundation of the gospel and the cornerstone of the church.

Therefore, in order for our faith to be true Biblical faith it must correspond to the revealed Word of God. For example, after Jesus Christ rose from the dead, God gave the disciple Thomas divine revelation to see Christ as He really is. In response, Thomas exclaimed to Jesus, “My Lord and my God (John 20:28)!” Based on their Judaic heritage and knowledge of the Old Testament prophets, the disciples knew that when the Messiah (Christ) came, he would be God in the flesh (Isaiah 9:6; Psalm 45:6-7; John 1:1, 14, 18; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 1 John 5:20). Therefore, when the disciples recognized and confessed Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, they acknowledged He was God. Do you also confess that Jesus Christ is your Lord and God? If your answer is “Yes, certainly!” then you have saving faith. On the other hand, if anyone thinks that Jesus is not God but is only a great prophet or teacher or a divinely created being such as an angel, then that person does not have saving faith. In the same way, anyone who confesses Jesus is their Savior, without making Him their Lord, is also not saved. The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9; see also Acts 2:36).” Thus saving faith in Jesus means we are following the real Jesus in the right way according to the Word of God.

What about sanctifying faith? For our salvation is not complete without works of sanctification, which confirm the validity of our faith (James 2:26). And without sanctification, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). On the cross, Jesus Christ died to forgive us from the penalty of our sins (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 1:7). This is a vital provision of Christ’s Atonement, but God also knew we needed to overcome Satan and the power of sin in this world. Therefore, Jesus Christ also died on the cross to free us from the power of our sinful nature. When Christ died, we died with Him (Romans 6:8). When we were born again, God removed our sinful nature and replaced it with His Son’s holy nature (Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20). Because our old nature of sin is dead and gone, we have been freed from the power of sin (Romans 6:7). This is a central feature of Christ’s Atonement but if we do not believe it and act on it, this vital provision of Christ’s death will not be effective in our life. Neither our initial salvation nor ongoing sanctification (the outworking of our salvation) is based on our merit or effort. Otherwise, our boast would be in ourselves instead of in the cross of Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14). There is nothing we can receive from God (whether our salvation or sanctification) by relying on our natural ability (Galatians 3:2-5). God is only pleased and works on our behalf when we demonstrate faith in Jesus Christ and His completed work on the cross. Therefore, we are not only saved by faith in Jesus Christ and His completed work on the cross (Christ died for us so we might be forgiven from sin’s penalty); we are also sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ and His completed work on the cross (we died with Christ so we might be delivered from sin’s power). Once again, we must follow the real Jesus in the right way or we will not have sanctifying faith, which results in eternal life. “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life (Romans 6:22).”

To sum up, Biblical faith must be based on the specific facts of the Word of God. It is not just faith in a general belief about God. In these dark and perilous days, deceiving spirits are misleading many with a counterfeit faith and a counterfeit gospel (1 Timothy 4:1; Matthew 24:11). This is why we contend earnestly for the true faith and proclaim the whole gospel of Christ that was entrusted to us (1 Corinthians 3:1. Jude 3). If the Jesus Christ you believe in is truly your Lord and God, you are saved. On the other hand, if He is not truly your Lord and God, you are not following the real Jesus and you are not saved. In the same way, if the gospel of Christ you believe in does not deliver you from besetting sins so that you can walk in the power of the Spirit, you are not following the real gospel. When you have real faith in the real gospel, you will know Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and He will set you free from slavery to sin so you might walk in His new, sanctified life and have intimate fellowship with Him (John 8:31-36; John 14:21-23; Romans 6:4-7; 1 John 1:3-7).

Q. 24 But doesn’t the message of the cross add to the gospel? Didn’t Jesus just ask people to just believe in Him?

A. It’s true that Jesus told people to just believe in Him (John 6:29). However, Jesus also went on say, “He who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 10:38-39).” Jesus also said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it (Mark 9:34).” And Jesus further said, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple…No one can be My disciple if he does not give up everything he has (Luke 14:27, 33).

In these passages, Jesus explained what it meant to believe in Him. Are we suffering alienation and, if need be, persecution for the gospel by carrying our own cross and identifying with Jesus’ death each day? Are we laying down the worries and pleasures and riches of this life for His sake? Are we denying ourselves the pursuit of self-fulfillment for the sake of the gospel? Are we yielding our personal preferences and natural desires to Christ’s Sovereignty? Are we giving up worldly ambitions, associations and activities to lose our soul-life for the sake of Christ? This is the Scriptural evidence that we believe in Jesus. The Bible says that when we lay down our soul-life for Christ’s sake, we show that we are Christ’s disciples and have His love for the body of Christ (John 13:35; 15:12-13; 1 John 3:16). Is this the Christianity we are practicing each day by faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross? If our life does not demonstrate this distinguishing mark of discipleship and love, there is no Scriptural proof that our faith is authentic and that we are truly Christians.

The gospel is the message of Jesus Christ and the transforming power of His death on the cross. Jesus Christ died once for all eternity to completely redeem us from sin. Therefore, Christ’s death on the cross redeemed us from both the penalty of our sinful deeds and the power of our sinful nature. Knowing this truth, the apostles did not preach the gospel of Christ as two phases of the Atonement or two stages of salvation (initial salvation and then future sanctification). They taught the gospel – the word of the cross - as one seamless truth: Christ died for us and included us in His death so that He might sovereignly live in us. If we believe in the true gospel and our faith is real, then our sanctification and obedience to Christ will confirm our faith (James 2:26). This is what the apostle Paul called “the obedience of the faith (Romans 1:5; 16:26).” The evidence of true faith in Christ is an increasingly holy life (Romans 6:22), from which grows all the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). No one can say they know the Lord if they do not practice sanctification or holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 John 2:4; 3:6). This is what it means to really believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Q. 25 If our old man of sin has died and been removed, then why does the apostle Paul tell us to put off the old man and put on the new man?

A. We can better understand Paul’s statement if we look at the whole context of these Scriptures. In Ephesians 4:22-24, Paul exhorted the church at Ephesus to renew their minds and put off the old man and put on the new man. Paul also exhorted the church at Colossae the same way, except in their case, he used the past tense: “You have put off the old man (and) you have put on the new man (Colossians 3:9-10).” The Greek word for “put on” is enduo, which means “to be clothed with.” This is the same Greek word that Paul used in Romans 13:14 when he said “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Here, Paul exhorts Christians to be clothed with Christ. Yet Paul also said Christians have already been clothed with Christ. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves in Christ (Galatians 3:27).”

So how do we reconcile these Scriptures? The truth is God put us in Christ when we were born again (1 Corinthians 1:30), but now we must substantiate or personalize this truth in our life and conduct by faith. This is what Paul meant when he said, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).” In other words, we must “take hold of” or “put on” by faith what God through Christ has already accomplished on the cross. Then God through the Holy Spirit will substantiate it and work it out in our life. If we don’t “put on” by faith what Christ has accomplished on our behalf by His sacrificial death, we cannot and will not experience the benefit of Christ’s Atonement. The apostle Paul exhorted, “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called (1 Timothy 6:12).” This spiritual principle to “put on,” to “lay hold of,” and to “take hold of” by faith applies not only to our salvation; it applies to our sanctification and eternal inheritance. Paul declared, “I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12).”

The Bible says, “Our old man was crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6)” and “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new man (2 Corinthians 5:17).” This is the truth of the gospel of Christ crucified. Our responsibility is to now obey and act on God’s Word by faith. Therefore, since we know with certainty that our old man has died and we are now a new man in Christ and that sin no longer dwells in us, we can put off the old man’s clothing (the old way of thinking and acting) and put on the new man’s clothing (the new way of thinking and acting). This is what the Bible calls being transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23). In this way, we walk by faith in the righteous clothing of God’s new creation – fashioned by Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27; Galatians 4:19).

Q. 26 Is this teaching on the cross of Christ the same as ”Christian” mysticism?

A. Absolutely not. “Christian” mysticism is a Satanically-inspired, soulish counterfeit that masquerades as true Christianity. It is one of the most dangerous deceptions to beware of during this present time of spiritual darkness. Most people who practice so-called “Christian” mysticism believe they can mortify (put to death) their sinful nature by practicing self-denial. However, this is not Scriptural and a false gospel. This is a form of asceticism, which has absolutely no power to transform man’s inner sinful nature (Colossians 2:20-23). You cannot crucify your sinful nature. Since we were born sinners, God knew that the only way we could ever be freed from our sinful nature was to include us in His Son’s crucifixion (Romans 6:3-5). This is what transpired when we were born again of the Spirit. Therefore, we have already been (past tense) crucified with Christ. God has already removed our sinful nature from us and replaced it with Christ’s nature. We now acknowledge our spiritual death and resurrection in Christ by walking by faith in this truth of God’s Word. This is the true work of God - to believe in Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished on the cross. We carry our own cross daily by believing God’s truth that we have already died in Christ and that we are now dead to the world (Galatians 6:14). Knowing the truth that our sinful nature has died is what sets us free from the power of sin (Romans 6:6-7). Therefore, it is only by faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross that we can overcome sin. If we try to bring our thoughts and actions into subjection by our self-will and self-effort, we will only strengthen the power of our soul. Developing our religious soul-power is hostile to the Holy Spirit and leads to the sin of pride and disobedience, which separates us from God. This practice of ascetic mysticism or self-denial is closely related to religious practices in Hinduism and Buddhism but it is not true Christianity, which teaches that only faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross sets us free from our sinful nature and behavior.

Many people who practice “Christian” mysticism also mistakenly believe they can attain union with God through practicing passive meditation. These so-called “Christian” mystics falsely teach that spiritual perfection and “oneness” with God can be achieved by a passive annihilation of your will and losing yourself in the “contemplation” of God. Consequently, they practice a state of passive meditation in which their human will is not to be exercised. They erroneously believe that in this way their soul will become detached from worldly interests so that they can achieve perfection. One so-called “Christian” mystic of the late-1600s, who is considered by many to be the “godmother” of contemporary “Christian” mysticism taught that this method of meditation would eventually bring a person into a passive state of union with God but that the very existence of the soul must be destroyed to achieve this union. This teaching is not Biblical. God made man with a soul for His purpose and pleasure. He does not want to destroy or annihilate our soul nor does He want us to try to destroy or annihilate it. We cannot stress strongly enough that this mystical practice of passive meditation with the aim of soul annihilation is ungodly and not Scriptural. This passive meditation is a form of Buddhism and Hinduism and is not true Christianity.

The Bible exhorts us to prepare our minds for action not passivity (1 Peter 1:13). The Bible defines faith as active (Galatians 5:6; see also James 2:14-26). It is the very nature of Biblical faith to be active and to actively present yourself to God (Romans 12:1). The Bible does not call us to passively meditate; the Bible calls us to actively set our mind on God and our thoughts on the things of God. “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things that are on earth, For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3).” We are exhorted to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).” The apostle Paul said, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)” and “be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2)” and “let the word of Christ richly dwell within you (Colossians 3:16).” The Scriptures encourage us to actively seek to know the Person of God and the Word of God (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; Psalm 27:4; Psalm 119: 15, 48, 78, 95, 97, 148; Matthew 6:33; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 3:16; 1 Peter 3:15). This is far different than yielding your will and mind in passive meditation until you receive a “spiritual experience.” The grave danger of this type of passive meditation is that it can spiritually mislead you with “feelings” that might seem soulishly comforting, but which actually open you up to demonic deception and influence. As Christians, we do not rely on our emotional feelings to know God but only on our obedience by faith to God and His Word. As Christians, we should never be led by our feelings; we should always be led by faith in the truth of God’s Word. When anyone is led by mystical, miraculous or emotional experiences instead of by the Word of God, they can easily be deceived by Satan. Tragically, many Christians have been led astray by false, ungodly teachers because they relied on their “feelings” rather than faith in a true knowledge of God and His Word. God’s Word is the only reliable plumbline of truth that keeps us safe and straight in our walk with Him.

Unfortunately, the spiritual error of passivity can start for some Christians even at their “salvation.” Many people are told that if they just “accept” Jesus, they will be saved and go to heaven. The basis for this teaching is John 1:12: “But as many as received Him, to them he gave the right to become the children of God.” While this verse means you cannot know Jesus Christ and enter the kingdom of heaven unless you have personally received Him as your Lord and Savior, the New Testament Greek word used here for received means much more than passively accepting Jesus. The Greek word used here is lambano, which in this Scriptural context means to actively take hold of Jesus Christ just as in your marriage vows you would receive or take hold of your fiancée as your marriage partner for life. When you receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are making an active and lifelong personal commitment as a member of the bride of Christ to your Bridegroom Jesus Christ. This commitment to enter into an active personal relationship with Jesus Christ is far different than just saying that you passively “accept” someone, such as a distant and not familiar relative, as a member of your extended family. When someone starts their relationship with Christ by just passively accepting Him, is it any wonder that they have started on the wrong foot and may always remain lukewarm in their love for Him?

Anyone who wants to know God must know Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Therefore, when we yield ourselves to God, we are not passive; instead we actively present ourselves to God in spirit and truth (Romans 12:1-2). This means we actively seek to know God by submitting each day to Jesus Christ, who is God’s Truth (John 14:6) and by studying God’s Truth, which is the Word of God (John 17:17). Otherwise, you can be deceived into receiving some misleading direction during your state of passivity. You cannot abide in Christ unless you abide in His truth (John 8:31-32; 2 John 1-4). You can only “practice the presence of God” if you abide in the truth of Jesus Christ and His completed work on the cross. The truth is that if you have been born of the Spirit, you already have spiritual union with God because your sinful nature has died with Christ and been removed from you and Jesus Christ now lives in you (Romans 6:5; Galatians 2:20). Meditating within your soul to attain divine union and perfection is just another subtle but deceptive way of practicing soul-power by trying to perfect yourself in the soul (Galatians 3:3). This is a demonic soulish counterfeit that tries to masquerade as true fellowship with Jesus Christ, which is always in spirit and truth.

Finally, there is another form of “Christian mysticism” that is popular among many professing Christians today and which is extremely dangerous. This is the practice of condoning and even embracing “spiritual” visitations that are Satanic in origin. There are many Christians who claim to follow Jesus but who regularly communicate and commune with visiting “spirits” and “angels” that are actually demons. This deception often begins when a close friend or relative of a Christian dies. The devil may then use that person’s grieving period as an opportunity to send one of his demons to masquerade as a “familiar spirit” and “comfort” that person. This can particularly occur if there is past history of spiritualism in the family. The devil’s false light and false comfort can then entrap an unsuspecting Christian into falsely believing these experiences are harmless and open them up further to demonic deception and control. The undiscerning person may even feel “more connected to God” as a result of these experiences and this can appeal to their religious pride. However, the Holy Spirit would command every Christian to strongly reject in the name of Jesus any contact with these “visiting” spirits, especially those who try to “visit” you without your “invitation.” The Bible warns that if you entertain these “spiritual visitations” no matter how “comforting” or how “enlightening” they may seem, you are directly disobeying God and opening yourself up to deeper Satanic deception, darkness and destruction. “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons (1 Corinthians 10:21).” Any Christian who has had any experience with “familiar spirits” or any other involvement in psychic phenomena should repent and strongly renounce this demonic practice, which is actually a gateway for witchcraft and rebellion against God. Otherwise, you will cut yourself off from God and His kingdom (see 1 Samuel 15:23; see also Leviticus 19:31; 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10; Isaiah 8:19; 1 Chronicles 10:13-14; Galatians 5:20; Revelation 9:20-21).

The first century church also confronted an early version of “Christian” mysticism called Gnosticism. The Gnostics falsely separated the spirit and body and believed the spirit of man was pure but the body was impure. Therefore if you sinned in the body, it did not matter since your spirit was holy. This practice is evil and the worst kind of lawlessness since it deliberately misuses God’s grace as a license for sin. This type of Gnostic mysticism has now crept into the church in the form of the “once saved always saved” doctrine. This false doctrine is demonically inspired and teaches that it does not matter how much you practice sin in your body here on earth because your spirit will always be saved and go to heaven to be with God. This immoral teaching directly contradicts sound Biblical doctrine, which leads to godliness (1 Timothy 6:3). The Bible is very clear that all Christians are to live pure lives in body and spirit (2 Corinthians 7:1). The apostle Paul prayed for God to sanctify (purify) His people entirely so their spirit, soul and body would be kept blameless (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The apostle John also strongly refuted this false doctrine when he taught that anyone who calls himself a Christian but who practices sin does not really know Jesus Christ (1 John 3:1-10). The Bible clearly declares that “without sanctification no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).” For more information on this subject, see Mythbusters #1: Once Saved Always Saved.

“Christian” mysticism is an oxymoron. You cannot be a true Christian and also practice mysticism. “Christian” mysticism, whether it is in the form of religious asceticism or passive meditation or communion with other spirits, is Satan masquerading as an angel of light to deceive and devour as many undiscerning and unstable souls as he can in these last days. The “inner light” which these so-called “mystics” claim to see is actually spiritual darkness. Jesus said, “If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:23).” God will convict and judge every professing Christian who practices and teaches “Christian” mysticism. Everyone in the Christian community should be warned to stay far away from the dangerous deception of “Christian” mysticism that in its many serpentine forms tries to disguise itself as true Christianity. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1).” The way that you can know the difference between the spirit of truth and the error of “Christian” mysticism is to immerse yourself in God’s Word. The Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), which enables you to discern and divide between the spirit and the soul. “For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12).” When you know the truth that you have been crucified with Christ and your sinful nature has died and been removed from you, you will be completely set free from the bewitching snare of “Christian” mysticism (Romans 6:6-7). Jesus said, “If you continue in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).”


Q. 27 Do I need to know that I died with Christ in order to be His disciple?

A. By Biblical definition, every true Christian is a disciple of Christ (Acts 11:26). The Greek word for disciple is mathetes, which means pupil or learner. Within the New Testament context, a disciple is one who follows and embraces the life, views and practices of Jesus Christ. What did Jesus say His disciples must do in order to follow Him? Jesus said that to follow Him we must deny ourselves, give up everything, and carry our own cross daily (Matthew 10:38-39; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24). He also declared that if we do not practice these things, we cannot be His disciples (Luke 14:26-33).

Of course, we can only practice true discipleship by faith - and Biblical faith is always based on a revelation of God’s divine truth that we then believe and act on. The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).” This is true for both saving faith and living faith. In other words, we were not only saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8), we must now also live by faith (Romans 1:17). For example, you were initially saved when you believed and acted on a knowledge of the basic facts of the gospel (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). In the same way, after you are saved, your faith to live as Christ’s disciple must also be based on a knowledge of the divine truth. Otherwise, you will remain spiritual ignorant and, instead of overcoming the world, you will be in grave danger of being overcome by the world (1 John 5:4). This is why the apostle Paul specifically wrote Romans Chapter Six. Paul’s prayer and expectation was that a greater spiritual understanding of why Christ died on the cross would increase the disciples’ faith, thereby enabling them to overcome sin and stay wholeheartedly devoted to Christ (see Romans 6:1-23).

Therefore, we certainly need to know (believe and act on) the truth that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) to initially become a Christian (Christ’s disciple). However, we then need to know (believe and act on) the truth that we died with Christ (Romans 6:8) in order to satisfy the conditions that Jesus said were required to follow Him as His disciple (deny ourselves, give up everything, and carry our own cross daily). This is why God ordained water baptism (“burial under water”) to immediately impress upon all new disciples that, when they were born of the Spirit, they died with Christ and their sinful nature was removed from them. If you do not believe and act on the truth that you have already died with Christ, then all you can do is try to deny yourself and carry your own cross by the best of your natural ability. Not only is this is a mission impossible; it is not Scriptural. As Paul declared, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now trying to perfect yourselves by human effort (Galatians 3:3).”

There is only one person who could ever live a genuine holy life of true self-sacrifice and undivided devotion to God and that is Jesus Christ. And in that great fact is found the divine answer to our dilemma. The only way we can live an authentic life of Christian discipleship is to know and act on the truth that we have died with Christ and that God has exchanged our sinful nature with Christ’s holy nature. Then we can live as Christ’s disciples by faith in the Son of God who lives in us (Galatians 2:20).


Q. 28 I want to believe I died to sin. However, I can’t seem to get past just mentally understanding this concept and I still can’t stop practicing sin. What can I do?

A. True faith is acting on divine revelation of God’s Word. In the original Greek translation of the New Testament, there are two different words used for the “Word” of God. One is logos; the other is rhema. Although they are sometimes used interchangeably, they have two distinct meanings. Logos means the eternal counsel or mind of God. Logos could also be described as the divine blueprint of God’s eternal purpose. For example, the apostle John used the word logos in introducing his gospel of Christ, “In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word (Logos) was with God, and the Word (Logos) was God… and the Word (Logos) became flesh (John 1:1, 17).”

The Logos or total counsel of God is made available to us through both the written Word of God – the Bible, and the living Word of God – Jesus Christ. But the whole Logos of God is too vast and too comprehensive for us to grasp in its entirety. Therefore, rhema is the way the Holy Spirit divinely reveals a portion of His heavenly, eternal, total Logos in our human experience. Rhema specifically means a word that is spoken in time and space. For example, Jesus used the word rhema when He overcame Satan in the wilderness: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word (rhema) that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).” Jesus here speaks of a specific word (rhema) of God that is revealed by the breath of God, which is the Holy Spirit.

In other words, through the spoken word (rhema) of God, the Logos (the mind) of God becomes real and produces faith in us. This is what the apostle Paul meant when he said, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word (rhema) of God (Romans 10:17).” From the context of this passage (Romans 10:8-17), we can conclude that when someone hears and acts on the word (rhema) of God that Christ died for them (Romans 5:8), they will experience deliverance from the penalty of sin. In the same way, when someone hears and acts on the word (rhema) of God that they died with Christ (Romans 6:8), they will experience deliverance from the power of sin. “Because anyone who has died has been freed from sin (Romans 6:7).”

Therefore, you cannot “reckon” yourself dead to sin (Romans 6:11) unless you “know” your sinful nature has died (Romans 6:6). And you cannot know you have died with Christ unless you have had divine revelation. The Greek word for “reckon” is logizomai, which means to “credit to the account” as in bookkeeping or accounting. Accounting is the precise reckoning of facts. There is no uncertainty in mathematics. Two plus two equals four in every language of the world. To reckon yourself dead to sin means you can count with certainty on the divine fact that your sinful nature has been crucified with Christ. Mere mental assent will not give you this kind of absolute conviction; only divine revelation from the Holy Spirit can. Therefore, it is essential that you personally receive divine revelation (the rhema of God) concerning the divine fact that you have died with Christ and your sinful nature is dead and gone. Humbly ask God to open your spiritual eyes and reveal this crucial truth of His Word to you. Remember our faith is based on what Jesus has already accomplished for us on the cross. Your sinful nature has already died (Romans 6:6-8; Colossians 3:3). You do not need to ask God to help your sinful nature die. God has already included you in Christ’s death. When Jesus died, you died with Him (1 Corinthians 5:14). This is a divine fact. Therefore, when you pray, thank God for what Jesus has already done for you. Thank God that you have already died with Christ.

Perhaps you are under the mistaken impression that you can live the Christian life by applying more self-discipline and trying harder to be moral and good. However, you cannot walk in this “divine exchange” of the cross except by faith in the truth of God’s Word. All forms of self-effort will fail. Here is a Biblical illustration from the Old Testament that might help: In Exodus, the children of Israel were saved from Egypt (a picture of the world) and the Pharaoh (a picture of Satan). This is just like us when we were born again and saved from the world and the devil. Then, just as the children of Israel began to be tested in the “wilderness of sin,” we begin to learn many lessons that are meant to purify our faith. It is in this “wilderness” that we find out for ourselves what kind of faith we have (God already knows). Eventually, God brings us to the edge of the “Promised Land,” and gives us a rhema word that we are capable of going into this Land and possessing it. Unfortunately, the majority of people, like the unbelieving children of Israel, will not believe what God has told them is true. They will only believe what their eyes and ears reveal to them. They might say, “No way. There are too many giants over there and I am too small and weak. I better stay where I am.” They did not have faith to enter into their inheritance because they depended on themselves instead of God, and they did not believe what God told them.

But there were two people who did believe the rhema word, which God had given to the whole congregation of Israel – Joshua and Caleb. They wanted to go into the Promised Land the first time that God told them to go in but nobody would go with them, so they had to wait until that whole generation that had come out of Egypt died in the wilderness. Then God raised up a new generation who would believe His rhema word to take the Land that God said was already theirs. Now here is the important thing to note - when they went in, from the moment they put their feet into the Jordan, they had to do it by faith because any self-effort on their part always resulted in disaster. When they walked around Jericho seven times, it was at God’s rhema command. They did it by faith and had success. But every time they got it in their minds to do something on their own initiative or in their own timing or by their own plans, they met with failure. God was training them that the only way to take the Land was by obeying what God had initiated and told them to do. This lesson went on for years. Sometimes they learned it well and had great success. Other times, they forgot what God had told them and experienced terrible failure.

Here is the lesson for us, especially if you are finding it hard to enter into the “Promised Land,” which God has already given you: every failure that God is allowing you to experience is meant to teach you that you can only enter into this “Promised Land” and make it your own by faith. Now faith is always faith in something. Faith is not an entity that stands alone. Real Christian faith is faith in what God has accomplished and what God has said. Faith stands and falls on this precept. So, every time that you try to enter in by self-discipline, self-effort, or your own initiative, but not by faith, you will fail. But every time that you venture even a baby toe into the Jordan by faith, God will give you success. This is the “law” of reward and consequences. This long process (longer for some than others) is supposed to teach you that the only way to enter into the “Promised Land” that God has already purchased for you is by faith and faith alone. This is how you enter into your inheritance in Christ, and this is how you keep it. Here are four things you can do that will help you on your way:

  • First, immerse yourself in the Word of God continually. God’s Word is pregnant with power to transform you and give you spiritual insight beyond human understanding. If you are born again, God has already given you the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Immersing yourself in God’s Word will enable His Son’s attitudes and thoughts to become yours.
  • Second, seek God in prayer constantly for His divine revelation. This is a prayer that delights the heart of God because it is aligned perfectly with His will. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).” If your heart’s desire is to know Him, He will gladly give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32).
  • Third, wait. God is in charge of your growth in the kingdom and His timing is perfect. Sit at the Lord’s feet listening to His word like Mary (Luke 10:39), and trust that He will give you the insight you need at the right time, for He is the author and finisher of your faith.
  • Fourth, surround yourself with people who have real faith. Do you know any? There are relatively few. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst (Matthew 18:20).” If all you can find is one or two others, that is enough. The Bible says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend (Proverbs 27:17).” It would be better to have one or two quality friends of faith than have hundreds who are living to fulfill their soul-lives religiously and have no true interest in knowing and obeying Jesus. Remember Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness (Matthew 7:21-23).’” You cannot be yoked together with “unbelieving believers” and be constantly influenced by them and then expect to enter into your inheritance with Christ. Why? Because Satan has blinded the minds of the unbelieving and as long as you are under their influence, teaching and carnal insight, you will not only lose sight of your inheritance in Christ, you may never realize it is there in the first place. Your ears will be filled with teachings that “tickle them” (2 Timothy 4:3), and you will be caught up with religious worldliness, which is really lawlessness. When Paul told Timothy to flee temptation, he wasn’t only talking about immorality. He was also talking about turning away from fellowship with “unbelieving believers” who have “a form of godliness, although they have denied its power (2 Timothy 3:5).” The Bible says, “Have nothing to do with them.” As the apostle Paul said, “What fellowship can light have with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14)?”

Until you are willing to lose everything for Christ, He will not let you find Him. He does not reveal Himself to anyone who is insincere. The Bible says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matthew 5:8)” and “the intimate communion of the Lord is reserved for those who fear Him (Psalm 25:14).” If you have the heart of “the Bride” in you, you will increasingly find His fellowship irresistible, compelling and well worth giving up everything you own, everything you are and everything you might have had just to catch even a glimpse of the train of His robe as it fills the temple! (Isaiah 6:1). This is why everyone who sees the Lord in heaven cries, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” because He is beauty personified. As King David testified, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple (Psalm 27:4).”


Q. 29 What did the apostle Paul mean when he said he wanted to be conformed to Christ’s death (Philippians 3:10) when he already had said he was crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20)?

A. These two statements by Paul express the difference between our salvation and our sanctification. At the time of our salvation, we died with Christ (Romans 6:8) and our sinful nature was crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6). This is a divine fact that all new Christians should immediately be taught when they are water baptized. There is nothing we can humanly do to crucify our sinful nature. Jesus Christ is God’s only Holy One (John 6:69); therefore, His death is the only Holy Death. That is why God spiritually included us in Christ’s death. What God requires of us now is to believe in His Son and what He has accomplished for us when He included us in His death.

It’s a common mistake for Christians to receive Christ by faith (salvation) but then try to spiritually grow in Christ (sanctification) by the best of their ability. This is an impossible mission doomed to defeat because we cannot save ourselves and we cannot sanctify ourselves; we can only present ourselves to God for sanctification. The way we grow in Christ is the same way we received Christ - by faith! We don’t just identify with Christ’s death only on the day we are water baptized. Instead, we must continually identify by faith with Christ’s death by “taking up our cross” – that implementation of death – everyday to lose our soul life for Christ’s sake (Luke 9:23-24). When we were born again of the Spirit, God spiritually included us in Christ’s death so that when Christ died, we died with Him and our sinful nature was removed from us (Romans 6:6). As we abide (remain united by faith) in Jesus Christ and what He accomplished on the cross through the power of His crucifixion, the power of His resurrection life will effectively work through us.

Just as there is only one Holy Death, there is only one Holy Life - Christ’s life. God has miraculously included us in His Son’s Holy Death and His Son’s Holy Life. “For if we have been united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:5).” Our joyful obligation is to always abide (remain united by faith) in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection (Romans 8:12-13). The authentic Christian life is one of expression not suppression. We do not try to live the Christian life by practicing willpower and suppressing sinful desires. Instead, we continually fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith and each day present ourselves to Him. As we abide by faith in the power of His crucifixion (the divine truth that when Christ died, we also died), God will cause the power of His Son’s resurrection life to be formed in us. Over time and by faith, God will - by the power of Christ’s death and resurrection in us - transform and convert our soul (our will, mind and personality) to reflect and express the image of Christ. When we lose our soul life for Christ, we will find our soul in Christ. We will exchange our attitudes, affections and abilities for Christ’s attitudes, affections and abilities.

To sum up, our sinful nature has already been crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6); and as we now abide in Him, our soul will be conformed into the image of Christ’s death (Philippians 3:10) so that we might express the image of Christ’s life (Romans 8:29). For without death, there can be no resurrection life. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24).” Paul knew this and, wanting to be conformed to Christ’s death, he knew that he would then be filled with Christ’s life so that he could help bring many other brethren into their divine inheritance of salvation and sanctification in Christ.

Q. 30 Is the apostle Paul’s gospel different than the other apostles’ gospel?

A. Paul’s gospel is not different than the other apostles’ gospel, but it more clearly reveals and explains the full meaning of the good news of the cross. Paul described the basic gospel that he preached as follows: “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which you also are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised up on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).” This basic gospel message can be summed up as the good news that Christ died for our sins, which is the same gospel that Peter and the other apostles preached.

However, Paul also personally received divine revelation from Jesus Christ that gave him greater insight into the fuller meaning and provision of Christ’s death on the cross. In this regard, Paul wrote, “I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-13).” What is this fuller gospel message that Jesus commissioned Paul to preach? It is the gospel that Jesus Christ not only bore our sins on the cross with Him; He also bore our sin nature on the cross with Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). In particular, Paul revealed that God used the death of His only Son to put to death our sinful nature and remove it from us. “Do you not know that all of us who have been immersed into Christ Jesus have been immersed into His death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him through immersion into death... for we know that our old man was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin (our sinful nature) might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died has been freed from sin (Romans 6:3-4, 6-7; see also Colossians 2:11-12).” Consequently, Paul preached not only that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8); he also preached that we died with Christ (Romans 6:8)!

Paul’s gospel reveals the divine truth that God removed our sinful nature through His Son’s death on the cross so that His resurrected Son would now indwell us. Paul testified, “God… was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him (Galatians 1:15-16).” And Paul wrote to fellow believers, “Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? (2 Corinthians 13:5; see also Colossians 1:27).” This was the gospel that Paul preached and this was his personal testimony: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).” Paul’s gospel unfolds the glorious truth of the cross that Christ not only died for our sins; we also died with Him in order that He might now sovereignly live through us. Paul’s gospel also revealed the divine truth that the church is the body of Christ. Once again, this truth is a further unfolding of the mystery of the cross of Christ. Just before His death, Jesus told His disciples, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:23-24).” Jesus spoke here of His impending death on the cross from which the church would be birthed. Paul taught, ”We have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the death through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection. (Romans 6:4-5).” In other words, Christ’s death on the cross provided the divine means for us to be born again of the Spirit. For when we were born again, God spiritually immersed us in Christ’s death and resurrection. Therefore when Christ died, our sinful nature died with Him and when Christ was raised from the dead, we were also raised from the dead to live in Christ and He in us. And since Christ lives in each of us, together we make up His body here on earth (1 Corinthians 12:12). The revelation that the church is the living body of Christ may not seem new to us today but in first century church, Paul was the first apostle to proclaim this divine truth and explain it. When Paul shared this gospel that he had received from Jesus Christ with Peter and the other apostles, they concurred with it and gave him their blessing to preach his gospel to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:1-9). Indeed, in his own epistle to the churches, Peter stated that he believed Paul’s gospel teaching was the wisdom of God (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Clearly, the gospel Paul preached gives us greater revelation and essential understanding on what Jesus Christ has accomplished for us on the cross. For Jesus not only died to free us from the penalty of our sins; He also died to free us from the power of our sin nature so that we might be indwelt by His Spirit and be His body, His church, here on earth. As a chained prisoner in Roman judicial custody, Paul himself described his apostolic commission to King Agrippa. Paul testified that Jesus personally appeared to him in a vision and told him, “I am sending you to open their eyes so they (the Gentiles) may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me. So, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to this heavenly vision (Acts 26:17-19).” Therefore, Paul’s divine mission was not only to bring God’s elect into justification by faith but to also bring them into sanctification by faith, without which no one can know the Lord and receive their inheritance in Christ. In closing, the basic gospel can be summarized as “Christ died for us,” whereas Paul’s gospel message expands on this and can be summarized as “Christ died for us and included us in His death so that He might sovereignly live through us, his body and church.” This is the same gospel that we preach.

Q. 31 What did Jesus mean when He said we must “bear our own cross?”

A. Jesus Christ bore our sins on His cross but He also said we must bear our own cross. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow Me, cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:27).” What does this mean? As we present ourselves to God daily (Romans 12:1), the Holy Spirit begins to reveal that our Lord’s cross, which was the implement of His death, must now to become the implement of our own death. Therefore the cross is not just His; it must by faith become ours. This is how we “work out our salvation” and prove we are His disciples (Philippians 2:12). But what is it that dies? If we allow it, it is the unrenewed mind and self-governing and unconverted soul that dies to its own sovereignty and embraces submission at the feet of Jesus. “Every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).”

Some Christians mistakenly believe that they still have a sinful nature indwelling them. They believe that through their own self-discipline, this sinful nature can be “put to death.” This is not only prideful and untrue; it is vanity and impossible. God knew that we could not crucify ourselves or put our sinful nature to death. Therefore, He accomplished this death of our sinful nature for us all through the body of His Son (2 Corinthians 5:14). A dramatic spiritual breakthrough occurs in our life when God reveals to us that He dealt a death-blow to our sinful nature when we were born again. We will then understand that we do not have to crucify the sinful nature because it has already been crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:3). God not only crucified our sinful nature with Christ on the cross, He removed it when we received the risen Christ into our hearts (Colossians 2:11-12). This is the divinely powerful work that only God could accomplish. By faith in God’s Word, we can now count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). When we understand that our sinful nature has died with Christ and was buried (removed) with Christ (Romans 6:3-6), we will recognize the futility of trying to put to death a sinful nature that is no longer within us! We will not try to overcome sin by our willpower and self-discipline, but by faith in what Christ accomplished on the cross (Galatians 3:3). In Christ, we do not practice self-crucifixion; we identify with the work of His cross by faith and make it our own.

When we were born again, our spirit and Christ’s Spirit were joined together in union (Romans 7:4; 1 Corinthians 6:17). However, our soul (our individual personality - our will, intellect and emotions) was not instantly transformed into Christ’s image nor did it automatically come under Christ’s Sovereignty. Since Christ’s death on the cross has already dealt with our sinful nature, we do not have to put it to death every day over and over again. However, we now have the obligation and privilege as Christ’s disciples to carry our own cross and “put to death” our old sinful way of thinking (the unrenewed mind or unconverted soul). This is what it means to “carry our own cross.” God knew that our willpower would never be strong enough to overcome the world, the flesh, the devil and the overwhelming power of sin. This is why the precious Lamb of God had to die in our place for us. We could not deliver ourselves from sin’s power! In the same way, we cannot deliver ourselves from the unconverted soul-life, which is lawlessly in the habit of practicing self-sovereignty. This death to our unconverted soul-life can only be a divine work of the Spirit, as we present ourselves to God by faith in His Word (Romans 1:17; 12:2).

Although most Bible translations confusingly use the term “flesh” for both the sinful nature and the unconverted soul (the unrenewed mind), there is a crucial difference. Our unrenewed mind is not like the sinful nature, which was a powerful entity - a “sin factory” within us that continuously produced sinful attitudes and actions and, therefore, had to be destroyed by Christ’s death on the cross. Now that we no longer have a sinful nature, our unrenewed mind can be transformed and submitted to Christ’s sovereignty by believing the Word of God. We are now able by faith to put to death (and rid ourselves of) the carnal mindset of our unconverted soul and put on the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:26). By faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross, we are able to exchange our carnal attitudes and affections for Christ’s attitudes and affections. This is what the apostle Paul called “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).” Paul taught, “If you are living according to the flesh (the unconverted soul-life), you will die; but if by the Spirit, you are putting to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live… and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the will of God… now all those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death on the cross the flesh (the unconverted soul-life) with its passions and desires (Romans 8:13; 12:2; Galatians 5:24).” If we love Christ Jesus and the body of Christ, this is how we carry our cross and this is how we lay down our soul-life for the sake of our fellow brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16).

There is a cost to following Jesus Christ! The Bible calls it “sanctification.” This is what Jesus meant when He said the cost of discipleship was “carrying our own cross.” He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his soul-life will lose it, but whoever loses his soul-life for My sake, he is the one who will save it (Luke 9:23-24).” When we take up this cross of discipleship, the process of sanctification begins. This is our cooperation by faith with the daily inworking of Christ’s death in our unconverted soul-life. This is the essential basis and prerequisite for us to have intimate fellowship with Christ and His sufferings. Then, we can know Him and live in the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10). If we want to follow Jesus Christ in discipleship and carry our own cross, we must be prepared to suffer in our soul-life. Our flesh (the Greek word is sarx, which in this Scriptural context means body and soul) will suffer the grief and pain of the loss of self-sovereignty and self-identity as we yield our soul-life to Christ in sanctification. “Since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh (body and soul) has ceased from sin so as to live no longer for the lusts of men but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).” When we bear our cross daily, God uses the inward revelation of His Word and the external pressure of His trials to “put to death” our carnal attitudes and affections and conform our soul-life to Christ’s image. This is what the apostle Paul called “being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:10).” It is important to remember that this inworking of Christ’s suffering and death in our soul-life is only possible because Jesus Christ has already obtained the victory over sin by His sacrificial death on the cross. As a result of His death on the cross, our sins have been forgiven and our sinful nature has been removed from us. However, Jesus Christ not only died in our place; He now wants to sovereignly live in our place (Galatians 2:20). If we believe the truth that we no longer have a sinful nature and that we are now a holy new person in Christ (Christ now lives in us), this truth will set us free!

God created the human soul. Therefore, He does not want to destroy it nor does He want us to vainly try to suppress it or eradicate it. God wants to restore our soul to its original, eternal purpose. The work of the cross will not annihilate our soul; we will still possess our soul and its faculties, just as we still possess our physical body with its faculties. But when the mark of the cross is imprinted on our soul, we will no longer independently assert ourselves. Instead, we will be transformed as yielded, obedient and useful vessels for God’s use (2 Timothy 2:21). And like Jesus Himself was submitted to the Father, we will be able to say, “I can do nothing on my own initiative (John 5:19 & 30).” As we learn to carry our cross daily, we will increasingly experience and express the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection life. Paul testified, “We always carry about in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body (2 Corinthians 4:10).” Therefore, the way of the cross is the only way of fruitfulness in Christ! Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat fall into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his soul-life loses it, and he who hates his soul-life in this world will keep it to life eternal (John 12:24-25).” To those who know it, the way of the cross is a precious path that leads us into a more and more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. We learn the truth in Christ and He sets us free from sin’s stranglehold on our minds (John 8:32-36). As our mind becomes increasingly harmonized with the truth, Jesus reveals to us the beautiful, divine mystery and communion of knowing Him intimately.

If you are a serious follower (disciple) of Jesus Christ, then the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross and what it means for you to carry your own cross is vitally important for you to understand. The Book of Romans, for example, contains far more than the basic salvation message; it reveals the full meaning and application of Christ’s death on the cross (see Romans Chapter 5-8). This full meaning of the cross of Christ is a central, foundational doctrine of Christianity and understanding its significance is crucial to not only your salvation but your sanctification. Knowing and acting on the truth of the cross has eternal consequences because without sanctification no one will receive their spiritual inheritance in Christ (Acts 26:18) and without sanctification no one will see and know the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:14). Yet, tragically, most professing Christians are woefully ignorant of what it means to carry their own cross. Even more grievous, there are imposters in the church who brazenly claim to be teachers of the cross when they themselves live as enemies of the cross of Christ. This is why it is essential that every true believer in Christ diligently seek God for divine revelation on what His Son fully accomplished on the cross and what it really means to carry your own cross. Jesus said, “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his soul-life will lose it, and whoever loses his soul-life for My sake will find it (Matthew 10:38-39).” This is the truth that must be understood. This is the truth that must be lived if we are to fulfill our divine destiny for which Christ died.

Q. 32 What did Jesus mean when He said we must “lose our soul-life?”

A. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his soul-life (psyche) will lose it, but whoever loses his soul-life (psyche) for My sake, he is the one who will find it (Luke 9:23-24).” Our soul is our individual personality and consists of our will, intellect and emotions. The English word, psychology, is derived from the Greek word psych and means the study of the soul or self. God made each of us with a unique soul and individual personality. The issue, however, is one of ownership. Will you remain captive and governed by your unrenewed, natural temperament or will your natural temperament and inclinations be governed by the Holy Spirit? True Christianity is not natural; it is spiritual. Jesus did not die on the cross so that His people would remain governed by their natural instincts and desires and just do whatever comes naturally to them. Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit… it is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh has no spiritual value (John 3:6; 6:63).”

Just as we were born again of the Spirit, we must now live by the Spirit and not according to our natural temperament. “So I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh (the unconverted and unsubmitted soul). For the flesh (unsubmitted soul) sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh (unsubmitted soul); for these are in conflict with one another (Galatians 5:16-17; see also 6:7-8).” If you remain controlled by your natural temperament and desires and you are not governed by the Holy Spirit, you will be of no use to God and His kingdom. However, if your soul-life (your attitudes and affections) is submitted to Christ’s Sovereignty, then God can transform your soul (your individual personality) by His Holy Spirit so that you become His sanctified and useful vessel. As the Holy Spirit increasingly governs your soul, any carnal character traits such as arrogance, anger, lust, laziness, lying, gossiping and fearfulness will increasingly disappear. As your soul-life becomes progressively transformed and conformed into Christ’s image, you will increasingly experience more intimate fellowship with God the Father and His Son.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his soul-life (pysche) for his friends (John 15:13). We know that we should give up our physical life for Christ’s sake; however, in this passage Jesus is saying that we must also lay down our soul-life (psyche) on a daily basis if we want to love the brethren. We must exchange our soul-life (our natural affections, attitudes and abilities) for Christ’s affections, attitudes and abilities (Matthew 16:23-25; Colossians 3:1-3). When we practice laying down our soul-life out of love for Jesus Christ in this manner, we demonstrate by our actions that we love the body of Christ. The Bible says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life (psyche/soul-life) for us and we ought to lay down our lives (psychikos/soulish-lives) for our brothers (1 John 3:16).”

It is absolutely essential that you know your sinful nature has died with Christ and been removed in Christ (Romans 6:6; Colossians 2:11) before you try to lay down your soul-life. Why? Because it is impossible to lay down your soul-life without faith, and your faith must be based on Biblical truth to be real and effective. When you know (believe and act on) the divine truth that your sinful nature has been crucified with Christ and is dead and gone, you will be freed from protecting and promoting your natural (soulish) self-identity and pursuing your natural desire for soulish self-fulfillment and self-ambition (Galatians 6:14). Then the power of Christ’s death can work in your soul-life (psyche) so that the power of His resurrection life (zoe) might be revealed through you to others (2 Corinthians 4:12).

A picture of this spiritual principle may be found in the parable of the light and the lampstand (Luke 11:33-36). Jesus Christ is the light that illumines the lamp – our spirit (John 1:9; 8:12: Proverbs 20:27). Our soul (our natural personality) is like the lampshade. If we do not allow the Holy Spirit to govern our soul-life, our unsubmitted and unbroken natural personality will obscure the light of Christ from clearly shining through us. Jesus said a light hidden under a basket cannot be seen. This is similar to a smoke-blackened lampshade and illustrates what happens when a born again Christian still has an unconverted, untransformed and lawless soul-life. However, a light with a clear lampshade (a person who has their soul governed and transformed by God) shines brightly and Christ can be clearly seen in them. Once we know (believe and act on) the divine truth that we have already died with Christ, God can cleanse and purify our soul by conforming us to His Son’s image. The Bible calls this process “sanctification.” “Now may the God of peace sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit, soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23).” The Bible says, “Pursue sanctification without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).” The more we allow God to purify and cleanse our soul (our lampshade) of spots and blemishes (carnal attitudes and affections) (Ephesians 5:27), the more the light of Christ within our spirit can be transparently seen through our individual personality. “If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays (Luke 11:36).” The consummation of this sanctification process in the body of Christ can be seen in the Book of Revelation. “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride for her husband… And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb (Revelation 21:2 & 23).”

Remember, it is God’s perfect design that each of us would have a vibrant, God-governed soul. He does not want to destroy or annihilate our soul (our natural personality) and He does not want us to try to suppress it or change it by our own willpower and self-effort. The Bible says Jesus Christ is the shepherd and guardian of our soul (1 Peter 2:25). Jesus wants to save our soul (James 1:21); heal our soul (Psalm 41:4); purify our soul (1 Peter 1:21); convert our soul (Psalm 19:7); transform our soul (Romans 12:2); and restore our soul (Psalm 23:3).

Jesus Christ died on the cross to deliver us from self-governance and bring rest to our soul. He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).” When we put on His yoke of discipleship, laying down our soul-life for His sake, we are free to give up the constant struggle to protect, fulfill and promote our soulish identity, which always leads our soul into a perpetual and grievous state of unrest. We are then capable of experiencing a transformed soul-life and identity found only in Christ, which brings us into God’s rest and freedom from sin’s domination. This is the divine exchange made possible by Christ’s death on the cross! “For you have died and your life is now hidden in Christ with God (Colossians 3:3).” This is the spiritual rest God promises to all those who believe and act on His word. “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it… for the one who has entered His rest has also ceased from his works, as God did from His. Therefore, let us be diligent to enter that rest (Hebrews 4:1, 10-11).”

If we present ourselves daily to Jesus Christ our Lord and King, His Sovereign Spirit will progressively permeate our entire being – starting in our spirit and extending to our soul and body. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened (Matthew 13:33).” When the Holy Spirit becomes Master of our soul, we will love God with all our spirit, soul and body (Deuteronomy 6:5; 10:12) bearing fruit for God (Romans 7:4). And our spirit, soul and body will be an entirely useful vessel to our Lord Jesus Christ for the work of His kingdom (2 Timothy 2:21). The work of the cross will have restored and transformed our soul to God’s original, eternal purpose – that we might know Him and serve Him – forever and ever!

Q. 33 How can the church fulfill God’s eternal purpose?

A. There is only one answer to this question: the church must abide in (remain connected to) her head, Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:19). But what does this mean? Some have thought that returning to New Testament church principles and practices would enable the church to express the purity and power of Christ’s life in the same way as the first century church. While there is some merit to this, it is not the whole truth and God’s complete design or remedy. With this thought in mind, the New Testament records that the first century church was characterized by several recognizable features:

  • The first century church regularly met in believers’ homes and whenever the church grew too large to meet in one member’s home, they multiplied from house to house throughout their geographic locality (Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Acts 2:46; 5:42; 20:20);
  • The first century church experienced spiritual fellowship and shared close community life among its members (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-33; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 4:15-16; Philippians 2:1-5);
  • The first century church did not practice Old Testament tithing; it practiced giving and periodically took a collection to help those members of the body who were suffering and in need (Acts 4:34-35; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15);
  • The first century church had a vibrant, functioning priesthood of all believers who were gifted and equipped by the Holy Spirit to do the work of the ministry together and build up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 4:12; 1 Peter 2:5);
  • The first century church was led by mature brethren, called elders, who as servant-leaders were accountable to the chief shepherd Jesus Christ to provide oversight and pastoral care for God’s local flock (Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; 2 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4).

These are the basic features that formed the first century church. However, the church cannot fulfill her divine destiny and God’s eternal purpose by simply adhering to a “New Testament form” and hope to have Christ’s life. No, there is far more required: the church must, both as individuals and as a body, abide in Christ. But how do we individually abide in Christ and how can the church corporately abide in Christ?

First, let us look at what it means for us to abide in Christ as individual members of the body of Christ. Jesus Christ said, “Abide in Me and I in you.” This is both a command and a promise. If you abide in Christ, He will abide in you. The Greek word for abide is meno, which means “to actively dwell in.” This can also be expressed as “stay rooted in” or “remain united or connected to.” As with all of God’s promises, this one is also conditional upon the obedience of our faith. If you stay united to Christ by faith, He will remain united to you and you will bear spiritual fruit. However, if you do not stay rooted in Christ by faith, you will not bear spiritual fruit. It is vital that we stay rooted in Christ because we have no spiritual life in ourselves apart from Christ. And without His life we cannot bear His fruit. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves (John 6:53).

In order to abide in Christ, we must abide by faith in the truth of His word. If our faith is not rooted in Biblical truth, it will not bear true, life-giving fruit. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).” The apostle Paul said the cornerstone of truth for the church is Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2). Therefore, in order to be able to abide in Christ, it is essential that we understand the full provision of Christ’s death on the cross. All Christians know that Christ died for their sins (Romans 5:8); however, many believers do not know that their sinful nature died with Christ and was completely removed from them when they were born again (Romans 6:6-8; Colossians 2:11). Knowing this truth is vital if you want to abide (stay rooted) in Christ. Why is this? Because God knew we not only needed forgiveness from the penalty of our sins; we also needed deliverance from the power of sin in order to stop practicing lawlessness. We cannot hope to abide in Christ if we continue to practice sin (1 John 3:6). To abide in Christ requires our repentance (turning away) from lawless thinking and behavior. Christ died to make this possible for everyone who believes the truth of the gospel. Therefore, when Christ died, He not only bore our sins on the cross, He also bore our sinful nature on the cross with Him (1 Corinthians 5:21). Consequently, when Christ was crucified, our sinful nature was crucified with Him and buried with Him (Romans 6:6). And since our sinful nature is dead and gone, we have been freed from the power of sin (Romans 6:7). Once again, believing and acting on this divine fact of Christ’s crucifixion is the essential, foundational truth that enables us to abide in Christ. This is also the spiritual lesson that God wants every new believer to learn when they are baptized (buried) into the watery “grave” and emerge as a new person in Christ (Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

In the Scriptures, Jesus Christ inseparably links abiding in Him with carrying our own cross (Matthew 16:24: Mark 10:34). Christ bore our sins on His cross, but He also said we must carry our own cross. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow Me, cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:27).” What does it mean to carry our own cross? The cross of Christ, which was the implement of His death, must now become the implement of our own death (the death of our self-willed, self-governed soul-life). Therefore the cross is not just His; it must by faith become ours. Jesus said that we carry our own cross when we lose our soul-life for His sake. “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his soul-life will lose it, and whoever loses his soul-life for My sake will find it (Matthew 10:38-39).” Our soul-life (the Greek word is psyche, from which we get the English word psychology) is our individual personality and comprises our will, intellect and emotions. Does this mean that God wants to destroy our soul? Of course not! Then what does it mean to lose our soul-life? It means God wants our soul to be governed by the Holy Spirit as we lay down (turn away from) all attitudes and thoughts that originate from our unrenewed mind (the unconverted and unsubmitted soul-life). The apostle Paul taught, “If you are living according to the flesh (the unsubmitted soul-life), you will die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God… now those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death on the cross the flesh (the unsubmitted soul-life) with its passions and desires (Romans 8:13-14; Galatians 5:24).’’ If we belong to the body of Christ and we are led by the Spirit,we will put to death by the Spiritour unsubmitted and unconverted soul-life for Christ’s sake and our brethren’s sake (John 15:13; 1 John 3:16).

How do we “put to death” our unconverted soul-life? First and foremost, we believe the divine truth that God has exchanged our sinful nature with Christ’s nature to the point that we act on this truth each day. We then present ourselves daily as a living and holy sacrifice to God and immerse ourselves in the truth of His Word. The Holy Spirit then renews and transforms our mind so that we are able (by faith) to “put off” our soulish attitudes and thoughts and “put on” the mind of Christ and His attitudes and thoughts (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 2:16; Ephesians 4:22-24). In this way, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).” The apostle Paul taught, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is (Romans 12:20).” The Bible calls this ministry of the Holy Spirit (to transform our soul into Christ’s image) the work of “sanctification” (Romans 8:29; Philippians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).

Now let us see how we can apply this truth of the cross of Christ to our life together as the church, Christ’s body. Since the body consists of many members, as each member individually abides (stays rooted by faith) in Christ, the church will then corporately abide in Christ as one body (1 Corinthians 12:12). As the members of the body lay down their soul-life out of love for Christ and one another, God will cause His spiritual growth in the church and together as one body we will bear much fruit (Mark 14:26-29; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7). When we are planted, both individually and corporately, in the whole truth of the cross of Christ and abide in Him, we will be like a branch that bears much fruit as it abides in the vine (John 15:1-8). We will experience community (koinonia) resurrection life together as the living body of Christ instead of organizational or institutional life, which is really no life at all. “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection… now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him (Romans 6:5 & 8).” Jesus said, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples… you did not choose Me but I choose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain (John 15:8 & 16).” However, if we have not been individually and corporately planted in the truth of the cross, we have no other alternative than to try to live and function together as the body of Christ by the best of our natural ability or soulish (psychikos) understanding and strength. We will then mistake our soulish enthusiasm for faith and our soulish energy for Christ’s life (Galatians 3:3). If this persists, it is tragic and of grave concern. Jesus said, “Every plant that My heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted (Matthew 15:13).” Consequently, the church will only corporately fulfill God’s eternal purpose and bear the fruit of Christ’s life if she abides (stays rooted by faith) in the truth of Christ’s death and submits to His headship and authority. “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, firmly rooted and built up in Him (Colossians 2:6-7).”

Paul instructed everyone who desires to build the house of God, His church, to be careful to build only on the foundation of Jesus Christ and His crucifixion; or else whatever they build will not stand the test of fire (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2; 3:9-15). It has been insightfully said, “In God’s service, what matters most is the man; not the methods. Unless the man is right, right methods will be of no use to him or his work; for carnal men to use spiritual methods will only result in failure... the real danger to the work of God is our soul-life and natural energy, untamed and uncontrolled by the Holy Spirit.” Building the church according to a New Testament pattern only works if we spiritually understand and practically apply the cross of Christ in our lives. Ultimately, it is not New Testament principles and methods that matter; it is whether the work of the cross has accomplished its divine purpose in us. Otherwise, we will only produce soulish converts and soulish churches. “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain (Psalm 127:1).” Therefore, all of us who aspire to build the Lord’s house, His church, should ask ourselves: “By faith in the cross of Christ, am I putting to death my unsubmitted soul-life and its carnal bent toward self-initiative, self-reliance, self-gratification, self-fulfillment and self-ambition in order that I might serve Christ and His church by the spirit and not by the flesh?” This was Paul’s own personal example and testimony: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).” We can do no less. Indeed, this is the only way the church can be planted to bear the fruit of God’s eternal purpose. Therefore, let all those who truly love our Lord Jesus Christ kiss His cross, the implement of death for our own soul-life, and carry our cross every day, knowing that when we are conformed to His death, His life will manifest through us, both individually and corporately, as the church of the living God (2 Corinthians 4:10; Philippians 3:10).

Q. 34 I thought I was already holy in God’s eyes because of Jesus’ Atonement. Then why is practicing holiness important to me?

A. Above all, God is holy. “I the Lord your God am holy (Leviticus 19:2).” “There is no one holy like the Lord (1 Samuel 2:2).” “God is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).” And because God is holy, He also requires that we be holy if we want to know Him and fellowship with Him. From a Biblical perspective, holy means pure – separated from sin and separated to God. The Bible says, “Beloved, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).” When we were born again, God exchanged our sinful nature with Christ’s holy nature (Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20). Whereas we were once sinners by nature; we are now saints (holy ones) and members of God’s family because we have Christ’s holy nature. “Both He (Jesus Christ) who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers (Hebrews 2:11).”

God not only made us holy when we were saved (1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 4:24), He also calls every Christian from out of this world to live a holy life after they are saved (1 Thessalonians 4:7). The Bible says, “God… has saved us and called us to a holy life (2 Timothy 1:9).” For a Christian, there are no exceptions to God’s call. The apostle Peter declared, “Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy for I am Holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).’” The apostle Paul prayed, “May He establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father Himself at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and His saints (holy ones)… now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 3:13; 5:23).” The English word “church” is derived from the Greek word kuriakos, which means “to belong to the Lord.” In the New Testament, however, the word “church” is actually translated from the Greek word ekklesia, which means assembly or congregation (Matthew 16:18) and whose root meaning is “called out from.” Based on the Greek words kuriakos and ekklesia, the church consists of all people who belong to the Lord and have been called out from the world. “’Therefore come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord, ‘And do not touch what is unclean; and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you and you will be sons and daughters to Me,’ say the Lord Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:17-18).” Consequently, we might say that God has set a “double seal” on every son and daughter who belongs to Him. The first seal is His indwelling Holy Spirit, which confirms our salvation (Ephesians 1:13). This was made possible through Christ’s death on the cross, by which God removed our sinful nature and replaced it with His Son’s holy nature. The second seal is the evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit manifest in our conduct, which confirms our faith. The Bible says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead (James 2:26),” and “The firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness (2 Timothy 2:19).’” Jesus said, ‘You shall know them by their fruit.” He did not say, “You shall know them by their gifts and ministries.” Anyone who does not have this double seal of the Holy Spirit upon them does not belong to God. “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you His Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8).”

It is a grievous and tragic mistake to think that because our spirit was made righteous and holy when we were born again, we can now live as though our conduct was of no consequence. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it (Romans 6:1-2)?” It is a lie to think that when we are practicing sin, God can only see Christ living in us because of His blood that was shed for us. Our sins are only forgiven and wiped clean from God’s sight if we confess and repent (turn away) from the darkness of practicing sin and turn to God and walk in His Light. “If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light… the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin… if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7 & 9).” Note: There is a great difference between a Christian who is practicing holiness by faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross yet still occasionally sins compared to one who is in the habit of practicing sin and is, therefore, compromised by sin. The former has overcome the sin of the world by faith (1 John 5:4), whereas the latter is ensnared by the sin of the world “for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved (2 Peter 2:19).”

God’s Holy Word commands us to “pursue holiness for without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).” God does not command us to practice holiness merely for holiness’ sake. He wants us to practice holiness in order that we might see Him and intimately know Him. Our holy obedience to Jesus Christ is God’s “love language.” Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love Me, does not obey My teaching (John 14:23-24).” The apostle John said no one who abides in Christ can continue to practice sin. “No who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him (1 John 3:6).” Jesus Christ said anyone who claims to be a Christian but continues to practice sin will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21-23). Jesus said that any Christian who continues to practice sin will have their name erased from the Book of Life (Revelation 3:4-5). The apostle Paul said we are the temple of the Holy Spirit but if we destroy the temple (by practicing sin) then God will destroy us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). The Bible says the way into God’s city, the new Jerusalem, is by the highway of holiness (Isaiah 35:8). There is no other way that we can enter the gates of the kingdom of heaven. “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life (Romans 6:22).”

If we understand these Scriptures, they should give us the fear of God to want to stop practicing sin (Proverbs 8:13). But even with such a godly fear, how can we cease from practicing sin and perfect holiness in our lives? A zealous desire to be holy is not enough. Far too many Christians have pursued holiness and tried to perfect themselves by applying their own zeal and strength (Galatians 3:3). This is not true Christianity. Trying to be holy by our own willpower and self-effort nullifies the cross of Christ and will eventually burn out every honest disciple of Christ. This kind of man-made religious “morality” apart from Christ’s Sovereignty is a bastard holiness, the offspring of flesh (man’s strength) and not born of the Spirit and by faith in the power of the cross of Christ. Everyone who is a true disciple must repent from the sin of practicing carnal religious morality, the root of which is unbelief in Jesus Christ and His completed work on the cross and the fruit of which inward lawlessness and death. If we persist in practicing this kind of counterfeit morality that masquerades for Christianity, it is not harmless; it is hypocritical and hostile to God. But here is the dilemma: if we do not preach holiness, we are not preaching the whole counsel of God. On the other hand, if we preach holiness without telling God’s people how they can practice holiness, we also are not preaching the whole counsel of God. In fact, we inflict “cruel and unusual punishment” on God’s people whenever we preach holiness to them but then do not also tell them how Christ’s death on the cross has delivered them from the power of sin and enabled them to live a holy life. The apostle Paul rhetorically asked, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death (this sinful nature) (Romans 7:24)?” And Paul then gives us the divine answer: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25).”

Jesus Christ is not only the author of our faith; He is the perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). When we were saved, God made us holy because of our faith in His Son and His Atonement (Christ died for us/Romans 5:8). In the same way, God enables us to now live a holy life by our faith in His Son and His Atonement (we died with Christ/Romans 6:8). The Bible says that Christ not only died for us, we died with Christ! When we were born again of the Holy Spirit, our sinful nature was crucified with Christ. God destroyed and removed our sinful nature, which compelled us to sin (Romans 6:6). Since our sinful nature is dead and gone, we have been freed from the power of sin (Romans 6:7). How then do we live a holy life? By faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross! Just as we know (and act by faith) that our sins have been forgiven, we can know (and act by faith) that our sinful nature is dead and removed. It would have been a pitiful salvation if Christ’s death only provided us forgiveness of sins and still left us powerless to overcome sin in this world, where we need it most. But God knew we needed not only deliverance from the penalty of our sins; we also needed deliverance from the power of sin. Therefore, just as we can count ourselves forgiven for our sins because of Christ’s death on the cross, in the same way, we can count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). Consequently, the whole message of the cross of Christ can be summarized as this: Christ died for us and included us in His death so that He might sovereignly live in us. When we abide (stay rooted by faith) in the truth that we are united with Christ in His death and His resurrection, we will bear the fruit of holiness (John 15:1-5). We are incapable in ourselves of being holy; only Jesus Christ, the Holy One who lives in us, can do God’s holy work of transformation within us. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good pleasure (Philippines 2:13).”

God intends that our salvation will lead to sanctification and the practice of holiness so that we might know Him. Our salvation is only the beginning and not the end of God’s purpose. At the consummation of this age, our Lord Jesus Christ will “present to Himself a glorious church, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27).” Therefore, we were made holy when we were born again of the Holy Spirit - a salvation made possible by Christ’s death on the cross. The Bible says, “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all (Hebrews 10:10).” And we are also now being made holy through the renewing of our minds by the Holy Spirit - a sanctification also made possible by Christ’s death on the cross. “Because by one sacrifice He has perfected for all time those who are being made holy (Hebrews 10:14).” After we are saved, we work out our salvation by presenting ourselves each day as a living and holy sacrifice to God so that He might perfect Christ’s holiness in us (Romans 12:1-2). “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just like He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:2-3).”

Q. 35What does the “Spirit-filled life” mean and how do I live it?

A. The term, “the Spirit-filled life” is based on the Scripture in Ephesians 5:18 where the apostle Paul instructs believers to “be filled” with the Spirit. The New Testament Greek word to “be filled” is pleroo, a continuous action verb, which conveys the sense of “being continuously filled” with the Holy Spirit. Paul’s expectation was that all Christians should live the Spirit-filled life. But how can we live a life continuously full of the Holy Spirit? What is the key to this victorious Spirit-filled Christian life? Each year, a multitude of self-help books are marketed to the Christian community. Each one claims to have the right key to living in spiritual victory. Some claim that the key is doing more of the right things such as reading the Bible, fasting, praying, worshipping or witnessing. Others say that the key is having the right attitudes such as humility, forgiveness or thankfulness. And others claim that the key is being in the right kind of church. If changing our attitudes, actions or the church that we attend were the solution for spiritual victory, then our Christian lives should be even more victorious if we found the right church, read the Bible more, prayed more, worshipped more, and witnessed more. Of course, anyone who has been a Christian for a long time and has already tried many, if not all, of these so-called “keys” knows this is certainly not the case. Trying to change our thoughts and behavior or home church (although this may be necessary for other reasons) is not the solution and will never, in themselves, enable us to truly know Jesus Christ and walk in the fullness of His Spirit.

God’s answer for spiritual victory is not the changed life but the exchanged life. Jesus said that, apart from Him, we can do nothing that has spiritual life or value (John 6:53; 6:63). He also said that, unless we remain united in the Vine, we could bear no fruit. What did He mean by this? Living in the fullness of the Spirit means to trust that Christ has already done in us what we could not do for ourselves. We can only live the Spirit-filled life if we know (believe and act on) the truth of God’s divine exchange, which was made possible by Christ’s crucifixion. The term “divine exchange” describes what spiritually occurred when Jesus Christ died on the cross for us: when Christ died, He not only bore our sins on the cross, He also bore our sin nature on the cross (1 Corinthians 5:21). Christ’s divinely powerful and sacrificial act made it possible for God to exchange our sinful nature with His Son’s divine nature at the moment we believed and received Christ as our Lord and Savior (Romans 6:6). Knowing (believing and acting on) this Biblical truth that our sinful nature has been removed and that Christ now lives in us is the true secret to living the Spirit-filled Christian life and living united to the Vine, who is Christ (John 15:1-5; Colossians 1:27). This is the way we can bear real “fruit that lasts (John 15:16).”

Why is it so crucial to understand and believe this before someone can live the Spirit-filled life? Because until we are convinced that we have been crucified with Christ and that God has destroyed and removed our sinful nature when we were born again, we will be walking in misconceptions, ignorance and unbelief concerning the pivotal Biblical fact upon which the whole gospel is based. For example, if we do not know and believe the Biblical fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven – if we have never heard this fact or believed it – how can we be saved? “How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? (Romans 10:14).” In the same way, it is impossible to live the Spirit-filled life without hearing, believing and acting on the spiritual truth that we have (also through Christ’s death on the cross) been delivered from living the self-controlled life. As believers, we now have the ability by faith to live the Christ-controlled life. This was what Paul meant when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).” If we do not know or believe this Biblical, life-giving, emancipating fact of the gospel, we will forever remain fruitless and bound to earthly works of the soul, because walking in the Spirit and doing the work of the Spirit can only be done in response (by faith) to a Biblical fact. Simply said, the Spirit-filled life, like salvation, is a response by the sincere believer to have faith in what God has revealed in His Word. If we do not know and believe the fact that our sinful nature has died and been removed in Christ, our natural tendency will be to rely on our soul-power (our natural temperament and talent) to live the Christian life. This would not be a life of faith; it would be a life of “trying harder.” We would then be relegated to living a soul-fulfilled “Christian” life, but mistakenly calling it a Spirit-filled life. Of course, this really is not true Christianity. This ignorance and unbelief is not just harmless; it is, in fact, actually hostile to the Holy Spirit, since we would then be fulfilling our unconverted soul-life under the guise of “Christianity” instead of losing our soul-life for Christ’s sake.

We must mention one very important point before we continue: to be Spirit-filled means that you must give God sovereignty over your life. This may seem obvious, but it is a point that is often grossly overlooked and neglected. When a person “receives” Christ and becomes a “believer,” they must receive Him not only as Savior, but as Lord. What does this mean? It means that you turn over the mastery and control of your own life to the mastery and control of Christ. You then give Him the right to rule and reign over your life continuously. If you do not want Christ’s Lordship in your life in this way, then it will be impossible to be Spirit-filled, since these two are inseparably linked. Why do we even mention this? Because many today are trying to live the Christian life without coming under God’s sovereignty, and are governed by their unconverted soul-lives and trying to fulfill their “destiny” rather than coming under the Master’s hand. These are those of whom Christ will say, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness (Matthew 7:21-23).” Therefore, first and foremost there must be, in your desire to live a Spirit-filled life, a deep and lasting commitment to practicing the sovereignty of Christ. Without it, you will not be able to be genuinely “Spirit-filled.”

Many sincere Christians might be momentarily and spontaneously filled with the Holy Spirit when they engage in spiritual activities such as worshipping, reading the Bible, praying, exercising the spiritual gifts, etc. However, these brief periods of being filled with the Spirit are usually experience-based, event-focused and, unfortunately, short-lived. These passing experiences are far different than being firmly grounded and continually practicing the overcoming truth of Christ’s Atonement. This is why it is common for many Christians to repeatedly have to seek “spiritual” experiences that might give them periodic “heavenly” inspiration. Many Christians try to recapture those inspiring moments by going to Christian conferences and concerts to hear their favorite Christian speakers and musicians. However, these fleeting experiences cannot yield the dynamic spiritual transformation and lasting fruit that only being continuously filled with the Holy Spirit can produce. The only way we can be continuously full of the Spirit is to be full of faith in the truth of Jesus Christ (who He is and what He has done on the cross). Being filled with the Spirit does not depend on our transient feelings; it depends on continually practicing faithful obedience to Jesus Christ and His Word. Jesus said the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and anyone who worships God must worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24; 14:17). The Bible says if we walk in the light, as God Himself is light, we walk in the truth, but if we walk in the darkness, we do not walk in the truth (1 John 1:6-7; John 3:21). In other words, if we walk by faith in the truth of Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished on the cross, we will be filled with the Spirit (and be filled with light). If we do not walk by faith in this truth, we will not be filled with the Spirit (since we will be walking in darkness). “For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth (3 John 3-4).” Walking in the truth essentially means we are walking in sanctification and not practicing sin (1 John 3:6). Therefore, when we believe and act on the Biblical truth that we have been crucified with Christ and that our sinful nature is dead and gone, Christ’s Spirit will continuously fill us and accomplish God’s eternal, holy work through us (Romans 6:6; 1 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20).

In Ephesians Chapter Five, the apostle Paul instructs believers to “be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).” Then, in Chapter Six, he instructs them to “put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11).” These two spiritual exhortations are Scripturally linked, since we cannot be full of the Spirit unless we put on the full armor of God. Of the six items of divine armor that Paul describes, five are defensive and one is offensive. The first defensive armor on Paul’s list is the belt of truth to protect our loins. If we don’t know the full truth of the gospel of Christ, then our armor is incomplete and we are exposed to Satan in a most vulnerable way. If we do not know (believe and act on) the truth that we have been crucified with Christ and our sinful nature is dead and gone, the devil can easily deceive, defeat and devour us, making it impossible to bear the spiritual fruit of sanctification. We need to be established in the whole truth of the gospel (Christ died for us and included us in His death so He might sovereignly live in us). This is why the belt of God’s truth is the first piece of our protective spiritual armor that enables us to overcome the sin of the world. Paul lists only one item of offensive armor - the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Once again, we need to know the whole truth of God’s Word concerning Christ’s triumph on the cross (Christ disarmed Satan by completely replacing our sinful nature with His holy nature; therefore sin has no longer has any power over us and the devil no longer has any foothold in us). If we do not know (believe and act on) this Biblical fact of the gospel, we will not be empowered to overcome the enemy. As we can see from Paul’s teaching on the armor of God, it is not enough to experience “momentary” fillings of the Spirit. These fleeting experiences are not enough to spiritually equip us to steadfastly resist the devil and live the overcoming Spirit-filled life, with its attendant hardship, persecution and suffering. “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with this purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin (1 Peter 4:1).” We must know how to put on the full armor of God so that we can walk in the fullness of the Spirit. Only when we stand firm by faith in Christ’s triumphant work on the cross will we be continually filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. “And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52).”

To sum up, the “Spirit-filled life” is a life of sanctification. The Bible says, “Pursue… sanctification without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).” Bearing fruit by living the sanctified, Spirit-filled life is not an option. Any so-called “believer” who does not learn to walk by faith in sanctification (being continuously filled with the Holy Spirit) will not “see the Lord.” Jesus said, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away…if anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up, and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned (John 15:2&6). Jesus also said we prove we are His disciples by bearing fruit (John 15:8). It is clear from these Scriptures and many others that practicing lawlessness (Matthew 7:21-23) instead of being continuously filled with the Spirit and practicing “the obedience of the faith (Romans 1:5; 16:26)” eventually results in eternal spiritual death and separation from the Lord, even if someone has at one time been “born again.”

It is absolutely essential, therefore, to understand what it means to be Spirit-filled, and even more importantly, how Jesus’ death on the cross has enabled us to live a life of sanctification. This is the true key to living the overcoming, victorious, Spirit-filled Christian life.

Q. 36 Is this the same teaching that some Christians call “union life?”

A. We are not exactly sure what the “union life” teaching is that you are referring to. However, during the 1980s, there was a certain teaching introduced into the body of Christ, which was called “union life.” That particular “union life” teaching, which appealed to many Christians, was supposed to be based on Colossians 1:27 – “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” but there was something crucial missing in it. We first heard about this “union life” teaching from a Christian married couple who were friends of ours and whom we had known since we had all been saved in the early 1970s. They were zealous to serve the Lord and, after receiving ministerial training, the husband became a pastor. However, they both eventually became burnt-out from the stress of ministry and from earnestly trying to be good Christians. They then seemed elated and relieved to find this “union life” teaching, which emphasized that Christ lived in you. They believed that all you needed to do was rest in the fact that Christ lived in you and God would do everything else. Many other Christians who had suffered burn-out from serving in ministry and from trying to be “holy” also embraced this “union life” teaching. Unfortunately, this teaching was based on the false assumption that if you just “believed” that Christ lived in you, then you did not have to be concerned about your spiritual condition because that was God’s responsibility not yours. As a result, many burn-out Christians mistakenly thought that as long as they just “rested” in Christ, God would take care of their spiritual growth without any “labor of faith” required on their part. However, this growth never occurred and many of these Christians, like our two friends, became more and more worldly-minded and eventually drifted completely away from the Lord. Others continued to profess Christ but gravitated into the deceptive and dangerous trap of “Christian mysticism” (for more information on this subject, see our Question & Answer #26). In either case, they were effectively “neutralized” from being Christ’s witnesses.

The crucial piece that was missing from this “union life” teaching was true faith. “Resting” without works is not true faith (James 2:26). Although this false “union life” teaching correctly rejected the need to perform “works of flesh” to be a Christian, it tragically omitted the essential requirement and responsibility of true Christian discipleship - to pursue “works of faith.” (Note: see our Teaching Tract #22 for more information on this subject). Consequently, our two Christian friends, like so many others snared by this destructive doctrine, were resting in their soul from the terrible strain of trying for so long in their own strength to live the Christian life; however, they were not resting by faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross. There is a great difference. The former may give your soul a rest break from the stress of trying harder, but it will eventually lead to spiritual lethargy and death. The latter is based on true faith in the facts of the cross of Christ and it will produce Christ’s life and spiritual growth in you as well as the good works that accompany true faith. This is the true spiritual rest that Christ offers to everyone who submits to His sovereignty and yoke of discipleship based on true faith (Matthew 11:28-30). What are the facts of the gospel of Christ that our faith must rest on to be true faith? The whole gospel of Christ is this: Christ died for us and included us in His death so that He might live in us. The false “union life” teaching that our friends mistakenly followed only consisted of the first and last part of this truth, which then sounded like this: “Christ died for us so He could live in us.” It left out, however, the crucial centerpiece, “and included us in His death,” that makes the whole gospel effective and produces true disciples. Note: Although some “union life” advocates occasionally (almost in passing) referred to the doctrine of the believer’s co-crucifixion with Christ, any Biblical teaching on practically applying this critical divine truth, which Christ called “carrying your own cross,” was conspicuously absent or given only superficial treatment. This “void” of solid Biblical instruction exposed an alarming spiritual ignorance on the meaning and application of this central Biblical doctrine, which would tragically bear bad fruit for many of those “union life” practitioners.

The Bible says, “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:5).” In other words, if we believe and act on the truth that we have died with Christ, then we will certainly experience union with His resurrection life. However, if we do not believe and act on this Biblical truth, then we will not experience Christ’s life. At the present time, there are many Christians who profess their life is based on “Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).” However, based on our observations, this is once again based on a form of “union life” teaching which omits the critical Biblical truth that specifically states that we can only experience Christ’s life in us if we believe and act on the Biblical fact that we have died with Christ. Since this “union life” teaching is not rooted in Biblical truth and faith, it is a false, unbalanced, fleshly doctrine that will not produce the true spiritual fruit of Christ’s life. You simply cannot experience “Christ in you” unless you first embrace by faith the Biblical truth that you have died with Christ. The apostle Paul taught, “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin (our sinful nature) might be done away with so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died, has been freed from sin (Romans 6:6-7).” This is God’s divine order – death must come before resurrection life. We can only experience the liberating truth that we are alive in Christ (Romans 6:11) if we know (believe and act on) the truth that we have died in Christ and we no longer have a sinful nature (Romans 6:6). Once again, this is the divine order: knowing (believing and acting on) the divine truth must come before we can reckon on (experience) the divine truth. This is why Jesus said we must carry our own cross daily in order to experience and express His divine life (Matthew 10:38-39). When we carry our own cross daily, we diligently apply by faith the Biblical truth that we have died with Christ and, consequently, we have died to sin and the world (Romans 6:2; Galatians 6:14).

At this point, we must ask an important but disturbing question: “Is it possible for someone to profess that Christ lives in them, yet be denied entry into the kingdom of heaven because they do not walk in obedience to Christ?” A careful review of the Scriptures clearly indicates the answer is “Yes.” Any “union life” teaching that comes without any obligation to carry your own cross for Christ’s sake may have an alluring appeal, but any teaching that omits this essential cost of discipleship is deceptive and ultimately destructive. For example, you cannot say you believe that Jesus forgives you for your sins if you do not have true repentance and you continue to willfully practice sin. This is a false belief since the Bible says that you must not use God’s grace as an excuse to keep sinning (see Acts 3:19; Romans 6:1: 1 Peter 2:16; 1 John 1:7-9). In the same way, no one can claim to have true union life with Christ if they continue to practice sin. The Bible says, “No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who continues to sin has seen Him or knows Him (1 John 3:6).” If we continue to practice sin after we are born again and united with Christ, we are denying through our deeds the reality and power of Christ’s death and resurrection (Titus 1:16; see also Matthew 7:21-23). What does it mean to practice sin? We practice sin when we habitually fail to obey Christ’s commands because of our unbelief. “Whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).” When you base your Christian life exclusively on “Christ lives in you” without walking in the truth that “you have died with Christ,” you are not obeying Christ’s command to carry your own cross daily. This leads to the deception of mistakenly thinking you are “in the Spirit” when you are really “in the flesh” and are being led by your own subjective feelings and impressions instead of the truth of God’s Word. No matter how much we profess that Christ lives in us, if we are not abiding (living by faith) in the Biblical truth of our inclusion in Christ’s death, we are being deceived. We are not walking in “spirit and truth,” which is essential to truly experiencing Christ and expressing His powerful, indwelling life. Note: Some “union life” advocates claimed to “know” they had died with Christ, but Jesus said we would know true and false disciples by their fruit (not by their words). Anyone who truly knows (believes and acts on) the Biblical truth that they have died with Christ and that their sinful nature has been replaced with Christ’s nature demonstrates (both in word and deed) the obvious fruit of abiding in this foundational truth of the cross.

Again, the only way that Christ can sovereignly live in you is if you walk in the whole counsel of God. And this is the whole gospel of God: By Christ’s death on the cross, God performed a divine heart transplant and exchanged our sinful nature with His Son’s divine nature. The apostle Paul certainly believed and acted on this Biblical foundational truth that he had died with Christ and he no longer had a sinful nature. This truth of the cross enabled Paul to walk by faith in the grace and sovereignty of the Son of God who indwelt him. This was Paul’s personal testimony, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).” This is true union life with Christ!

Q. 37 How can I consecrate myself to God for His service?

A. The subject of consecration is misunderstood by most Christians. To “consecrate” yourself means to “present or set yourself apart to God.” Many pastors challenge their congregations to “consecrate” themselves by exhorting, “Jesus gave His all for you so you should now give your all for Him.” However, in God’s divine order, “knowing (Romans 6:6)” must come before “consecrating (Romans 6:13).” Since most Christians do not know that their sinful nature has been removed by Christ’s death on the cross and what it means to now live by faith in the risen Christ who indwells them, they mistakenly “consecrate” their natural abilities, gifts and talents to serve God and confuse their zeal and self-effort for Biblical faith. In fact, many Christians incorrectly believe this kind of consecration will help them die to self when actually the opposite is true. Instead of increasing their reliance upon the power of the Holy Spirit; in actuality, it intensifies their reliance upon the strength of their soul. Since their zeal to serve God by the best of their natural ability is not based on a knowledge of true Biblical faith, it has no spiritual value to God and can produce no spiritual fruit. In this case, the words of the apostle Paul are appropriate: “For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge (Romans 10:2).”

Concerning consecration, Paul taught, “Present (consecrate) yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 6:13).” What did God make alive from the dead through Christ’s resurrection? Paul taught that we have been raised up from spiritual death as a new man in Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has passed away; all things are new (2 Corinthians 5:17).” Then what died and passed away? Paul taught that (when we were born again) our old spiritual man (our sinful nature) died and was removed from us. “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him in order that our body of sin (our sinful nature) might be done away with so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died has been freed from sin (Romans 6:6-7).” God had to remove our sinful nature when we were born again because as long as we still had a sinful nature, we were incapable of true consecration and obedience to God (Romans 8:8-9). Therefore, we do not have to present ourselves for crucifixion to God. Our old sinful nature has already been done away with by Christ’s death on the cross. Consequently, in Romans 6:13, Paul was not exhorting believers to consecrate their “old man” (their sinful nature) to serve God. Neither was Paul urging believers to consecrate their natural talents to serve God. Then what did Paul mean when he exhorted believers to consecrate or present themselves to God? Paul was instructing believers to present themselves as a “new man” in Christto God. This is who we spiritually are in Christ - holy and alive to God - freed from the power of sin since we no longer have a sinful nature.

Now it is true that if we properly present ourselves to God as a new creation in Christ, it follows that our natural abilities would then also be made available to God for His service (if and when He chooses to use them). However, the cart cannot come before the horse. To the immature and undiscerning, this may not seem important; however, it is crucial to determining whether we do good works rather than dead works. Dead works have three distinguishing features that separate them from what the Bible calls “good works.” The source, the power and the outcome of dead works are different than the source, the power and the outcome of good works. Dead works are initiated by our natural mind, are empowered by our natural ability, produce what we can achieve and get man’s approval. Good works are initiated by the mind of God, are empowered by the Spirit of God, produce what only God can achieve and always result in God’s approval. The Son of God is the perfect example of someone who always did good works. Jesus Christ never did any works independently of God’s will. “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing... I can do nothing on My own initiative… because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me (John 5:19 & 30).

By His good works, Jesus showed us that the work of God is God Himself at work. Jesus said, “The Father abiding in Me does His works (John 14:10).” Even though Jesus was the Son of Man, He never did any works that sprung from the strength of his human soul. Jesus showed us the only works acceptable to God are those initiated and empowered by the Spirit of God. If God Himself is not doing the work, it is not the work of God. If we can do a work without relying on God’s wisdom and power, then such a work is likely to be natural and void of the Spirit. Since dead works are not authorized by God, they are disobedient works. At the end of this age, every Christian will appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). On that day, Christ will assess our works and allot our rewards and responsibilities for the age to come (Daniel 12:13; Matthew 25:21; Luke 19:17). The works we have done on earth will not only be judged for their quantity but also for their quality (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Every good work we have done in response to obedience to the Holy Spirit will be treated as gold, silver and precious stones. But every dead work we have done in response to our natural inclinations and preferences will be treated as wood, hay and straw and be burned up.

It is really a question of identity. Is my identity in Christ and His life or is my identity in my own soul-life (my natural personality with its natural preferences and abilities)? If my identity is in my soul-life, then I will be naturally inclined to engage in ministry opportunities where my natural talents would be fulfilled. For example, if I am a talented musician, I would naturally join the church worship team. However, if my identity is solely in Christ, then I would only engage in ministry when and if the Lord specifically directed me. The difference is one of ownership. Will I be governed and led by my natural wisdom and natural preferences to do “Christian” work, or will my natural abilities be under the authority and direction of Christ? “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey (Romans 6:16)? The Bible says that my natural personality (with its inherent abilities) is incapable of serving God apart from the work of the cross. Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh (the natural man) is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit… it is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh (our natural ability) counts for nothing (John 3:6; 6:63).” Jesus said that, apart from Him, we have no life within ourselves (John 6:53). Only that which is of God’s new creation – that which is born of and indwelt by His Spirit – has spiritual life. Our natural man (our natural personality with its natural abilities) has no inherent spiritual life and, therefore, is incapable of producing spiritual fruit (John 6:63; 15:4). When Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:5),” He did not mean we could not do anything. Of course, by our own initiative and talent, there are many things we could do. Jesus meant we could not produce anything of true spiritual value apart from His initiative and power. Although God may decide to use our natural talent, He does not want us to have any confidence in our natural ability to produce spiritual work (Philippians 3:3). Our faith must rest in His Son alone to accomplish His work through us (Galatians 2:20).

If we rely on our natural talent to do Christian work and produce Christian fruit, we may look healthy and productive to others but Jesus Christ will not recognize our fruit. Only our new man, formed from Christ’s completed work on the cross, is capable of true consecration and serving God by the Spirit and not by the flesh (our natural ability). “For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh (our natural ability) (Philippines 3:3).” True consecration to God can only take place on the basis of our knowledge of Christ’s completed work on the cross and acting by faith on the Biblical truth of our inclusion in His death. Many “religious” people who are not even born again try to consecrate themselves to God for His service. Of course, it is impossible for the natural man who is not born again to consecrate himself to God. And even if we have been born again, it is not possible to properly consecrate ourselves to God unless we spiritually know that we are a new man in Christ and that our old man (our sinful nature) is dead and gone. This is the essential foundational truth for all New Covenant service. We should always remember that nothing of the old creation has any spiritual value to God. Before God could make us a new creation in Christ, He had to first put to death and remove our sinful nature. “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).”

To sum up, our ability to consecrate ourselves to God for His service (Romans 6:13) is the outcome of knowing (believing and acting on) the Biblical truth that our sinful nature has been crucified and removed from us (Romans 6:6). We then consecrate ourselves as a new man - God’s new creation – who has been raised from the dead with Christ. Paul made it very clear that we cannot present ourselves to God as His bondslaves unless we know (believe and act on) the truth that we have been freed from sin (Romans 6:18). And Paul is also very clear that we were freed from sin when our sinful nature died and was removed from us (Romans 6:6-7). Consequently, consecration begins with knowing that we have died with Christ and that our sinful nature is dead and gone. This is the divine order – knowing (Romans 6:6) must come before presenting (Romans 6:13). When I know (believe and act) that I have been crucified with Christ, I can then reckon myself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Romans 6:11). When I have reached this point of faith in Christ and His completed work on the cross, I am then ready to consecrate myself to God (Romans 6:13). “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed (believed and acted on) the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:17-18).” Therefore, when I present my body as a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God as a bondslave for His service (Romans 12:1), it is on the basis of knowing (believing and acting on) the truth that my sinful nature has died and I am now alive to God through Christ who lives in me (Colossians 1:27).

Q. 38 Is your teaching on the cross of Christ (with its emphasis on holiness) a form of legalism?

A. No; on the contrary, our teaching on the cross is the gospel of God’s grace – grace by which we are saved by faith and grace by which we live by faith. We understand, however, why some Christians (because of wrong teaching or bad experiences) might initially misinterpret our teaching on the cross for legalism. Therefore, since this is so important an issue, we want to respond to this question more fully.

First, we need to define legalism. Legalism is the systematic attempt to please God by your own works rather than relying by faith solely on what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. The practice of legalism (in its many forms) not only relies on self-effort to be justified and saved; it also relies on self-effort to walk in sanctification and live holy. For example, a person may be rightly saved by faith, but then wrongly practice legalism to live the Christian life (Galatians 3:3). We might also call the practice of legalism “moralism,” since it produces an outward “moral” behavior instead of a heart that has been inwardly and authentically transformed by faith. Whenever Christians practice legalism or moralism instead of faith, they cut themselves off from God’s grace. Since legalism or moralism is not of faith, it is sin (Romans 14:23). In fact, legalism or moralism can be a religious cloak for lawlessness. That is why Jesus exposed the Pharisees, who practiced moralism, for their lawlessness. “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:28).” Just as the Pharisees practiced a counterfeit Judaism; whenever professing “Christians” practice moralism, they are practicing a counterfeit Christianity.

Legalism and grace are in direct opposition to one another. Legalism means you must do something to obtain God’s righteousness; whereas grace means God does something to impute righteousness to you, which you must receive by faith. Therefore, God’s righteousness (based on grace) depends on our faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross; whereas man’s righteousness (based on legalism) depends on our natural willpower and self-effort. Legalism and grace are mutually exclusive. You cannot be under grace and practice legalism at the same time. If you are practicing legalism, then you are not under grace. The apostle Paul warned, “After beginning by the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by your human effort?… You have fallen from grace (Galatians 3:3; 5:4).”

Legalism is also the erroneous belief that if you follow certain religious rules and regulations, you will be righteous in God’s eyes. The apostle Paul warned believers against the futility of legalism in Colossians 2:20-23: “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of the world, … why do you submit to its rules… such regulations have an appearance of wisdom… but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” For example, legalism is the false belief that if you follow certain rules (such as attending church twice a week and tithing ten percent of your income to the church), you will be righteous in God’s eyes. However, God’s righteousness will never be credited to anyone based on rule-keeping and outward religious moralism. Ultimately, the root of legalism is self-righteousness. It is the sin of pride to think, “I have the moral ability to successfully live the Christian life and please God whereas other Christians who cannot are morally inferior.” Jesus effectively exposed the pride of legalism and moralism in His parable of the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18:9-14.

Now let’s examine the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the gospel of God’s complete grace. We should always remember, however, that the grace of God must be received by faith to be effective. It is by faith that we are saved by grace and it is by faith that we are sustained by grace. The Bible says, “We have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand… (and)… by grace you have been saved through faith (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:8).” We should also remember that faith is not mere mental assent; faith must involve action to be complete and effective (James 2:22). Also, our faith must be based on God’s Word to be true faith. Jesus Himself taught that we must act on His Word; otherwise our faith is worthless (Luke 6:46-49). In God’s eyes, grace and faith are inseparably linked. Grace must be accompanied by faith. If we only preach grace without emphasizing the need for active faith, we are not preaching the whole gospel and God will hold us accountable (see Acts 20:24-27). The apostle Paul wrote, “They were broken off for their unbelief but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness (grace), if you continue (by faith) in His kindness (Romans 11:20-22/parentheticals added for clarity).” Once again, the gospel that we preach and teach is the gospel of God’s complete grace – by which we are saved by faith and by which we also live by faith. “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last. Just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith (Romans 1:17).’” Therefore, we are not only saved by faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross, we must also live by faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross.

After our initial salvation, we have a choice: we can live by our faith (in Christ and His completed work on the cross) or we can live by our flesh (our natural wisdom and ability). Living by faith means we no longer live according to a “law of works” but we now live according to the “law of faith” (Romans 3:27).” This does not mean that we have no works; however, it does mean that our works should spring from our faith and not from our flesh (our natural wisdom and ability). Faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross is the only antidote to legalism. For what the Old Covenant could not do because of man’s sinful nature, God did in the New Covenant, through Christ’s crucifixion (Romans 8:3). Therefore, Jesus Christ died on the cross to not only deliver us from the penalty of our sin but to also deliver us from our sin nature. God used Christ’s death to perform a divine heart transplant and exchange our sinful nature with His Son’s divine nature (Romans 6:3-11; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27). This is the divine exchange of the cross that occurred within us when we were born again. If we believe and act on this truth of the cross, we will walk in righteousness and not lawlessness (1 John 3:4-8). We will be freed from the power of sin so we can consecrate ourselves daily as obedient bondservants to God (Romans 6:13-22). This was the apostle Paul’s personal testimony: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in this body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).”

Many Christians confuse legalism with any teaching that emphasizes obedience. However, this is only true if the obedience that is taught is the obedience of the flesh; that is, the obedience that comes from trying to act moral by our own natural willpower and strength. Biblical obedience, on the other hand, is the obedience which comes from acting solely by faith in God’s grace. Paul declared that the gospel of grace was intended to bring us into “the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5; 16:19).” The New Testament contains dozens of verses which clearly address our obligation to obey God. For example, John the Baptist said, “He who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (John 3:34).” Jesus Himself said, “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching… he who does not love Me will not obey My teaching (John 14:23; see also John 3:36; Romans 6:16; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Hebrews 5:9; 1 Peter 1:22).” We need to remember that God never intended that New Covenant grace would be used as an excuse for disobedience and sin. The apostle Paul exhorted, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be (Romans 6:1-2)!” God never intended that New Covenant grace would nullify His requirement for us to live holy lives. Therefore, if we do not preach and practice holiness, we are not declaring the whole purpose of God. If we reject holiness, we reject Jesus Christ’s instruction: “Be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5). If we reject holiness, we reject the apostle Paul’s instruction: “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).” If we reject holiness, we reject the apostle Peter’s teaching: “Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior (1 Peter 1:15).” If we reject holiness, we reject the apostle John’s instruction: “No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or knows Him (1 John 3:6).” If we reject holiness, we reject God Himself: “God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you His Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8).” Lastly, if we reject holiness, we reject the goal of the gospel, which is to reconcile us to a holy God so might see Him and know Him for “without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).”

Salvation is only the beginning and not the end of God’s purpose for His people. God wants us to live holy lives that are set apart and wholly devoted to Him so that we might truly know Him (2 Timothy 2:21; Hebrews 12:14) and that we might shine as lights in this world (Philippians 2:15). However, many Christians have been “burned” by legalistic teaching that exhorts them live holy lives by using more willpower and trying harder (read your Bible more, pray more, go to church more, get involved in ministry more, etc.). Yet in spite of these bad experiences and erroneous teachings, we must be very careful not to reject the truth concerning holiness. If you have been “burned” by this kind of false teaching on holiness, the soulish tendency is to either reject God’s standard of holiness and succumb to worldliness (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life) because holiness seems impossible or, perhaps even worse, inwardly continue to practice lawlessness but become more outwardly religious.

Many professing “Christians” who practice legalism or moralism can outwardly appear to be more “perfect” than Christians who practice true faith. However, God does not judge according to men’s outward appearances of “morality” but according to the motives and attitudes of men’s hearts (John 7:24; 2 Corinthians 5:12; Hebrews 4:12-13). Jesus said, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God (Luke 16:15).” In the New Testament, the word perfect (the Greek word is teleios) does not mean faultless behavior; it means complete or mature. With this in mind, Paul wrote, “We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect (mature) in Christ (Colossians 1:28).” In other words, God does not expect us to be perfect in the sense of flawless; however, He does expect us to practice a pattern (the Greek word is typos), or lifestyle of faith that progressively leads to spiritual maturity (Philippians 4:9; 2 Peter 1:10). To this end, Paul exhorted, ”Brethren, join in following my example and observe those who walk according to the pattern (typos) you have in us (Philippians 3:17).” Practicing a pattern or lifestyle of faith is what the Bible also calls practicing the righteousness that is by faith (Roman 1:17). The apostle John taught,“You know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him (1 John 2:29).” In God’s eyes, it is better to have an authentic but “imperfect” life based on a small amount of true faith (Matthew 17:20) than to have the appearance of an outwardly “perfect” life based on a great amount of natural willpower (Matthew 23:27-28). “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us (2 Corinthians 4:7).”

If our life is based on faith in Christ’s work on the cross, our deeds will be credited to us as righteousness and we will have God’s approval. However, if our life is based on our natural willpower, our deeds will not be credited to us as righteousness and we will not have God’s approval. When we practice legalism or moralism, Christianity becomes a Biblical behavioral code that we try to follow by our best efforts rather than believing that Jesus Christ can live His life in us. The true child of God hates legalism because he sees it as an endless row of unscalable mountains that he must try to climb in vain; whereas the self-righteous person loves legalism because he sees it as a daily opportunity to take pride in his efforts to climb the “mountains of morality.” The antidote to sin is not to redouble our self-efforts to live godly. The only true antidote to sin is to repent from unbelief and then believe and act on Christ’s completed work on the cross. The fruit of legalism is secret pride, religious hypocrisy, and further bondage to sin; whereas the fruit of faithful obedience to Christ is humility, true holiness, and freedom from sin. If we are practicing legalism or moralism, we are still slaves to sin and cut off from God’s grace. However, if we are practicing the righteousness that comes solely by faith in the cross of Christ, we have been freed from sin and will receive the eternal riches of our inheritance in Him (Romans 6:22). This is the difference between practicing the God-given righteousness that comes only from faith and practicing the man-made religious legalism and false “morality” that comes from natural willpower and self-effort. The former is true Christianity, whereas the latter is counterfeit Christianity. Which will you choose?


Q. 39 I am trying my best to be a good Christian. Why do I need to know that my sinful nature has died in Christ?

A. This question gets to the crux of the reason why Christ had to die on the cross. This is the reason why all of us need to know (believe and act on) the Biblical truth that our sinful nature has died in Christ.

Jesus said that unless your “goodness” or “righteousness” exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20). The Pharisees’ “righteousness” was behavior-based according to their outward obedience to the Mosaic Law. However, Jesus taught that not only must your outward behavior be holy, your inward motives and attitudes must also be pure. For example, Jesus said you are guilty of committing adultery if you have lust in your heart (Matthew 5:21-22). He also said that you are guilty of committing murder if you have hate in your heart (Matthew 5:27-28; 1 John 3:15).

Therefore, even if we thought we could be “good” enough to clean up our outward sinful behavior, we would still be guilty in God’s eyes of secret, sinful thoughts. The apostle Paul said, “According to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus on that day (Romans 2:16).” The Pharisees, who appeared outwardly righteous to men, were not inwardly holy and truly submitted to God who could see their hidden motives and attitudes. The Bible says, “There is nothing hidden from His sight but everything is open and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an accounting (Hebrews 4:12).” Jesus said the Pharisees’ practice of outward righteousness (but inward unrighteousness) was hypocritical and lawless (Matthew 23:28).

The Bible says the reason for this human dilemma of religious hypocrisy is that we were all born sinners. All of us inherited Adam’s sinful spiritual nature when we were born into this world (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:19). Everyone who is not born again by God’s Spirit has a sin nature - a powerful “sin factory” within them that naturally and continually produces sinful attitudes and actions. Even if you think you could control your sinful behavior, it does not change the fact that you are still inwardly a sinner by nature. Remember that man’s best morality falls far short of God’s standard of holiness. In God’s eyes, “all our righteous acts are like a filthy rag (Isaiah 64:6).” Therefore, even if you did your best to be a “good” Christian, your inner attitudes and motives would always fall woefully short of God’s righteous requirements.

Since you were born into sin, God had to spiritually include you in Christ’s death to free you from sin. This is the answer to man’s dilemma. The Bible says Christ not only died for you (Romans 5:8), you died with Christ (Romans 6:8). When we were born again, we were spiritually immersed into Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5). By the crucifixion of His only Son, God translated us from our Adam nature (the old creation) into Christ’s nature (the new creation) (2 Corinthians 5:17). Through the divine operation of the cross, God not only dealt with the fruit of the old creation (our sinful acts); He removed its very root (our sinful nature). Therefore, when we born again into Christ’s Spirit, our old sinful nature (the sin factory) died in Christ and was also buried (removed) in Him so that we might have Christ’s resurrection life (John 15:4-5; Romans 6:4-6; Colossians 2:11).

If you do not know (believe and act on) the Biblical truth that you have died with Christ, your only option is to try to live the Christian life by the best of your natural ability or soul-power and mistake your self-effort for faith. However, when you live this way you are actually in unbelief and disobedience. The only way we can live the Christian life is by faith (Romans 1:17), but our faith must be based on Biblical truth; otherwise it is not true faith. If we are not living our life in accordance with the Biblical truth of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross (when Christ died, our sinful nature died with Him so that He might sovereignly live in us), then we are not living by faith and whatever is not of faith is sin and lawlessness (Romans 14:23). Whenever a Christian habitually tries to live by the strength of his soul instead of believing he has died with Christ and then living by the Holy Spirit, he grieves the Spirit and quenches Christ’s power from working in his life. Trying our best to be a “good” Christian may be acceptable in man’s eyes, but it is not acceptable in God’s eyes. For “without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6).” The Bible says, “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord… but blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord whose confidence is in Him (Jeremiah 17:5- 7).”

Living the Christian life by the best of your natural ability is not harmless; it is spiritually dangerous. The apostle Paul said the man who lives according to his natural wisdom lacks spiritual discernment (1 Corinthians 2:14). The apostle James said natural wisdom is unspiritual and demonically influenced (James 3:15). Soul-power is by definition psychic power. Therefore, if our soul-life is not under the authority of Christ, it can become a gateway for demonic deception and evil influence. This is the reason why many Christians are defeated by the devil. This is also why it is crucial for every Christian to know (believe and act on) the truth they have been crucified with Christ and they no longer have a sinful nature. You may outwardly appear to be a “good” Christian but if you do not know (and believe and act on) the truth that your sinful nature has died with Christ, you will still be inwardly captive to deceitful and compromising sins. If you do not know the truth of the cross, the truth cannot benefit you and the Son of God cannot set you free from the power of sin (John 8:31-36; Hebrews 4:2). However, once you know that you have been freed from sin because you no longer have a sinful nature, you can then look by faith each day to Jesus Christ to live His overcoming life in you. “For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh (our natural ability) (Philippians 3:3).” This is the gospel you must believe and act on to have God’s approval.

Q. 40Why does it matter whether I know the difference between the sinful nature and the unrenewed mind, as long as I just try to follow Jesus?

A. It matters a great deal and with potentially eternal consequences. It is essential to have correct and complete spiritual knowledge in order to properly walk in sanctification and spiritually grow in Christ. The apostle Paul wrote, “This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ (Philippians 1:9-10).”

Let us take a moment to consider the importance and need for spiritual knowledge. When we are born again of the Spirit, we receive the mind of Christ, which is like a seed planted in us with great potential for growth (Luke 8:8, 15; 1 Corinthians 2:16; 1 John 3:9). In a sense, when we are born again, we are like a newborn infant whose mind is immature and whose knowledge of the world around him is very elementary. This is why the apostle Peter encouraged new Christians: “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the Word, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:2-3).” However, the Bible also says that if you only receive spiritual milk and never progress to solid food, you will not properly mature in Christ. The author of the Book of Hebrews defines spiritual “milk” as instruction on basic spiritual principles such as repentance, faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. In contrast, he defines “solid food” as teaching on righteousness (or sanctification), which is essential to mature in Christ and really know Him (Hebrews 5:12-6:2; 12:14). For example, Paul admonished the Corinthian Christians for being carnal-minded instead of spiritually mature since they still could not handle solid food (teaching on sanctification). Paul reproached them as “mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, you are still not ready for you are still carnal… brethren, do not be children in your thinking… but in your thinking be mature (1 Corinthians 3:1-3; 14:20).”

Every good parent hopes they have adequately prepared and trained their child to deal with the challenges and difficulties they will face in the world. In the same way, every good spiritual parent also wants to give their children in the Lord all the knowledge and training they need to overcome the troubles and temptations of the world so that they can attain to spiritual maturity in Christ (Luke 8:11-15). Otherwise, they may become deceived and snared by compromising sins and false teaching. Paul had this fatherly concern for his spiritual children when he said, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you… no longer be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 4:14).”

We would think it odd if a child did not naturally progress from milk to solid food. Likewise, we would also think it odd if a child did not naturally progress in learning and knowledge. And if that child was capable of progressing in learning, but willfully refused to grow in knowledge and rejected our training, we would be very concerned and even alarmed. We would consider that child stubborn and foolish. In the same way, to reject spiritual wisdom and knowledge that will help you spiritually mature is also foolish. For example, we would consider a Christian naïve and foolish who said, “Why does it matter whether I know if Jesus is God, as long as I just follow Him?” A lack of knowledge and discernment on this fundamental issue could make a new Christian easy prey for the many cults who believe the Jesus is not God but only a divinely-created being, such as an angel. We would also consider a Christian naïve and foolish who said, “Why does it matter whether I know anything about the devil and his tactics, as long as I just love Jesus?” Paul most definitely thought this knowledge was important when he told believers to practice righteousness “in order that Satan might not outwit us, for we are not ignorant of his schemes… put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11).” Peter also warned believers to “be on the alert; your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).” As we can see, if we reject spiritual wisdom and knowledge, it is not only foolish; it is dangerous.

We hope these thoughts have conclusively established the importance and need for spiritual knowledge in the life of every believer. As God said in Hosea 4:6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Let us now return to the original question: “Why does it matter whether I know the difference between the sinful nature and the unrenewed mind, as long as I just try to follow Jesus?” It only matters if there is a significant difference between the sinful nature and the unrenewed mind. For example, is there a difference between a car and an automobile? No. They are the same thing, only called by a different name. But is there a difference between a car and a boat? Yes. If you tried to cross the ocean in a car, you would never reach your destination. You would sink and drown. In the same way, there is a great difference between the sinful nature and the unrenewed mind. If you think they are the same thing and mistakenly believe you still have a sinful nature (after you are saved), you will never be able to walk in sanctification and reach God’s destination for His chosen ones. As a wise master builder who laid the foundation for the church, Paul definitely thought knowing the difference between the sinful nature and the unrenewed mind was central to understanding the New Covenant and essential for a believer’s sanctification and spiritual maturity in Christ. This is what Paul teaches concerning the sinful nature: “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the sinful nature, by the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 2:11)… Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized (immersed) into Christ Jesus have been baptized (immersed) into His death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism (immersion) into death (Romans 6:1-4).” Paul continues, “For we know that our old man was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin (our sinful nature) might be destroyed, so that would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died has been freed from sin (Romans 6:6-7).” With these verses, Paul begins to give the believers some “solid food” instruction on how to walk in sanctification.

What is the difference then between the sinful nature and the unrenewed mind? Before we were saved, our sinful nature was like a powerful entity – a “sin factory” within us that continuously produced sinful attitudes and actions and, therefore, had to be destroyed by Christ’s death on the cross. Since we were born with a sinful nature, we could not help but sin before we were saved. But why do we still sin if we no longer have a sinful nature after we are born again? The answer is - our unrenewed mind. Our unrenewed mind is, in effect, our unconverted soul. Although our old sinful nature was done away with when we were saved, our soul (our natural personality with its attitudes, affections and ensuing actions) was not instantly converted and transformed into Christ’s image. After we are saved, we do not need to continually “put to death” our old sinful nature since it has already been crucified (put to death) and buried (removed) by Christ’s death on the cross. However, we still have an old way of thinking (our unrenewed mind) that needs to be (and can be) transformed daily by the Holy Spirit who indwells us. This is what the Bible calls the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Let us now look at what Paul teaches concerning the unrenewed mind: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind… be renewed in the attitude of your mind… put on the new man who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of his Creator… take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 10:5).” We must always remember that our unrenewed mind does not have the same power that our old sinful nature did. Our sinful nature held us completely captive to the tyranny of sin. But now that we know we no longer have a sinful nature, we are freed from sin’s power and can therefore live by faith in the indwelling power of Christ’s Spirit. We can put off (or “put to death”) our old way of thinking (our unrenewed mind) and put on the new way of thinking (the mind of Christ) because we know (and believe and act on) the truththat we are “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).”

Based on this divine truth, Paul then gave the believers more “solid food” instruction on sanctification: “So I say, live by the Spirit and you will not indulge in the desires of the flesh (your unrenewed mind) (Galatians 5:16).” Paul continues, “For if you are living by the flesh (your unrenewed mind), you must die; but if by the Spirit, you are putting to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live… put to death, therefore, whatever is worldly in you (your unrenewed mind), such assexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which amounts to idolatry… now those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death on the cross the flesh (the unrenewed mind) with its passions and desires (Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:24; Colossians 3:5).” Therefore, our role in the Holy Spirit’s progressive work of sanctification in our lives can besummed up by the following verse: “Let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light… put on the Lord Jesus Christ and put a stop to gratifying the lusts of the flesh (the unrenewed mind) (Romans 13:12-14).” Jesus referred to our part in this work of sanctification as “carrying your own cross and losing your soul-life for His sake (Matthew 16:24-25).” Jesus said we must embrace this work of sanctification (by putting off the old and putting on the new) daily or we cannot be His disciples. Of course, we can only participate in the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work by exercising our faith in Jesus Christ and His completed work on the cross. Otherwise, we will be trying to sanctify ourselves by exercising our flesh (our natural ability), which is not faith at all but sin and lawlessness (Romans 14:23).

We hope this helps explain why it is vital for your sanctification that you know the difference between the sinful nature and the unrenewed mind. Whether you receive this “solid food” instruction and believe and act on this divine truth will determine whether you overcome sin or are overcome by sin. It is impossible to apply faith to spiritual truth if you do not know it first. For example, how can you be saved if you do not know that Christ died on the cross for your sins? (see Romans 5:8). The Bible says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). First, you must know a spiritual fact, then second, you must believe a spiritual fact, and then third, you must act on the spiritual fact. But it all begins with knowing. In the same way, how can you be sanctified if you do not know that you died with Christ? (see Romans 6:8). Just as you cannot truly know and confess that Jesus is your Lord except by the Holy Spirit’s revelation and enablement, you also cannot truly know and confess that you no longer have a sinful nature except by the Holy Spirit’s revelation and enablement. And without knowing the spiritual facts concerning how to walk in sanctification, you will be unable to apply faith to the truth; instead you will be practicing mere human moralism by your own willpower and mistaking your self-effort for faith. The “fruit” that you will bear will not be the outcome of godly faith (because you do not know what to have faith in, the “fruit” you will bear will be only what you can humanly produce by trying your best to be good, and this is not a life of faith, it is a life of self-exertion). That kind of faith is not true Christian faith and that kind of life is not true Christian life. The Bible says, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh (your natural ability)? (Galatians 3:3).

How can Jesus Christ sovereignly live in you and how can you possibly walk in sanctification if you mistakenly believe you still have a sinful nature after you are born again? Ironically, your mistaken belief that you still have a sinful nature reveals your own inward self-identity and it also reveals you that are still soul-ruled and not Spirit-ruled. In other words, you are not truly practicing the true righteousness that comes only by faith in Christ and living under His sovereign authority. For it is only when you come to this holy place of true humility and full submission to the Lord Jesus Christ that He can reveal the glorious, liberating truth of His New Covenant to you. “The Lord confides His secret counsel (the mystery of the gospel) to those who fear Him and He reveals His Covenant to them (Psalm 25:14).” Even if you are born again, your erroneous belief in the lie that you have a sinful nature will suppress the power of God’s truth to set you free from sin. Although the word of God is divinely powerful, it can only perform its work in you if you believe it to the point of acting on it (John 8:31-36; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 4:2). Then Jesus will say, “You are truly My disciple.”

Q. 41 How can anyone possibly be saved by your gospel? It seems too hard.

A. This is the same question the disciples asked after Jesus told them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!” His disciples replied, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God (Mark 10:24-27).” It is not only hard for anyone to be saved, it is impossible apart from God’s grace. Without God’s initiative and enabling grace and left to our own moral deficiencies and natural inclinations, none of us would ever be saved. The Bible says, “There are none righteous, not even one… there is none who seek for God (Romans 3:10-11).” The Bible says that (before we were saved) we were without God and without hope (Ephesians 2:12). The reality is that it is not man who seeks after God but rather God who seeks after man. “No one can come to Me,” Jesus said, “unless the Father who sent Me draws him (John 6:44).” Jesus also said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save those who were lost (Luke 19:10).” Although it was impossible for us to save ourselves, God made it possible for us to be saved by His Son’s death on the cross. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6).” Therefore, our salvation not only originates with God’s grace; it is made possible by God’s grace. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).”

Jesus taught His disciples, “All things are possible with God (Mark 10:27), and He also taught them, “All things are possible to him who believes (Mark 9:23).” What did Jesus mean by this? He meant that, through faith, what is possible to God also becomes possible to the person who believes in God’s Word. This is why faith is the underlying theme of the Bible, from the beginning to the end. Faith is the only way we can know God and please Him. The apostle Paul declared, “I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes… for in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith (Romans 1:16-17).’” How then are we saved? We are saved when we respond to God’s gift of grace by faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8; see also Romans 5:2).” We are saved when we believe the Word of God that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and we confess Him as our Lord (Romans 10:9). This is “saving faith.”

But now that we are saved, how can we possibly overcome sin and live a “sanctified” or holy life as Christ’s disciples? The answer is the same way we were saved: by faith in God’s grace. Just as it was impossible for us to be saved apart from faith in God’s saving grace, it is just as impossible for us to live as Christ’s disciples apart from faith in God’s sanctifying grace. This is “sanctifying faith,” without which no one will see the Lord (Acts 26:18; Hebrews 12:14). Although many people claim to be “Christians,” very few bear the fruit of sanctification, which is the proof of their saving faith (Luke 8:4-15; 1 Thessalonians 5:7-8; James 2:26). Jesus said, “Many are called but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14).” You may have been called to join the kingdom of God, but unless you live a holy or sanctified life (by faith in His grace) after you are saved, you will not be worthy and chosen to enter His kingdom (Matthew 22:1-14). The Bible warns, “Be holy: without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).”

Since our eternal destiny depends on it, we must ask once more, “How can we live a holy Christian life that pleases God?” We should always remember that Christianity is not some kind of religious code of ethics that we try to follow by the best of our natural ability. If that is our approach, we would be like the rich young ruler and always fall short of God’s standard of righteousness (Luke 18:18-27). Practicing true Christianity is naturally impossible; it is only spiritually possible by faith in God’s grace. Jesus said that if you want to be His disciple, you must carry your cross daily, give up everything and deny your soul-life for His sake (Matthew 16:24-26; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24; 14:33). If you think you are able (in your natural strength) to be Christ’s devoted disciple in spirit, soul and body, it is because you have never honestly tried (see Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew Chapter 5). It is impossible for us in the natural to turn away from preserving and fulfilling our soul-life and live a life of absolute surrender and obedience to Christ. Being a true disciple of Christ is not just naturally hard; it is impossible to wholeheartedly obey God’s commands no matter how much willpower we have and no matter how hard we try (John 1:12-13; Romans 7:14-24; 9:16).

Yet the Bible says, “This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).” And Jesus told His disciples, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me… for My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:29-30).” By this Jesus meant that His yoke of discipleship is not hard to bear if we abide by faith in His truth. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).” Just as we were saved by faith in the truth of Christ’s gospel, we must now live as Christ’s disciples by faith in the truth of Christ’s gospel. There is no other way! The Bible says, “Just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith (Colossians 2:6).” If it were possible for us to live the Christian life in our natural strength apart from faith, then Jesus Christ did not need to die to deliver us from the power of sin. This is the whole gospel of Christ: by Christ’s death on the cross, God not only forgave our sins (Ephesians 1:7), He also removed our sin nature and replaced it with His Son’s divine nature (Romans 6:3-11; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Colossians 2:11). This is the gospel by which we must live if we are to have the righteousness that comes by faith (Romans 1:17). Therefore, by His Son’s divine sacrifice on the cross, God made it possible for us to live in holiness by faith in Jesus Christ who now indwells us (2 Corinthians 13:5). This was Paul’s personal testimony: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20).”

The gospel that is popular today is not too hard; in fact, it is too easy. As a result, many professing Christians think they do not need to believe and act on God’s Word that they died to sin, which is the essential prerequisite to living by Christ’s indwelling power. Instead, they practice an outward form of morality (based on their natural willpower and self-discipline) by following religious principles such as benevolence and forgiveness or exercising religious disciplines such as Bible reading and prayer (see Colossians 2:8; 2 Timothy 3:5). Of course, benevolence and forgiveness and Bible study and prayer are godly virtues if they spring from true faith and not from the flesh (your natural willpower and self-effort). Otherwise, this is a counterfeit Christianity because it is based on living by one’s natural strength and not from living by faith in the gospel of Christ (Christ died for us and included us in His death so He might sovereignly live in us). If we are not living by faith in this divine truth of the cross, we are spiritually lawless even if we appear outwardly religious. “For whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23)… and without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).” True faith instead of religious self-effort is the difference between Abel’s offering, which God accepted, and Cain’s, which God rejected (Genesis 4:1-7; Hebrews 11:4). Tragically, many professing Christians, who lawlessly persist in trusting in their own natural ability and their own moral virtue to “serve” God, will say to Jesus on the Day of Judgment, “Didn’t I teach Sunday school in Your Name and didn’t I go on short-term missions in Your Name and didn’t I feed the homeless in Your Name?” And Jesus will answer, ”Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness; I never knew you.” (see Matthew 7:21-23; 2 Timothy 2:19)

Does this seem like too harsh a gospel? Yet this is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not enough to just initially profess your saving faith in His grace. Salvation is only the beginning and not the end of God’s purpose for His people. Once saved, you must also live in sanctification by faith in His grace. This is how we prove that we are really saved and truly Christ’s disciples (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8; James 2:26). The Bible says, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him… the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:15-17).” Anyone who does not practice the righteousness that is based on living solely by faith in Jesus Christ who indwells us is inwardly lawless even if they appear outwardly religious. If they stubbornly persist in practicing lawlessness their entire life, they will have proven themselves to be unbelieving and unworthy of eternal life. Since they have rejected God’s purpose for themselves, they will not see the Lord nor will they enter His kingdom (Matthew 7:21-23; Hebrews 12:14; 1 John 3:6). “Behold then, the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off (Romans 11:22).”

The true gospel is not just hard, it is impossible to follow apart from true faith in Jesus Christ and His saving and sanctifying grace. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate: for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it (see Matthew 7:13-14).” Jesus also said, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved (John 10:9).” And when someone asked, “Lord, are there only a few that are being saved?” Jesus replied, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; because many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But He will answer, ‘I do not know you or where you are from.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence (we had communion in Your name on Sundays), and You taught in our streets (we read Your teaching in our Bibles).’ But He will reply, ‘I do not know you or where you are from. Depart from Me, all you evildoers (see Luke 13:23-27).’”

The cross of Jesus is the narrow door – the eye of the needle - that leads to salvation and sanctification, and only those who enter by faith and live by faith in Christ will save their souls and find eternal life in Him (Luke 18:25; John 10:9-10; Hebrews 10:35-39). This is the only way we can truly know Jesus Christ and please Him. “These are the ones who have not been defiled… for they have kept themselves pure. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men and offered as first fruits to God and the Lamb (Revelation 14:4).”

Q. 42 Do you teach sin eradication or sinless perfection?

A. We do not believe in or teach sin eradication or sinless perfection. However, we do believe and teach that when you are born again, God removes your sinful nature; thereby delivering you not only from the penalty of sin, but from the power of sin. From that point on, you have the spiritual freedom and ability in Christ to overcome sin, because you are no longer enslaved to sin. If you believe and act on this Biblical truth that you have been freed from sin when you were born again, you will be able to overcome sin rather than be defeated by it. This does not mean you will be “perfect” in the sense of being faultless or sinless. However, it does means you will develop a daily habit of overcoming sin, which should be the normal Christian life. When we do sin, we practice l John l:9 and rely completely on the grace of God for forgiveness.

Q. 43 Galatians 5:17 states, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” Does this verse mean that born again Christians still have a sinful nature that prevents them from doing God’s will?

A. The short answer is: absolutely not! Now let’s take a look at why this verse could never mean that born again believers have a sinful nature. The best interpreter of the Scriptures is the Holy Spirit and the Bible itself. Whenever we come across a verse such as this one (that might seem difficult to understand), we should first ask the Holy Spirit for insight and understanding. Next, we should look at how the verse fits into the entire passage and then also look at related Scriptures that can help interpret the meaning of the verse.

Part of the difficulty in understanding the meaning of Galatians 5:17 is the use of the English word “flesh.” The actual word in the New Testament Greek is sarx, which can have four different meanings, depending on the individual context in which sarx is used. The first meaning of sarx is literally flesh or skin; the second meaning is man’s physical body; the third meaning is man’s natural but unconverted soul (and unrenewed mind); and the fourth meaning is man’s inner sinful nature (before salvation). For more information on the meaning of sarx, see our teaching on The Biblical Meaning of Flesh. Therefore, in order to select which of the four different meanings of sarx best fits Pauls’ intent in Galatians 5:17, we need to see to whom this passage is addressed and also look at related Scriptures.

Let’s first review the historical background and reason for Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia. Galatia is a region in what is now central Turkey. Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel to the Galatians during their first apostolic journey together (see Acts Chapter 13 & 14). God opened a door of faith for the Galatians to respond to the gospel and many became disciples. The work of God continued to grow in Galatia and upon their return visit to the disciples there, Paul and Barnabas appointed elders (or mature brothers) to shepherd the churches they had planted. However, Paul later heard disturbing news that the Galatians had fallen away from the gospel he had taught them. False teachers had wormed their way into their fellowship by discrediting Paul’s authority and telling them Paul’s gospel was insufficient. These false teachers had persuaded the Galatians that being saved by faith in Christ was not enough; they now needed to be circumcised and obey the Mosaic Law to have righteous standing before God! Paul was so disturbed when he heard that his gospel was subverted and his spiritual children had been led astray, that he wrote this passionate letter to the churches in Galatia to bring them back to the truth.

Paul opens his letter by defending his apostolic authority and his gospel. Paul tells the Galatians that, as an apostle, he was not sent by any men or any organization; he was sent personally by Jesus Christ. He also tells them that he did not receive his gospel from any men, not even from the other apostles. He tells them that he received his gospel personally from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-12). Elsewhere, Paul even calls it “my gospel (Romans 2:16; 16:25).” Paul declares that if anyone, even an angel, preaches a different gospel than his, they are to be accursed. He warns the Galatians that if they follow a different gospel than his, they are deserting God (Galatians 1:6-9).

The false teachers had dispensed a fatal mix of faith and fleshly works to the Galatians. To counter this heresy, Paul spends some time in his letter presenting what is called the doctrine of justification (Galatians 2:16-3:22). Paul instructs the Galatians that they are justified by faith and not by works. What does it mean to be justified by faith? It means that we are not only saved by faith in Christ alone, we must now live this new Christian life by faith in Christ alone. This is what Paul taught the Galatians: “A man is not justified by works of the Law, but through faith in Christ Jesus… clearly no one is justified before God by the Law, because ‘the righteous will live by faith’… therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ… for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 2:16; 3:11; 3:24 & 26).” Note: There is a great difference between “works of flesh” and “works of faith.” Any so-called “Christian” work that is initiated and empowered by our own natural wisdom and ability rather than initiated and empowered by God is a “work of flesh” and not a “work of faith.” Although we are not saved by works; after we are saved, we must have “works of faith” that confirm our salvation (James 2:26). The false teachers were not encouraging the Galatians to do “works of faith;” instead they were telling them that they must do “works of flesh” to be righteous, which is a false gospel. For more information on this subject, see our Teaching Tract # 22: The Works of Faith.

Why was Paul so fierce in his reaction to these false teachers? Since Paul received his gospel directly from Jesus Christ, was his gospel different than the other apostles’ gospel? What was it about Paul’s gospel that set it apart? The New Testament records that Paul’s gospel more clearly revealed and explained the full meaning of Christ’s death on the cross. Whereas the other apostles preached the basic salvation gospel that Christ has died for our sins (Romans 5:8); Paul also preached that we have died with Christ (Romans 6:8). This is now known as the doctrine of co-crucifixion with Christ, a divine truth which Jesus personally revealed to Paul. Paul taught that God included us in Christ’s crucifixion in order to put to death our sinful nature and remove it from us. Paul instructed believers, “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the sinful nature (sarx), by the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 2:11).” For more on this verse, see Q&A #15: How do we know the removal of the “body of flesh” in Colossians 2:11 means the removal of our sinful nature? Paul also wrote to other believers, “Do you not know that all of us who have been immersed into Christ Jesus have been immersed into His death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him through immersion into death... for we know that our old man was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin (our sinful nature) might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died has been freed from sin (Romans 6:6-7).” The term “body of sin” in this verse means the same as “body of flesh” in Colossians 2:11 and is the sinful nature. For more information on this verse, see Q&A #8: Where does the Bible say our sinful nature is dead after we receive Christ?Paul further taught believers, “However, you are not in the flesh (sarx) but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you (Romans 8:9).” There is only one logical meaning of sarx which properly fits this verse - the sinful nature of unsaved man. This verse could then be translated: “However, you do not have a sinful nature, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Paul makes it clear that if you are born again and God’s Spirit lives in you, then you do not have a sinful nature. The two are mutually exclusive. You either have a sinful nature indwelling you, or you have the Holy Spirit indwelling you. If you are a temple of the Holy Spirit, then you do not have a sinful nature.

This was the gospel that Paul received from Jesus Christ. This is the gospel that Paul preached and this was the gospel that he lived. In the middle of presenting his doctrine of justification to the Galatians, Paul summed up his gospel by his own personal testimony: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the body (sarx), I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).” Note that Paul’s testimony here is very similar to his teaching on co-crucifixion in Romans 6:6. With this in mind, Galatians 2:20 could be paraphrased: “My old man has been crucified with Christ and my sinful nature is dead and gone, but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Clearly, the gospel that Paul preached gives us greater revelation and essential understanding on what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross. For Jesus died not only to free us from the penalty of our sins, He also died to free us from the power of sin (by removing our sinful nature) so that we might be indwelt by His Spirit and be His body, His church, here on earth. For more information on this subject, see Q&A #30: Is the apostle Paul’s gospel different than the other apostles’ gospel?

Paul then reminds the Galatians that he had clearly explained this divine purpose of Christ’s death on the cross to them (Galatians 3:2). Can you hear the cry of Paul’s heart for his spiritual children because they had forgotten this central provision of Christ’s Atonement? “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?... My dear children, for whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you (Galatians 3:1; 4:19).” To understand Paul’s grave concern, we should remember that the Galatians were already saved. As Paul told them, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? (Galatians 5:7).” Why would these believers turn away from the truth of Paul’s gospel? After the Galatians were saved, they faced a spiritual crossroads: should they now try to live righteously by faith in the truth, or by following certain religious principles and practices? For the Galatians, those religious practices meant exerting their own willpower and self-effort to keep the Mosaic Law (rather than relying on faith in Christ). We might call this “Galatianism.” Paul strongly warned the Galatians, “Are you so foolish? After having begun by the Spirit, are you now trying to perfect yourselves by your human effort?... You have been severed from Christ… you have fallen from grace (Galatians 3:3; 5:4).” For Christians today, any practice of Christianity that is not based on faith in Christ alone is a modern-day form of “Galatianism.” But why were the Galatians, who were Gentiles and not Jews, so easily persuaded that they needed to obey the Mosaic Law to be righteous before God? It is possible that the Galatians made this wrong spiritual turn and “fell from grace” because they were not overcoming sin, and they did not know how to practice the righteousness and sanctification that comes by faith in Christ alone. In their ignorance and unbelief, they were misled by false teachers to mistakenly believe that following the Mosaic Law would give them a “righteous” identity and ability to live a “holy” life. These false teachers wanted to substitute a false gospel and false Christianity based on the Mosaic Law instead of faith based on the truth of the cross. They wanted the Galatians to appear outwardly moral rather than believe in Christ’s completed work on the cross to truly sanctify them inwardly (Galatians 6:12). Paul strongly rebuked the Galatians because they had turned away from faith in Christ and turned back to practicing weak and worthless religious principles to be righteous (Galatians 4:9). This is the same dilemma faced by Christians today: we may have been saved by faith, but is our faith sufficient to live by? In other words, does our faith enable us to practice true righteousness and overcome sin? If our faith in Christ and His completed work on the cross is not based on true knowledge and we are not believing and acting on this truth, then we also can be seduced into using our own willpower and self-effort to practice so-called “Christian” principles of living, instead of truly living by faith in Jesus Christ alone.

At this point in his letter, Paul exhorted the Galatian believers to not use their spiritual freedom in Christ as an excuse to indulge the carnal desires of their unconverted soul (and unrenewed mind). “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to yoke of slavery… For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh (sarx) (Galatians 5:1 & 13).” (Note: What is the freedom that Jesus Christ purchased for us through His death on the cross? By spiritually including us in His death, Christ freed us from bondage to sin and the bondage of trying to be righteous by our own self-efforts (Romans 6:6-7; 7:4-6)). Since Galatians 5:13 is specifically addressed to believers, the only possible Scriptural meaning of sarx in this verse is the “unconverted soul,” and not the “sinful nature.” What is the unconverted soul-life? Although our old sinful nature was removed when we were saved, our soul (the embodiment of our will, intellect and emotions) was not instantly transformed into Christ’s image. After we are saved, our soul-life needs to be converted and transformed through the renewing of our mind by the truth of God’s word.

This is what the Bible calls the process of sanctification, which is essential for our spiritual maturity in Christ so that we might truly know God (Hebrews 12:14). Therefore, the chief obstacle to our spiritual maturity is not the sinful nature (which a born again believer no longer has), but our unconverted soul with its unrenewed mind. Unless we humbly submit our souls to this daily sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, our minds will not be renewed in the true knowledge of God (Colossians 3:10). The longer we resist God’s purpose and discipline for us in this sanctification process, the more we will become dull of hearing and darkened in our understanding of God (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8; Hebrews 12:4-14). This is why professing Christians (who may have been saved for many years) can still be very immature, carnal-minded, and even lawless and hostile to God (1 Corinthians 3:1-3; Hebrews 5:11-14). For more information on this subject, see Q&A #40: Why does it matter whether I know the difference between the sinful nature and the unrenewed mind, as long as I just try to follow Jesus?

We have now arrived back to the original verse in question - Galatians 5:17. Once again, we know from Galatians 5:13 that Paul addressed this passage to believers. We also know Paul taught that born again believers no longer have a sinful nature after they are saved. Therefore, we know with certainty that the word “flesh” in Galatians 5:17 cannot mean the “sinful nature.” Consequently, the Scriptural meaning of sarx in this verse is the “unconverted soul,” or specifically the “unrenewed mind.” This verse could then be translated: “For the unrenewed mind sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the unrenewed mind; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” Since we are born again, we no longer have a sinful nature that enslaves us to sin. However, we must now contend with the sinful thoughts of our unrenewed mind. How then can we overcome those sinful thoughts and desires that oppose God’s will? Paul gave the Galatians the divine solution in the previous verse: “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh (the unrenewed mind) (Galatians 5:16).”

The way to overcome the sinful thoughts of the unrenewed mind is to live by the Spirit. But what does it mean to “live by the Spirit?” To live by the Spirit means we practice a lifestyle of being governed by the Spirit and abiding in Christ (John 15:4-5). Now that we are in Christ, we do not have a sinful nature; however, the question every Christian faces is, “Will we be governed by the Spirit or by our flesh (our natural temperament and attitudes, thoughts and affections)?” The chief obstacle to our living by the Spirit is no longer our old Adam nature (which God removed by Christ’s death on the cross), but our Adam way of thinking (our unrenewed mind), which needs to be transformed by the truth of God’s Word. With this objective, Paul taught, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is… (Romans 12:2).” When we believe and act on this New Covenant truth (our sinful nature no longer lives, but Christ lives in us), then we can overcome the carnal thoughts of the unrenewed mind and be governed by the Spirit (living under God’s sovereign rule and not our own self rule). However, if we do not believe and act on the truth of Christ’s death on the cross, we have no alternative than to vainly struggle to live the Christian life by the best of our natural ability and mistake our self-effort for faith.

We should always remember that our unrenewed mind is not like the old sinful nature, which was a powerful entity - a “sin factory” within us that continuously produced sinful attitudes and actions and, therefore, had to be destroyed by Christ’s death on the cross. Now that we no longer have a sinful nature, we are not enslaved to sin as we were previously. Our unrenewed mind can be (and should be) transformed and submitted to Christ’s sovereignty by believing the Word of God. Since God, through His Son’s crucifixion, has already put to death our sinful nature, we do not have to (nor are we able to) put it to death every day, over and over again. Instead, we now have the joyful obligation as Christ’s disciples to carry our own cross daily and “put to death” the old sinful way of thinking (the unrenewed mind or unconverted soul). This means we are able (by faith) to put off the mind of flesh and put on the mind of Christ (Ephesians 4:22-24; 1 Corinthians 2:26). This is what Paul called “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).” Paul taught the believers, “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh (the unconverted soul), to live according to it. For if you are living according to the flesh (the unconverted soul), you will die; but if by the Spirit, you are putting to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live… now all those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death on the cross the flesh (the unconverted soul-life) with its passions and desires (Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:24).” Paul also exhorted the Galatians: “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to please his flesh (the unconverted soul) will from the flesh reap destruction, but the one who sows to please the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Galatians 6:7-8).” For more information on this subject, see our Teaching Tract #48: Living by the Spirit.

Paul concluded his letter to the Galatians with this exhortation: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision or uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation (Galatians 6:14-15).” Paul discounted circumcision and anything else man could do to try to achieve righteousness. Only a righteousness based on faith in God’s new creation counts for anything. The new creation is the heart of the New Covenant and is the basis of our salvation and sanctification. The old creation began in Adam. The new creation began in Christ with His death on the cross. God’s new creation is the body of Christ, the church. But before God could make His new creation, He had to first deal with the old creation, the Adam nature, which each of us were born with. God had to deal with not only its fruit (our sinful actions); He had to remove its very root (our sinful nature). God used the death of His only Son to perform a divine heart transplant by which He replaced our terminally sin-sick heart with His Son’s divine heart. Thus God included us in His Son’s death so that His resurrected Son might sovereignly live in us (Galatians 2:20). Therefore, the cross of Christ is the foundation of God’s new creation, His church, and this is Paul’s gospel.

In closing, Paul warned the Galatians that they were attempting to live the Christian life by their human efforts rather than relying solely on what Jesus Christ had accomplished on the cross for their righteousness and sanctification. Paul warns them to turn back to the true gospel of Christ and reminds them that they are justified by faith in Christ alone. They were saved by faith and they must now live by faith. Paul teaches them that the only way to overcome sinful thoughts and desires of the unrenewed mind is to live by the Spirit through faith in the truth. This is where Paul’s gospel becomes crucial. If you do not know (believe and act on) the truth that you died with Christ and that you no longer have a sinful nature, you will not be able to live by the Spirit and overcome sin. You may begin your Christian life by being born again by the Spirit, but you will finish it in the flesh, if you try to overcome sin by the best of your natural ability. Since your self-effort is not of faith, this is sinful and unrighteous in God’s eyes. If we want to finish the race in faith and receive the crown of life from Jesus Christ, we must wholeheartedly obey (believe and act on) the gospel of the cross, which Paul received from Jesus Christ, and is the true gospel for all time.

Q. 44 What is the difference between the law of Moses and the law of Christ?

A. The law of Moses is a complete system of moral law that was given by God through Moses (see Exodus 29 to Deuteronomy 30). The law of Moses, also called the law of the Lord, is an exacting standard of statues that included the Ten Commandments and prescribed man’s duty toward God and man’s duty toward his fellow man. Everyone who was under the law of Moses was expected to keep the whole law. You could not pick and choose what part of the law of Moses you wanted to obey and what part you did not care to obey (James 2:10). If you broke just one part of the law of Moses, you were guilty of breaking the whole law (Galatians 3:10-11). The Bible also says that because of man’s sinful nature, everyone failed to keep the law of Moses (Romans 3:23; 7:5; 14-24).

Since everyone is guilty of breaking the law of Moses, what was God’s purpose in giving us His moral law? God gave us His law to reveal that we desperately needed a Savior to save us from sin. However, before God could prescribe the cure for us (which is Christ), He had to first diagnose our condition, which was indwelling sin. God already knew we were sinners before we were saved; the law was given so that we would also know we were sinners and acknowledge our sin-sickness. Therefore, God’s moral law placed exacting demands on us to reveal to us that we are lawbreakers who could not possibly overcome sin and wholeheartedly serve God in our own moral strength. Thus the purpose of the law was to expose our utter sinfulness and sin’s outcome – spiritual death (Romans 7:13). The apostle Paul taught, “Through the law we became conscious of sin… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… so death came to all men, because all sinned… therefore the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ (Romans 3:20, 23; 5:12; Galatians 3:24).”

The Bible says that when you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, your righteousness no longer depends on keeping the law of Moses; instead it is based solely on faith in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 6:15; Galatians 2:16). “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).” What does grace mean? When we were under the law, we had to do something to achieve God’s righteousness; however grace means God does something to impute His righteousness to us. Therefore, righteousness based on the law depends on our own work, whereas righteousness based on grace depends on Christ’s completed work on the cross. Since we are no longer under the law, does this mean we are free to be lawless and practice sin? Of course not! As Paul declared, “What then? Shall we sin because we are no longer under the law but under grace? May it never be! (Romans 6:15).” The Bible says we are under grace “so 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 (Romans 8:4).”

What is the righteous requirement of the law? Jesus said the righteous requirement of the law of Moses can be summed up by the following commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind (and) you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:35-40).” Paul confirmed this summation of the law of Moses when he declared, “The whole law is fulfilled in a single word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Galatians 3:14)’” Thus God’s standard of righteousness, as revealed by the law of Moses in the Old Covenant, and His standard of righteousness, which is revealed by the gospel of Christ in the New Covenant, are one and the same and can be summed up in one word – love – to love God and love others.

Therefore, the difference between the law of Moses and the law of Christ is not in God’s righteous standard but in His divine means to achieve that righteousness. The Bible says that what the law of Moses was unable to accomplish in the Old Covenant because of man’s sinful nature, God accomplished in the New Covenant through His Son’s crucifixion (Romans 8:3). This is the culmination of God’s eternal purpose in Christ, which He will manifest through His church (Ephesians 1:9-10; 3:9-11). Whereas man failed to keep God’s law, Jesus Christ fulfilled God’s law by His sinless life and perfect obedience to God the Father, even to the point of His sacrificial death on the cross (Matthew 5:17; John 14:31; Romans 10:4; Philippians 2:8: Hebrews 4:15; 7:26). God then used His Son’s death to birth His new creation, the church. How did God accomplish this? Through the operation of the cross, God performed a divine heart transplant and exchanged our terminally sin-sick heart with His Son’s divine heart. Thus God included us in His Son’s death so that His resurrected Son might now sovereignly live in us (Galatians 2:20). This is the divine exchange of the cross that occurred within us when we were born again. Therefore, because of Christ’s divine sacrifice, we no longer have a sinful nature; we now have Christ, our risen Lord, indwelling us (Romans 6:6; 8:9; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 13:5; Colossians 2:11; 1 Peter 3:15), and we have been freed from the power of sin and death (Romans 6:7; 8:2;). The Bible says, “Through Him (Christ) everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the law of Moses (Acts 13:39).” The law of Moses was not able to impart divine life to anyone because of man’s sinful nature (Galatians 3:21); however, if we are born again, Christ has removed our sinful nature and He is able to impart divine life to all those who believe in Him, thereby enabling us to overcome sin by faith in the truth (Romans 6:1-12).

This divine heart transplant is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant prophecies. The prophet Ezekiel declared, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and you will be careful to observe My ordinances (Ezekiel 36:26-27).” This was also promised by the prophet Jeremiah, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a New Covenant… I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God and they shall be My people (Jeremiah 31:31-33).” Because we have the received the New Covenant promise of God’s divine heart transplant, we can now walk in the Spirit and fulfill God’s righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished for us on the cross. Now that Christ lives in us, we have the grace to obey God, overcome sin and fulfill what the apostle James called the royal law of love (James 2:8). The Bible says, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).” James called this law of the Spirit “the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25).” Paul simply called it the “law of Christ” since Christ now fulfills God’s moral law in us and through us if we wholeheartedly submit to His sovereignty (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2). Thus the Old Covenant law of Moses (and its ministry of death and condemnation), has been superseded in the New Covenant by the law of Christ and His ministry of life and righteousness (2 Corinthians 3:2-9; Hebrews 8:1-13). If we are born again of the Spirit, God has written His law within our hearts - “written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts … He has made us competent as ministers of a New Covenant, not of the letter (of the law) but of the Spirit, for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:3-6).”

God does not want His people to be lawless and habitually overcome by practicing sin. Neither does He want them to pursue a hypocritical, self-righteous, man-made morality and outward form of godliness that denies Christ’s crucifixion and sovereignty. This is why God sent His Son to die on the cross for us. Through Christ’s death on the cross, we have been freed from the ungodly yoke of sin and the unbearable yoke of the law, so that we might put on the blessed yoke of Christ and serve God in the Spirit (Acts 15:10; Romans 6:18-22; 7:6; 2 Corinthians 3:5-6; Galatians 5:1). This is the law of liberty and spiritual rest in Christ! Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).”

For more on this topic, see our Bible Study on The Purpose and Meaning of Romans Seven.

Q. 45 Why do I need to overcome sin by faith, when I can use my own natural self-discipline instead?

A. This is a good question and one that every Christian should ask themselves. We know that no amount of natural self-discipline could ever have gotten us saved, since we could only be saved by faith (see Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 2:5). We must then ask: if our natural self-discipline had no spiritual value before we were saved, what possible spiritual value could our natural self-discipline have after we are saved? Although the Biblical answer should be clear, it has been obscured by many so-called “Christian” teachers who repeatedly urge believers to exercise their self-discipline to live a godly Christian life. These false teachers exhort you to use your own willpower and self-discipline to resist sin and live for God. Although they will sometimes add “with the help of the Holy Spirit,” this still means you must strive to be a good Christian by the best of your natural ability. If our natural self-discipline cannot possibly save us in the first place, why would we think (after we have been saved) that our natural self-discipline could possibly enable us to live a godly, holy life? Note: the term “self-discipline” also means “self-control.”

Of course, the apostle Paul does exhort Timothy to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:7).” What did Paul mean, however, by this instruction within the context of his teaching on Biblical faith? Paul specifically taught that we are not only saved by faith, we must then live by faith (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11). Paul also warned that “whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).” Therefore, the question is not whether we should discipline ourselves to live a godly life. Instead, the real issue is whether this discipline is based on our faith in Christ or whether it is based on our flesh (our natural willpower). In other words, does our self-discipline emanate from our own strength or from the Holy Spirit’s power? Although these two forms of self-control may outwardly appear the same, the nature and source of each are entirely different. Spiritual self-control that comes from God is solely the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), which we can only produce if we abide (stay rooted by faith) in Jesus Christ (John 15:4-5). This is the kind of spiritual self-discipline that Christians are encouraged to develop and exercise. Natural self-discipline, on the other hand, is the product of our natural strength and self-will. This is the kind of self-control that Buddhists, Hindus and even atheists can also use to lead outwardly “moral” lives.

There is a vast difference between human self-discipline that is naturally endowed and developed through willpower, in contrast to godly self-discipline that is spiritually imparted and exercised through faith in the Biblical truth. We must remember that the source of every godly virtue (the fruit of the Spirit), including spiritual self-control, stems solely from faith in Christ and His word. This Holy Spirit endowed self-control is the basis for our walking in sanctification. Naturally endowed self-control can never enable us to live a sanctified life in the Spirit. Any teaching that focuses on applying your natural self-discipline to live the Christian life instead of applying faith in Christ and His word is wrong. This is the divine order: true faith begets spiritual fruit. We do not exercise our natural self-control in order to develop faith, but rather we exercise our faith to develop spiritual fruit, including the fruit of godly self-control. This is the same divine progression which the apostle Peter expressed when he wrote: “Make every effort to add to your faith, goodness, and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge; self-control (2 Peter 1:5-6).” Once again, we see the diligent application of our faith leads to the development of godly self-control.

How do we develop this kind of holy self-control? We must abide by faith in the truth of Christ’s completed work on the cross. When Christ died, we died with Him and our sinful nature was removed from us when we were born again (Romans 6:3-11; Colossians 2:11). As we believe and act on this divine truth, Christ will be formed in us until we bear much fruit, including the fruit of holy self-control. There is a great difference between a Christian who overcomes sin by faith in what Christ has accomplished on the cross and a Christian who vainly tries to overcome sin by his own willpower and natural self-discipline. Trying to live the Christian life by your natural self-discipline is not just harmless, it is actually disobedient! When a person attempts to live the Christian life by exercising their natural self-discipline, they will have two possible outcomes: 1) If they have strong willpower, they may develop controlled behavior that appears outwardly moral but is inwardly still lawless to God. The result is secret pride and religious hypocrisy. In this case, they are no better than the Pharisees, of whom Jesus said, “You outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:28).” Or, 2) If they lack the willpower necessary to change their behavior, they will become hopelessly discouraged by their continued inability to overcome sin and will eventually live a compromised or carnal “Christian” life, or even reject Christianity entirely since it did not seem to “work for them.” Whether the outcome is pride or despair, Paul’s warning to the Galatians aptly fits both: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now trying to perfect yourselves by your human effort? (Galatians 3:3).”

Even if someone leads an outwardly “moral” life based on their natural self-discipline, their witness is limited to the power of what their natural man can accomplish. This is no Christian witness at all! The true Christian life of discipleship is not only demanding, it is impossible to achieve based on our own natural ability and morality. As Christ’s disciples, we are called to love as Christ loves (Ephesians 5:2) and be holy as Christ is holy (1 Peter 1:15). Christ’s life of discipleship is not natural; we can only live the true Christian life by the Spirit through faith in the truth. Anyone who thinks that they are strong enough or moral enough to be holy like Jesus and love like Jesus is deceived and prideful. Soulish self-discipline, which is produced by our natural willpower, is a counterfeit Christianity and is powerless to overcome the compromising sins that snare even professing Christians. We must always remember that “without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).” The only way you can possess the spiritual self-control needed to overcome sin is to believe and act on the truth that your old sinful nature died with Christ and that you are now dead to sin (Romans 6:11). This is how Christ will bear His spiritual fruit in you. As you persevere by faith in this truth of the cross of Christ, you will bear the godly fruit of holy self-control (see Luke 8:15). This is the kind of persevering faith and self-discipline for which Paul commended the Colossian believers: “I rejoice in your good discipline and the stability of your faith (Colossians 2:5).” Therefore, God’s intention is that we serve Him by faith in His strength (and self-control) that works within us (Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 3:20; 1 Peter 4:11).

If we frame Paul’s instruction in 1 Timothy 4:7 within context of his teaching on faith, it would read as follows: “Believe and act on the power of the cross of Christ in order to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” This is true spiritual self-discipline, which comes from God alone, on the basis of faith in the truth of Christ’s completed work on the cross. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).” In closing, if you try to live the Christian life by the flesh (your willpower and natural self-discipline), you will fail and spiritually die; but if you live by the Spirit through faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross, you will succeed and live! As Paul taught, “For if you live according to the flesh, you must die… so I say, live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desire of the flesh… for the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap destruction, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:17; 6:8).”

Q. 46 In this age of darkness and deception, how can I be sure I am really walking with the Lord?

A. This is a very good question that everyone should ask themselves. Two thousand years after Jesus ascended to heaven, we now live in a day when great darkness has encircled the earth and the spirit of antichrist has deceived its inhabitants (Isaiah 60:2). Note that the New Testament Greek word for “antichrist” does not just mean against Christ; it also means in place of Christ, or in other words, a counterfeit Christ. There are many imposters today who masquerade as Christians, but who have the spirit of antichrist. Because they have a different spirit, they have a different faith, a different gospel and a different Jesus. With this in mind, the apostle Paul warned the early church, “I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we have preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough… for such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ… disguising themselves as ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:3-4; 13-15).” If the first century church had to be alert concerning false Christians and a counterfeit Christ, how much more should we be spiritually discerning during these dark days? We must not be too quick to naively believe everyone who says, “I am a Christian,” or “Christ is with me,” or “Christ lives in me.” The apostle John warned, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).” There are many false prophets, pastors and teachers in our day who peddle a false gospel for personal profit or selfish ambition. Jesus said, “For false Christs and false prophets will arise… so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance (Matthew 24:24-25).” Jesus warned His disciples to examine those who call themselves apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers to assess whether they are true or false ministers of the gospel (Matthew 7:15-16; John 10:1-11; Revelation 2:2).

Because the spirit of antichrist has blinded them to the truth, many people who profess to be Christians think they are walking in the light when they are deceived and actually walking in darkness. Jesus said, “Watch out that the light in you is not darkness... if then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness (Luke 11:35; Matthew 6:23).” You cannot rely on your personal feelings to make sure you are right with the Lord. The only way you will not be deceived by the darkness is to make sure you are walking in the light of God’s truth. John said, “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell me about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear my children are walking in the truth (3 John 3-4).” We cannot walk in the light unless we wholeheartedly obey (believe and act on) the truth of God’s word. This truth must be our only compass and pathfinder. The Bible says God is the God of truth and He desires truth in our innermost being (Psalm 31:5; 51:6). Jesus said, “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).” Jesus prayed to His Father for His disciples, “Sanctify them (make them holy) in Your truth; Your word is truth (John 17:17).” Jesus also said, “I am… the truth... I am the light of the world; whoever follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will walk in the light of life (John 14:6; 8:12).” Therefore, in order to walk in the light and have fellowship with God, we must obey (believe and act on) the gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:36; Acts 5:32). This is the gospel that Paul called “the word of truth” (Ephesians 1:13; Colossians 1:5).

Unfortunately, the gospel that is heard in most churches today is not the gospel of truth. It is a different gospel (really a false gospel) because something essential is missing from it or something else has been improperly added to it. In these times, when many different false gospels are circulating and deception is rampant, it is not safe to base your spiritual life and eternal destiny on a gospel that you might have heard on the radio or even in some church. This reminds me of an experience I had as a new Christian when I was working as an apprentice carpenter. I was fortunate to work under the mentorship of a master carpenter, who also happened to be an elder and shepherd in our church. One day, my assigned task was to cut twenty pieces of lumber – each one to an exact and equal length. The master carpenter advised me that if I wanted to make sure each board was cut exactly right, I needed to individually measure each piece of lumber against the tape measure. He said if I simply tried to use the previous board that I had just cut to measure the next board, each succeeding board would (slowly but surely) become less and less true to measurement. In the same way, if we base our gospel on a gospel that we received from someone else (even if that person was a “pastor”), but do not “measure it” against the Scriptures themselves, we may not be following the true gospel. Many Christians today base their lives on a gospel they heard from some pastor who, in turn, based his gospel on a gospel he heard from some seminary professor who, in turn, based his gospel on a gospel he heard from some theologian. But what if that theologian was wrong and what if his gospel was not the true and complete gospel? For example, what if that theologian taught a false gospel that, after you are saved, you still have a sinful nature that wars against your new nature and keeps you imprisoned as a wretched sinner? What if that theologian taught a wrong gospel that after you are saved, you can never lose your salvation even if you continue to willfully practice sin? Tragically, that theologian’s wrong gospel would have been passed on to hundreds of seminary professors who, in turn, passed it on to thousands of seminary students, who then became pastors and passed it on to tens of thousands, and perhaps even hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting Christians. This is why it is imperative for every believer to personally study the Scriptures to make sure the gospel they have received is the one and only true gospel of Christ that leads to eternal life. In this regard, the Book of Acts records the story of a group of believers in Berea who were highly commended, not just because they eagerly received the gospel but because they also examined the Scriptures daily to see whether the gospel they received from Paul was actually the gospel of truth, the gospel of Christ (Acts 17:10-11).

What then is the gospel of truth, the gospel of Christ? The Bible says that the gospel of Christ consists of two essential divine truths. We must know and obey (believe and act on) both of these truths to walk fully in the light and have unbroken fellowship with God. The first divine truth is “Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)” and the second is “we died with Christ (Romans 6:8).” The first divine truth means that Jesus Christ died on the cross to give us forgiveness from our sins and save us from God’s wrath (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7). The apostle John wrote, “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:5-9).” From this Scripture, we can conclude that if we practice the truth and walk in sanctification, we can have spiritual fellowship with God and His people. However, if we practice sin, we cannot have spiritual fellowship with God and His people. We can also conclude from this Scripture that forgiveness of sins (through the blood of Christ) is available to anyone who sincerely repents (turns away) from practicing sin. On the other hand, God’s grace does not cover unrepentant sin. In other words, God’s divine provision of Christ’s blood for the forgiveness of sins is not effective for those who willfully and persistently keep on sinning (1 John 3:6).

With this in mind, how should we practice (put into action) this truth of the gospel of Christ? We must meditate in the Holy Scriptures daily so that the Holy Spirit can convict us of sin and encourage us in faith. We must repent daily from all known sins and believe that our sins are forgiven because of Christ’s blood shed on our behalf. We cannot depend on our personal feelings or individual conscience (which can be easily deceived) concerning this vital matter. An often used tactic of the devil is to try to snare us in sin and then condemn us, in order to undermine our faith in the sufficiency of Christ’s blood. When this happens, we must always practice 1 John 1:7-9 and use our shield of faith to stop the accusatory arrows of the devil. The Bible says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… this is how we know that we are of the truth and will assure our heart before Him whenever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things (Romans 8:1; John 3:19-20).” When we sincerely repent (turn away) from sin, we must stand firm in the truth of the gospel that our sins are forgiven and that we are freed from all condemnation. Our sins are not forgiven because we feel good that we read the Bible that morning or helped the homeless that day. No! Our sins are forgiven based solely on the value of the precious blood of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and has nothing to do with our worthiness or lack of worthiness.

It is noteworthy that the New Testament Greek word for “purify,” that is used twice in 1 John 1:7-9, is katharizo, which means to “cleanse from sin and free from the influence of sin.” This reveals that Christ’s atoning death provides for much more than just forgiveness of sins. This leads us to the second divine truth of the gospel: by His blood shed on the cross, Jesus Christ totally freed us from sin (Revelation 1:5). Jesus freed us not only from the penalty of our sins; He also freed us from the power of sin. This is the second divine truth: when we were born again, our sinful nature died and was removed from us so that we would no longer be captive to sin (Colossians 2:11). The Bible says, “For we know that our old man was crucified with Him in order that our body of sin (our sinful nature) might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died has been freed from sin (Romans 6:6-7).” This is the truth of the cross that Jesus Christ personally revealed to Paul (Galatians 1:11). This is the gospel that Paul preached and practiced when he testified, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).” This is the divine truth that not only sets you free from the guilt and condemnation of sin, but also from the power and influence of sin. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free… everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin… so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:31-36).” This second divine truth spiritually completes the word of the cross, which is the gospel of Christ, the “power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). Without this second divine truth, our salvation would be incomplete. Why is this? Because we would still remain enslaved to sin and defeated by sin. The Bible is very clear that unless we overcome sin by faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross, we will not see God nor know God, nor will we enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21-23; Hebrews 12:14; 1 John 3:6). Knowing this whole truth of the cross, the apostles did not preach the gospel as two phases of Christ’s Atonement (forgiveness from the penalty of sin and freedom from the power of sin). They taught the gospel – the message of the cross – as one seamless truth: Christ died for us, and included us in His death to free us from slavery to sin, so that He might sovereignly live in us. This is “the whole message of this new life… the whole purpose of God (Acts 5:20; 20:26-27).” This is the gospel that we must practice (believe and act on) to prove we are truly Christ’s disciples and ensure our election into the kingdom of heaven (2 Peter 1:10-11).

Again, why is it so crucial to understand and believe this second truth of the cross? Because until we are convinced that we have been crucified with Christ and that God destroyed and removed our sinful nature, we will be walking in misconception, ignorance and unbelief concerning this pivotal Biblical fact upon which the gospel of Christ is based. For example, if we do not know and believe the Biblical fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven – if we have never heard this divine fact or believed it – how can we be saved? “How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? (Romans 10:14).” In the same way, it is impossible to walk in sanctification and freedom from sin without first hearing, and then believing and acting on the spiritual truth that we have (also through Christ’s death on the cross) been delivered from our sinful nature. If you do not know (and believe and act on) the Biblical fact that your sinful nature has died and been removed in Christ, your natural tendency will be to rely on your soul-power (your natural temperament and talent) to live the Christian life. This would not be a life of faith. This would be a futile life of “trying to perfect yourself by your human efforts (Galatians 3:3).” Once again, a common tactic of the devil is to try to snare us in sin and then deceive us into mistakenly believing that we still have a sinful nature (in order to undermine our faith that we have been completely delivered from both the penalty and the power of sin). The devil will then try to seduce us into trying to use our natural ability and self-discipline to be holy, which will only lead to either self-pride or self-condemnation.

The Bible says that (when we were born again) we were immersed into Christ’s death so that we no longer have a sinful nature. Therefore, we are now “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).” Do we really believe this? When faced with the temptation to sin, do we believe this divine fact to the point that we act on it? Do we believe this truth of the gospel to the point that we resist the desire to sin because we know that we are dead to sin? This is the truth of the cross of Christ that God has provided for us to endure and escape every temptation to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13; Galatians 6:14). Note: once again, this provision of the cross is only available to those who sincerely repent (turn away) from practicing sin since God’s grace will not cover unrepentant sin. In other words, God’s divine provision of Christ’s blood for our deliverance from the power of sin is not effective for those who willfully and persistently keep on sinning (1 John 3:6). In fact, if they refuse to obey the truth they have already received, they will lose even that truth, and they will end up believing a lie and become even more enslaved to sin (Luke 8:18; Romans 1:24-25; 2 Peter 2:20-22).

Finally, the Bible exhorts us to “buy truth and do not sell it (Proverbs 23:23).” How can we “buy” the whole truth of the gospel of Christ and how much will it cost us? If you love the truth, it will not come cheaply. The Bible says that it is more precious than silver and gold and any earthly treasure (Proverbs 2:1-6; 3:13-15). Jesus said it will cost us everything we have – even our entire life (Matthew 13:45-46; 16:24-26). It is impossible to be full of faith and full of the Spirit, and full of Christ’s life and Christ’s love unless we walk in the light of the truth of the cross of Christ. The Bible says that “God our Savior… desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).” Why do some people come to the truth while others are “always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth? (2 Timothy 3:7).” Many people do not love the truth enough to pay the cost required to “buy” it. The Bible says, “They perish because they refused to love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10).” If we want to “buy” the truth of the cross – the gospel of Christ - so that it becomes ours, we must be prepared to suffer emotionally and even physically in order to resist sin and walk in the light (1 Peter 4:1-2; Hebrews 12:4). We must be prepared to lose our reputation, material possessions, career advancement, social standing, friendships, the affections of family members, and even the acceptance and approval other “Christians” for the gospel’s sake. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his soul-life will lose it, but whoever loses his soul-life for Me and the gospel will save it (Mark 8:34-35).” We must always remember, however, that the only way we can give up the things that are “near and dear” to our soul-life for the sake of the gospel is if we know (and believe and act on) the truth that we have spiritually died to those “near and dear” things of the world when God removed our sinful nature through Christ’s death on the cross (Galatians 6:14).

Everyone who practices the righteousness and sanctification that comes from trusting in Christ’s completed work on the cross in order to overcome sin walks in the light, but everyone who practices a false “morality” that comes from trusting in their flesh (their natural ability) to overcome sin “walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded him (1 John 2:11).” Jesus said, “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness… for this I have come into the world, to testify of the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice… this is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of the light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly what he has done has been done through God (John 12:46; 18:27; 3:19-21).” May our testimony be like Paul’s that “we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth (2 Corinthians 13:8).”

Q. 47 What is the Biblical evidence that we are walking in the truth?

A. The apostle John addressed this same question at the end of the first century. Before we look at his answer, it would help to review the spiritual condition of the church at that time. In middle of the first century (AD 50 to AD 60), the apostle Paul addressed letters to seven different churches. We might call this the “first generation” of churches following Christ’s death and resurrection. Based on the historical record of Paul’s letters, only two of the seven churches (Galatia and Corinth) had serious spiritual problems. However, within forty years, this situation had dramatically changed. In the Book of Revelation (written about AD 95), Jesus also addressed seven churches. We might call this the “second generation” of churches. This time, only two of the seven churches (Smyrna and Philadelphia) received high marks. In contrast, five of the seven churches had serious spiritual problems. This represents a significant decline in the spiritual state of the church in just one generation. However, those churches that were in serious spiritual trouble did not necessarily close their doors and “go out of business.” Instead, they were in grave danger of opening their doors to people who professed to be Christians, but who did not walk in the truth of Christ.

Consequently, John wrote a letter to warn his spiritual children of this danger. In his letter, John gave two specific criteria to help assess whether someone is a true or false Christian. John wrote, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother (1 John 3:10).” From this, we can conclude that if someone practices righteousness and loves their brothers and sisters in Christ, they are a true Christian. But, conversely, if they do not practice righteousness and do not love the body of Christ, they are a false Christian. With this instruction and warning in mind, let us examine each of these two criteria more closely.

John said the first mark of a true Christian is that they practice righteousness. What does it mean to practice righteousness? John said this means we do God’s will and do not practice sin. He expounded, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God will live forever (1 John 2:15-17).” John also taught, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness… no one who abides in Him keeps on sinning. No one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him. Little children, make sure that no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil (1 John 3:4-8).”

At this point, we must ask, “How do we practice God’s standard of righteousness?” We know that no amount of human effort to live righteously could ever have gotten us saved (see Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5). Since that is true, then how do we live righteously after we are saved? Once again, we certainly cannot do it by our natural willpower and self-effort. It is impossible to practice true righteousness apart from faith in the truth (that God delivered us from the power of sin by removing our sinful nature when we were born again). As Paul taught, “not having a righteousness of my own… but a righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Philippians 3:9; see also Romans 9:30-10:6).” Just as we were saved by faith in the truth of Christ, we must also live by faith in the truth of Christafter we are saved. The Bible says, “Just as it is written, ‘the righteous will live by faith (Romans 1:17; see also Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).’” Practicing the righteousness that comes from faith is the only righteousness that counts in God’s eyes because “whatever is not from faith is sin… and without faith it is impossible to please Him (Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6).” Any professing “Christian” who tries to practice righteousness apart from faith in the truth of the cross practices a false righteousness that is born of the flesh (their natural ability and inherent morality) rather than from faith in Christ alone. As Paul admonished, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by your human effort? (Galatians 3:3).”

People who devote their lives to practicing a false righteousness (based on trusting in their natural morality and ability) may attend church, read the Bible, and may even attempt to “teach” others the Bible, but they are actually imposters and false Christians. Although they claim to be “Christians” and may even be “ministers,” they are practicing an outward form of Christianity that is not based on true Biblical faith. Inwardly, they are unbelieving, lawless and even rebellious toward God because their righteousness is not based on faith (see Matthew 23:28; 1 John 3:4). Since they depend on their willpower and natural self-discipline to live righteously, their lives deny the power of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. As Jesus said, “On the outside you appear righteous to people, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:28).” This is a counterfeit Christianity. Paul said, “Such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness (ministers of morality). Their end will be what their actions deserve (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).” It is impossible to have spiritual fellowship with any so-called “Christian” who persists in practicing this kind of false morality. Paul warned, “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him… they maintain an outward form of godliness, but they deny the powerof it (the cross of Christ). Stay away from such people (Titus 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:5).”

But how can we practice true righteousness that is based solely on faith? The answer is we do not try to live a holy life based on our own human ability and natural morality. Instead, we must live each day by acting in faith on the truth of the cross. What is the truth of the cross? When we were born again, God removed our sinful nature so that Christ could live in us. Paul taught, “For we know that our old man was crucified with Christ, in order that our body of sin (our sinful nature) might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin… and having been freed from sin, you became servants of righteousness (Romans 6:6-7 & 18). Based on this Scripture, how can we practice God’s righteousness? When we have been freed from sin! And when were we freed from sin? When we died with Christ! And when did we die with Christ? When we were born again into Christ and our sinful nature died and was removed from us (see also Romans 6:3; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 2:11-13). Why is this divine truth so crucial to our sanctification? We must remember that although our sinful nature was removed from us when our spirit was made alive in Christ, our soul-life (our natural personality with its attitudes, affections and abilities) was not automatically converted into Christ’s image. Therefore, after we are saved, the issue we face is no longer the unrelenting domination of our sinful nature which kept us enslaved to sin. Instead, the issue we must now deal with is our unconverted soul and unrenewed mind. But if we are truly born again and no longer have a sinful nature, our mind can and should be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. However, in order for the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power to be effective and transform our lives, we must choose to believe and act on the divine truth that God removed our sinful nature when we were born again and that we are now a new creation in Christ indwelt by His Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is absolutely essential if we are to practice the true righteousness that comes from faith alone. Jesus said, “My brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice (Luke 8:21).”

Now let us look at the second mark of a true Christian. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).” And John added, “We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brethren (1 John 3:14).” Note that neither Jesus nor John said the evidence of a true Christian (one who has passed from spiritual death into spiritual life) was that they attended church, paid tithes or were in “Christian” ministry. They said the mark of a true Christian is love. The Greek noun used for love in these verses is agape (the verb is agapao) – this is the only love that is of God and from God. Some people are naturally more caring, patient and kind than others, but this does not mean they have God’s agape love. Since agape love is the very essence of God Himself, it can only be expressed in us as a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and not as a human attribute produced by our natural ability (Galatians 3:3). John wrote, “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him (1 John 4:16).”

Therefore, we cannot express God’s love by using our natural willpower to try harder to be more patient, kind and gentle. Further, God’s agape love is not the same as human love. Human love is based on our sharing common attitudes, activities and associations, which then bonds us together with others. Human love is based on giving acceptance, affection and approval to those that give us acceptance, affection and approval in return. However, God’s love is based on genuinely having the interests and welfare of others at heart rather than merely protecting and promoting our own selfish interests. The Bible says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:3-5).”

We might ask, “Isn’t it just natural to love those who love you?” Yes, but Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them (Luke 6:32).” We might then say, “But it seems unnatural to love those who do not love you.” That is true; however, real Christianity is not natural, it is supernatural. If we claim to be Christians and yet insist on living in the natural realm of human love instead functioning in the heavenly realm of God’s agape love, we are practicing a false Christianity. True Christianity enables you to overcome your natural feelings and soulish reactions such as fear, anger, resentment, loathing, bitterness and vengeance. True Christianity enables you to even love your enemies. Jesus said, “Love your enemies… expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High (Luke 6:35).”

There is a logical order to the two clear-cut criteria that John gave the church to tell the difference between a true Christian and a false Christian. Practicing the true righteousness that is based on very specific faith (that we are dead to sin because our sinful nature was removed from us when we were born again) always precedes having God’s agape love for others. Why is this? Agape love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit – a fruit that can only be reproduced in you if you abide (stay rooted by faith) in Jesus Christ and His completed work on the cross (John 15:4-5; Galatians 5:22-23). If you practice true righteousness that comes from faith alone, then you will bear the fruit of righteousness, which is agape love. If you practice sin, you cannot not abide in Christ, nor can you bear the fruit of His agape love. John warned, “No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him (1 John 3:6).” You may be one of those people who have natural love for others (perhaps even exceptional human love), but it is impossible for you to have God’s agape love for others unless you practice the true righteousness that only comes from believing and acting on the power of the cross of Christ (Philippians 1:11).

Paul proclaimed, “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross… is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:17-18).” The cross of Christ is the power of God, which not only enabled our initial salvation; it is the power of God that now enables us to walk each day in sanctification. Why is this divine truth of the cross so crucial to the gospel? God knew that we needed more than His divine forgiveness from the penalty of our sins; He knew that we also needed His divine deliverance from the power of sin. Otherwise, we could not practice His true righteousness nor have His agape love for others (the two distinguishing marks of a true Christian). Therefore, God accomplished this divine deliverance by removing our sinful nature through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, so that His resurrected Son might now sovereignly live in us. This is the whole gospel of Christ that enables us to wholeheartedly do God’s will on earth, receive the full riches of our spiritual inheritance in Christ, and enter the kingdom of heaven as the family of God.

Q. 48 How can I deny myself and give up my whole life to follow Jesus Christ without becoming an uptight, legalistic and miserable Christian?

A. This is an honest question that every Christian who is serious about pursuing holiness must face sooner or later. The Bible says that God has called every Christian to live a holy life, to the extent that we are to be holy in all our behavior (2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 1:15). The apostle Paul taught, “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you His Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8).” The Bible also says that joy is a fruit of obeying the Holy Spirit and that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10; Galatians 5:22). Yet far too many Christians who try to live a holy life end up spiritually exhausted, joyless, hypercritical and hypocritical. Before we look at the reason for this all too common phenomenon and discuss God’s specific remedy for solving this dilemma, we need to backtrack a little.

There are two extremes that every Christian should avoid in trying to live an authentic Christian life, which above all is a holy life. The first extreme is religious legalism, and the second is “greasy-grace” licentiousness. Both extremes are carnal in nature and both stem from ignorance and unbelief about what Jesus Christ has accomplished for us by His death on the cross. First, let’s define legalism. Legalism is the systematic attempt to please God by your own works instead of living solely by faith in Jesus Christ (His Person and His completed work on the cross). The practice of religious legalism (in its many forms) can not only rely on self-effort to be justified and saved; it can also rely on self-effort to be sanctified and live holy. For example, a person may be rightly saved by faith, but then wrongly practice legalism to live the holy Christian life (Galatians 3:3). In this regard, legalism is the religion of “always trying harder.” Whenever Christians practice legalism instead of faith, they cut themselves off from God’s grace and joy (Galatians 5:4). Although legalism may outwardly have the appearance of “morality,” it is not based on faith; therefore, it is sinful and inwardly lawless to God (Romans 14:23; 1 John 3:3-4). Legalism is the erroneous belief that if you follow certain religious rules, you will be righteous in God’s eyes. For example, legalism is the false belief that if you attend church every Sunday and tithe ten percent of your income to the church, you will be righteous. Or, if you are a more serious-minded Christian who is concerned about practicing inward holiness and not just outwardly following so-called “Christian” rules, then legalism is trying your best to practice a strict “moral” lifestyle and devoting yourself to Christian disciplines, such as Bible reading and meditation, witnessing, prayer and fasting.

Although practicing these Christian “disciplines” or “methods” can certainly be spiritually beneficial, God’s righteousness is never credited to anyone based on their keeping religious rules and methods. No form of “methodism” (such as Bible reading, meditation, prayer, fasting, etc.) can ever produce God’s true righteousness and holiness within us unless it springs from a life based on true faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross. For more on this subject, see Question & Answer #45: Why do I need to overcome sin by faith, when I can use my own natural self-discipline instead? Some Christians also erroneously believe that the way to overcome sin is to immerse yourself in ministry activities. Their rationale is that if you are busily employed doing the work of ministry, you are unavailable for the devil’s work. Under this misguided philosophy, the more you are tempted by sin, the more time and energy you should devote to ministry. However, this teaching is also religious legalism since it too depends on your self-effort (instead of your faith in the cross of Christ) to walk in holiness. Using “ministry” in this carnal way to overcome sin is guaranteed to produce spiritual self-deception and self-pride or spiritual burn-out. The apostle Paul warned believers against the futility of religious legalism in Colossians 2:20-23: “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of the world, … why do you submit to its rules?… Such practices have the appearance of wisdom with their self-imposed religion, false humility and ascetic discipline, but they have no value in restraining sinful desires.” In other words, all of your man-made religious attempts at trying harder to live a holy Christian life cannot stop you from practicing sin. Since these religious practices and disciplines (however well-intended) do not spring from faith in the truth of the cross and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, they are a complete waste of effort, spiritually worthless, and even spiritual dangerous. This insidious snare of religious legalism might be called “churchianity,” since it is a counterfeit form of true Christianity. For more on this subject, see our Teaching Tract #35: Breaking the Yoke of Churchianity.

The second extreme that many Christians fall into is “greasy-grace” licentiousness. Licentiousness is a lack of godly self-control, which leads to unrestrained worldly excess. The word licentiousness is derived from the same root word for license. Licentiousness misuses God’s grace as a license to practice sin. As Paul warned, “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!... Do not use your freedom as a license to gratify sinful desires… for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, training us to deny ungodliness and worldly passions and to live sober-minded, upright and godly lives in this present age (Romans 6:15; Galatians 5:13; Titus 2:11-12).” Although licentiousness is often associated with sexual immorality, it can also mean the excessive pursuit of all worldly pleasures. Any Christian who continues to misuse God’s grace as a license to sin will inevitably fall into some form of licentiousness. The Bible uses the term “dissipation” to describe the fruit of licentiousness (see Luke 21:34; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Peter 4:3-4; Titus 1:6). From a Biblical perspective, dissipation means squandering and wasting your life on worthless worldly things (such as accumulating riches and indulging in sinful and sensual pleasures); things which the world sometimes perversely calls the “good life.” Jesus warned His disciples about the danger of falling into licentiousness: “These are the ones who have heard (the word of God), and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity (Luke 8:14).” The Bible says that people who live for earthly pleasure are “spiritually dead,” even though they are still physically alive (1 Timothy 5:6). Christians who practice licentiousness usually have a false concept of grace. They believe that God’s grace is inexhaustible and covers all their present and future sinful actions, even if they live a life of faithlessness and routinely practice sin in its various forms. This is dead wrong! This is called “greasy-grace,” which is not God’s grace at all! The Bible warns us to beware of “ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness (Jude 4).”

The Bible commands us to “pursue… holiness, for without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).” However, most Christians who zealously pursue holiness lack a sound Biblical knowledge of how to pursue and practice holiness. In the words of Paul: “I testify of them that they have a zeal for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they do not know about the righteousness that comes from God and are seeking to establish their own, they did not submit themselves to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:2-3).” As we said before, a common error of many Christians is to practice some form of religious legalism, but mistake it for the practice of righteousness. Since legalism is performance-based and not faith-based, it is only natural that when you perform well (according to your standard of righteousness) you will feel good or righteous; but when you perform badly, you will feel bad or unrighteous. It is also natural that you will feel resentful and angry towards other Christians who are not trying as hard to perform according to your standard of righteousness. Jesus condemned religious legalism and warned that people who practiced it “trusted in their own righteousness and regarded others with contempt (Luke 18:9; see also Romans 14:10).” If we continue down the spiritually suffocating path of legalism and are honest with ourselves, we will eventually “look in the mirror” and face the awful realization that we have become an uptight and miserable Christian. At this point, we may have the following reaction: we may “let go” of trying so hard to be holy and yet continue going to church, but settle for a much lower (and carnal) standard of holiness, which is often expressed as: “We are all sinners like everyone else, the only difference is that we are forgiven.” We may even privately decide to exchange our pursuit of holiness for the pursuit of earthly happiness and the world’s so-called “good life,” even while we keep up the outward appearance of being Christians. In essence, we may give up trying to be holy since holiness seems impossible. But then, does God really expect us to stop practicing sin and be holy? Most certainly! Did not Jesus say, “Go and sin no more (John 5:17; 8:11)?” And did not Paul say, “Come back to your senses as you should, and stop sinning (1 Corinthians 15:34)?” And did not Peter say, “Like the Holy One who called you, be holy in all your behavior (1 Peter 1:15)?”

The problem of legalism and licentiousness is not new. Back in the first century, the Galatian church fell into legalism and the Corinthian church fell into licentiousness. Both churches had to be rebuked and exhorted to turn back to the straight and narrow path of devoted obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:6-9; 5:4-11; 2 Corinthians 11:1-4; 12:20-21).” Since both legalism and licentiousness stem from unbelief and disobedience to God’s truth, both are an expression of ungodly lawlessness (legalism is lawlessness with a religious mask). Of course, not all Christians wander so far down the path of legalism or licentiousness that they become spiritually crippled by the rigid straitjacket of legalism or morally bankrupted by the worldly pleasures of licentiousness. Yet the tragic reality is that many sincere Christians spend their lives wandering back and forth between varying degrees of legalism and licentiousness (to what the degree depends on their natural inclinations) without ever finding the way of true holiness in Jesus Christ. As one sad believer put it, “Am I condemned to living a life of no victory over sin?”

Now that we have examined the problem of legalism and licentiousness, let us look at God’s remedy for dealing with the true root of our dilemma, which is sin-sickness. According to the gospel, Christ not only died to free us from the penalty of sin, He also died to free us from the power of sin. When we were saved, God spiritually immersed us into Christ’s death to remove our sinful nature so that we would no longer be captive to sin. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized (immersed) into Christ Jesus have been baptized (immersed) into His death?... For we know that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin (our sinful nature) might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin (Romans 6:3, 6-7; see also Colossians 2:11-12).” Thus, when we were born again, God removed our sinful nature, so that Christ could sovereignly live in us (Colossians 1:27). But after we have experienced this great salvation, we must be careful to avoid the extremes of either legalism or licentiousness as we pursue God’s path of righteousness and holiness. Paul warned the Galatian church when they had wandered off the path of righteousness and into legalism, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now trying to perfect yourselves by your human effort?... You have been severed from Christ… you have fallen from grace (Galatians 3:3; 5:4).”

Why is it common for many sincere Christians to fall into thinking (after Jesus has saved them) that they need to try hard to sanctify themselves and live a holy life? The reason is that we still have an unrenewed mind after we are saved. Although we no longer have an Adam sinful nature (because God removed it when we were born again), we still have an old Adam way of thinking (an unrenewed mind). Our unrenewed mind needs to be transformed according to the truth of God’s word, particularly the truth that we no longer have a sinful nature and Christ now lives in us (Romans 6:1-7; 2 Corinthians 13:5). Until our faith is firmly established in this divine truth, we will fall into the same old sinful patterns of thinking and acting. Because of our unrenewed mind, we can also have a natural tendency to erroneously believe that we are capable of living a sanctified or holy life if we would only apply some natural self-discipline and try harder. Even after the Holy Spirit gives us divine revelation that only faith in Christ’s death on the cross can possibly grant us freedom from the power of sin, our natural habit (especially when we are tired, tempted, stressed, sick, or in pain) can be to fall back on our own strength to try to overcome sin. However, that is precisely the time for us to resist our natural urge and the temptation to use our willpower to try harder to resist sin. Instead, we can (and should) overcome the sins (that easily entangled us in the past) by standing firm on the sure foundation of faith that we are “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).” This is how (inch-by-inch and day-by-day) we overcome the “giants” that would stop us from taking God’s Promised Land, which is our spiritual inheritance in Christ.

The work of God never changes – it is always the work of faith. Jesus said, “This is the work of God – that you believe in Him whom He has sent (John 6:29).” Since Christ has already delivered us from our sinful nature and sin’s domination over us, our “work of faith” is to keep our eyes fixed each day on Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross. Whenever we step out of God’s work of faith and enter into our own self-effort, we take the burden for our sanctification out of God’s hands and put it in our own hands. This prevents God from doing the sanctifying work of the Spirit in us that comes from believing and acting on the divine truth that we no longer have a sinful nature and Christ now lives in us (Galatians 2:20). It also produces ungodly anxiety and stress since we have decided (in unbelief) that the work of God now depends on our own self-effort instead of Christ working in us. This yoke of unbelief is an awful burden to bear. The Bible calls it “the yoke of slavery." As Paul exhorted, “It was for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).” This oppressive yoke of unbelief and legalism is in marked contrast to Jesus’ yoke of faith and discipleship. For Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you… My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).”

It is important to remember that faith is always active – not passive. As Paul said, “Fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12).” We cannot just forget about what Jesus has done on the cross and then expect God to transform us. Many Christians have drifted away from the faith and into licentiousness because they unwisely practiced this kind of “passive faith,” which is really not faith at all. True faith actively believes and acts on the divine facts. Jesus said, “My brothers are those who hear God’s word and act on it (Luke 8:21).” If we never actively believed that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross for our sins, we would never be saved. In the same way, if we do not actively believe that God has removed our sinful nature to free us from sin’s bondage, we will never experience freedom from chronic, entangling sins.

It is also important to remember that God wants us to have His joy as we pursue a life of holiness in Him. The Bible says that in God we can have the fullness of His joy (Psalm 16:11). And Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full (John 15:11).” Indeed, the Bible contains over 450 Scriptural references to joy (and its various forms - joyful, joyous, rejoice etc.) If God can make the sunrise and sunset shout for joy and the mountains and the trees sing for joy, surely He can fill us – His children - with His joy (Psalm 65:8; 96:12; 98:8; John 16:22). However, in order for us to have the joy of the Lord, we need to stand firm by faith in the spiritual freedom that Jesus Christ has purchased for us by His death on the cross. What greater joy can there be than for us to know (after we are born again) that God has removed our sinful nature and replaced it with His Son’s nature, so we might truly know Him and serve Him? Whenever we find that we have lost the joy of the Lord, it is a red flag warning us that we have stepped out of this place of faith. Whenever we find ourselves afraid and overcome by sin, it is a sign that we have wandered off the path of true holiness and spiritual joy found only in Christ. Whenever we are overwhelmed by a sense of failure, it reveals we are trying to sanctify ourselves in our own strength instead of fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ and the freedom from sin that He has given us by His death on the cross. Whenever we become angry and merciless with ourselves and with others, it is an indication that we have slipped under the heavy yoke of legalism and stepped out of the yoke of faith and joy and rest in Christ. Christ’s burden is light and His yoke is easy and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is spiritual liberty and joy and mercy; not legalism and carnal severity. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17).” We cannot sanctify ourselves nor can we sanctify others; only Christ can accomplish His sanctification by living in us through His Spirit. Therefore, we must remember to always stand firm by faith in Christ and His completed work on the cross, by which He has given us His joy and liberty. This is the spiritual joy and freedom (from legalism and licentiousness) that comes from wholeheartedly submitting to Christ’s Lordship and His truth (see John 8:31-36).

What do we do if we find we have taken a wrong turn and wandered down the path of legalism or licentiousness? There is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus Christ! We simply turn around (repent), ask God to restore the joy of our salvation, and go back to fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross. As we abide (remain united by faith) in Christ and His word, the truth of the cross will light the way of holiness for us (Psalm 119:105). And this is that truth: Christ died for us and included us in His death (to remove our sinful nature), so that He could sovereignly live in us. If we believe and act on this divine truth, we will walk on God’s straight and narrow path, and we will avoid wandering off into the error of either legalism or licentiousness. By faith in Christ’s triumph on the cross, we will walk on God’s holy road that leads to eternal life (Romans 6:22), and experience God’s righteousness and joy in this present life. “For the kingdom of God is… righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).”

Q. 49 Many Christians think there is something crucial missing in the church today. How does the message of the cross address this?

A. The church today has lost its connection to Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:19). Consequently, the church has lost its spiritual life and vitality. Many churches are anemic, sick and dying. Countless numbers of churches are already spiritually dead, including many with a reputation that they are alive (see Revelation 3:1). This is why so many Christians are leading secret lives of sin. This is why so many ministers are ensnared in moral and financial scandals. This is why so many Christians are restless and dissatisfied with their church experience. This is why so many Christians keep changing churches in the hope of finding one that will meet their spiritual need. This is why so many Christians are disheartened to the point that they have stopped going to church. This is why so many pastors are so demoralized that they have left the ministry. This is why the church has lost Christ’s power to overcome the sin of the world, and to spiritually and morally influence our society.

As a result of this dire situation, many concerned Christians are searching for God’s solution to restore the church to spiritual life and vitality. They are reexamining every aspect of church. They are experimenting with new forms of church leadership and evangelism, and trying new ways of worship and assembly. However, what is missing from today’s church is far more central and crucial than any of these changes to church tradition, structure or practice. All of these attempts at reform are only attacking the symptoms rather than the root cause of the church’s sin sickness. What is missing is the very basis for the life of church. As Jesus said, “You have no life within yourselves (John 6:63).” What is missing from the church today is Jesus Christ Himself and His resurrection life and power. And why is the presence and power of Jesus Christ missing from the church today? The church is overcome by unbelief and sin. The church cannot hope to abide in (stay united by faith to) Jesus Christ when it is overcome by the sin of the world. “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness… no one who abides in Him keeps on sinning. No one who keeps on sinning has seen Him or knows Him (1 John 3:4-6).” The Bible says that practicing sin is spiritual idolatry (Colossians 3:5) and loving the riches and pleasures of this world is spiritual harlotry (James 4:4), and that those who practice such things will not inherit eternal life (Galatians 5:21).

But how can the church overcome the devious and destructive nature of sin? The answer to the church’s dilemma is found in the cross of Christ. God knew we needed forgiveness for our sins; He also knew we needed deliverance from our sin nature. Otherwise, how could we possibly overcome sin and stay connected to Jesus Christ? How could we hope to walk in true sanctification and obedience to Christ if we still had an evil, sinful nature indwelling us? Therefore, when Jesus Christ died, He not only bore our sins on the cross; He also bore our sin nature on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). Since our bondage to sin came when we were born sinners; our deliverance from sin came when God included us in His Son’s death (Romans 5:19; 6:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:14). When Christ died, God destroyed and removed our sin nature so that we would be freed from the power of sin, and be able to walk in Christ’s resurrection life (Romans 6:4-7). Therefore, we no longer have a sinful nature; we now have Christ’s holy nature indwelling us (Colossians 1:27; 2:11). Thus the cross of Christ is the secret to overcoming sin and restoring the church to Christ’s resurrection life and power.

For if we do not know (and believe and act on) the Biblical truth that we have died with Christ, how can Christ sovereignly live in us and through us? In this situation, all that we can do is try to reform and restore the church with the best of our ideas, plans and talents, and our interpretation and application of Biblical laws, principles and patterns. However, even the very best of our soulish energy and efforts cannot reproduce Christ’s life (John 6:63). How can we restore the church to a place of spiritual purity and power if we ourselves are still practicing sin? Even if we attempt to restore the church to first-century New Testament patterns and practices, how can we possibly hope to truly restore the church to its rightful place with God if our own souls are not right with God? The answer is found in the cross of Christ. The Bible says, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him (Romans 6:8).” In other words, if we believe and act on the truth that we have died with Christ and no longer have a sinful nature, then we can (both individually and corporately) overcome sin, and live by faith in the Son of God who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). Heaven and earth are waiting for this glorious moment in God’s history. “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:19).”

But now we must ask a final and sobering question: If God’s solution to victory over sin is this simple, then why do so many Christians reject this Biblical truth of the cross that sets you free from sinful thinking and acting? Indeed, why do they continue to adamantly insist that all born again Christians still have an evil, sinful nature? Here is the shameful reason: The only way you can receive this truth of the cross of Christ (and exercise faith in it) is if you have a heart of true humility and submission to God’s sovereignty and His righteousness. If you truly want to stop practicing sin, then you will be overjoyed to know (and believe and act on) this great and glorious Biblical truth that sets you free from the insidious sins that so easily entangled you. But if you secretly harbor a desire to continue practicing sin, then stubbornly holding on to the lie that you still have a sinful nature (after you are born again) provides you with a convenient “religious” excuse to keep sinning (Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 2:16). You may think (erroneously) that if you still have a sinful nature, then surely you are not able to stop sinning. And you may think (erroneously) that since you are just a sinner saved by grace (yet still have a sinful nature and, therefore, cannot stop sinning), then surely God cannot hold you responsible for your sins. Or, you may even think (once again, erroneously) that since you are ignorant (“my pastor never told me this truth”), then God will not hold you responsible if you continue to practice sin. However, the Bible says that stubborn ignorance is no excuse for your sin, especially when God has clearly provided you a way to stop practicing sin (Acts 17:30; John 15:22; Romans 1:20; 6:3-16). Or you may think (yet once again, erroneously) that God intentionally did not remove your sinful nature when you were saved because He knew that your inability to stop practicing sin would keep you humble. In other words, under this bizarre logic, the more you sin, the more humble you become. This untruth (which one pastor actually told us he believed) may be one of the more clever (devilish) excuses fabricated to justify why it is OK for Christians to continue to practice sin. Finally, you may think (yet once more, erroneously) that God has provided Jesus’ blood to cover all your sinning because He knows you are weak, ignorant and unable to stop practicing sin. However, this kind of thinking is dead wrong! This falsehood is a lawless attempt to misuse God’s grace as an excuse for sin. This kind of cheap grace is not Biblical grace at all; it is counterfeit grace! As Paul said, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! (Romans 6:1-2).” For more on this, see our Question and Answer #46: In this age of darkness and deception, how can I be sure I am really walking with the Lord? and #48: How can I deny myself and give up my whole life to follow Jesus Christ without becoming an uptight, legalistic and miserable Christian?

Tragically, rather than submit themselves to God’s righteousness (which is received by faith), many so-called “Christians” stubbornly resist God’s sovereign will, and instead seek to establish their own righteousness (trying to attain it by their self-effort, which is self-pride and self-deception). If you reject the righteousness that comes only by believing and acting on the Biblical truth that God removed your sinful nature when you were saved) and continue to practice sin, you will inevitably end up leading a double-life: publically professing to be Christian when in church and appearing outwardly moral to others, but secretly practicing sin when in private. As Jesus warned, “On the outside you appear to be righteous, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:28).” Why would any Christian be satisfied with a life that it is just an outward show of moral change? Here is the reason: the cross strikes at the root of our self-identity, self-righteousness and self-sovereignty. The real crux of the matter is whether you are willing to lose your self-life (your selfish attitudes, desires and identity), and submit yourself completely to Christ’s authority so that you can bear the true fruit of a disciple: sanctification (Mark 8:34-35; Romans 6:22).

For many, the desire to keep sinning is the real reason behind their stubborn unbelief and rejection of this powerful truth of the cross of Christ. They have stumbled over “the stumbling block of the cross (Galatians 5:11).” They would rather do “what is right in their own eyes,” than submit themselves to God’s righteousness, which comes only from faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross. They would rather preserve and protect their self-identity as a sinner who is saved but cannot stop sinning, than choose to believe that they can conquer sin if they will only submit to God’s truth and His righteousness. They want salvation with its “fringe benefits,” including “fire insurance,” but reject sanctification with its high cost (denying your self-sovereignty, carrying your cross and losing your self-life for Christ’s sake). Since they do not love and embrace the truth of the cross, but instead reject and suppress it, God allows them to believe this lie (that they cannot stop practicing sin because they still have a sin nature), that will lead them to spiritual death. They are unable to recognize the truth and incapable of walking in faith because of unbelief and disobedience!

If knowing Christ and submitting to His authority is what you really desire, then embracing the truth that God has destroyed and removed your sinful nature is liberating. However, if you do not want to wholeheartedly submit to Christ’s authority, then this message of the cross will elude you, and even offend you. If you are willing to stop practicing sin, God has provided a way for you. Through the death of His only Son Jesus, God removed your sin nature that kept you enslaved to sin. This message of the cross is only a stumbling block if you love your self-life too much to give it up and submit to Christ’s authority. However, if you are truly willing to stop practicing sin and lose your self-life for Christ’s sake, then this gospel of the cross of Christ is great news! But tragically, many professing Christians would rather choose to practice a counterfeit Christianity of cheap grace that allows them to maintain their self-sovereignty and lawlessness, than submit themselves to God’s sovereignty and His righteousness (2 Timothy 3:5). Thus, by their own choosing, they prove themselves to be unfaithful and rebellious toward God and store up wrath for themselves in the Day of Judgment.

So what is missing from the church today? Real faith in the real truth and “a good and honest heart” towards God (Luke 8:15). For more on this subject, see our Teaching Tract: #23: The Stumbling Block of the Cross; #36: Unveiling the Bride; #51: God’s Glorious Church; and #53: When Church Fails.

Q. 50 Why is it not enough to just believe that I am a new creation in Christ? Why must I also believe that I no longer have a sin nature?

A. Before we answer your question, let us first review the unbreakable bond between faith and truth. The Bible says that our relationship with God must be based on faith (Hebrews 11:6). And our faith must be based on a knowledge of Biblical truth to be real and effective (2 Timothy 2:25; Titus 1:1). For without true faith, we cannot see God or know God. Therefore, the more accurately we handle a knowledge of the truth, the more we will know God and the more effective we will become as His workers (2 Timothy 2:15). Conversely, without an accurate knowledge of the truth, the more the enemy can try to deceive and destroy us. As God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).”

The more central the truth, the more essential that truth is to our Christian faith. And there is no truth more central to our Christian faith than knowing Jesus Christ (who He is and what He accomplished for us on the cross). For example, the Deity of Jesus Christ is central to Christianity and absolutely essential to our Christian faith. If you do not believe that Jesus Christ is God, then you are not walking in the truth and your faith is not real Biblical faith. In other words, you cannot know God if you do not believe and submit to the essential truth of Jesus Christ’s Deity. Another central truth is the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross to deliver us from the penalty of sin and reconcile us to God (2 Corinthians 5:19). Knowing (and believing and acting on) this Biblical truth is essential to your Christian faith; otherwise your sins would separate you from God (Ephesians 2:1-9).

However, there are many Biblical truths that are not as central to our Christian faith. In other words, they are spiritually and practically important to believe and act on, but they are not essential to our salvation and entrance into the kingdom of God. For example, whether you believe that church government should function in a presbyterian way (a plurality of elders leads), an episcopalian way (a single bishop/priest or pastor leads), a congregational way (a consensus of the church leads), or a charismatic way (the Holy Spirit leads through His spiritual gifts distributed to the body) is not essential to your salvation. Therefore, this particular truth (although very important to the healthy functioning of God’s church) is not absolutely central to your Christian faith. In the same way, whether you believe in pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or post-tribulation end-time theology is also not essential to your salvation.

Now let us return to your basic question: “Why is it not enough to just believe that I am a new creation in Christ? Why must I also believe that I no longer have a sin nature?” The fact that you are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) is certainly a very important truth, but it hinges on another more foundational truth: before God could make us a new spiritual creation (born into Christ); He had to first deal with our old spiritual creation (that we inherited from Adam). He had to not only deal with its fruit (our sinful actions); He also had to destroy its root (our Adam sinful nature). Therefore, when Christ died on the cross, He died not only to deliver us from the penalty of our sinful actions; He also died to deliver us from the power of our sinful nature. The Bible says that when we were born again, God immersed us into Christ’s death in order to remove our sinful nature, so that sin would no longer have any power over us (Romans 6:6-7). Thus, by Christ’s death on the cross, God destroyed and removed our sin nature, which was at the very core of our inner being and the root of our self-identity and rebellion toward God. By killing off our sin nature, God delivered the “coup de grace” or finishing blow to Jesus Christ’s triumph over Satan by the cross (Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8). By removing our sinful nature, God totally disarmed and destroyed the devil’s ability to control us through sin. This is why John 19:28-30 records this account of Christ’s last moments on the cross: “Knowing that all was now completed… Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ And with that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” This is why Christ’s triumph on the cross over sin (the forgiveness of our sins and the removal of our sin nature) is referred to as “Christ’s finished (or completed) work on the cross.”

Christ’s complete triumph over sin through the cross is clearly portrayed in the God-ordained ceremony of water baptism. The death and burial (removal) of our old man (our sin nature) is demonstrated by the first stage of water baptism (when we are immersed or “buried” under the water). The second stage of water baptism (when we are raised up out of the water) demonstrates that we are now a new creation in Christ. Without the first stage of baptism, there would be no second stage. In other words, if God did not first remove our sin nature, we would not be a new creation in Christ. Therefore, the miracle of our salvation fundamentally depended upon the death and removal of our sin nature. Since the destruction of our sin nature was essential to our new birth in Christ, why is this cardinal truth that God removed our sin nature also critical to our Christian faith after we are saved? This is the reason: The only way you can practice true sanctification (or holiness) is if you know that God destroyed and removed your sinful nature and, by this decisive action, God has freed you from slavery to sin. For how could you possibly be freed from the power of sin if Satan still retained a sinister foothold in you through your indwelling sin nature? Therefore, the fact that God destroyed your sinful nature when you were saved is the strategic truth of the cross that enables you to daily overcome sin and live holy to the Lord. And this truth is absolutely essential to your eternal destiny, for without holiness you will never know God nor inherit eternal life (Hebrews 12:14; 1 John 3:6).

There are a number of other important Biblical truths which also hinge upon this indispensable core truth (that God destroyed and removed your sinful nature when you were saved). For example, let us examine the truth that sin is no longer our master (Romans 6:19). But why is sin no longer our master? Because we were freed from the power of sin when God removed our sinful nature (Romans 6:6-7; Colossians 2:11). Another important truth is the fact that we died with Christ when we were born again. Most Christians should be familiar with this Biblical truth since it is clearly stated in the Bible (Romans 6:8, 11; 7:6; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 2:20; 3:3; 2 Timothy 2:11). But what part of us died with Christ when we were saved? Did our body die? Certainly not! Did our soul die? No, of course not! Then what died? The Bible says that our old sinful nature irrevocably died and was decisively removed from us (Romans 6:6; Colossians 2:11). For how could we truly be dead to sin if we still had an evil sin nature living in us? Another vital truth of our Christian faith is the fact that Christ lives in us (Colossians 1:27). And how is Christ able to live in us? Because God destroyed and removed our resident sin nature. The Bible also says that we are a temple of the Holy Spirit, but how could we possibly be a holy temple of God if we still had an evil sin nature inhabiting us? (1 Corinthians 2:16-17). The central purpose of Christ’s Atonement and the New Covenant was to reconcile us to God so that we could be united with Him in one spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). But how could we truly be one spirit with Holy God if we still had an evil sin nature that was hostile to God? Finally, another key Biblical truth is the fact that the church is Christ’s body on earth (Ephesians 1:22-23). But, once again, how could the church be the living body of Christ if it still had the cancerous presence of sin infecting it? It was imperative for God to get rid of the malignant cancer of our indwelling sin nature, so that we could be Christ’s healthy and holy body. It is clear that the erroneous belief (that we still have a sinful nature inhabiting us after we are born again) is neither Biblical nor logical!

To sum up, the truth of the cross of Christ is the taproot of many other Biblical truths, such as “sin is no longer our master,” and “we have been freed from sin,” and “we have died with Christ,” and “we are new creations in Christ,” and “Christ lives in us,” and “we are Christ’s body, His church.” Therefore, if you do not know that God destroyed and removed your sinful nature when you were born again, then you do not know a crucial Biblical truth, which is indispensable and pivotal to other important Biblical truths. You are then left with a partial or incomplete picture of Christ’s victory on the cross. Your faith is only secure and unshakeable to the degree that you know (and believe and act on) Christ’s complete triumph on the cross over the all power of the enemy. If you do not know how to exercise faith in this strategic victory of the cross (God removed your sinful nature in order to destroy the devil’s ability to keep you captive to sin), then your ignorance of this powerful Biblical truth will be your “Achilles’ heel.” For example, when you are tempted to sin, you may say, ”I can resist sin because I am a new creation in Christ.” But the devil can then say, “Yes, but you still have a sinful nature that wants to sin, don’t you?” If you believe this lie (that you are still captive to sin because you have the indwelling presence of sin in your body), it will undermine your faith in Christ’s victory on the cross and leave you vulnerable to the enemy’s temptations to induce you to sin. The same is true for any of the other truths that also vitally depend upon this invaluable Biblical truth that you no longer have a sinful nature. If you add the lie that you still have a sinful nature to any of these other truths, then you nullify the whole truth. As Paul warned, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” In other words, do you not know that one lie can undermine the whole truth? Here is another example of how this lie (that you still have a sinful nature) works to undermine the whole truth: You may say, “I can resist sin because sin is no longer master over me.” But the devil can then say, “Yes, but since you still have a sinful nature, you cannot really expect to stop practicing sin, can you?” My brothers and sisters, how can you possibly say “no to sin and yes to God” if you entertain this kind of deceptive, unbelieving and double-minded thinking?

Jesus said, “If you abide in My Word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).” And what is the truth that sets you free from practicing sin? It is the simple yet powerful truth that you no longer have a sinful nature because God removed it from you through the cross of Christ. This God-given truth is our “Declaration of Independence” from the tyranny of sin! If you know this powerful strategic truth (that God removed your sinful nature), you can then take up your shield of faith (in the cross of Christ) and the sword of the Spirit (the whole truth of God’s Word) to resist and destroy Satan’s weapons (lies, accusations and temptations) that wage war against your soul (1 Peter 2:11).

Since Christ’s triumph on the cross is essential to not only our salvation, but also to our sanctification, we must believe and act on the truth of the whole gospel of Christ in order to know God, be His faithful overcomers and inherit His eternal life. And this is the truth of the whole gospel: Christ died for us and included us in His death (in order to remove our sinful nature)so that He could sovereignly live in us (Galatians 2:20). Therefore, knowing who Jesus is and what He accomplished through His atoning, substitutionary sacrifice on the cross (both the forgiveness of our sins and the removal of our sin nature) is not only foundational but essential to our Christian faith and is the cornerstone of basic Christianity!

Q. 51 I feel defeated as a Christian because I keep falling into the same compromising sin over and over again. How can I ever be freed from my deeply ingrained, sinful habit?

A. Although we do not know what your particular sin problem is, the answer is: “Yes, you can be freed from your sinful habit, no matter what it is!” Here is a practical example of how you overcome your habitual sin: Let us say that you have a chronic problem with worry and fear. This kind of constant fretting about life’s problems is not what the Bible calls the “fear of God,” which every Christian should have (Matthew 10:28; 1 Peter 1:17). It also is not the kind of normal anxiety that stems from physical causes, such as medication’s effects, chemical sensitivities, or adrenalin released in response to a fight or flight situation. Instead, this kind of daily fretting about your life is what Jesus called the “worry of the world” (Matthew 13:22). The “worry of the world” produces a stream of unchecked, anxious thoughts and fearful imaginations, which can torment your soul and cause chronic mental and emotional distress. This habit of worrying can become so ingrained that you may think that it comforts you to constantly fret about your problems. Habitual worrying may even make you feel like you are doing something “positive” about your problems by always fretting about them (and thereby preparing yourself for the worst case scenarios). You may also feel that the more you talk to others about your worries, the better it makes you feel (at least temporarily). Some Christians even go as far to vent their fears onto others, in an ungodly attempt to “unload” their fears and thereby be comforted. In this case, whenever their anxiety level gets too high, their fear can often masquerade as anger, and they will become irritable and mad at others. And because they are driven by fear, they are often deceived into thinking that their sinful anger toward others is justified. However, the Bible says, “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:20).” The worry of the world can become so entrenched, and the habit of unleashing fear and anxiety on others can become so chronic, that the person who is sinning in this way is totally unaware that they are spreading fear and unbelief everywhere they go and to everyone they meet. Sadly, other Christians try to get release and comfort from the chronic stress of their pent-up, tormenting fears and anxieties by indulging in secret sins and hidden addictions, such as compulsive overeating (followed by bulimia purging), closet alcoholism, drug addiction, or on-line pornography. All this can be secretly occurring while they are attending church, witnessing for Christ, and leading Bible studies or worship services. Although these hidden hypocrisies and sinful habits are unacceptable Christian behavior and have dire spiritual consequences, God in His grace has nothing but the greatest compassion and desire to free anyone who is enslaved to these sins. His only Son, Jesus Christ, died to give us the truth that sets us free from the destructive power of sin (John 8:31-36).

The worry of the world is corrosive and destructive; if not checked, it will take over and ruin your life. The basis of worry is fear, and the root of this kind of fear is unbelief, which is sin. Fear is an insidious sin that is the basis for many other serious sin problems. Jesus said that the worry of the world cannot accomplish anything, and that it will eventually choke God’s life out of you until you become spiritually unfruitful (Matthew 6:25-34; 13:22). If you want to be freed from the chronic habit of fear and worry, the first step you must take is to acknowledge that your fear and worry is a sin because it is based on unbelief and is contrary to trusting in God. The Bible says, “In God I will put my trust, I will not be afraid (Psalm 56:11; see also Romans 14:23). The next step is to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that you are dead to worry and fear (see Romans 6:1-11, and then read this Scripture over and over again until it becomes imprinted in your heart and mind). Why is this step of faith so important? The Bible says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7).” In other words, a man speaks and acts based on who he is – in his inner being. The Bible says that every man is born with a sinful nature (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:6-19; 7:14-24). This is why Jesus said that a man’s sinful thoughts and actions originate from out of his sinful heart (Matthew 15:18-19).

What is God’s solution to man’s sin problem? God’s divine remedy was to get rid of the “sinner” within us by removing our sinful nature. Since we were born into sin (and were therefore sinners by nature), the only way we could be freed from sin was through death. Therefore, when we were born again, God spiritually included us in His Son’s death in order to remove our sinful nature and replace it with His Son’s nature (Galatians 2:20). This is the truth that sets us free from sin (John 8:32-36). This is not merely conceptual or symbolic; the Bible says our sinful nature actually died and was removed when we were born again of God’s Spirit (Romans 6:6; Colossians 2:11). As a result, we are now “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).” This is the miracle of our new birth, made possible by the divine operation of the cross of Christ. This is the Biblical truth: when you were born again, God changed your inward identity. Your old sinful nature is dead and gone, and Jesus Christ now lives in you by His Spirit (Colossians 1:27). The Bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new person; his old being is gone, a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17).” If you believe this truth, your new attitudes and actions will spring from out of your new identity - who you are in Christ! In your spirit, you are no longer a fearful, sinful person; you are now a new person in Christ who can trust God without worry and fear. Believing and acting on this truth of the cross is the most powerful and effective weapon God has given you to overcome fear and it is, in fact, the only way of escape from enslavement to sin. You can resist the temptation to worry and sin by believing and acting on this Biblical truth that you are a new spiritual person in Christ (and you no longer have a sinful nature). Remember that faith is not a feeling, it is a decision to believe God and take Him at His word. Therefore, you can overcome your captivity to worry and fear (or any other sin) by simply making a decision to believe in this truth of the cross that God has given you a new identity in Christ. Again, if your fear is not caused by physical reasons, you should be able (by faith) to overcome the fear that “so easily entangles you.” It is also essential not to think that your fear makes you a “victim,” and that you should be pitied and catered to. This kind of fear is a sin, since it is a habit based on not believing the truth of God’s word.

And finally, always thank God that He is in charge of your life and every situation you face (that used to cause you worry and fear). Believe that God loves you and will take care of your needs. The Bible says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).” Believing that God loves you and that He controls every detail, aspect and event in your life and works it for your spiritual good is crucial to overcoming fear (Romans 8:28). The Bible also says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7; also read and regularly meditate on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; 1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 23:4; 27:1; John 14:27; Romans 8:15; 2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:18). Coupled together with the powerful, foundational Biblical truth that you are dead to fear (because you no longer have a fearful, sinful nature), these verses from God’s word will become your medicine and set your soul free from all fearful thoughts. You should be prepared, however, that you may suffer a sense of emotional loss when you give up the false sense of “calm and comfort” that you got from the habit of indulging in worry and expressing your anxieties. Always remind yourself of the divine truth that God freed you from worry and fear when He removed your fearful, sinful nature. This Biblical truth is your key to victory over fear, if you believe and act on it. You can use your faith in this powerful truth of the cross as a shield and a sword to overcome any sin that the devil tries to ensnare you in. How many times will you need to practice using your faith in this way in order to overcome sin? As many times as you need to, whenever you are tempted to sin! Do not be discouraged, afraid, or give up when you fall down many times as you practice walking in sanctification. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus! Just stand back up by faith in the power of Jesus Christ who lives in you, and confess your sins according to 1 John 1:9. Then begin to walk again, just like a baby practices learning how to walk. You will have your good practice days and bad practice days. But, over time, your faith will acquire spiritual “muscle.” The more you practice walking in sanctification in this way, the stronger and more persevering your faith will become, and you will overcome the destructive sins that have entangled you, by faith in Christ and His triumph on the cross. We also hope that what we have shared dispels the mistaken idea that in overcoming sin, you do nothing and God does everything. That is not right. Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent (John 6:29).” Yes, it is true that God has freed us from the penalty and power of sin through Christ’s death and resurrection, but it is our responsibility to now believe and act on what Christ has accomplished, in order for us to have complete victory over sin. What we have shared is not just theological theory. We have put this Biblical truth into practice for over ten years and God’s solution really works! His truth of the cross has set us free from practicing the sins that easily entangled us in the past. For more in-depth teaching on this subject, see our Bible Studies for Christ’s Disciples #5: How To Stop Practicing Sin.

Q 52. What is the practice of “methodism” and can it help me live a sanctified Christian life?

A. The practice of “methodism” involves the use of certain methods to try to live a sanctified or holy Christian life after you are saved. Before we go on, let us first define what it means to live a sanctified life. The Bible says it means that, in our daily life, we practice righteousness and do not practice sin (1 John 3:6-10). More specifically, the Bible says it means that each day we “put to death” by the Spirit the sinful attitudes and behavior that were our habit before we were saved (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5). The practice of “methodism” became popularized in England in the 1700s by the evangelist John Wesley and his brother Charles, when they led a group of Oxford students in a Bible study called the Holy Club. The Wesley brothers and other Holy Club members came to be known as “methodists” because they practiced certain religious methods to try to be holy. The methods they used were reading the Bible, praying, witnessing, going to church, and serving others. This practice of methodism is to be differentiated from the current beliefs of the Methodist church denomination, which was founded a half-century later in 1784 by some of Wesley’s followers.

This practice of “methodism” was not really new to the traditions of both the Catholic and Protestant church. For many centuries before the Wesleys’ methodical attempt to live holy, this approach was called the practice of “disciplines.” The practice of “disciplines” employed the same basic methods used by the Wesley brothers. It was thought that the practice of these disciplines or methods might strengthen a person’s resolve and ability to resist sin. It was also thought that these methods might serve as “means of grace,” by which a person could appropriate God’s grace to help them live a holy life. Throughout church history, some Christians who were more zealous to be holy intensified their use of these basic methods and even added to them. For example, they not only committed to reading the Bible daily, they further disciplined themselves to memorize portions of the Bible each day. Or, they would not only pray daily, they disciplined themselves to pray seven appointed times each day. Some Christians disciplined also themselves to fast several times each week. And other Christians committed themselves to witnessing to someone at least once a day. Still others greatly increased their participation in ministry service as a means of being devoted to God. Some Christians thought that meeting together in small cell groups in homes to study the Bible and worship together was the best means to live a more Christ-centered life. Other Christians practiced living together communally on farms and isolated themselves from the rest of society as a means of staying pure. Still other professing Christians went even further in their attempt to be holy and took a life-long vow of poverty or celibacy, while others practiced a lifestyle of monasticism (living in a community of monks), anchoritism (living as a hermit), or asceticism (living a strict, austere lifestyle of self-denial) as a “means of grace” to keep themselves undefiled by the world.

This centuries-old tradition of practicing “methodism” has now become so ingrained in our contemporary church culture that if you were to ask most pastors how you can stop practicing sin, you would likely be counseled to read the Bible more, pray more, go to church more, get involved in ministry more, etc. You might also be told that if you diligently practice these methods, the Holy Spirit will help you. And you might even be frankly forewarned that this practice of methodism can only work for you if you allow the Holy Spirit to control your daily life. But if you have already tried these methods for some time, and have become disheartened because you still find yourself practicing sin, you might then ask, “How is it possible for me to come to that place where I allow the Holy Spirit to control my daily life?” Now this is the real question that needs answering. You will likely then be told that you just need to read the Bible more, pray more, go to church more, etc. However, this is the wrong advice and produces the wrong results. For as you read the Bible more, pray more, and go to church more, you will become even more convicted that you need to allow the Holy Spirit to control your life more. And so you will have come full circle without being set free from the sinful habits that so easily entangle you. Such is the spiritual futility of practicing methodism.

To find the way off of this exhausting and discouraging religious treadmill, we must acknowledge that the practice of methodism cannot stop us from practicing sin. Just as we could not be saved by practicing methodism, neither can we be sanctified (or made holy) by practicing methodism. In fact, many people who read the Bible regularly, pray regularly and go to church regularly are not even saved. As a case in point, John and Charles Wesley were not even born again when they practiced methodism in the early 1730s. They were not saved until at least six years later in 1738. How did they get saved? By faith in Christ alone, and not by practicing any religious method. John Wesley’s own words explain how he was saved on May 24, 1738: “I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation.” Practicing methodism can never produce a saving or sanctifying faith in you. Nor can it create in you an ability to “allow the Holy Spirit to control your daily life.” Only faith in Christ alone can save you, and only faith in Christ alone can enable the power of the Holy Spirit to work within you. No method can ever set you free from practicing sin. Your willpower cannot set you free from practicing sin. Your natural self-discipline cannot set you free from practicing sin. Practicing methodism places the burden to stop sinning on your shoulders and on your own ability, self-effort and work, instead of where it belongs: on Christ's shoulders and His completed work on the cross. In fact, practicing methodism is not much different than how a devout Pharisee during Jesus’ time would have tried to be holy (Luke 18:9-12). A Pharisee who wanted to stop practicing sin would read the Scriptures more, pray more, fast more, tithe more, and go to synagogue every time it was open. But if the practice of methodism were enough to be holy (in God’s eyes) during the time of the Old Covenant, then Jesus Christ did not need to die on the cross in order to rescue us from the power of sin and reconcile us to God. But the Old Covenant was not enough to bring about true holiness in God’s people. What then was needed? A New Covenant which enables every believer to overcome sin, the world and the devil.

Although practicing Christian disciplines, such as reading the Bible and praying, can certainly be spiritually and practically beneficial, God’s righteousness is never credited to anyone based on their keeping religious rules and using religious methods. God’s righteousness is only credited to you on the basis of your faith in Christ alone (Romans 1:17). The Bible says the righteous must live by faith in the Son of God - who He is and what He accomplished for us on the cross (Galatians 2:20; 3:11). No form of methodism (such as Bible reading, prayer, fasting, witnessing, service to others, etc.) can ever produce God’s true righteousness and holiness within us unless it springs from a life based on the faith. Only believing and acting on what Jesus Christ has accomplished for you by His crucifixion and resurrection can lead you into true humility and godliness, and enable you to stop practicing sin and truly know God. Jesus said that only the truth can you set free from sin (John 8:32-34). And this is that Biblical truth: when you were saved, God removed your sinful nature, so that the power of Christ’s Spirit could dwell in you and enable you to stop practicing sin (if you believe and act on this truth of the cross/see Romans 6:6-7; Colossians 1:27; 2:11; Ephesians 3:20).

As long as you mistakenly believe you still have an unholy, sinful nature and that the malignant presence and power of sin indwells you, it nullifies all your religious efforts at practicing methodism to be holy. Since these religious methods (however well-intended) do not spring from real faith in the truth of the cross of Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, they are a complete waste of effort, spiritually worthless, and even a spiritual hindrance to your growth in Christ (if you are depending on these methods to deliver you from the power of sin). The practice of methodism can also be spiritual dangerous because it can lead you down a road of religiosity and legalism rather than to Christ. Even though you may appear outwardly religious when you practice methodism, if it is not based on true faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross it will not achieve God’s righteousness and can actually be sinful (Romans 14:33). As Paul warned, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now trying to perfect yourselves by your human effort? (Galatians 3:3).” Practicing methodism (apart from faith in the truth of the cross) can only lead you into self-righteousness or self-despair, depending on the measure of willpower and self-discipline you possess. Practicing methodism (apart from faith in the truth of the cross) can strengthen the power of your soul (your willpower). But soulish power is by definition “psychic” power (the Greek word for soulish is psychikos), and psychic power is the gateway to Satanic deception and influence. That is why the apostle James linked what is unspiritual or soulish (psychikos) with the demonic realm (James 3:15), and this is why practicing methodism (apart from true faith) can lead you into false doctrine and a false gospel. Such is the spiritual danger of practicing methodism.

Anyone who pursues holiness by practicing methodism stumbles over the offense of the cross of Christ (Romans 9:32). Your actions must be based on faith in the truth of the cross or they will result in unrighteousness. And your faith must be based on the truth of God’s Word, or it is not Biblical faith. For example, someone can read the Bible all they want, but if they do not believe that Jesus Christ is God (and not just some divine being or an angel), all their Bible reading is spiritually worthless and misguided. Or, someone can pray and fast all they want, but if they do not believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to forgive them for their sins, no amount of prayer and fasting can absolve them of the guilt and condemnation of their sins. In the same way, you can religiously devote yourself to practicing all the disciplines, but if you do not believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to remove your sinful nature when you were born again, then your zealous pursuit of methodism has no power to stop you from practicing sin. It does not matter what so-called “means of grace” you choose to try to be holy and live a Christ-centered life. You can join a house church or even a monastery, or you can become a religious hermit, but none of these lifestyle changes can be the means to stop you from practicing sin. Unless you know and act on the Biblical truth that you have died with Christ and no longer have a sinful nature, it is impossible for you to ever stop practicing sin.

There is only one way to stop practicing sin: you must know the truth and the truth will set you free from practicing sin. And what is that liberating truth? It is not telling others that they must read the Bible more, pray more, witness more, go to church more, etc. What then is the Biblical truth that we should share with anyone who sincerely wants to stop practicing sin? The apostle Paul shared this Biblical truth with first-century Christians who were still practicing sin: “Do you not know that you died to sin when you were saved by Christ? You died to sin when your sinful nature died and was removed from you when you were born again. Since you no longer have a sinful nature, you have been freed from sin and sin no longer has any power over you. Therefore, you are now dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (see Romans 6:1-11).” This is the Biblical truth that sets you free from sin! This is the truth we should share with everyone who wants to stop practicing sin.

Does this mean that we should not read the Bible or pray or fellowship with other believers? Of course not! If combined with true faith in Christ and His completed work on the cross, then diligently practicing these activities is definitely beneficial for any true believer. They can be the “water and fertilizer” that nourishes and strengthens our faith, as long as our faith is planted and rooted in the truth of the cross of Christ. This is why God encourages His people to read the Scriptures daily, pray continually, and fellowship regularly with other real believers (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Hebrews 10:38). However, unless these disciplines are combined with faith in the truth of the cross (which enables us to have a real and living relationship with Jesus Christ), they take the form of works and are worthless. The practice of methodism then becomes just another way of practicing the “law of works.” And the Bible warns that if you are practicing the law of works, then you are not practicing the law of faith and you will be severed from grace (Romans 3:27; Galatians 5:4). Since methodism is works-based or performance-based, it is only natural that when you perform well (according to your standard of methodism) you would feel good or righteous, but when you perform badly, you would feel bad or unrighteous. It is also natural that you would feel impatient, resentful or even disdainful towards other Christians who are not trying as hard as you to perform according to your standard of methodism. Jesus condemned this kind of religiosity and said that people who practice it, “trusted in their own righteousness and regarded others with contempt (Luke 18:9). Ironically, the practice of methodism, instead of becoming a means to receive God’s grace, can actually cut you off from receiving His grace! Such is the spiritual death of practicing methodism.

Believing and acting on the truth of the cross (that you have been freed from sin because you no longer have a sinful nature) is the only true “means of grace” that will enable you to stop practicing sin. Why is this Biblical truth so important to know and act on? The answer is found in the heart of the meaning of the cross: for when Christ died on the cross, He died not only to free you from the penalty of sin (by forgiving you for your sins), He also died to free you from the power of sin (by removing your sinful nature). Thus God’s purpose in His Son’s death was not for you to receive forgiveness for your sins, and then for you to just keep practicing sin! God’s intention (since you no longer have a sinful nature and Christ’s Spirit lives in you) is that you would stop practicing sin and serve Him with a pure and undivided heart. Therefore, if you practice methodism (apart from faith in the truth of the cross), you are rejecting God’s grace and His Son’s sacrificial death on your behalf. Consequently, the Bible clearly warns that, if you do not stop practicing sin, you will not know God or abide in God, nor will you enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:23; Hebrews 12:14: 1 John 3:6). This then truly is a “life and death” issue that all sincere believers need to face.

Q 53. Even though I have been a Christian for a long time and I appear to have controlled many of my sinful habits, I still always struggle with my pride. What can I do to overcome this terrible sin and become more humble?

A. You are not alone in your despair. There is great ignorance, confusion and failure in the Christian community in dealing with the sin of pride. For example, a very popular Christian author wrote, “Pride is the last sin to die.” And an internationally known Christian minister has said, “Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven will live in you.” Although these statements may seem reasonable and perhaps even wise to the natural mind, they reveal a profound misunderstanding of the mind of God, as it pertains to our redemption from sin. Although pride can be the root of many other kinds of sins, God deals with the sin of pride in the same way that He deals with every other sin.

The idea that the sin of pride must eventually die in you is man’s approach to dealing with sin, but it is not God’s approach. What is the difference? God’s way to deliver you from the sin of pride (and every other sin) was to make sure that you died to sin when you were saved (note the italics in past tense/see Romans 6:1-7). God’s solution to the problem of sin was to get rid of the sinner (that sin factory) in you, by removing your sinful nature when you were born again (Colossians 2:11). Therefore, pride does not have to die in you because you have already died to pride. How do you apply this truth of the cross of Christ in your daily life? Whenever the Holy Spirit convicts you of having prideful thoughts or behavior, you simply and sincerely repent and then remind yourself that you are dead to pride but alive to God in Christ Jesus since you no longer have a sinful nature (Romans 6:11). When you align your whole being (spirit, soul and body) by faith in this powerful truth of the cross, you will be able to increasingly put off your old sinful way of thinking and acting and put on Christ’s way of thinking and acting, and you will bear the true fruit of sanctification.

Whenever anyone practices “methodism” to try to overcome their sinful habits (instead of aligning themselves with the truth), it only increases their sin of pride. Why is this? The practice of methodism depends on your ability and your self-discipline to read the Bible more, pray more, be involved in church more, etc. in order to try to gain the upper hand over sin. The more you practice methodism and appear to outwardly control your sinful behavior, the more you will inwardly develop secret pride that you have achieved a certain degree of “holiness.” Thus, when someone says, “pride is the last sin to die,” it reveals they are really practicing methodism rather than true faith in order to overcome sin and walk in holiness. Man’s way of overcoming sin depends on his work, whereas God’s way of getting the victory over sin depends on Christ’s completed work on the cross. There is a vast difference and outcome between these two opposite approaches – ultimately the difference is between heaven and hell. Man’s way leads to self-righteousness and spiritual death, whereas God’s way leads to true humility and eternal life. For more on this subject, see our Question & Answer #52: What is the practice of “methodism” and can it help me live a sanctified Christian life?

Q 54. What does the term the “blood of Christ” mean?

A. The blood of Christ, also called the blood of Jesus and the blood of Lamb, signifies Jesus Christ’s triumph over Satan and sin by His sacrificial death on the cross (Colossians 2:15; 1 John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14-15; Revelation 12:11). The blood of Christ is the spiritual basis for the New Covenant and the means by which God secured His kingdom on earth. Jesus said, “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in My blood (Luke 22:20).” Since Jesus Christ is the Son of God (God manifest as a man), the shedding of His blood has eternal spiritual value and infinite spiritual power to redeem mankind from the curse and consequences of sin. The Bible says, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed… but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (1 Peter 1:18-19).” As the sinless Lamb of God, Jesus shed His blood on the cross to remove the terrible cancer of sin from us. This is why John the Baptist declared, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 3:30).”

The blood of Christ contains a remarkable twofold redemption from sin under the New Covenant. The first divine provision of the cross is this: Jesus died to free us from the just penalty of sin by forgiving our sins. The Bible says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins (Ephesians 1:7).” The Bible also says “The blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin… if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7, 9).” The New Testament Greek word for purifiy used in this verse is katharizo, which means to cleanse us from sin and to free us from the influence of sin. But how could we be freed from the powerful influence of sin if we were forgiven for our sins, but we still retained an inherent sinful nature after we were saved? This question leads us to the second divine provision of the blood of Christ: Jesus died on the cross to free us from the oppressive power of sin by removing our sinful nature when we were born again of the Holy Spirit. This was God’s divine solution to the problem of sin: He got rid of the “sinner” or “sin factory” within us. The Bible says that, through Christ’s death on the cross, God freed us from slavery to sin, by destroying and removing our sinful nature (Romans 6:6-7; Colossians 2:11).

The blood of Christ is holy and precious in God’s eyes and divinely powerful. By His blood, Jesus Christ vanquished Satan and all his spiritual forces of darkness. By His blood, Jesus has freed us not only from the guilt and condemnation of sin; He has also freed us from the deception and destruction of sin, by removing our sinful nature. As a result, the devil no longer has a stronghold in us to keep us captive to the tyranny and curse of sin. The Bible says, “They overcame him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony (Revelation 12:11).” As a result of Christ’s blood shed on the cross, God removed our sinful nature and put His Holy Spirit into our hearts, so that we could wholeheartedly serve Him (Romans 6:18; Galatians 4:6; Colossians 1:27). The Bible says, “Jesus suffered… to make people holy through His own blood… therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 13:12; 10:19).” Thus, by the blood of Jesus Christ, we have been rescued from Satan’s dominion of darkness and reconciled (brought into union) to Holy God, so that we could be members of His heavenly family and divine kingdom. This is why the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the most momentous event in human history and the triumph of the ages. This is why everyone in heaven declares, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and praise! (Revelation 5:12)."

Q 55. Is it ever right to judge another Christian?

A. Many Christians are confused and not Biblically informed on this subject. Some Christians think it is wrong to ever judge another person’s behavior. However, this is not Biblically correct. An unscriptural fear and aversion to “judging” has caused many Christians to mistakenly think they can never lovingly confront a fellow Christian who is practicing sin. It has also led many Christians to think they can never discern whether someone who claims to be a Christian is really following Jesus Christ or not. However, this is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible says that spiritual discernment and godly judgment is a God-given gift that should steadily increase as we progressively walk in God’s sanctification (Hebrews 5:14).

Before we continue, it is important to point out that there is only one way we can walk in sanctification – by faith in the truth (Acts 26:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:43). We simply cannot overcome sin and walk in sanctification unless we believe and act on the truth of God’s Word (who Jesus is and what He accomplished for us on the cross). More specifically, we must act on the Biblical truth that when we were born again God removed our sinful nature through the divine operation of the cross, so that His Son’s Spirit could dwell in us (Romans 6:1-11; Galatians 2:20; 4:6; Colossians 2:11). When we apply this truth of the cross to our lives each day by faith, we are able to “put off” our old sinful way of thinking and acting and “put on” Christ’s way of thinking and acting (Ephesians 4:22-24). This is the only way by God’s grace we can overcome sin and walk in sanctification. And without this daily sanctification (that comes by believing and acting on the truth of the cross), it is impossible to have God’s wisdom to properly discern and judge what is right and wrong. We should also note that God’s love is the fruit of walking in sanctification (Galatians 5:22), and having God’s love is essential to be able to properly judge others who are caught in sin (Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 4:15).

Let us now look at the Biblical meaning of “judging” to help us clarify the difference between right and wrong judging. In the New Testament, the Greek word krino simply means to judge. However, the word krino also denotes a wide range of actions that are involved in the act of properly judging. These actions may include discerning and assessing a person’s behavior; confronting and disciplining a person based on their behavior; and judicially sentencing and punishing a person based on their behavior. But the word krino can also denote a variety of actions associated with improperly judging, such as showing favoritism, prejudice, or contempt; and disdaining, slandering, or wrongly condemning others. Therefore, the context of each individual Scripture passage can help us determine whether krino means to either rightly or wrongly judge.

First, krino can mean to judge wrongly or unrighteously. This is the meaning of Jesus’ admonishment, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged (Matthew 7:1).” In other words, if you judge others unrighteously, you will then be judged by God for your unrighteous judging. What does it mean to judge unrighteously? The Bible says that we should not wrongly judge others by their outward appearance or judge others with an attitude of disdain or contempt. Jesus said, ”Do not judge according to appearance but judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24; see also John 8:15).” And the apostle Paul wrote, “Why do you judge your brother? Why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God (Romans 14:10; see also Luke 18:9).” The Bible also says we should not judge others in a condemning or merciless manner. Since there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), the Bible says we should “speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law (of faith in Christ) that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful (James 2:12-13).” Therefore, since we have received mercy for our sins (1 John 1:7-9), we should have mercy on others who are caught in sin (Matthew 18:21-35; Jude 21-23). Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy… be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Matthew 5:7; Luke 6:36).” The Bible says, “For judgment will be merciless to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment (condemnation) (James 2:13).” Once again, this does not mean that we should never righteously judge others; however, it does mean that when we correctly judge others, we should have an attitude of mercy with the hope of redeeming the sinner, if possible. With this in mind, the Bible says, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).”

Second, krino can mean to judge correctly or righteously. This is the kind of judging Jesus meant when He said to “judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24),” and when He said, “You have judged correctly (Luke 7:43).” For example, this is the kind of proper discernment and godly judgment that a congregation of believers should exercise when they assess the behavior and ministry of others who claim to be Christians. Jesus said, “You will know (discern) them by their fruit (Matthew 7:16).” As an example, Paul taught, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment (1 Corinthians 14:29).” In other words, believers who hear prophecies should assess and judge those prophecies to determine whether they are of God or not. This is also the kind of godly discerning and judging that a fellowship of believers should exercise when they correct and discipline one of their members for sinful misconduct. This is what Paul meant when he said, “Are you not to judge those who are within the church? (1 Corinthians 5:12).” This is the proper judging that Paul himself did when he said, “I have already judged him who committed this sin… I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:3-5).” This is the kind of godly judging that Christians should practice to preserve discipline and holiness in the church.

What can we conclude from these contrasting Scriptural meanings of “judging?” The Bible warns us to not judge others incorrectly or unrighteously with disdain, contempt, condemnation, or evil motives. However, the Bible does exhort us to judge others correctly with a godly attitude of mercy and impartiality according to the standard of the Scriptures. We should always exercise spiritual discernment (not ungodly discrimination) and good judgment (not carnal condemnation) to determine if a professing Christian’s doctrine and conduct is godly. Some people quote Titus 3:2 (“slander no one”) to argue that we should never say anything critical concerning other Christians; however, the Greek word for slander used in this verse is blasphemo, which means to speak malicious lies about another person. Consequently, the Bible warns us to “put aside all… slander, along with all malice (Ephesians 4:31).” But this does not mean that we should not confront and speak truthfully and lovingly to another person concerning their sinful behavior, when it is appropriate. The Bible says, “Lay aside falsehood and speak truth with one another (Ephesians 4:25).” Regarding another Christian who is caught in sin, Jesus said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him (Luke 17:3).”

God has given us wisdom and discernment to protect us. Therefore, it is imperative that we practice sanctification and exercise godly judgment not only for our sake, but to protect Christ’s body, His church. Peter said, “The end of all things is near, therefore, be of sound judgment (1 Peter 4:7).” If Christians only believed and acted on the truth of God’s Word that they have been decisively freed from the power of sin by Christ’s death on the cross (when God removed their sinful nature), they would be able to walk in sanctification and properly discern between good and evil, and judge and discipline those among them who continue in sinful behavior or false doctrine. Jesus judged and disciplined those disciples caught in sin; the apostles judged and disciplined those Christians caught in sin; and the elders in the New Testament judged and disciplined those church members caught in sin. Can we do any less if we want to follow their example and instruction? As Paul wrote, “This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may judge and approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ (Philippians 1:9-10).” For more in-depth teaching on this subject, see our Bible Studies for Christ’s Disciples #6: To Judge or Not to Judge: Is It Ever Right to Judge Others?

Q 56. What is the relationship between grace and faith?

A. God has set up the spiritual dynamics of His kingdom so that grace and faith work together in a complementary and even synergistic manner. Just as hydrogen and oxygen combine to form the elemental basis of water, grace and faith combine to form the basis of man’s relationship with God. Without grace, faith cannot function; and without faith, grace cannot be obtained. If we use the analogy of electricity, then grace is the power and faith is the “on” switch within our spirit that enables us to receive grace. However, before we continue, let us define grace and faith from a Biblical perspective. The New Testament Greek word for grace is charis, which means God’s divine favor toward man. More specifically, grace is God’s undeserved kindness toward sinners, so that we might be saved from the curse of sin. How did God accomplish this great salvation? The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God’s grace (John 1:14). God specifically sent Jesus His only Son to die on the cross as the avenue of His grace to redeem us from sin (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Therefore, the Bible says that Christ’s sacrificial death is the free gift of God’s grace to sinners (Romans 5:15-17; 6:23). Thus grace has been called God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

Now let us look at the Biblical meaning of faith. The New Testament Greek word for faith is pistis, which means to believe or trust. Faith must be based on the truth of God’s Word, or it is not true Christian faith. The Bible says that “faith is the substance (or assurance) of things hoped for, the conviction (or evidence) of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1).” Just as physical eyesight enables us to see the natural world, faith is the spiritual eyesight that enables us to see God and understand His heavenly world. For this reason, the Bible says, “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporal, but what is unseen is eternal… for we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 4:18; 5:7).” Thus God has made faith essential to see Him and know Him (Hebrews 11:3, 6). As the Bible says, “God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written, ‘The righteous will live by faith (Romans 1:17).’” Therefore, faith is the underlying basis of man’s relationship with God, and the means by which man can apprehend God’s grace. In this regard, the Bible says that our attitude should be one of faith toward God and His revealed truth in all that we do (Romans 14:23).

How do grace and faith work together? The Bible says we are saved by both God’s grace and by our faith (Ephesians 2:5; 1 Peter 1:9). “It is by grace that you have been saved through faith; and not from yourselves, it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).” However, salvation is only the beginning and not the end of God’s plan for our lives. The Bible says, “We gained our entrance by faith into this grace, in which we now stand (Romans 5:2).” Therefore, just as we entered into the grace of God’s salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, we must now live by faith in the Son of God who indwells us, if we want to continue in God’s grace and sanctification (Romans 1:17; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:23). In fact, if we do not continue standing by faith, we will be cut off from God’s grace (Galatians 3:2-3; 5:4; 1 Timothy 4:1). The Bible says, “They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand by your faith… continue in His kindness (grace); otherwise you also will be cut off (Romans 11:20-22).” One of the verses in the Bible that aptly sums up the complementary, working relationship between God’s grace and man’s faith is 2 Thessalonians 2:13: “God has chosen you to be saved through the sanctifying work (grace) of the Spirit and through faith in the truth.”

Once again, it is essential to spotlight what is the specific truth upon which our faith must be based to ensure our salvation and sanctification. This is the divinely powerful truth that sets us free from the tyranny of sin: by the grace (the undeserved gift) of Christ’s death, God freed us not only from the penalty of sin (by forgiving our sins); He also freed us from the power of sin (by removing our sinful nature), so that His Son’s Spirit could dwell in us (Romans 6:1-11; Galatians 2:20; 4:6; Colossians 2:11). When we apply this grace and truth of the cross to our lives each day by faith, we are forgiven for our sins and we are able to “put off” our old sinful way of thinking and acting and “put on” Christ’s way of thinking and acting (Romans 8:13; Ephesians 4:22-24). This is the only way by God’s grace we can overcome sin and walk in sanctification: by faith in the truth (Acts 26:18).

A couple of more points to consider: faith always springs from a heart of humility. Without a humble heart, it is impossible to have the true faith required to receive God’s grace. “For God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).” In this way, God has safeguarded His kingdom from those who are proud, rebellious, religious deceivers and hypocrites by ensuring that only those who are truly humble in heart will have true faith needed to enter His kingdom. Also, remember that our faith must have corresponding action to be effective. True faith is not a feeling; it is a decision to believe and act on the truth of God’s Word; otherwise God’s grace will have no effect in our lives (Hebrews 4:2; James 4:14-26). The Bible says that real faith in Christ is always manifested in action (Luke 6:46-48).

In closing, the cross of Christ is the door to God’s grace, and our faith is the key that unlocks this divine door. Neither our initial salvation nor our ongoing sanctification depend on any of our natural virtues and efforts; instead they depend solely upon our faith (believing and acting) in the grace and truth of the cross of Christ. Remember that grace is always at God’s initiative, but faith should always be our proper response. This is why the whole gospel of God gives equal emphasis to both grace and faith. When either grace or faith is over emphasized to the neglect of the other, it results in a gospel that is out of balance, distorted and incapable of producing healthy spiritual fruit. A beautiful picture of the divine balance between grace and faith can be found in Michelangelo’s famous painting in Rome’s Sistine Chapel. On the chapel’s ceiling dome, the painting depicts God’s hand reaching downward to touch man’s hand that is reaching upward to touch God. We can even envision that when God’s hand of grace and man’s hand of faith join together to form a firm, interlocking handshake, their divine relationship and friendship is complete and inseparable. “Therefore, let us draw near with confidence (faith) to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).”

Q 57. Why don’t you teach more on how the New Testament church functions?

A. Although we have previously posted some teaching on this subject in our website, the bulk of our teaching has been aimed at helping believers learn how to overcome sin so they can abide in Jesus Christ. After nearly a half-century of practicing Christianity, we have found (from our observations and own past failures) that most Christians in our day do not know how to stop practicing sin. This is both grievous and tragic since the Bible says if you continue to practice sin, you cannot know Christ or abide in Him (1 John 3:6). How can we possibly hope to overcome the treacherous carnal pitfalls that would sabotage our corporate fellowship and functioning together as the New Covenant church - Christ’s holy bride, if we cannot even personally master the basics of overcoming the individual habitual sins that so easily snare us? The Bible says, “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets of the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5).” The reason why so many Christians are ensnared in sin is because they do not know (how to believe and act on) the true gospel of Jesus Christ who died on the cross to free us from sin (Romans 6:1-23; Galatians 1:6-9). Therefore, we are convinced that over emphasizing teaching on how the New Testament church functions is like over trimming the tree’s branches (the features of the church) when the real problem is the very root of the tree is bad (the false gospel that has been preached and practiced). For this reason, we believe our primary commission is to clearly explain how the true gospel of “Christ crucified” works to help believers become overcomers in this sin-filled world, so they can fulfill God’s divine purpose as the bride of Christ. It is also worth noting that (except for select passages dealing with church practices), the bulk of the first century apostles’ teaching for the church was also aimed at knowing Jesus Christ and the divine provisions of His completed work on the cross (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2). For further explanation and teaching on this topic, see our recently published Bible Study for Christ’s Disciples #7: The Bride Unveiled - The New Covenant Church.

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