This Mystery

reflections on theology and life

Category: Completed by the Spirit (page 1 of 3)

Completed by the Spirit, Part 1: Five Propositions

This is the first part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

For the apos­tle Paul, the Mosaic law – or any exter­nal com­mands not grounded in the indica­tive of the Spirit of God given to dwell in the believer – is anti­thet­i­cal to our growth in holi­ness; rather it is the Holy Spirit who is trans­form­ing the believer from “one degree of glory to another,” (). Paul’s teach­ing on the inabil­ity of the law to effec­tively com­bat sin in the life of the Chris­t­ian has been dis­torted by many, result­ing in an improper focus on law that con­tin­ues to enslave believ­ers in sin.[1] Per­haps Paul’s exas­per­ated excla­ma­tion and rhetor­i­cal ques­tions to the “fool­ish” Gala­tians is sum­mary enough of Paul’s view of the law:

[2] Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hear­ing with faith? [3] Are you so fool­ish? Hav­ing begun by the Spirit, are you now being per­fected by the flesh? [4] Did you suf­fer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? [5] Does he who sup­plies the Spirit to you and works mir­a­cles among you do so by works of the law, or by hear­ing with faith— [6] just as Abra­ham “believed God, and it was counted to him as right­eous­ness”? ()

Rembrandt's painting of the Apostle Paul, c. 1635

Rembrandt’s paint­ing of the Apos­tle Paul, c. 1635

“Hav­ing begun by the Spirit, are you now being per­fected by the flesh?” That antithe­sis – the Spirit and the flesh – draws the bat­tle lines for Paul between those who would have believ­ers con­tin­u­ing as slaves to sin instead of liv­ing as slaves to Christ and reap­ing the fruit of the Spirit. It is, as Paul tells the Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans, the will of God that they – that we – be sanc­ti­fied, “because God chose you as the first­fruits to be saved, through sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (). God did not choose believ­ers to be sanc­ti­fied by the law; God did not choose believ­ers to be sanc­ti­fied by their own actions, behav­ior mod­i­fi­ca­tion or self-help tech­niques; God chose believ­ers to be sanc­ti­fied by the Spirit of Christ via the gospel of Christ.

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18 And we all, with unveiled face, behold­ing the glory of the Lord, are being trans­formed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)


Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hear­ing with faith? Are you so fool­ish? Hav­ing begun by the Spirit, are you now being per­fected by the flesh? Did you suf­fer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who sup­plies the Spirit to you and works mir­a­cles among you do so by works of the law, or by hear­ing with faith— just as Abra­ham “believed God, and it was counted to him as right­eous­ness”? (ESV)


13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, broth­ers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first­fruits to be saved, through sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion by the Spirit and belief in the truth. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit, Part 2: A Resurrection Like His

This is the sec­ond part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Empty tombIn the first arti­cle in this series, we looked at five propo­si­tions that Paul intro­duces in his epis­tles about our rela­tion­ship to the law and its rela­tion­ship to our sanctification:

First, law can­not cope with sin.

Sec­ond, it’s the love brought to the saint through the indwelling Holy Spirit that is ful­fills the law.

Third, it is the Spirit that pro­duces fruit in the believer, while the law in our remain­ing sin­ful flesh can only pro­duce sin.

Fourth, sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion – a growth in holi­ness — results from our union with Christ and Scripture’s exhor­ta­tions about what it means to be Christ-like.

Fifth, that the imper­a­tives Paul gives to us are not them­selves laws and are not given as laws or in the cat­e­gory of law, because they flow from the indica­tive of our reliance upon Christ and our posi­tion in Christ.

Before we address those five propo­si­tions indi­vid­u­ally in future arti­cles, we need to con­sider the escha­tol­ogy of our sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion. We will indeed be glo­ri­fied, Paul promises (). What is impor­tant now about that final and com­plete sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion is what that state reveals about us – what that “not yet” tells us about our “already.”

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30 And those whom he pre­des­tined he also called, and those whom he called he also jus­ti­fied, and those whom he jus­ti­fied he also glo­ri­fied. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 3: The Law Cannot Cope With Sin

This is the third part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

The first of the five propo­si­tions we intro­duced in Part 1 of this series is that the law can­not cope with sin.

The law can­not pre­vent sin; the law can’t curb sin; the law is pow­er­less against sin.

In fact, Paul tells us, the law pro­vokes sin.

Moses smashing the tablets of the lawAlthough what the law com­mands is holy, it was given to stiff-necked Israel to increase trans­gres­sions until the Mes­siah, the sin­gle seed of Abra­ham, was to come:

[19] Why then the law? It was added because of trans­gres­sions, until the off­spring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an inter­me­di­ary. [20] Now an inter­me­di­ary implies more than one, but God is one.

[21] Is the law then con­trary to the promises of God? Cer­tainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then right­eous­ness would indeed be by the law. [22] But the Scrip­ture impris­oned every­thing under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

[23] Now before faith came, we were held cap­tive under the law, impris­oned until the com­ing faith would be revealed. [24] So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be jus­ti­fied by faith. ()[1]

In his analy­sis of this pas­sage, Jason C. Meyer ref­er­ences Thomas Schreiner’s argu­ment that, “although the phrase ‘because of trans­gres­sions’ could refer to defin­ing or increas­ing trans­gres­sion, the lat­ter option is prefer­able.”[2] Schreiner gives three rea­sons for that inter­pre­ta­tion: first, that the con­text of the pas­sage is that sal­va­tion can­not be attained by the law; sec­ond, that the rela­tion­ship of “under law and under sin” reveals the law’s role in arous­ing sin; and third, that there is a par­al­lel with : “Now the law came in to increase the tres­pass. …”[3]

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19 Why then the law? It was added because of trans­gres­sions, until the off­spring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an inter­me­di­ary. 20 Now an inter­me­di­ary implies more than one, but God is one.

21 Is the law then con­trary to the promises of God? Cer­tainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then right­eous­ness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scrip­ture impris­oned every­thing under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were held cap­tive under the law, impris­oned until the com­ing faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be jus­ti­fied by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were bap­tized into Christ have put on Christ. (ESV)


20 Now the law came in to increase the tres­pass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 4: The ‘Poverty of our Sanctification?’

This is the fourth part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Measuring tapeDespite Paul’s warn­ings that the law arouses sin, many will point to the law as a prime mover in sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion, essen­tial to con­vict­ing us about our remain­ing sin and mea­sur­ing our growth in holi­ness. In doing so, they will attempt to draw a dis­tinc­tion between being “under the law” and fol­low­ing the law. For example:

This con­vict­ing use of the law is also crit­i­cal for the believer’s sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion, for it serves to pre­vent the res­ur­rec­tion of self-righteousness — that ungodly self-righteousness which is always prone to reassert itself even in the holi­est of saints. The believer con­tin­ues to live under the law as a life­long penitent.

This chas­ten­ing work of the law does not imply that the believer’s jus­ti­fi­ca­tion is ever dimin­ished or annulled. From the moment of regen­er­a­tion, his state before God is fixed and irrev­o­ca­ble. He is a new cre­ation in Christ Jesus (). He can never revert to a state of con­dem­na­tion nor lose his son­ship. Nev­er­the­less, the law exposes the ongo­ing poverty of his sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion on a daily basis. He learns that there is a law in his mem­bers such that when he would do good, evil is present with him (). He must repeat­edly con­demn him­self, deplore his wretched­ness, and cry daily for fresh appli­ca­tions of the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses from all sin (; ).[1]

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17 There­fore, if any­one is in Christ, he is a new cre­ation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (ESV)


21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. (ESV)


24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (ESV)


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 cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:9

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 cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:9

If we con­fess our sins, he is faith­ful and just to for­give us our sins and to cleanse us from all unright­eous­ness. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 5: We Serve In The Spirit

This is the fifth part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

In our pre­vi­ous post in this series, we showed that Paul does not call us to use the law to mea­sure or pro­mote our sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion, though there are many who assert that he does.

But there also those in the “reformed camp” who would even counter Paul’s repeated entreaties to rely on the Spirit. Willem VanGe­meren denies Paul’s asser­tion that the Spirit replaces the law in the New Covenant:

The law is not replaced by the Spirit in the escha­to­log­i­cal age. The Spirit opens peo­ple up to the law and trans­forms them to live by a higher ethics [sic]. We may even speak of escha­to­log­i­cal ethics as an appli­ca­tion of the moral law, by which believ­ers live in the present age with their eyes focused on the com­ing of the king­dom. While all peo­ple belong to the present age and are made respon­si­ble for keep­ing its mores, Chris­tians live by the higher ethics of the king­dom. Paul speaks of this ten­sion in his min­istry: “To those not hav­ing the law I became like one not hav­ing the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law [ennomos Chris­tou]), so as to win those not hav­ing the law” (). The law is God’s instru­ment in trans­form­ing the Chris­t­ian into a ser­vant of the king­dom of God. …[1]

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21 To those out­side the law I became as one out­side the law (not being out­side the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those out­side the law. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit: Excursus — Bunyan’s ‘Of the Law and a Christian’

John Bunyan

John Bun­yan

Lest any­one think we’retreading on new ground in the blog series “Com­pleted by the Spirit” that we are anthol­o­giz­ing here, let’s take a moment and visit John Bunyan’s “Of the Law and a Chris­t­ian.” (This arti­cle is avail­able as part of John Bunyan’s Mis­cel­la­neous Pieces as a free down­load from Project Guten­berg or from Ama­zon in hard­cover, paper­back or Kin­dle formats.)

Unlike those who would say, “Moses will drive you to Christ to be jus­ti­fied and Christ will send you back to Moses to be sanc­ti­fied,“[1] it is the office of God the Holy Spirit and not the pur­pose of the writ­ten code to sanc­tify us. (The law-for-sanctification view is dis­cussed fur­ther in Part 4 of this series.)

In the late 1600’s, Bun­yan made the rela­tion­ship of the Chris­t­ian to the law as clear and plain as prob­a­bly any­one ever has in “OF THE LAW AND A CHRISTIAN” (empha­sis in bold­face mine):

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Completed by the Spirit Part 6: Who Is The Man of Romans 7?

This is the sixth part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

As we noted in the pre­vi­ous install­ment of this series, Paul draws no dis­tinc­tion in sep­a­rat­ing a New Covenant life in the Spirit from an Old Covenant life of the let­ter or writ­ten code ().

But Paul does more than tell those who would look to the law that they are wrong; he calls them adul­ter­esses. In his anal­ogy, he says that a woman who lives with another man while he is alive com­mits adul­tery. We have died to the law; to live as under the law is to com­mit adul­tery against Christ, to whom the church is betrothed, and to whom He gave His Spirit as a guar­an­tee until the mar­riage sup­per of the Lamb ().

Paul con­tin­ues in in a peri­cope of which the sub­ject is widely debated:

[7] What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” [8] But sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, pro­duced in me all kinds of cov­etous­ness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. [9] I was once alive apart from the law, but when the com­mand­ment came, sin came alive and I died. [10] The very com­mand­ment that promised life proved to be death to me. [11] For sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, deceived me and through it killed me. [12] So the law is holy, and the com­mand­ment is holy and right­eous and good.

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But now we are released from the law, hav­ing died to that which held us cap­tive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the writ­ten code. (ESV)


And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the mar­riage sup­per of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” (ESV)


7:1 After this I saw four angels stand­ing at the four cor­ners of the earth, hold­ing back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascend­ing from the ris­ing of the sun, with the seal of the liv­ing God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, say­ing, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the ser­vants of our God on their fore­heads.” And I heard the num­ber of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:

12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naph­tali,
12,000 from the tribe of Man­asseh,
12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
12,000 from the tribe of Zebu­lun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
12,000 from the tribe of Ben­jamin were sealed.

After this I looked, and behold, a great mul­ti­tude that no one could num­ber, from every nation, from all tribes and peo­ples and lan­guages, stand­ing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and cry­ing out with a loud voice, “Sal­va­tion belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were stand­ing around the throne and around the elders and the four liv­ing crea­tures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and wor­shiped God, 12 say­ing, “Amen! Bless­ing and glory and wis­dom and thanks­giv­ing and honor and power and might be to our God for­ever and ever! Amen.”

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, say­ing, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones com­ing out of the great tribu­la­tion. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 “There­fore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his tem­ple;
and he who sits on the throne will shel­ter them with his pres­ence.
16 They shall hunger no more, nei­ther thirst any­more;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorch­ing heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shep­herd,
and he will guide them to springs of liv­ing water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 7: Paul, the Unconverted Jew

This is the sev­enth part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

In the pre­vi­ous install­ment in this series, we saw that the­olo­gian Dou­glas Moo describes three dif­fer­ent ways in which the man Paul describes in can be identified:

1. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence as an uncon­verted Jew under the law.

2. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence, per­haps shortly after his con­ver­sion, as he sought sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion through the law.

3. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence as a mature Chris­t­ian.[1]

Moo advo­cates for the first posi­tion: Con­tinue reading


7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speak­ing to those who know the law—that the law is bind­ing on a per­son only as long as he lives? For a mar­ried woman is bound by law to her hus­band while he lives, but if her hus­band dies she is released from the law of mar­riage. Accord­ingly, she will be called an adul­ter­ess if she lives with another man while her hus­band is alive. But if her hus­band dies, she is free from that law, and if she mar­ries another man she is not an adulteress.

Like­wise, my broth­ers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were liv­ing in the flesh, our sin­ful pas­sions, aroused by the law, were at work in our mem­bers to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, hav­ing died to that which held us cap­tive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the writ­ten code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, pro­duced in me all kinds of cov­etous­ness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the com­mand­ment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very com­mand­ment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the com­mand­ment is holy and right­eous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, pro­duc­ing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the com­mand­ment might become sin­ful beyond mea­sure. 14 For we know that the law is spir­i­tual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not under­stand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that noth­ing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the abil­ity to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my mem­bers another law wag­ing war against the law of my mind and mak­ing me cap­tive to the law of sin that dwells in my mem­bers. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 8: Paul, Redeemed but Struggling

This is the eighth part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

As we vis­ited in our pre­vi­ous two install­ments, Dou­glas Moo describes three dif­fer­ent ways in which the man Paul describes in can be identified:

1. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence as an uncon­verted Jew under the law, a view we saw explained in the pre­vi­ous installment.

2. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence, per­haps shortly after his con­ver­sion, as he sought sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion through the law.

3. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence as a mature Chris­t­ian.[1]

Sin­clair Fer­gu­son advo­cates for the third view, a post-regenerate Paul (or generic regen­er­ate man) in , and sees the apos­tle as using this peri­cope to join with and to describe the strug­gle that the believer has between his remain­ing cor­rupt flesh and his new nature: Con­tinue reading


7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speak­ing to those who know the law—that the law is bind­ing on a per­son only as long as he lives? For a mar­ried woman is bound by law to her hus­band while he lives, but if her hus­band dies she is released from the law of mar­riage. Accord­ingly, she will be called an adul­ter­ess if she lives with another man while her hus­band is alive. But if her hus­band dies, she is free from that law, and if she mar­ries another man she is not an adulteress.

Like­wise, my broth­ers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were liv­ing in the flesh, our sin­ful pas­sions, aroused by the law, were at work in our mem­bers to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, hav­ing died to that which held us cap­tive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the writ­ten code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, pro­duced in me all kinds of cov­etous­ness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the com­mand­ment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very com­mand­ment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the com­mand­ment is holy and right­eous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, pro­duc­ing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the com­mand­ment might become sin­ful beyond mea­sure. 14 For we know that the law is spir­i­tual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not under­stand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that noth­ing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the abil­ity to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my mem­bers another law wag­ing war against the law of my mind and mak­ing me cap­tive to the law of sin that dwells in my mem­bers. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)


7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speak­ing to those who know the law—that the law is bind­ing on a per­son only as long as he lives? For a mar­ried woman is bound by law to her hus­band while he lives, but if her hus­band dies she is released from the law of mar­riage. Accord­ingly, she will be called an adul­ter­ess if she lives with another man while her hus­band is alive. But if her hus­band dies, she is free from that law, and if she mar­ries another man she is not an adulteress.

Like­wise, my broth­ers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were liv­ing in the flesh, our sin­ful pas­sions, aroused by the law, were at work in our mem­bers to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, hav­ing died to that which held us cap­tive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the writ­ten code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, pro­duced in me all kinds of cov­etous­ness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the com­mand­ment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very com­mand­ment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the com­mand­ment is holy and right­eous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, pro­duc­ing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the com­mand­ment might become sin­ful beyond mea­sure. 14 For we know that the law is spir­i­tual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not under­stand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that noth­ing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the abil­ity to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my mem­bers another law wag­ing war against the law of my mind and mak­ing me cap­tive to the law of sin that dwells in my mem­bers. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)


6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to con­tinue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been bap­tized into Christ Jesus were bap­tized into his death? We were buried there­fore with him by bap­tism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in new­ness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall cer­tainly be united with him in a res­ur­rec­tion like his. We know that our old self was cru­ci­fied with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to noth­ing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has domin­ion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must con­sider your­selves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin there­fore reign in your mor­tal body, to make you obey its pas­sions. 13 Do not present your mem­bers to sin as instru­ments for unright­eous­ness, but present your­selves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your mem­bers to God as instru­ments for right­eous­ness. 14 For sin will have no domin­ion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present your­selves to any­one as obe­di­ent slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obe­di­ence, which leads to right­eous­ness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obe­di­ent from the heart to the stan­dard of teach­ing to which you were com­mit­ted, 18 and, hav­ing been set free from sin, have become slaves of right­eous­ness. 19 I am speak­ing in human terms, because of your nat­ural lim­i­ta­tions. For just as you once pre­sented your mem­bers as slaves to impu­rity and to law­less­ness lead­ing to more law­less­ness, so now present your mem­bers as slaves to right­eous­ness lead­ing to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to right­eous­ness. 21 But what fruit were you get­ting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion and its end, eter­nal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eter­nal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)


8:1 There is there­fore now no con­dem­na­tion for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weak­ened by the flesh, could not do. By send­ing his own Son in the like­ness of sin­ful flesh and for sin, he con­demned sin in the flesh, in order that the right­eous require­ment of the law might be ful­filled in us, who walk not accord­ing to the flesh but accord­ing to the Spirit. For those who live accord­ing to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live accord­ing to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hos­tile to God, for it does not sub­mit to God’s law; indeed, it can­not. Those who are in the flesh can­not please God.

You, how­ever, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any­one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of right­eous­ness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mor­tal bod­ies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

12 So then, broth­ers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live accord­ing to the flesh. 13 For if you live accord­ing to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slav­ery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adop­tion as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit him­self bears wit­ness with our spirit that we are chil­dren of God, 17 and if chil­dren, then heirs—heirs of God and fel­low heirs with Christ, pro­vided we suf­fer with him in order that we may also be glo­ri­fied with him.

18 For I con­sider that the suf­fer­ings of this present time are not worth com­par­ing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the cre­ation waits with eager long­ing for the reveal­ing of the sons of God. 20 For the cre­ation was sub­jected to futil­ity, not will­ingly, but because of him who sub­jected it, in hope 21 that the cre­ation itself will be set free from its bondage to cor­rup­tion and obtain the free­dom of the glory of the chil­dren of God. 22 For we know that the whole cre­ation has been groan­ing together in the pains of child­birth until now. 23 And not only the cre­ation, but we our­selves, who have the first­fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adop­tion as sons, the redemp­tion of our bod­ies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Like­wise the Spirit helps us in our weak­ness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit him­self inter­cedes for us with groan­ings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit inter­cedes for the saints accord­ing to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called accord­ing to his pur­pose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also pre­des­tined to be con­formed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first­born among many broth­ers. 30 And those whom he pre­des­tined he also called, and those whom he called he also jus­ti­fied, and those whom he jus­ti­fied he also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him gra­ciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who jus­ti­fies. 34 Who is to con­demn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is inter­ced­ing for us. 35 Who shall sep­a­rate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribu­la­tion, or dis­tress, or per­se­cu­tion, or famine, or naked­ness, or dan­ger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than con­querors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that nei­ther death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor pow­ers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any­thing else in all cre­ation, will be able to sep­a­rate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 9: ‘It Cannot Justify, It Cannot Sanctify’

This is the ninth part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. D. Mar­tyn Lloyd-Jones

As we saw in our pre­vi­ous three install­ments, there are three ways the man of may be identified.

1. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence as an uncon­verted Jew under the law, a view we saw explained in the pre­vi­ous installment.

2. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence, per­haps shortly after his con­ver­sion, as he sought sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion through the law.

3. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence as a mature Christian.

But as we closed part 8, we asked, “Does it mat­ter to us as an appli­ca­tion of which of the three men Paul is describing?”

Whichever of the three views one might hold, two of the same con­clu­sions can be drawn from .

Con­tinue reading


7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speak­ing to those who know the law—that the law is bind­ing on a per­son only as long as he lives? For a mar­ried woman is bound by law to her hus­band while he lives, but if her hus­band dies she is released from the law of mar­riage. Accord­ingly, she will be called an adul­ter­ess if she lives with another man while her hus­band is alive. But if her hus­band dies, she is free from that law, and if she mar­ries another man she is not an adulteress.

Like­wise, my broth­ers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were liv­ing in the flesh, our sin­ful pas­sions, aroused by the law, were at work in our mem­bers to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, hav­ing died to that which held us cap­tive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the writ­ten code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, pro­duced in me all kinds of cov­etous­ness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the com­mand­ment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very com­mand­ment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the com­mand­ment is holy and right­eous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, pro­duc­ing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the com­mand­ment might become sin­ful beyond mea­sure. 14 For we know that the law is spir­i­tual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not under­stand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that noth­ing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the abil­ity to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my mem­bers another law wag­ing war against the law of my mind and mak­ing me cap­tive to the law of sin that dwells in my mem­bers. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)


7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speak­ing to those who know the law—that the law is bind­ing on a per­son only as long as he lives? For a mar­ried woman is bound by law to her hus­band while he lives, but if her hus­band dies she is released from the law of mar­riage. Accord­ingly, she will be called an adul­ter­ess if she lives with another man while her hus­band is alive. But if her hus­band dies, she is free from that law, and if she mar­ries another man she is not an adulteress.

Like­wise, my broth­ers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were liv­ing in the flesh, our sin­ful pas­sions, aroused by the law, were at work in our mem­bers to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, hav­ing died to that which held us cap­tive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the writ­ten code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, pro­duced in me all kinds of cov­etous­ness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the com­mand­ment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very com­mand­ment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the com­mand­ment is holy and right­eous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, pro­duc­ing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the com­mand­ment might become sin­ful beyond mea­sure. 14 For we know that the law is spir­i­tual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not under­stand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that noth­ing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the abil­ity to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my mem­bers another law wag­ing war against the law of my mind and mak­ing me cap­tive to the law of sin that dwells in my mem­bers. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)


7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speak­ing to those who know the law—that the law is bind­ing on a per­son only as long as he lives? For a mar­ried woman is bound by law to her hus­band while he lives, but if her hus­band dies she is released from the law of mar­riage. Accord­ingly, she will be called an adul­ter­ess if she lives with another man while her hus­band is alive. But if her hus­band dies, she is free from that law, and if she mar­ries another man she is not an adulteress.

Like­wise, my broth­ers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were liv­ing in the flesh, our sin­ful pas­sions, aroused by the law, were at work in our mem­bers to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, hav­ing died to that which held us cap­tive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the writ­ten code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, pro­duced in me all kinds of cov­etous­ness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the com­mand­ment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very com­mand­ment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the com­mand­ment is holy and right­eous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, pro­duc­ing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the com­mand­ment might become sin­ful beyond mea­sure. 14 For we know that the law is spir­i­tual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not under­stand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that noth­ing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the abil­ity to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my mem­bers another law wag­ing war against the law of my mind and mak­ing me cap­tive to the law of sin that dwells in my mem­bers. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)

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