Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2
Thesis: Being "dead" to the sin does not mean that we are incapable of "living in the sin".
Introduction: In our initial study, we raised the question of why Paul would ask the questions found in 6:1. In order to try to answer that question, we backtracked into a few verses in chapter five and found at least four issues that might lead a person to think that how we act in time is of no consequence. First, we saw that 5:19 posits an actual production of persons who do what they do by reason of how they are put together: sinners sin without effort because they are simply doing out of what they are; and, the righteous will, at some point, also naturally do what is right simply because of what they are. But Paul's use of the future tense in regard to the impact Christ made opens the door to the idea that the impact of Christ's action is reserved for the future. Then, second, we saw that 5:21 puts the "rule" of grace into the subjunctive mood so that it is seen as "potential" more than current reality. Taken together, the "futuristic potential" might be taken to mean that we are going to "persist in sin" until some time in the future when Christ obliterates the roots of sin in us. Then, there is Paul's concept of "bondage to sin" as an absolute in Adam's progeny so that they can do nothing but sin so that as long as we still have links to Adam, we are going to sin. What would be the point, then, of any serious effort to not live in the sin? And, finally, Paul's declaration that grace superabounds when sin abounds tends to make "sinning" of little consequence: grace will "super abundantly take up the slack".
But, Paul's intense denial that these notions ought to become our "doctrine" means that we need to take a deeper look into how those issues should influence our thinking. Paul's approach is to simply raise the question of whether, or not, we ought to "persist in the sin" so that "sins" are produced by us.
This evening we are going to attempt to grasp a little part of Paul's rationale.
May 1, 2016
- I. Paul's Concept of "Death" In Respect to "The Sin".
- A. Paul's basic claim is that "we are dead to the sin" so that it is irrational to "live any longer therein".
- 1. Paul uses the definite article before "sin" in his reasoning: "the sin".
- a. This strongly implies that for Paul "the sin" is the root, and "sins" are the fruit.
- b. This also strongly implies that for Paul, believers are to be focused, not upon "sins" but upon "the sin".
- c. His statement in 5:12 is that "The Sin" entered into the world by Adam's disobedience, and in 5:21 he declares that "The Sin" "ruled as a king".
- d. And, in his second question in 6:1 he actually asks if we should "persist in The Sin", which he then defines as "living in it" at the end of 6:2.
- 2. But, clearly, Paul's concept of "death" does not mean any kind of "cessation of capacity".
- a. Such a notion would immediately be self-destructive: if we cannot sin, there is no point in raising the question of whether we should "live" in it.
- b. Thus, our main focus of reason must, at some point, come down to the pursuit of what Paul means when he writes of "death" and "being dead".
- B. Thus, Paul's concept of "death" in respect to "The Sin" as well as "living" out the impact of it, is our main preoccupation.
- 1. With this preoccupation, however, it may well be very helpful for us to think a bit about the identity of "The Sin".
- a. In 5: 12 Paul declared that "The Sin" entered into the world in a way "so that" death passed upon all of Adam's offspring and "because that" they all "sinned".
- 1) Even though there were some issues of "sin" already in place before "The Sin" was embraced (lovelessness and faithlessness), there was no condemnation until the "act" was completed.
- 2) This means at least three things.
- a) That the "act" of eating did something to the physical body of the man that made it possible for all of the man's "seed" to be actually, physically corrupted into the physical, cyclical disintegration of the body unto, ultimately, its return to dust.
- b) That this "act" put man's physical existence in a kind of jeopardy that would always afterwards pressure man to make his physical life the major focus of his attentions (Hebrews 2:15 pointedly declares that all of a man's life is a matter of bondage because of this focus).
- c) That this "act", being sponsored by the serpent, actually opened the door of man's existence to the dominion of that evil spirit [Note Ephesians 2:2]: Adam's "act" allowed Satan to super-impose himself upon the spirit of man so that Satan could be, and is, the dominant "spirit" in man's living.
- b. Thus, "The Sin" is identified as "permission for Satan to invade the bodies of men, weakened by the fear of physical death, so that they were, then, "constituted" sinners.
- 2. The main question of our preoccupation is this: what does it mean "to die to The Sin"?
- a. The only basis for understanding "death" is our experience of it in the physical realm coupled to the Word of God.
- b. Since our "death" to "The Sin" is tied to the death of Jesus Christ, we will begin by looking into His death to see what it means.
- 1) The most obvious sense of "death" is the departure of the spirit of man from the body of man (James 2:6) so that death involves...
- a. A "significant-distance separation" between the life-root (the spirit) and its object (the body).
- i. There is a difference between the weakening of the connection(s) between the spirit and the body so that weakness, illness, irreversible disintegration, and the gradual descent into "death" and the total disconnect of the spirit from the body that brings on final death. This is a quasi distance issue.
- ii. Once the disconnect actually occurs and the spirit and body are separate from each other, physical death has occurred.
- b. A consequent inability of the object to benefit from the union of spirit and body that once simply naturally flowed from spirit to body.
- i. This means that the body will gradually return to its most basic elements (dust to dust).
- ii. This "return" means that part of the "meaning" of "death" is a cessation of that which is "dead" to function and to maintain its "living" organizational character (a body that is not 'dust', but a highly organized form of 'dust' that has almost none of its 'dust' characteristics).
- iii. This also means that the spirit will cease to have any physical capacities in the physical world since the body was its instrument of activity in that world.
- c. This concerns the "death" of the physical body. And this becomes the major metaphor for our understanding of "death" in any/every realm beyond the physical.
- 2) A less obvious (because it is beyond the five senses) sense of "death" is the separation that exists between man in his conscious existence and God as the Ultimate Spirit of Life.
- a. Expressions of this separation...
- i. Jesus' "...why have You forsaken Me?" is a revelation of the distance that has come to pass between the Father and the Son.
- ii. Jesus' "I thirst" may well be John's chief metaphor of the result of this distance.
- iii. This concerns the "death" of the "person" as a participant in the "union" between Spirit and "person". As long as there exists a union between spirit and body, physical life exists, but there is such a thing a "life" in the "essential person" and that requires a union between Spirit and spirit and/or soul.
- i) By "essential person" I mean the most stripped down version of personhood.
- ii) Since the "body" is relegated to the reality of being a "dwelling place" for the person, it seems that "personhood" does not essentially require a "body".
- b. Omnipresence is seriously and qualitatively different than "union".
- c. This signals a sense of "death" that is fundamentally "distance" between two critical elements in "life" so that "distance" makes "living" difficult to impossible. Thus, "death" is "distance" when "distance" means the breakdown of "union" and "effective interaction". This is the "death" that Adam and Eve suffered "in the day" that they ate of the forbidden fruit; physical death followed over a period of 900+ years of gradual deterioration of the union between body and spirit.
- 3) And, then, there is the question of Spirit to spirit interaction in respect to Life. There is a reason that God's great gift to the Church was/is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as the Agent of "Life". The spirit of man can maintain "life" in the body for a while, but is wholly ineffective in obtaining or maintaining "Life" in the essential person. For "Life", the Spirit of Life is essential.
- b. Thus, in respect to Jesus Christ, "death" first meant "distance from the Father" in terms of communicable union, and then meant "distance" between body and spirit when Jesus declared "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46) and then breathed His last breath.