by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 2 Study # 5 August 28, 2007 Lincolnton, N.C.
13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
1901 ASV Translation:
13 for if ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
I. Further questions...
A. Does Paul mean that any unrighteous activity can be "put to death"?
1. The "problem" here is that everyone understands that "habitual" practices are far more difficult to "put to death" than "occasional" actions.
a. It is standard human nature to attempt to make the things that only God can do possible for men by reductionism. By this I mean that it is standard operating procedure to attempt to make the will of God possible to men by reducing the divine requirements down to something men can do. "Putting to death the deeds of the body" means ceasing to engage in the overt actions of... (generally, the "biggies" -- murder, adultery, theft, etc.). This came out in the debate over the "Lordship Salvation" issue when man's responsibility was reduced to "believing" (as if that is something men can do out of their own ability).
b. By the same token, it is standard human nature to simply deny the power of God to any problem outside the realm of human abilities. "Putting to death the deeds of the body" does not mean ceasing to engage in habitual actions that have controlling power over the one doing them. "Don't, " we are told, "expect God to deliver you from your ingrained habits; instead, join a support group."
1) The "problem" here is this: How does God bothmaintain His principle of reaping what we have sown andprovide salvation from what we have sown?
2) Habitual actions that are evil reveal habitual ways of thinking about what is evil and, for most believers, habitual denial that it is evil.
2. A greater problem is the question of how one applies the Spirit to the problem. If, for instance, I have been a "user" of a given drug that has acclimated my body to itself, how do I go about obtaining the power from the Spirit to stop using? Or, for a different kind of illustration, if I have consistently engaged in a certain type of behavior to "handle" certain types of circumstances so that I have become "habitual" in responding that way to those circumstances, how do I get the Spirit to empower a different way of dealing with those circumstances?
3. There can be no escape from the fact that Paul had to mean every form of unrighteous behavior has a solution in the Spirit. Otherwise, there is only "selective" salvation from the "easier" problems of bondage and that is really no salvation at all.
B. How, then, is the Spirit's power brought into play?
1. First, there is the requirement of deciding which forms of indulgence are "sin". It is not a sin to eat food because the body signals "hunger"; but "gluttony" is a sin. It is not a sin to drink because the body signals "thirst"; but drunkenness is a sin. It is not a sin to work to make money; but covetousness is idolatry and the desire to be wealthy is covetousness. It is not a sin to build friendships; but compromising to keep "friends" is an active evil. It is not a sin to receive glory from men; but it is a sin to pursue the glory of men.
2. Second, there is the requirement of determining to never engage in the identified activity again. It is clear that this determination does not have any "power" in the person to execute the decision, but without the determination, the Spirit sits on the sidelines. I have found that there is no provision of power until there is a deliberate determination before God that "I, by the grace of God, will never do that again".
3. Third, there is the requirement that we "come clean" with God when we do not allow His Spirit to keep us from doing evil. We must "confess our sins" so that we may be "cleansed" and restored to the position of "power" in the Spirit.
C. What about Peter's "stair-step" approach to developing godly character?
1. 2 Peter 1:2-7 indicates a "process", not an "immediate resolution".
a. The "grace and peace" of God is, according to this text, "multiplied" by the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
b. The divine power of God has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of the God Who has called us to glory.
c. We become partakers of the divine nature by means of the promises of God.
d. Then there is the process itself...
1) Giving all diligence... [Nowhere in the New Testament do the authors give us the freedom to think that the Christian life, even by the Spirit, is achievable without "diligence".]
2) "Provide nourishment" (the apparent meaning of "add" in the AV text) to...
a) Virtue by faith [Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says: "At the time of the New Testament [this] word ...had so many meanings that it gave rise to misunderstandings (Vol. I, p. 457) ...Yet in spite of the ambiguity of the term, we can pick out a single basic meaning...It can refer to mastery in a specific field..." (Ibid. p. 458). This makes Paul's statement in Acts 24:16 highly important as Paul's effort in a specific field, to master the issue. It also makes James' statements in 1:8 ("a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways") and 4:8 ("...purify your hearts ye double-minded") crucial.
b) Knowledge by virtue
c) Temperance by knowledge
d) Patience by temperance
e) Godliness by patience
f) Brotherly love by godliness
g) Love by brotherly love
e. The bottom line here is that people grow into Love by growth in true knowledge.
2. This entire "process" approach indicates that Peter does not have an "instantaneous solution" mentality. That makes such a mentality highly unlikely in Paul -- since both are inspired by the same Spirit.