Friday, January 13, 2012


Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are at war.  Paul made it clear that we do not battle in the physical realm, but in the spiritual realm—powerful spiritual beings, evil days, darkness, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience, flaming darts of the evil one, this present darkness, and spiritual forces of evil were all terms he used to describe that war.

12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. [Ephesians 6:12 ESV]

Believers Do Not Battle an “Entity”, but an Enemy
Discussing sin, Farley wrote, “There’s a power called sin, and its desire is to overtake us.  Again, we’re not speaking of sins or sinning but of an entity called sin” (p. 116, emphasis in original).  He then asked the question,
“We know we’re being tempted, but how should we understand the source of those urges?” (p. 116).  Farley refers to Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 7, verse 14, wherein he says Paul talked about his battle with trying to live as a Pharisee under the demands of the law.  He identifies “an organized and person-like power called sin” at work “in Saul, causing him to do things that he didn’t intend to do.  This force was not Saul himself.  It was something other than Saul, although it was acting through his physical body” (p. 117).  Farley asserts that a “sin principle”, “sin entity”, or “rogue force” (p.120) is within the believer.  He claimed, “At salvation, nothing happened to the power of sin.  It is still alive and at work in our bodies” (p. 117).  He also asserted, “…the point is that there’s a sin principle within the physical body.  And this sin principle is aroused when we, whether saved or lost, try to live up to the law or any law-like standard” (p.119).  Farley also maintains “...we now understand why believers still sin.  We sin because of the continued presence of something called the power of sin—‘hooking’ us in various ways through the flesh” (p. 122).  That “power of sin”, he says, “is the source of temptation, not our own self” (p. 125).

All of these statements raise significant concerns.

In reality, all Farley had to do to “understand the source of those urges”—the proper word is not urges but temptation—was look to James who wrote to the diaspora, Jewish believers scattered among Gentiles, at 1:14-15, where it says:

14But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire15Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15, ESV, emphasis added)

Clearly then, “the source of those urges”—those temptations—is our own desires, those things within us that lead to temptation.  All people are egocentric.  All people are out for themselves.  All people are born in sin.  All people are wont to do what “feels good” or what “seems right in their own eyes” (again, see Romans 3).  Believers are not exempt from any of these!  All of those desires that rise up within believer and unbeliever alike do not belong to sin—as Farley argues (p. 120)—but to the individual (“his own desires”, above)!  Those desires are within each of us.  The “sinister source” (p. 120) of the temptations that come from our own desires is Satan himself.  We are not in a physical war.  No, we are engaged in a spiritual war, as Paul so clearly described in Ephesians 6:12.   And the weapons of our warfare are not carnal!

It must be understood from the Apostle Paul that believers are dead to sin!  It’s important to “get” this—the person who has been regenerated, justified, and sanctified by God and who now has the Holy Spirit in him cannot and will not continue in the life of sin that characterized his unregenerate state. "The believer,” John Murray said, “has secured the victory over the world,” by God’s grace, and “is immune to the dominion of the evil one, and is no longer characterized by that which is of the evil one, and is no longer characterized by that which is of the world, ‘the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life’."   Regeneration, Murray said, which is a direct result of union with Christ, causes a "decisive and irreversible breach with the world and with it defilement and power."  The person who is born again, who has the Holy Spirit, no longer loves the world and no longer habitually practices sin (what John was talking about in his letters) but instead loves Christ, loves the brethren and keeps the commandments of God.  Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15) and “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10).   And then, there is Paul:

12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions (epithumia, meaning desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust).  13Do 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. 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.     [Romans 6:12-14 ESV]

Paul is saying to us “C’mon, don’t you let sin become king in your body, in order to make you obey its desires and lusts!  Don’t you present the parts of your body to sin as instruments for unrighteousness—instead, because of your union with Christ (Romans 6:5), you are to present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, that is, raised together with Christ, and you are to present the parts of your body to God as instruments for righteousness!  Why?  Because you are no longer under the law!  You are under grace!  And sin will not have any dominion over you!”

The commands Paul issues: "therefore do not let sin reign (v.12); "do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness" (v.13) are commanded for a particular reason. Why? "For sin shall not have dominion over you" (v.14). In verse 16 and following Paul clearly speaks of deliverance from the bondage of sin as a slave master. "And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness" (v.18). The contrast in these verses is not guilt of sin verses slaves of righteousness, but slaves (or servants) to evil behavior (uncleanness, lawlessness [v.19]) verses slaves of God (righteousness, holiness). The union with Christ not only delivers a believer from sin's guilt but also from sin's reign as a slave master.  We are at war.


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