Paul: The Chief of Sinners? (Pt 6)

Daily Devotion | Day 350

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2, NKJV).

Today’s opening Scripture is a continuation of what Paul has been saying in the preceding chapter in his Letter to the Romans. In 7:13-25 he described the guilt, condemnation and helplessness associated with bondage to sin and one’s inability to submit fully to God’s law. After crying for someone to deliver him from the body of death, he exclaimed, “I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25).

From chapter 8, Paul explains at length why he is grateful to God. He is thankful because the experience he described in 7:13-25 is over. That was his former life under the law, before he became a new creation in Christ. He was not describing a Christian’s struggle with sin; rather, he was describing the sin struggles of a Jew under the law, a man who had not experienced redemption in Christ yet. Therefore, it would be a mistake for Christians to quote from Romans 7:13-25 either: (a) to show that Paul (the Christian and Apostle) was a sinner or (b) to explain why Christians today continue to commit sin.

Paul dedicates the whole of chapter 8 to explaining the new found freedom in Christ and its implications for the believer in this world and in the next. Chapter 8 is a description of the born again life. Paul now has found a deliverer and a savior in Christ. His sins have been washed away by Jesus. In addition, he has received from Him power not to fall into sin and condemnation again. The new Paul walks in victory over sin, as all Christians should. Freed from the dominion of sin and filled with the power of the Spirit, he now is able to submit fully to God.

This is the reason Paul opens the chapter with an emphatic declaration of victory and freedom: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Born again people suffer no more condemnation for two reasons. First, they are in Christ. Second, they walk according to the leading and empowerment of the Spirit.

With great joy Paul further testifies, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” This is the new Paul, the Paul who met Jesus, who was saved from his sins and became filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the born again Paul. This Paul and the one described in Romans 7:13-25 are two different people. The former is a Christian and a new creation; the latter is not.

The new Paul is a free man, no longer a slave to sin. This is his testimony. And all Christians, like Paul, should be able to testify to this freedom in Christ: freedom from sin and its attending condemnation. Jesus died, after all, to offer us this very freedom: “He shall save His people from their sins,” the angel told Joseph (Matthew 1:21). Later on in His ministry, Jesus confirmed this offer of freedom from sin when He stated, “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin . . . Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36).

Freedom from committing sin is the most important and the most precious freedom in Christ. This freedom is made possible by the redemption in Christ (through His blood; this includes forgiveness of sins) and our new walk in the Spirit. The result of this freedom is a life of no condemnation. This is what Paul experienced as a Christian, exactly as Jesus envisioned for all believers. But why, one may wonder, do many Christians still struggle with sin on a regular basis? That is a good question, but it is a discussion for another day.

This concludes our current series. Next time you read Paul’s writings, I pray you find inspiration to pursue righteousness, holiness and freedom in Christ. Stay free, stay blessed. And remain in the grace of Christ Jesus. Amen.

For further studyActs 9:1-30 and John 8:1-12

Freedom in the Father’s House

Daily Devotion | Day 320

“Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed’” (John 8:34-36, NKJV).

In John 8:31-59, Jesus had a tense exchange with certain Jews who believed in Him. The debate centered mainly around freedom, slavery and sonship. Jesus opened the conversation by stating that if they wanted to be His disciples, they had to abide in His word (v. 31). At this point everything was fine. Then Jesus dropped a bombshell when He said: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (v. 32). The Jews were startled and took exception to Jesus’ statement (v. 33).

On the surface, there seems to be nothing offensive about what Jesus said. But the Jews did not see it that way. Jesus’ words implied that they were in bondage. In other words, He meant that they were not royals, but slaves. The Jews understood the implication of what the Lord said. This explains their reply in v. 33: “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never being in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” The Jews were right. Technically, they were ‘free’ people, because they were the ethnic descendants of Abraham. This could not be debated.

However, they missed Jesus’ point. He was describing their spiritual condition. And as the conversation progressed, He shed more light on the issue. The first clarification of His statement is found in today’s opening passage (John 8:34-36). In the passage, Jesus explains what He means by “slavery” as well as the difference between a son and a slave. Let us examine the passage.

Jesus said, “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (v. 34). In making this statement, He defined the meaning of spiritual bondage. Earlier, the Jews challenged Jesus when He suggested that they were slaves. But now He clarifies Himself by stating that in His eyes a slave is anyone who commits sin. Jesus implied that the Jews He spoke to were in sin, and therefore they were in bondage.

Contrary to what they thought, they were not royals. Therefore, when Jesus said, “the truth shall make you free,” He meant, “the truth shall make you free from committing sin. And when you are free from committing sin, then you are no longer a slave but a royal indeed.”  It is the same thing He meant when He said, “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (v. 36). The Son is the truth which makes us free, because He is truth personified (John 14:6).

Next, Jesus explains that he who is made free from sin is a son (a royal) as opposed to the one who is not free from sin (a slave). Then He tells us the ‘residential status’ of the son and the slave with respect to the Father’s house: “A slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.” This means the one who is made free from sin (the royal) has a permanent place in the Father’s house. But a slave’s status is temporary, at best. Sooner or later, he would be asked to leave.

We will conclude today’s message by applying it to The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).

The prodigal son relinquished his position as a son when he left the house for a life of sin (the life of a slave). When he came to his senses, he knew (rightly so) that he had lost his place as a son (15:18-19). But when he returned, the father had compassion on him and reinstated him to the position of a son. The change in status is evident from the father’s own words: “this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (15:24).

Notice that the younger son used to be alive (while still in his father’s house). But when he left the father’s house, he died (spiritual death). When he returned, he found life again. In contrast, listen to what the father told the older son who did not leave the house, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours” (15:31). 

Jesus came to redeem us from sin that we might live as royal priests. The Father wants us to be always with him. Let us therefore remain in His house, for in His presence is fullness of joy and liberty. Amen.

For further studyRomans 6:8-23; 8:1-11

Winning from Above (Pt 2)

Daily Devotion | Day 306

“Even when we were dead in trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ . . . and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5-6, NKJV).

Yesterday, we looked at how much the Father has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. We learned that our victory consists in having a heaven perspective, which includes realizing the magnitude of our blessings in the heavenly places. Today, we continue our series by examining the passage above, especially the last part. It’s all about winning from above. A perspective that is mainly based on our earthly/fleshly experience doesn’t help our cause. Fasten your seat belts as we continue our ‘tour’ of the heavenly places.

To win from above it’s important that we look at reality from the standpoint of who we are, where we stand and what we have in the heavenly places.

The born again experience is about before and after, i.e. who we used to be as opposed to who we are now. That is the picture Paul paints in today’s opening passage. In the past, we were dead in our trespasses, he says. But now we live in a different reality thanks to God’s great love for us. God has blessed us with a new life on three levels. First, He has made us alive together with Christ. Second, He has raised us up together with Christ. And third, He has made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. We will focus on this last point. But before that, let’s highlight two things which emerge from the passage.

Notice that the new experience is presented in the past tense. This means it is done, and consequently, it is the present reality of everyone who is born of God. Another thing to observe in the passage is the word “together.” It occurs three times, and it is used to describe Jesus and us as having a joint experience. That’s powerful. Don’t miss it.

Now let’s direct our attention to the last part of the passage where Paul says, God “made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” This is not a metaphor. It’s a literal spiritual reality. Jesus, the Risen Lord, is seated in the heavenly places. But He is not there alone. We are seated with Him and in Him. And it is the Father who put us there. Remember the word “together.” Jesus is Head of the Body, i.e. the Church (Colossians 1:18). The Head and the Body form one inseparable unit. Therefore, where Christ is, the Church is.

God revealed these things in the Bible to help us see things from His perspective. Often, we’re trapped by our earthly circumstances because we can’t see past the visible world. But God wants us to see things based on our position in the heavenly places, because our victory is from above, not from below.

When the Bible says you’re seated with Christ in the heavenly places it means you’re in a position of authority, power and rest. It means you’re far above satan and his minions. It means all things are possible for you (Matthew 17:20). It means you’re secure, confident and fearless. It means you don’t need to worry about the past, the present or the future. It means all the resources of heaven are at your disposal: health, peace, wisdom, wealth, knowledge, favor, joy and so much more. In a nutshell, you’re a winner.

See yourself seated together with Jesus on high. And use your heavenly position to your advantage.

For further studyEphesians 1:13-22

Take Advantage of Your Qualification in Christ

Daily Devotional: Day 236

“Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12, NKJV).

If you have ever applied for a job or recruited people for a job, you are familiar with ‘qualifications.’ In nearly all human endeavors, qualifications play a vital role. Your qualifications tell people if you are fit for a particular task or if you deserve some benefits. In short, your qualifications can give you access to opportunities.

Today’s passage from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians contains a vital truth for all children of God. In it, Paul urges the saints in Colossae to give thanks to the Father. Reason for the thanksgiving: the Father “has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”

Did you catch that? The saints in light, i.e. God’s children (see 1 Thessalonians 5:5) have a common inheritance in Christ (see 1 Peter 1:3-5). When the Bible says that God has qualified you to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints, here are some implications. First, it implies that you belong to the fellowship of the saintsYou are a saint. Be convinced of that.

Make not the mistake of holding on to two diametrically opposed identities: sinner and saint. You are either one or the other. Sinners have no share in God’s inheritance. Today’s Bible passage, as you can see, is addressed to saints only. Notice that Paul doesn’t say, “inheritance of the sinners;” rather, he says, “inheritance of the saints in light.” The good news is, God counted you among His saints when He saved you. Believe, therefore, that you are a saint; think like a saint, and behave like a saint.

If, however, you are truly convinced that you are a sinner, don’t give up. There is hope for you. Repent, forsake your sins and turn to Christ. He will save you (see Proverbs 28:13; Matthew 1:21; Luke chapter 15).

The next implication of Paul’s message is the following:

In virtue of what the Father has done for you, you are capable of soaringYou are capable of rising above anything which hinders your walk with God. You are capable of shining. You are capable of living free from the dominion of sin (see Romans 6:14). You are capable of a life that glorifies God. God has made you fit for a higher life. He has made you fit for a life of excellence. As a new creature in Christ, you are capable of positively influencing the world around you. God has chosen you, wired you and equipped you to be a living expression of His glory. If you believe this, you should be leaping for joy right now.

In sum, you have been named in the inheritance reserved for God’s saints. Who named you? The Father did. Take advantage of your qualification in Christ and be transformed.

Stay blessed, in Jesus Name. Amen.

For further studyColossians 1:1-29

ARE YOU SAVED, YET?

DAILY DEVOTIONAL: DAY 213

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, KJV).

“Are you saved?” You may have heard this question many times in your life. It is common in Christian circles, especially among those who actively engage people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. You may have asked others this question yourself. Or, someone else may have approached you with it. You will often see “Are you saved?” on Gospel tracts, flyers, church bulletins, or inside the pages of Christian books. The goal is to get people to face the reality of their eternal destiny and, hopefully, turn to Jesus for salvation.

But the vital question that is often missing is: Saved from what? Here is where today’s opening Scripture comes into focus. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, encouraging him to take Mary as his wife. He told Joseph to name the soon-to-born child, JESUS. Then, the angel added a very important detail regarding the name of the child. He said, “for he shall save his people from their sins.” The name JESUS carries with it the mission of the Person who bears the name. And the mission is: He shall save His people from their sinsThis is Jesus’ primary mission.

Based on this, the more accurate question we should pose is, “Are you saved from your sins?” When Jesus returns, He is not going to deal with sin again. Why? Because He has dealt with it one time, for all time. As the Holy Spirit testifies, “but now, once at the end of the ages, He [JESUS] has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26; NKJV, see also v. 27-28).

Saved from sin means: forgivenwashed clean of all sinsand redeemed (made free, liberated) from sin’s bondage so that the saved person stops sinning. Jesus explained why this is important. He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:34-36, NKJV, emphasis added). Notice that the freedom Jesus is talking about here is freedom from sin, i.e. freedom from committing sin. Jesus went to the Cross and rose from the dead to give us this precious freedom. 

Jesus wants you to be free indeed. Get hold of the truth of His salvation, and become truly saved and truly free. Amen.

For further study: Romans 8:1-17