Romans Bible Study Lesson 23

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To Sin or not to Sin

As believers, we have a minute-by-minute decision as to whether or not we should sin. Before we became a believer, we had no choice because we had no spiritual component—we were only of the flesh. When we became a believer we now have a new nature that is at constant war with our old nature. We recognize this struggle daily as we strive to keep our focus on Christ and grow to be like Him. As Christ completely conformed Himself to the will of the Father, we need to have no self-will but conform our will to the Father.

God didn’t just give us a bunch of dos and don’ts then tell us to live perfect lives, He has given us the tools to live up to what He expects. This is why it is so important to understand His Word. If we don’t know what He has told us then how can we be obedient to Him? Not only that, His will for our lives is wrapped up in our knowing and obeying Scripture.

Is it possible to lead a life without sinning? I believe it is although I don’t believe anyone has ever achieved that level of perfection yet. The old nature’s pull back into the things of the world often seems too strong for us to resist. However, if I can be sinless for one minute then I can keep from sinning for two. If I can remain sin-free for two minutes then I should be able to be sinless for four. Would Paul, through the Holy Spirit, expect us to live sin-free lives if it were not possible? Scripture makes it clear that we can resist temptation successfully.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

This verse starts out with the thought that temptation is a common event among all men. There is not one man who has not been tempted. This includes both the saved and unsaved. Those who are saved and have a desire to follow God have a special promise in the last part of this verse. We see here that God will temper the temptation so that you will not need to succumb to it but He will give you a way out of that temptation. The temptation can still be there but we will be able to remain strong under it. God’s escape plan is there if we would only look for it. Remember God tests; Satan tempts.

Our Tools

We have a number of tools available to us in order for us to live a live in sync or walk in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25). These tools are listed in Ephesians 6.

Ephesians 6:10—17 10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, 15and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; 16in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Verse 10 emphasizes that we can only be strong in the Lord. It is His strength that wins the battles, not ours. To do this we need to use the protection He supplies. A key word in this passage is stand firm. It should not be our goal to go out and defeat Satan or pray for him to be bound, we are told only to stand firm, unmovable and unwavering as we live our life. These tools are given for our survival against the evil, unseen spirit beings desiring us to fall. To stand up against this vast evil spirit world we need to depend fully of God.

These tools that God has given us are likened to the outfit a Roman soldier would wear. The first three are pieces worn at all times and the last three are items that would be quickly picked up when a battle is imminent.

The first item always worn is the Belt of truth. The Roman soldier used the belt to hold his free-flowing garment in place so he could run and fight without tripping. We need to cinch the belt of truth tightly to us. We need to hold fast to the truth. If we know the truth, we can confidently stand firm when Satan assails us because we know God is right there fighting for us. Think of how easily a new believer can be shaken by having doubts about their salvation.

Ephesians 4:11—14 11And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12for (pros) the equipping of the saints for (eis) the work of service, to (eis) the building up of the body of Christ; 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.14As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;

God gave us people who are gifts to the Body of Christ to help build us up and strengthen us so that we will be able to stand firm. The structure of verse 13 seems to indicate the people with the gifts are to equip the saints who in turn are to do the work of service and also help build up the Body. The apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers are not to do all the work themselves but are equipping others in the church to work effectively for the Lord. If this process is carried out correctly then each person will grow in knowledge and not be tossed by every wind of doctrine.

The second item always worn is the breastplate of righteousness. Just as we need to grow in our knowledge of truth, we need to grow in righteousness. This righteousness is not to be confused with the imputed righteousness given to us by God when be become a believer because Ephesians 6:13 tells us to take up the whole armor. Our imputed righteousness is not something that we can put on or take off. The righteousness referred to here is the righteousness we need to attain to as we perfect our walk with Christ. It is closely tied to our sanctification. I think of righteousness as being the action part of sanctification. Living a life in a manner that cannot be criticized acts as barrier to accusations by others that may discredit us.

Titus 2:8 sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

1 Peter 2:11—12 11Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

The third item always worn are the shoes of the gospel of peace. In context, this is not about spreading the gospel message to the unsaved but about the believer standing firm and being at peace knowing that the battle is the Lord’s. It’s difficult to be effective in battle while in a fretful state. This peace that comes from God helps us to think clearly and correctly.

Philippians 4:6—7 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I think it’s important to note that the things we are to practice are the things written to us by Paul. He never refers us back to the Gospels as an example for us but he often points to himself as an example and pattern for us to follow (Philippians 3:17; 1 Timothy 1:15—16).

Philippians 4:9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

The first item that is to be taken up at the first sign of danger is the shield of faith. If we are completely assured of our hope, have a confident expectation, we then have a shield that will protect us from the fiery darts thrown at us by Satan. Without this shield, we would run away as the enemy hurls flaming darts. With the shield, we are confident that we can stand firm. The doubts and uncertainty will vanish if we can confidently stand behind our faith.

The second item we need to take up is the helmet of salvation. The mind of the believer needs to be protected and this is done with the knowledge of the workings of our salvation. We have been saved from the penalty of sin through justification (past tense). We are saved from the power of sin through sanctification (present tense). We will be saved from the presence of sin through our glorification (future tense). If we understand all that God has done for us through the process of our salvation, we can firmly stand against the onslaught of Satan because we stand secure in Christ. Those without this confidence never fully mature but are easily shaken when the attacks come from Satan.

The third item we need to put on is the sword of the Spirit. This is the Word of God. By knowing Scripture and using it, we can live a sinless life (or at least more sinless than not knowing Scripture). This is the tool Jesus used when He was tempted in Matthew 4 and it is the same thing we need to learn to use.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Revelation 1:16 In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.

All of these tools are to be used in prayer (verse 18). Prayer shows that we are completely dependent upon God for all things. If we are not praying we do not completely trust Him. How often do we try to be self-sufficient when we should be completely dependent?

Ephesians 6:18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

Because we are weak we need to stand in the power and might of the Lord. We cannot experience God’s power in our lives until we put on the protection that He makes available to all believers. When we put on the whole armor of God we are completely protected and can stand firm when Satan attacks. It’s important for us to be ready at all times because the enemy appears as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

2 Corinthians 2:10—1110But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.