Part 35 Justification and Assurance
(b) What the Battle with Sin Teaches us about Assurance
In this section Paul discusses the role of the Holy Spirit in relation to assurance. This is a passage which ought to provoke serious self examination in ethe heart of every true believer. The Scriptures rather than discouraging, encourage Christians to search their hearts whether they be in the faith (2nd Corinthians 13:5). Assurance is actually strengthened when God’s true children ask important questions of themselves in examining their own hearts. Is this not what we are to do each time we approach the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 11:28)?
The question posed by this passage is Are we in the flesh or are we in the Spirit?
1: The Contrast v5-7
These verses draw a distinction between the carnal mind and the spiritual mind.
The words “flesh” and “carnal” are both drawn from the same Greek word, sarx. In the New Testament this is a common word for sinfulness. In essence the carnal mind is one which is dominated by sinful desires. It is a mind devoid of the regenerating influences of the Holy Ghost. Paul clearly teaches that it impossible to live in both mindsets, one is either carnal (unsaved) or spiritual (saved).
V5 – those who are after the flesh set their affection upon sin. Those who are regenerated however have a mindset that considers God.
V6 – The carnal mind is death because it is unconscious of the spiritual. The spiritual mind enjoys life (John 17:3) and peace with God.
V7 – This carnal mind is engaged in a campaign of hostility against God, because ultimately the law is ignored. The implication is that the spiritual mind practices submission.
Application – to prove to ourselves, to the church and to the world that we are saved we must think and behave spiritually.
2: The Consideration v8-10
Paul introduces a series of uncompromising statements here which should cause us to consider our own standing before God.
V8 – If we are indeed in the flesh we cannot and will not please God.
V9 – All Christians are in possession of the Holy Spirit, this proves that a man cannot be spiritual and carnal at the same time. Therefore a person without the Holy Spirit is unsaved.
V10 – The Christian, however, has a body which is dead. This is because the body retains the seeds of corruption and original sin. We continue to sin because of the imperfection of the body. The spirit (the regenerated living soul within) is very much alive and works upon the principle of righteousness.
Application – We have the power to live spiritually because of the Holy Ghost who works righteousness in our lives.
3: The Consecration v11-13
Paul now moves onto look at the battle which the new nature has with the sinful body. This is clearly a battle to be won because this is the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead.
V12 – We do not owe the flesh anything, we owe God everything, what a prime motivation calling us to surrender.
V13 – The Christian actively practises mortification, or the killing of the sins of the body through the help of the Spirit. If one is never engaged in this work of dying unto sin he will die, in other words that person is unsaved.
Application – (a) Consecration is the practise of slaying the sins of the body. We surrender our bodies as living sacrifices, behaviour, attitudes, words, temperament, reactions. (b) This assists us in assurance because the true Christian identifies sin, is concerned by it and wishes to root it out.
4: The Confirmation v14
• Paul now introduces the concept of sonship into assurance.
• As every believer has the Spirit then we are all God’s sons and daughters.
• Therefore the Holy Ghost is the author of assurance convincing us of our standing as God’s children.
• He leads us into this assurance through the battle with the body.
Application – When we experience a battle with sin and temptation, when our conscience restricts and holds us back, when we are brought to repentance and confession, this is the evidence that we are the children of God. Our struggle with the flesh actually enhances our assurance because of our regenerated desire to please God.