Paul's Passing Thoughts

From the Reformation to the Third Reich: Protestantism’s Impact on Western Culture – Introduction

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 8, 2017

The following is part one of a nine-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s first session
at the 2014 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for part two
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
Click here for conclusion

This specific 2014 conference represents the culmination of at least 20 years of thinking for me. And to give you a sense of scope, I need to begin with some history. In America, Christianity first had the opportunity to disagree, starting in the early 19th century, with the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. They were a unique brand of Christianity that were the first to diverge from historic Calvinist roots.

Because there really is no formal definition for Pentecostal and charismatic, there are some profound limitations to the definitions of either. I can tell you what they tend to emphasize. They are renewal movements, a return to the gifts of the Spirit – speaking in tongues, healing – and a very immediate, very specific present kind of Christianity. They were rooted in and had some of their intellectual roots in the Wesleyan movement. They rejected determinism. They rejected predestination. And they believed in free will.

All renewal movements are necessarily movements of personality. Most of the early revival movements in the United States came from men with specific messages- John Alexander Dowie, John G. Lake, William J. Seymour. If you have any interest at all in learning the evolution of charismatic/Pentecostal movements, these names are going to be at the top of the list.

When I came into Christianity around 1981-82, the charismatic renewal was still unformed. There weren’t really mega churches as you and I know mega churches. Back then we were still arguing over whether or not you could have guitars and drums in church, whereas today, if you don’t have contemporary music and guitars and drums, nobody shows up.

Oral Roberts University – Tulsa, OK

One of the primary leading figures of that timeframe would be men like Oral Roberts, one of the first men in the history of the world to impact the globe by mass media. For a series of reasons, I end up going to Oral Roberts University thinking that I would arrive at charismatic utopia. Given my love for ideas, I found myself terribly attracted to studying theology. I hold a degree in Systematic and Historical Theology with a minor in Old Testament. What that basically means is that the sum of my education was in church history, the progression of church doctrine and systematic theology.

The head of the Department of Theology at the time was Siegfried Chasman who was a committed Calvinist from Europe. As such, he organized the Department of Theology around that body of ideas, but he also knew he had an entire student body committed, for the most part, to Pentecostal/charismatic concepts. The problem is that most people make the fundamental mistake in assuming that Calvinism is somehow negotiable, that we can somehow pick and choose which parts of Calvinism we want. And so then they try to hybridize a lot of these ideas.

Herein is the implicit conflict. You would go to chapel Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the charismatic speaker of the day would blow through and say whatever they had to say. Meanwhile, those in the Theology Department would sit front and center of the auditorium,and without fail they would be visibly and universally outraged at whatever was said from the platform.

So I was dead square in the middle of this ongoing fight- the power and the effectiveness of charismatic-style doctrines, and the critique of the only form of academic theology that is Protestantism.

by the time I had graduated from college, I had no home. Charismatic churches didn’t have the interest in what I had learned or what I knew, but by the same token, I got to spend an entire college career addressing the fundamental problems that I saw with Calvinism as such; combating those arguments, being aware of these arguments, writing endless papers on those arguments, defending those papers against myself and the entire classroom. So I am no stranger to the fight.

When I was 26 years old, I found myself in Gaithersburg, MD on the doorstep of what was then a People of Destiny International church (which would eventually become Sovereign Grace Ministries). When I first got there, they presented themselves as these very broad-minded, interested in ideas thinkers, social commentators, and frankly, I thought it felt like home. I was to eventually learn that was totally false. Around 1991 they started to make a transition into what I knew was Calvinism, and I had fundamental objections to Calvinism. They had no interest in ideas, and they had no interest in anybody else’s input. I made the faulty assumption that I could object, that this was a reasonable action on my part, on anybody’s part, if they saw a problem with the doctrine; that anyone should be able to say, “No, that’s not true.”

This of course embroiled me in all manner of church conflict to the point that they eventually told me I was deleterious. “And oh, by the way, why don’t you go out and start your own church?” The irony of that has never ceased to amaze me, that I could be considered deleterious (evil, wicked, pernicious, and destructive) but yet it was perfectly acceptable for me to go out and start my own church. To this day, I think that’s hilarious.

It took me a long time to unravel the problems, but because of the way I tend to approach the world, I saw commonalities. Now of course the original criticism was, “Well, the reason there’s a conflict, John, is because you’re here. The conflict is you.”

Okay.

And inasmuch as you accept that assumption, then that makes abundant sense. But remember, I had almost a decade of Christian life behind me. I already had an identity that spanned a number of different denominations, a number of different church flavors, plus the intention to create theology as a professional pursuit. So the standard denunciations and the standard objections to me didn’t work. I did not quickly embrace the notion that I could be so fundamentally wrong. But this ultimately set me on the path of identifying what is the commonality here.

I had already seen these doctrines in some form and in some fashion even in the charismatic churches. I would eventually get out of Sovereign Grace Ministries, and I would go participate in other churches and I would still see the same themes, the same ideas. And trust me, I was one of the few people going around actually objecting to the broader actions of Sovereign Grace Ministries. I was absolutely a lone voice. So any preacher I ever heard that ever said to me, “Your job is to submit to me. It is my job to defend the sheep,” I would specifically exhort them to get involved in protecting the sheep in the context of the conduct of that ministry. Universally, they said no way.

In all these churches, fundamental to them was the doctrine of submission and authority; the presumption that select men had the moral right to dictate to me intellectual conclusions. Concurrent with that submission was that they were somehow uniquely qualified to understand the truth and nobody else really was, and that by virtue of that authority, they had the right to treat me however they chose. In whatever way they qualified such a justification, at the root, that’s what they presumed. If I was not willing to embrace what they said, it was somehow a moral failing on my part. The presumption was always that the moral failing began with me. And for a while of course I accepted the presumption, but then I realized, wait a minute, this stuff exists whether I’m at this church or not.

There was only one other common denominator…

…and that was the doctrine.

With my degree and historical background I was able to trace the evolution of Christian thought effectively from the 1st century to about the 18th century. I had enough church history to understand that this pattern was actually not uncommon. Once I identified those fundamental elements, I realized this has happened before, and it has happened over and over and over. I finally had to ask myself, how is it possible that the Church either finds itself in bed with tyrants, abetting tyrants, or behaving as tyrants itself?

And that’s when I came up with this. I’ve shown this in pretty much every conference.

The Gospel According to John Immel, chapter 3:1-3

  1. All people act logically from their assumptions.
  2. It does not matter how inconsistent the ideas or insane the rationale. They will act until that logic is fulfilled.
  3. Therefore, when you see masses of people taking the same destructive actions, if you find the assumptions, you will find the cause.

Now of course when I formulated this, I hadn’t yet read James Madison and his Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, in which he states:

“7. Because experience witnesses that ecclesiastical establishments…during almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, and in both, superstition, bigotry and persecutions.”

“8. Because…what influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; and in no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people.”

James Madison nailed it. The bulk of Christian history is one, long, slow motion train wreck of tyranny. This is a problem that bothered me viscerally. We genuinely believe that God is love, yet with stunning consistency, the church that God sees and is supposed to call His own ends up at the forefront of tyranny. There is something seriously wrong with this picture!

The example of National Socialist Germany is an instructional morality event of epic proportions.   In the 1920s, Germany was Christian by any definition. Not only was it Christian, it was Lutheran Christian by any definition. Of the 60 million people that resided in Germany, 40 million identified themselves as evangelicals. The other 20 million identified themselves as Catholic or some variation of Protestantism, with only about 1 percent embodying a genuinely non-Christian mysticism.

There is a common objection that the reason the evil in Germany took place is because a select few did bad things and that good men did nothing. The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Does this explain what happened to National Socialist Germany?

I’m going to let you ponder that question.

Before we can genuinely answer that question, we need to do some serious remedial work. We need to understand what shaped Germany in the 1920s. And the reason we need to understand history is because, as Adolf Hitler once said, “A man who has no sense of history is a man who has no ears or eyes.”

Now for me to do my job, I’m going to have to introduce you to philosophy.

Disciplines of Philosophy

– Metaphysics

– Epistemology

– Ethics

– Politics

– Aesthetics (art)

The nature of existence is metaphysics. How man knows what he knows is called epistemology. How we value what we know is ethics. How we interact with people is politics. And how man creatively reflects his existence back to himself is called aesthetics or art.

Man cannot help but integrate his ideas. It’s the way he’s built. From the time he is a toddler, the first thing he wants to understand is how things fit together. Man must organize his ideas into a cohesive system just like a fish must breathe in water. For man, his ideas do not hang in a vacuum. His ideas must be attached to something. And he must start from the most rudimentary part of his existence. He must start at the beginning.

It is a hard thing to learn to think in essentials, to think in principles, to think in terms of ideological relationships. It is hard to learn to think philosophically. However, most people are unaware of this big picture. Most people don’t think in these terms, yet most people treat ideas as some kind of smorgasbord. Oh, I like this one, and I like this one. Nah, I don’t like that one. I like this one. And they put it all in a basket and from time to time they will pull out an idea and say, “Yeah, that’s pretty good. Yeah, that’s pretty good.” They treat ideas very carelessly.

Often they find themselves dead square in the middle of some form of conflict, some form of psychic pain. And because they treat ideas carelessly, they don’t recognize that the psychic pain they hold is directly tied to mutually exclusive ideas that are in conflict. This is because they have not done a successful job at integrating ideas, or eliminating the errors from the most rudimentary level of their ideas to the practical outworking.   The result is uncertainty. Then, one of the first things man tends to do when he encounters a conflict or an inconsistency is to punt the inconsistency into the abyss so that he doesn’t have to deal with it.

Since it is the subject of this conversation, we are already familiar with how this actually breaks down with Augustine, with Calvinistic thought. What is the metaphysical assumption of Augustine? Man is corrupt. Man is existentially corrupt. He is corrupt from the nature of his existence. He has no redeeming good quality in his existence. Anytime you think you’ve got something good, you don’t. Because man is metaphysically corrupt, that means, epistemologically, man cannot know anything. Because man cannnot know anything, his moral responsibility – his ethical responsibility – is his own self-destruction. And because man cannot do good, he will not follow through on this ethical standard. This means he necessarily needs a government that will compel him to that action. So if you won’t sacrifice you, there will be a government that will sacrifice you.

And last is aesthetics. This is how man reflects the world back to himself. Man needs a means by which he refuels his existence. He needs a means by which he takes his most rudimentary assumptions about his life and puts that into a form so that when he looks back at it, he is refreshed. This is the root of aesthetics.

However, if you presume man’s metaphysical corruption and you presume all of these fundamental things that Augustine presumes, what kind of art do you create? You create churches lined with gargoyles. You create Dante’s Inferno where the nature of your art specifically reflects man’s catastrophe, destruction, impotence, fear, terror, anxiety, neuroses, and psychoses. Your art will always follow your most rudimentary philosophical assumptions.

The dominant philosophy on the planet is collectivism. It is the presumption that man is first and foremost the property of the state, the property of society, the property of tribe, the property of community or denomination or local church or sect.

Here is my contribution to philosophy. I have identified five fundamental elements of all collectivist doctrines that are designed to produce tyranny. The reason I have organized this as a web is because I want you to understand that this is not linear. All of these elements are interdependent and do not necessarily follow in a progression. There is a dynamic tension between all the arguments. Some arguments that you hear will have facets of each of these elements. Let’s look at each one of these more closely.

Incompetent Masses
The underlying conclusion throughout Western thought has been that man’s senses or his ability to reason were fundamentally flawed. Man could not understand the world in which he lived. This is the bedrock of incompetence. If you separate man from his mind, man from his body, and man from reality there is no other place for man to live. So if you presume that man is incompetent then you set the groundwork for the next concept.

Universal Guilt
This is a tool designed to drive you to accept your own incompetence. All men are guilty of moral depravity so that no one can advocate a moral standard. If you will accept guilt, a universal guilt, a guilt for no crime whatsoever, a guilt for nothing else than for simply being an incompetent human, you will accept the standard that you are morally incapable of running your own life. If you cannot presume your own moral good then the only thing left is…

Dictated Good
Because man is guilty and incompetent to carry out the important actions, he necessarily needs someone to save him from himself. This is why there has always been a separation between the willing elite and the general masses. This is where the class society comes from. There has always been the presumption that the “true philosopher” had a special access to truth.

Abolition of Ambition
Because man is by nature an individual and not a collective being, he must be talked out of individual action. He must be persuaded that any action done independent of group sanction is the height of moral failing.

Collective Conformity
This is the end game. This is where the full force of government is brought to bear for the sole purpose of creating a neutered humanity without complexion, or variation, or distinction. This outcome is held out as an ethical ideal and forced into existence at all costs.

Utopian Prestige
All arguments are in service to the collective reputation. Notice the outcome is at the center of the web of these five elements. How many times have you heard a preacher talk about the reputation of the church? The argument is that individual action will impact the prestige of his “local collective.” This is the presumption of Utopian Prestige. In every collectivist ideology, you will ultimately see the proclaimed ideal is some utopian ideal, whether it’s the Marxist’s workers’ paradise, whether it’s the Gaia, the utopia of earth, nature rule, nature worship, whether it be heaven, racial purity, it is always some utopian ideal that has no material expression. In other words, you will never see it here.

Most people have very little exposure to formal metaphysical or epistemological science. What they will do consistently is quote ethical expectations, and they do not realize that they are in fact admitting and committing to an ethical formulation that is part of a bigger picture. This is where most people encounter the philosophical system, ethics. Usually, our culture’s social values are expressions of ethics. What we find offensive, what we get offended by in public is specifically a reflection of our ethical values.   People don’t know where these ethical formulations come from, which means they don’t really think about what they mean.

Ethics is where man experiences a political or philosophical formulation. Now consider the statement, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” So then the question becomes, how is it possible for good men to sit by and do nothing? Remember that all behavior flows from metaphysical assumptions and is driven by logic. In order to answer the question, we must first consider, what are the root assumptions, and what is the progression of thought that leads to a behavior where good men will not act against evil?

To be continued…


Click here for part two
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
Click here for conclusion

Susan Dohse: Jonathan Edwards, Strange But True – 2015 TANC Conference: Session 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 30, 2016

The following is an excerpt of the transcript from Susan Dohse’s 2nd session at the 2015 TANC Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny.


I may be showing my age by asking this: who remembers Ripley’s Believe It or Not television show? It aired in 1985 and Jack Palance was its narrator. How about the museum at Niagra Falls? How about some of these believe it or not ideas Jonathan Edwards wrote about and believed?

Frank Viola’s blog helped me condense some of Jonathan Edward’s beliefs and kept me from jumping from one book or article to another collecting my specific thoughts. With his help, how about these shocking beliefs of Jonathan Edwards:

1) He was a strong advocate for Indian rights during his day. He was bitterly critical when New Englanders stole land from Native Americans, commanding them to pay for the land they took. The logical Reformed personality was a “social activist”? Peculiar isn’t it, since many contemporary Edwards followers turn their noses up at anything to do with social activism or social justice today.

2) “Edwards owned slaves and believed that being a slave-owner was NOT incompatible with being a follower of Jesus. While Edwards was an advocate of Indian rights and denounced the transatlantic slave trade, he himself was a slave owner.”

So, for “America’s greatest theologian” to own slaves and think it okay, is well, shocking, don’t you think?

3) Knowing how Calvinists hated Arminians and Arminians were mutual in their love for Calvinists, “Edwards did not believe that Arminians were disqualified from ministry or the Kingdom of God. He defended a pastor who had anti-Calvinistic views. The pastor (Benjamin Doolittle) was being denounced by his own church for owning a slave”. To defend an Arminian minister is “shocking to some hard-core Calvinists who believe that ‘unless you receive John Calvin into your heart, you cannot be saved’, or at least…”you are a heretic.”

4) “Edwards believed the Pope was the Antichrist; apologies to our Catholic friends.
This fact sobers popular notions that Edwards always interpreted Scripture correctly.

5) “Edwards believed that God hates sinners worse than you hate poison. Just read his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

6) “Edwards believed that the revival that was happening in 1740 was the prelude of the consummation of the ages where ‘the world would be renewed’ and that God’s great and last work on the earth began in America.

7) “Edwards believed that emotional outbursts that included bodily manifestations were normal during a revival…He explained that this was a human response in some people to the power of the Spirit.

8) “Edwards believed that mystical experiences were part of the Christian experience.” (Mystical meaning “…an experience that’s spiritual that goes beyond the faculties of the frontal lobe.”) “On one occasion, a vision caused him to weep aloud for almost an hour. He points out that he had experiences like this numerous times: ‘I have many times had a sense of the glory of the third person in the Trinity, in his office of Sanctifier, in his holy operation, communicating divine light and life to the soul.’”

Have you ever met a Calvinist who described a personal spiritual experience like this? Maybe, if you know a Charismatic Calvinist.

9) Edwards believed that God’s sovereignty requires that He create the entire universe out of nothing at every moment. (Frank Viola, “Shocking Beliefs of Jonathan Edwards”, November, 2014)


Watch all of Susan’s 2nd session below.

Romans 13:14B; Part 2, “Overcoming Sin and Living Righteously, a Righteous Life of Real and Lasting Change”

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on November 16, 2014

HF Potters House (2)

In part one we looked at condemnation and how it empowers sin. Christ went to the cross and ended the law’s condemnation. Fear of death is primarily driven by condemnation and the fear of judgment. One of the most important parts of a Christian’s identity is to know that we are no longer under condemnation.

However, in our day there is a return to authentic Reformed soteriology that actually posits fear of condemnation as the primary motivator in sanctification. In Reformed soteriology, sanctification is seen as a conduit to final justification. In order to remain in the conduit that gives us our best chance to “stand in the judgment,” we must relive our original salvation by faith alone in sanctification. How is that accomplished? By reliving the same gospel that saved us over and over again. This is done through what the Reformers called mortification and vivification. Mortification is something we can do, vivification is only a future glory experience. When you see a Charismatic-like Reformed worship service, what John Piper calls exultation worship, they believe they are experiencing the joy of “future glory.” Really, this is probably the New Calvinist claim to fame: they put feet on the vivification part of mortification and vivification through a more contemporary form of worship. Hence, the “Reformed Charismatic” movement shouldn’t surprise us.

The “mortification of the flesh” part of this doctrine is a return to the fear of judgment, the same fear of judgment that originally saved us. Said John Calvin:

By mortification they mean, grief of soul and terror, produced by a conviction of sin and a sense of the divine judgment [sec.3]… it seems to me, that repentance may be not inappropriately defined thus: A real conversion of our life unto God, proceeding from sincere and serious fear of God; and consisting in the mortification of our flesh and the old man, and the quickening of the Spirit. In this sense are to be understood all those addresses in which the prophets first, and the apostles afterwards, exhorted the people of their time to repentance. The great object for which they labored was, to fill them with confusion for their sins and dread of the divine judgment, that they might fall down and humble themselves before him whom they had offended, and, with true repentance, retake themselves to the right path [sec.5]… The second part of our definition is, that repentance proceeds from a sincere fear of God. Before the mind of the sinner can be inclined to repentance, he must be aroused by the thought of divine judgment; but when once the thought that God will one day ascend his tribunal to take an account of all words and actions has taken possession of his mind, it will not allow him to rest, or have one moment’s peace, but will perpetually urge him to adopt a different plan of life, that he may be able to stand securely at that judgment-seat. Hence the Scripture, when exhorting to repentance, often introduces the subject of judgment, as in Jeremiah, “Lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings,” (Jer. 4:4)… The stern threatening which God employs are extorted from him by our depraved dispositions [sec.7] [from the CI 3.3.3-7].

Susan and I sat in a Pentecostal service and listened to the pastor say in no uncertain terms that one is not really saved till they experience the “second blessing” usually manifested by speaking in tongues. Services from the Charismatic camps are predicated by these second blessing experiences such as speaking in tongues, Holy Spirit laughter, and “dancing in the Lord.” Though Charismatics emphasize mortification far less than the Reformed, it’s the same basic idea. The vast majority of all denominations in our day flowed out of the Reformation and are predicated by progressive justification; viz, keeping ourselves saved by the same gospel that originally saved us.

The result is a proper biblical definition of antinomianism: some sort of doctrine that separates the law from sanctification. The “Christian” remains under condemnation, and must prepare to “stand in the judgment” by other means apart from loving God and others through obedience to the law. But there is no future judgment for Christians to stand in that has to do with justification. Antinomianism, when it boils right down to it, is the fusion of justification and sanctification together. In any doctrinal construct where sanctification is the progression of justification—that’s antinomianism because the law must be separated from sanctification lest it be justification by works. This is probably the key to ecumenicalism because the primary religion of the last days, according to the Bible, will be antinomianism.

To the contrary, why is it critical that Christians know they are no longer under the condemnation of the law?

1John 4:18 – There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

The word translated “perfect” in the English is τέλειος (teleios), and is translated “mature” in many other passages of the New Testament. The word means “maturity,” or possessing everything one needs to be mature. Mature love is the idea here, not a “perfect” love.

So, what do we need to understand if we are to be mature in love, overcoming sin, and living righteously? We need to understand that there is no condemnation for us and no need to fear judgment, and we need to understand how sin works against us.

We need to understand that sin is a stand-alone element. It was sin that was found in Satan at some point in time (Ezekiel 28:15). Sin, whatever it is exactly, wages war against righteousness. The location of sin is in the body, and it uses desire to tempt individuals against righteousness. So, the four elements to understand are sin, righteousness, body, and desire. Sin is the problem; its enemy is righteousness; its location is the body, and it uses desire to tempt people to wage war against righteousness.

Let’s begin by looking at how these four elements operate in an unbeliever. Every person born into the world has the works of God’s law written on their hearts. Also within every person born into the world is a conscience that uses this law to either accuse or excuse behavior. So, every person born into the world has an intuitive law and judge within as part of their being. In the final judgment of condemnation at the end of the ages, those who have never been exposed to God’s written law will be judged and condemned because they violated their consciences on many occasions. As a cosmic principle, where there is no law there is no sin, so all babies go to heaven because they do not have a developed conscience. This would also apply to mental disabilities where a conscience is not present.

The Bible also states that repeated rebellion against one’s conscience can sear it like a hot iron. A refusal to obey conscience can reduce a person’s ability to feel guilt.

1Timothy 4:1 – Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

Sear: g2743. from a derivative of 2545; to brand (“cauterize”), i. e. (by implication) to render unsensitive (figuratively):— sear with a hot iron.

Those who lack a conscience or moral compass are referred to as sociopaths in our culture. Sin uses desire to tempt, so a person with a seared conscience will most likely follow every desire that sin uses to wage war against righteousness. Police are sometimes stunned that murderers confess to their crime and state the following motive: “I wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone.” So, the murder was committed to satisfy the murderer’s curiosity.

Civil and criminal law restrains evil when fear of punishment outweighs the desire to commit a certain act. If a person thinks they can outwit law enforcement they will be inclined to obey the desire that sin is tempting them with. They don’t see the desire as evil; they have a stronger desire to avoid punishment. Nevertheless, the desire can be strong enough that any kind of logic or self-preservation is abandoned.

Sinful desires can take on all sorts of forms. The question is whether or not we will obey the desire just because it is a desire. Sin is opposed to any kind of law and is empowered by condemnation. Sin is an entity that seeks to bring death through the condemnation of conscience and bad desires. It is a complex death system. Those who are under law are constantly bearing fruits for death although they are able to do good works. In fact, their consciences will reward them with good feelings when they do good, but they are still under condemnation and sin’s constant harassment.

In regard to the believer, sin still resides in the body, but it has been stripped of its power due to Christ dying on the cross for our sins. Sin is empowered by its ability to condemn. I can’t say that I completely understand this, but nevertheless, it is what the Bible states:

1Corinthians 15:56 – The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sin brings about some sort of temporary death, physical death, and ultimately eternal death. Sin is in the sowing and reaping business, and the sowing of sin is often interpreted as “getting away with it” because there has not yet been a reaping. But the point here is that sin is empowered by the condemnation of law. When Christ died on the cross to end the law, it stripped sin of its power. Hence, when a Christian is confronted with a sinful desire, they are not only able to say no to that desire, but do so for the proper motives; i.e., love for God and others.

James 1:13 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Romans 6:1 – What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do 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. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sin resides in the body, but even though the body is weak, it is neutral. When the Bible authors speak of the “body of sin,” “desires of the flesh,” etc., they are speaking of when the body is being used by the individual to do the bidding of sin. In the case of an unbeliever, they are under law and sin can provoke them to yield their members up for unrighteousness to the point of slavery while the power of sin has been broken within the believer and they have a choice:

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Therefore, let me comment on this passage:

Galatians 5:16 – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

The “desires of the flesh” are really sinful desires spoken of in context of yielding up our members in service to sinful desires. At least for the believer, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit:

1Corinthians 3:16 – Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

So, even among Christians, if they “Let…sin…reign in [their] mortal bod[ies], it can lead to fruits unto death, or destruction. Not eternally, but present miseries of all sort.

Through learning God’s full counsel and applying it to one’s life, Christians can learn to say no to sinful desires and live according to the desires of the Spirit. The unregenerate do not possess the desires of the Spirit because they are not born of God. There is not a war between sin and the desires of the Spirit raging within the unbeliever, only a battle between the conscience and sin, and the motives for saying yes to the conscience involve motives other than those of a kingdom citizen. The battle is a single dimension. However, here is where the importance of evangelism comes in: the Holy Spirit convicts the world of unrighteousness, and the word of God is the sword of the Spirit. Evangelism adds another dimension in regard to showing people their need for a savior.

For the Christian, they have the testimony of conscience and the Holy Spirit. The New Testament has much to say about utilizing conscience in our fight against sin. The apostle Paul instructed us to keep a clear conscience before God. This also has much to do with assurance of salvation. Even though we know intellectually that the law has been ended by Christ and we are never condemned, sin nevertheless invokes feelings of condemnation and shakes our confidence.

In the final analysis, sanctification is the growing art of knowing how to control our bodies:

1Thessalonians 4:3 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Potter H. 1

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