As a sophomore ministerial student I was invited to join some students to preach in some small churches without pastors. Traveling together, I had barely gotten settled in the car when one of them asked me, "Do you believe that Christians are not able to sin or that Christians are able not to sin?" My response was, "Beg your pardon?" I think the question was repeated three or four times before I figured out what I was being asked. Thus I was introduced to one of the most heated disputations in Christianity. I think that one dispute has brought into existence more new religious denominations than any other reason.

    When a sinner is saved by God’s grace does he (or she) receive such a total transformation that they are no longer able to sin? Do they receive an eradication of the sinful nature in their flesh as well as their spiritual nature? On the other hand, do they still have a sinful nature in their flesh, but somehow find help from God to mortify (kill) the sinful deeds the flesh wants to carry out? There are others who think the Christian is still so weak and defenseless that He or she has no power to resist the forces of sin. Does the Christian life consist of committing the same sins every day with the hope of continually getting forgiveness? If so, how is that forgiveness received---by something the sinning Christian does or by something the church and some clergyman does for him? Is there victory over sin? If so, how is victory obtained? Do we obtain victory by the eradication of the sinful nature in our flesh or by mortification of the sinful nature in our flesh through the power of God? We will seek our answer in the Word of God.


    The Scripture is clear that when a person is saved, he or she receives a new nature internally, but that God does not do one thing to the old fleshly nature. It is the same fallen, sinful, fleshly nature that it has always been. Paul wrote, "For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwells no good thing…" Romans 7:18. Although some people would say this refers to Paul in his unsaved state, it is clear that Paul was speaking of his spiritual condition over 20 years after he was saved for he is writing in the present (or linear) tense. He also said in verse 22, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man." This is something only a saved person can do.

    The Apostle John, who was known as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" wrote in 1st John 1:8, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." This was written about 90 AD and so John is saying that even after being an apostle for over fifty years he would be deceiving himself if he said he had no sin..

    The Christian does possess a sin nature in his flesh that does sin.


    Propitiation is a big Bible word that all Christians need to learn and understand. It means that Christ received the punishment for our sins in our place and forever separated our sins from us as far as condemnation is concerned.

    Propitiation is illustrated for us by the Old Testament Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). On the tenth day of the seventh month each year the High Priest would first make a sacrifice for his sins so that he could serve as high priest in making sacrifice for the sins of the people. Then he would take two goats and cast lots over them. He would take one goat, lay his hands on its head and confess the sins of the people on this goat and thus transfer the sins of the people to this goat. He would then cut the throat of this goat, catch its blood in a bucket and burn the carcass on the altar of brass. He would then walk into the tabernacle, put live coals and incense on the altar of incense. This would create a sweet smelling smoke which would filter through the veil into the Holy of Holies. Inside the Holy of Holies was where God dwelt in glory covered with a cloud. There was also the Ark of the Covenant which contained the Ten Commandments. These commandments demanded absolute perfection in order for people to be accepted by God. On top of the ark was the mercy seat covering it like a lid. The High Priest sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat which evidenced that the death penalty for sin had been carried out on an innocent substitute. God symbolically indicated by the cloud and smoke that He was looking at that goat’s blood with obscured vision and accepting it until the blood of His Son would be shed as the genuine sacrifice for sin. The High Priest would then go out of the Tabernacle into the court and take the other goat. He would place his hands on the head of this goat and confess the sins of the people over the head of this goat. A young man would then lead this goat so far into the wilderness it could never find its way back into the camp again. These two goats pictured the work of Christ on the cross. He received the punishment for our sins and then separated our sins from us as far as the East is from the West. (Psalm 103:12).

    With these thoughts in mind read 1st John 2:1-2. In the first place we are commanded, "My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin…" God never encourages us to sin but commands us not to sin. The verse continues, "And if anyone sins", what then? According to the teaching of some people it would have to say "he is lost and needs to get saved again." But that is not what it says. It continues, "We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." The wonderful truth here is that when a Christian sins he can still praise God that Christ has (1) received the punishment for all of his sins, and (2) separated his sins from him so that God never identifies him and his sins together at the same time. The word advocate is best understood by Americans with the word attorney or lawyer. The Greek word is ""paraclete" which means "one called along side". This is what a lawyer does. He is called alongside of the defendant to plead his case. Christians have a Lawyer representing them in Heaven. His name is Jesus. The prosecutor is Satan. We read of his work in Revelation12:10, "……for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night…" We then read with triumphant joy, "…And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death." (Revelation 12:11.)

    When we sin the devil points an accusing finger at us and says, "Look at that hypocrite. He has committed a sin for which he ought to be damned to Hell." Our Lawyer steps forward and says, "Yes, it is awful. He has sinned. It has hurt my fellowship with him and he will have to be severely chastised for it, but Father, here are five wounds in my body and there on the mercy seat is my blood. These are evidence that I suffered the death penalty for all the sins that this Christian has committed and ever will commit. On this basis I plead that this sin not appear on his court record." Praise God, Jesus Christ has never lost a case. To the sinning Christian God gives this promise, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1st John 1:9.

    The Christian gains victory over the condemnation of sin by the propitiation (or sacrifice) of Christ. When the publican prayed in Luke 18:13, "…God be merciful to me a sinner"…-the word "merciful" is basically the same word that is translated "propitiation" in 1st John 2:2. He was literally praying, "God be propitiated (or mercy-seated) to me a sinner. He was actually asking God to forgive his sins on the basis that the death penalty for his sins had fallen on an innocent substitute and the evidence was the blood on the mercy-seat. Jesus then said, "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified…" (Luke 18:14a).


    It is common among Christians to talk about the difficulties of living the Christian life because of the weakness of the flesh, the pressures of the world, and the temptations of Satan.

    The question may rightfully come to many of us, "Why am I not experiencing the victorious Christian life? Why does it seem so few Christians I know are experiencing it? The answer is because they are not appropriating all that has been made available to them in Christ. They don’t need anything new. They need to appropriate what they already have.


    To the extent Christians believe and practice the following truths God has given determines the degree of victory (joy, peace, and fellowship) they will have:

    KNOW (Be certain these facts are true)

    1. That we have received Jesus Christ as Savior and that He lives within us. "But as many as received him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe on His name: John 1:12. "Examine yourselves, as to whether you are in the faith; Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you are disqualified." 2nd Corinthians 13:5. We must know that we have received Jesus Christ by faith and that He lives within us.

    That we have been placed into Christ. In 1st Corinthians 12:13 we are told that the Holy Spirit has baptized (immersed) every believer into Christ’s body. Romans 6:3 asks "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?"

    The scriptures are teaching us that every believer has been placed into Christ. This means that in God’s eyes every believer was in Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. When He "died for our sins" and received the full penalty of the law for us we were in Him. The full penalty of the law was also carried out on us for our sins. When Christ rose again our spiritual nature rose with Him. Since the full penalty of the law was carried out, it has no more authority to be carried out on Christ or us again. (Read Romans 6:4-11).

    RECKON (Believe these experiences to be true)

    As a believer we know that Christ is in us and that we are in Christ, so we are to reckon or account some things to be true:

    Reckon our sinful nature to be dead. "Likewise you also reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin…" Romans 6:11a. If we go by our feelings we will say, "This means I am reckoning something to be true that is false." But if we go by what God declares in His word, we reckon by faith and say, "God has decreed that my fallen nature was crucified with Christ and He sees it dead and buried forever. Even though I feel the stirrings of that fallen nature in my present experience, I will account that what God says is true is true. I believe myself to be free from the control of my old fallen nature."

    Reckon our new nature to be alive in Christ Jesus. As a

    believer we say, "When I received Jesus as my Savior I was born again by the
    Holy Spirit. I received God’s life and became a "new creature in Christ Jesus
    (2nd Corinthians 5:17) I therefore reckon or account myself to be "alive unto
    God through Jesus Christ Our Lord."
    (Romans 6:11b)

    YIELD (Accept God’s will for your life)

    We have only two options as to which we can yield ourselves: Satan and sin, or God and righteousness. Jesus stated "Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin." John 8:34. The fact is that the lost person has no choice in the matter. His/her fallen nature dictates yielding to Satan and sin. That is the reason it is a universal truth that "…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23 Jesus went on to say, "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." John 8:36. When we experience Christ’s saving work we are set free to choose to whom we shall yield ourselves.

    Paul exhorts, "but present yourselves to God, as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." Romans 6:13b.

    At this exact point the marvelous grace of God brings about a supernatural work in the believer that lifts him or her on to the plain of victory. In contrast to Satan, God never makes his children do anything. God only works in cooperation with His children’s will when their will is yielded to do His will.



    Every truly saved person knows they have been saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8, 9). In Romans 1:16 Paul spoke of this when he wrote, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…" By grace, God produces faith in a lost sinner’s heart through their hearing the gospel of salvation. This is further confirmed in Romans 10:17 "So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God."

    In relation to the victorious Christian life it is sad that many Christians miss the truth of Romans 1:17 "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith." A lost sinner receives positional righteousness in God’s eyes when he or she hears the gospel and God produces faith in their heart to trust Christ to save them. What now?

    After having been saved by grace through faith is the new believer left on his or her own to live the Christian life in their own strength? Many try, but they always end in failure. It is when the believer yields his or her body to the Lord with the sincere desire to live a life totally pleasing to God that God begins to give them faith to trust Him to do it. And, yes, God does it through His word. His word becomes like a new book with His promises producing greater and greater faith in the heart of His child. The consequence is that "the righteousness of God is revealed" in a practical way through the yielded believer believing God to provide all the enablement they need to live for Him


    "Yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered". Romans 6:17b.

    To obey from the heart is impossible for an unsaved person. "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." Romans 8:7. It is also impossible for an un-yielded believer to obey from the heart. It is only when our yielded will comes into harmony with God’s will that God supernaturally gives us a heart that delights to obey Him. Jesus revealed how powerful this principle is when He said, "If any one wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God, or whether I speak on My Own authority." John 7:17.

    As believers we provide a willingness to do God’s will and God provides us a heart that delights in obeying His will.


    The Apostle Paul revealed how God enabled him as a hated Jew with meager resources to shake the Roman Empire to its foundations. "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me." Galatians 2:20.

    Paul reckoned his (fallen fleshly nature) dead and his new nature alive unto Christ. He yielded himself totally to Christ to do God’s will and Christ evangelized the bulk of the Roman Empire through him and gave the world fourteen epistles of God’s revelation.

    To the extent that we do what Paul did Christ will live in and work through the body we yield to Him.


    Copyright © 2009 Thomas E Berry

    All Scriptures quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted





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