This is a lesson in self-knowledge for the sake of worship and righteousness.
Something terrible and profound happened to all humans when Adam sinned. All except Jesus, that is, “who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Something came into the world that had not been there before — something very powerful and very deadly in everyone of us.
But it was not exactly a “thing.” Yet it was more than the bad things we do. Sin and sinning are not the same. We do sinful things because there is this something in us called “sin.” It is a dreadful and deadly deformity of every one of us.
Consider these amazing statements from the Bible about who you are before and after conversion to Christ.
The Reign of Sin
“All are under sin” (Romans 3:9). “I am sold under sin” (Romans 7:14). “You were once slaves of sin” (Romans 6:17, 20). In other words, before the power of grace through Christ entered our lives, we were not just tempted by sin, we were ruled by it. Under it. Slaves to it.
So sin was not just what we did. It was the master that governed what we did. It was like a king over a territory. “Sin reigned” (Romans 5:21).
Not only is sin deeper than bad deeds, it is also deeper than bad desires. “Sin produced in me all kinds of covetousness” (Romans 7:8). Covetousness is wrong desire. And sin “produces covetousness.” So sin is something deeper than desire. It produces sinful desires. It has desires (Romans 6:12).
Sin is not just the bad deed and not just the bad desire, it is the doer and the desirer. So when Paul says he often does what he doesn’t want to do, he exclaims, “So it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:16–17). Sin is not just the bad deed or desire. It is the dreadfully deep, powerful doer of the deed and the desire.
What God Did
Yet Paul does not excuse himself. “Wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24). Which means that this dreadful, deep, destructive power is who we are apart from Christ. It is not like a virus in me. It is a profound defect of me. The dreadful nature of sin is not just that it indwells me but that it defines me. It is me.
Know this about yourself. Don’t be naïve. Don’t be ignorant of your very nature. How will you worship your Redeemer, if you do not know what he has done for you? How will you pursue righteousness, if you do not know the deepest obstacle?
“Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26; 2 Corinthians 5:21). And when he died, all those who are his died with him and — united to him. “We have been united with him in a death like his” (Romans 6:5). This is what happens through faith in Christ, expressed in baptism.
“Our old self was crucified . . . that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20). That dreadful, desire-producing, deed-producing, me-defining power died when I died with Christ.
Living in God’s Victory
What then shall we do? “You must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). In Jesus Christ! “Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are . . .under grace” (Romans 6:14). Once “under sin” as king. Now “under grace” as king — “so that, as sin reigned, . . . grace also might reign” (Romans 5:21).
“Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are . . . under grace” (Romans 6:14). “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God” (Romans 6:22). And it was God himself who freed you. “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart” (Romans 6:17).
It was God who dealt with sin in the death of Christ. It was God who put the monster sin to death. It was God who freed you from sin’s dominion. It is God who reigns over you. And it will be God who daily, through your faith, goes on putting the crucified monster to death (Colossians 3:5). “By the Spirit” you put sin to death (Romans 8:13). We are powerless in ourselves. God is the great sin-destroyer.
Worship him. And in his once-for-all victory over this dreadful deformity of our souls (Hebrews 9:26), do not let the defeated foe reign in your body (Romans 6:12). “Exhort one another every day . . . that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). God has worked a great victory over a great enemy. Live in it.