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QUESTION re Sinning with the Body & Sinning with the Soul

Here is a question that came to me via The Question Box on our church web site. Below it, included in the “quote,” is how I answered the questioner. I do not think my answer was complete, however. After my original answer, I have added some additional thoughts – and welcome yours as well.

Is there any difference between the sin of a man and One’s soul commiting sin?

When Peter spoke about Noah and the ark, he said that in it “eight souls were saved” (KJV). The word that the KJV translates soul is the usual word for soul in the New Testament. It is also translated aslife.The New International Version translates this passage in 1 Peter 3:20, as “a few people, eight in all, were saved.” In other words, the eight people who were saved in the ark were eight souls.

Whenever we yield to temptation and sin, we affect our soul. This is true whether the sin is one of the flesh (e.g., drunkenness or adultery) or one of the spirit (e.g., envy and hate). Likewise, as we come closer to God, we put off the old habits and deeds of the flesh through God’s Spirit so that we do not continue to commit sin with our bodies of flesh. This is because we are changing into the likeness of Jesus.

Any sin affects us, body and soul. God’s plan for us is that we be completely sanctified – a theological word that means made holy – in body, soul, and spirit (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23).

How does this change take place? We fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2), set our minds on the things above (Colossians 3:1), and behold (or reflect) the Lord’s glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). As we do these things, we are “being transformed into his likeness with every-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Until we focus on Jesus and walk with Him in the power of the Holy Spirit, we will continue to struggle with sin. If we walk in the light with Him, His blood purifies us from sin (see 1 John 1:6-10).

I hope these few lines will give you some helpful guidance.

Now, why do I think this answer is incomplete?

The main reason is that I did not deal with the struggle Paul discusses in Romans 7, especially verses 21-25.

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Does Paul here suggest that you can sin with your body without your spirit sinning? I do not think so. I believe he is talking about the struggle the pious person has to obey the law of God while living under law. That is a very frustrating way to live. Martin Luther, for example, almost drove himself insane before he discovered Paul’s teaching on grace that brings righteousness by faith.

In the first part of the 25th verse, he answers the question of the wretched man under law by thanking God through Christ. He develops this more in chapter 8.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. – Romans 8:1-4

Jesus, as sin offering, condemned sin in the sinner. He did this in order to meet the requirements of the law in us. Under law, we struggle unsuccessfully to meet the law’s requirements. The death of Christ and the indwelling Spirit of Christ satisfy these requirements of law.

We have trouble accepting this as fact because we still experience sin in our lives. What we need to understand is that the fulfilling of the requirements of the law is already ours, but we do not yet completely realize this redemption in our experience. I think this is what Paul had in mind in verse 23-25.

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

We already have the Spirit. We are already born again and are being renewed by the Holy Spirit. Yet we are still waiting for the redemption of our bodies and adoption as sons of God. We are new creatures in a Fallen World. We are looking for the time of the new heavens and the new earth when the entire world will be new. (Romans 8:19-22 shows that the creation is also waiting for that renewal as well!) This is when the promise of 1 John 3:2 comes true:

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Here it is again. Already we are children of God because of His great love for us (v. 1). But, we do not yet know or realize what we will be when He appears. We only know we will be like Him when we see Him in the fullness of His glory.

In the meantime, we continue to set our minds on things above, not on the things of this earth. We fix our eyes on Jesus.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18

The word reflect here is translated behold in the KJV. The NIV has contemplate as an alternate translation in a footnote. Which should it be? Reflect or behold?

Think of a mirror that reflects what it beholds. As we behold Jesus and contemplate His glory, we begin even now to reflect that glory to others.

So what I wrote to the lady who asked is correct. All sin affects us body and soul. Some sins are not acted out – except in the mind, which is the province of the Spirit. There He works renewing our minds, and through our minds our bodies as well. Sin is sin – if it is something we do or something we think and feel. However, the gift of God is for us to overcome through His Son and His Spirit.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. – Romans 8:35-37

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. – Romans 8:1-2

The wretched man of Romans 7 becomes more than a conqueror by accepting in faith the “no condemnation” that is his in Christ Jesus.


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