Happy New Year!
A bit delayed, but here is part 2 of 2…
In part 1 it was shown that Christ’s righteousness/life covers sinners who have trusted in Him for salvation. Thus, regardless of their inherit sinfulness, they are–amazingly–counted as righteous in God’s sight on the basis of their faith. This is summed up nicely in Romans 4:5 – “To the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”
In this part (part 2), I want to talk about what happens to the nature of the believer. Is he inherently godly, sinful, or something else? To be clear, this is not talking about what God “counts” or “reckons” him to be. In part 1, it was shown that God “counts”/”reckons” all believers as being righteous. Instead, this part refers to what our inherent nature is like…
I think it is clear from Scripture that we remain inherently sinful after conversion. For instance:
- God “justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5)
- Paul says, “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” (Rom. 7:18)
- Christians are called “sinners” in James 4:8
However, this does not mean that our character is not becoming more and more righteous. Quite the contrary. Instead, such Scriptures affirm that we have this sin element/nature residing in us. But we also know that true Christians simultaneously have God’s Spirit dwelling in us. The result: “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,” (Gal. 5:17).
This is different than the world. Non-Christians have only a sin nature in them. Christians have 2 natures: (1) Sin nature, and (2) God’s nature (the Holy Spirit).
And having the Holy Spirit in us is THE EVIDENCE that we are perfect and eternally justified in God’s sight:
- “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Eph. 1:13-14)
- “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Rom. 8:9)
Furthermore, when the flesh and Spirit co-exist, the Spirit will always be the victor. This was the point Paul made when saying that the Spirit beat out the dead flesh of Jesus by raising Him from the dead (Rom. 8:11). For Jesus, there was a 3 day period of death before the Spirit showed Himself victorious. For us, there may be periods of time where it seems that the sin nature in us is winning the fight, but it CANNOT persist if God is truly in us. The Spirit always ends up on top.
Paul explained this phenomena another way: by showing that the Spirit should produce fruit in us (Gal. 5:22-24). In the natural world, we recognize that it takes time for fruit to be produced. In the same way, it may take time for us (and others) to see evidence that the Spirit is in us…but, over time, He will ALWAYS show Himself. And thus, righteousness–over time–should appear more and more in our life, if we truly belong to Jesus (and sometimes, to be frank, it may be revealed in a greater hatred of sins we continue to struggle with…but it still shows a difference that the Spirit is making in us).
And if righteousness is manifesting itself more and more, than we have this beautiful assurance:
“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14)
See, the sanctification is the process. It will never fully happen in this lifetime, but, like fruit, it should be growing in us more and more. But perfection is ours from the moment we believe, because we are in Christ.
Thus, 2 realities exist for the Christian:
- We are in Christ (and under His complete and perfect righteousness)
- Christ is in us (by His Spirit), and thus making us, in our experience, more and more righteous
The theme of Christ being in us (and 2 natures being at war in us) is seen in Old Testament pictures as well. Here are some of those.
Blessings in Him,