by Bill Nugent
Paul, the apostle wrote the following words in Romans 7:14 “I am carnal, sold under sin.” These are puzzling words from the pen of perhaps the greatest apostle of the early church. Some have tried to explain away those words and other words in Romans seven in which Paul tells of his struggle against the “law of sin” or sin nature in his flesh. Some commentators have said that Paul was speaking of his condition before he was born again in Christ. However, the reformers of the sixteenth century and the Puritans of the seventeenth century have pointed out that the context clearly affirms that Paul was writing about himself as a mature Christian in daily struggle against sin.
Just one chapter earlier, in Romans chapter six, Paul states that we are dead to sin and the “old self was crucified with Him” (Rom. 6:6 NASB). Obviously we have a stunning contrast between Romans six and Romans seven. I maintain that Romans six is speaking about the reborn spirit of the believer in Christ and Romans seven is speaking about the soul of the believer that is undergoing the process of sanctification. We must remember that the Bible makes a clear distinction between spirit and soul. Hebrews 4:12 speaks of “the division of soul and spirit” (NASB).
Your spirit is the core of your being. Your spirit was regenerated when you were born again. The following verses refer to your reborn human spirit. “Born again to a living hope” (I Pet. 1:3 NASB), “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17), “he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5),“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9), “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:26 NASB). Your human spirit was born righteous at the new birth, your spirit is fully sanctified, has partaken of the divine nature, cannot sin, cannot fall away and cannot lose it’s salvation. Your spirit was reborn as an experientially righteous son (or daughter) of God.
When you were born again your human spirit was born into God’s family but the Bible in Romans 8:23 also speaks of the adoption or “placing” as a son in the context of the future resurrection of your physical body in a glorified state. “Waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (NASB). Your spirit was born as a son of God but you are waiting to be adopted (i.e., placed) as a son at the resurrection. When you are resurrected in a glorified state you are in essence revealed (manifested) as a son of God.
The reformers rightly said that a true born-again Christian cannot lose his salvation. Jesus, who spoke more about hell than any other person in the Bible, also gave us the most comforting words of assurance regarding the security of the believer. Referring to His followers in John 10:28, Jesus said “they shall never perish.”According to The Discovery Bible the word “never” in John 10:28 is in a Greek form that is inherently emphatic and in major emphasis. Thus Jesus gave very emphatic assurance that anyone who is truly born again will NEVER be lost.
Every born again Christian exults in the wonderful encounter with God that gave him new birth and new life in Christ. The believer revels in the joy of first love. It’s not long however, before his unruly flesh rears its ugly head and he encounters the dilemma of Romans seven and the discovery that there is a part in him that is not fully sanctified.
Over the centuries the church has brought forth many methods of dealing with the flesh and facilitating sanctification. Some of the church’s methods are sound and scripture based and some are unscriptural. The desert fathers of the early church and early Medieval period sought to subdue the flesh by isolation in monasteries and by practicing asceticism. Many in the Medieval church practiced mortification which also involved ascetic practices. In our own day, over the last century or so during the current movement of New Testament restorationism we have seen the rise of the holiness movement with its “clothesline religion”of modest clothes and hairstyles. We’ve seen the rise of thediscipleship movement with its prominent leaders such as the “Fort Lauderdale Four” of the 1970s. The discipleship movement objective was to make each believer accountable to shepherds or elders. This would cause people to act right. People were mentored (some would say dominated) and their lives were cleaned up to a degree. Also during the 1970s and in the decades since, there was a move on the part of some churches to formChristian communities by buying land in the country and living together on the land and farming it. One prominent leader called this a “prophetic call to community.” I’m also aware that centuries ago Christian communities like Zion Illinois, New Haven Connecticut and Plymouth Massachusetts were founded by people trying to build model Christian communities. In another novel twist in the approach to sanctification one leader in my area of southeastern New York State taught that the reason people were in bondage was because they weren’t water baptized right. He began having baptismal services and re-baptizing people.
Recent decades have also seen the rise of deliverance ministry as a means of inner healing which in turn results in sanctification and right behavior. Names like Derek Prince (he was also big in the discipleship movement), Frank & Ida Mae Hammond, John Wimber and many others spring to mind when discussing deliverance ministry. More recently we see Paul Cox and others teach about deliverance from generational spirits and they claim that there are many instances of people being set free. Add to this my own ministry, Overcomer Ministries, and my free eBook The Cross, Self-denial and the Manifestation of the Sons of God[Free Word Document] [Free Rich Text Document] which emphasizes self-denial and the daily prayer of consecration.Most of the above methods are useful in facilitating the process of sanctification and dramatically show that the church has always seen the need for sanctification.
Let me take the opportunity here to mention in passing that there are those who effectively deny that the believer needs sanctification. There are those who take verses such as 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Titus 3:5 and other verses describing the new birth and apply them not just to the spirit of the believer but also to the believer’s soul. Like Bob Jones has said “There are some folks who say ‘were already there.'” The term “already there” means “already sanctified.” Bob Jones, a prominent prophet in the body of Christ, has warned us against people who say that we are already fully sanctified and hence don’t need any process of sanctification. Rick Joyner of Morning Star Ministries, Fort Mill, South Carolina has humorously interjected “If you’re already there, what are you still doing here?” In other words, Rick was implying that the very people who say that they are fully sanctified often show a lack of personal sanctification in their own lives.
In the early 20th century there were some in the Pentecostal movement who taught that we’re “already there” under the labels “sinless perfection,” “second blessing” and “entire sanctification.” The doctrine of entire sanctification is really a variant of “crisis sanctification” in which a Christian makes a radical commitment to obey God during a crisis sometime after conversion. The error in this teaching is the assumption that the sanctification is “entire” and hence there is no need for gradual or “process” sanctification. Another variant of crisis sanctification is “second blessing.” Some old preachers taught that such a crisis experience caused the sin nature to be eradicated from the soul. I think that both the plain words of scripture and the lessons of experience proved them wrong.
There are those in the body of Christ today who take 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Titus 3:5 and other verses about regeneration and apply them not just to the spirit or even just to the soul but go so far as to apply those verses to the physical body of the believer. This is the message called “never die” or “the life message” or “manifested sons.” Like the Bible characters Hymenaeus and Philetus they essentially imply that “The resurrection is past already” (2 Tim. 2:18). I have heard and read some very bizarre teachings along this line. Not all who teach the sonship message or “manifested sons” are guilty of this error. The true, scriptural sonship message is not a denial of the need for process sanctification but is the teaching that some people in the body of Christ will attain a level of sanctification of such high degree in the end-times that they will experience a release into extraordinary ministry power beyond anything heretofore seen. I also teach the sonship message and my book mentioned above, as its title suggests, explains aspects of the future manifestation of the sons of God. It is a shame that the sonship message is largely known for the unscriptural extremes to which some have taken it.
Paul Cox of Aslan’s Place Ministries teaches that believers in Christ can be tormented by “generational spirits” which are demons who afflict believers because of things that their ancestors have done. He has come under criticism for this teaching. Those who teach that Christians can be indwelt by demons and therefore need deliverance from demons have also come under criticism. I think the criticism in both cases is unjustified. A right understanding of Romans seven which teaches that there is a part of the believer that is not yet sanctified gives a scriptural basis for understanding how a demon could have such access to the soul and body of a genuinely born-again child of God.
There are many scripture based tools of sanctification. These include fasting, prayer, Bible reading, submission to legitimate church authority (discipleship), inner healing, deliverance (including generational), living in a Christian community, self-control, the prayer of consecration, self-denial and taking up the cross daily. If we follow on to know the Lord and seek Him with all of our hearts and use the tools He has provided us, we will be“renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16).
“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord”(Rom. 7: 24-25).
“Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh”(Gal. 5:16)
Steps to salvation:
Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
Prayer to receive salvation:
“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:
“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!