DISEMPOWERING THE BODY OF SIN

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be disempowered, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is acquitted from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Rom6:1-13)

Comprehending Paul is never easy but if you have grasped what I was saying in the previous post concerning the nature of original sin, the above passage should begin to make some sense. We saw that the source of fallen man’s problem is not his God-given soul but the procreated intellectual vessel with which it is associated at birth**. God does not supply what is rotten – the soul itself is innocent, but it is also pliable and therefore able to be corrupted by association with the intellectual vessel (i.e. body and brain) it inhabits. Remember that when the physical body and brain are buried or incinerated the soul is itself conscious and memory-retaining as Scripture affirms; the rich man wondering why he must experience suffering in Hades was told by Abraham to “remember that in your lifetime you received good things and likewise Lazarus evil things, that is why he is being comforted and you are tormented” (Lk16:25). So both body and soul are intellectual vessels derived from different sources, each with different laws or governing principles (Rom7:23). The passage under consideration shows how the matter is dealt with for those who are to relate to God in the present and be sanctified to receive a glorious inheritance as sons of God and corporate bride of Christ.

The key verse in this context is 6: “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be disempowered, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin”. Paul’s “body of sin” or “old man” or “flesh” equates to the “body of this death” the apostle will go on to describe in chapter seven. Dying with Christ in baptism, the Christian is now to regard himself as dead to sin and alive to God. That is because the “body of sin” has been disempowered and the soul/spirit of the Christian empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve the living God.

But this is by no means “all of grace” or a case of “let go and let God”. The process is aided by grace but mark Paul’s words: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness” (vv12-13). It is not the work of the Holy Spirit alone – it requires the cooperation and disciplined effort of every disciple of Christ. Neither is perseverance in the matter assured as the writer to the Hebrews in particular will make absolutely clear. Paul was well aware of that when he wrote: “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having achieved it as yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil3:13-14). Hopefully,  at the end of our lives we shall also say with Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2Tim4:7-9).

**This supports the creationist understanding of the soul’s origin maintaining that each person’s soul/spirit, i.e. that which is separated from the body at death, is not derived from sperm or ovaries but is created immediately by God and planted into the embryo procreated by the parents. Such has been the prevalent view within Eastern Orthodoxy and is also the official teaching of the Roman Church albeit Augustine had wavered from it. More detailed explanation and historical background: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creationism_%28soul%29