2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:2–4, NKJV)
The “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” is “the law of God,” it is “the gospel of His Son” (Romans 7:25; 1:9). Life is in Christ Jesus, and the gospel is the “law of faith” by which we are justified (Romans 3:26-27). The law that gives life is set in contrast with “the law of sin and death” – the rule that sin causes death (v. 1; Romans 6:23). The Law of Moses identified sin but could not save sinners (Romans 3:20, 23; 7:10-12). The Son of God became flesh, lived without sin and condemned sin by His life and His death (Philippians 2:5-8; Roman 5:6-11). In Christ, spiritual life is granted to all who “walk according to the Spirit” (who live in and by the gospel, Romans 1:16-17; 5:1-2; 6:1-14). We are not sinners because we are humans, we are sinners because we commit sin (Romans 5:12). Now, by the gospel, we are saved from our sins and choose to serve righteousness instead of sin (Romans 6:15-18).
1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (Ephesians 2:1–3, NKJV)
God alone brings to life the sinner who is spiritually dead (Colossians 2:12-13). Before we were saved in Christ (“made alive”) we were “by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” How were “the others” children of wrath? To answer that question is to answer how we were also children of wrath. The answer given is this: The world walks in disobedience to God. Their nature, their habit and course of conduct, is living in sin. The world is under the sway of Satan and, because of its sin, under God’s wrath. Like them, we also conducted ourselves in fleshly lusts, fulfilling sinful desires. We chose to sin, and sin caused our spiritual death. We are not born sinners – we choose to walk “according to the course of this world.” We come under God’s wrath when we sin. Only the sacrifice of Jesus appeases God’s wrath and saves us from eternal death (1 John 2:2; 4:10). God makes us alive – gives us “newness of life” – when we are baptized with Christ and die to sin (Romans 6:4). This is when God makes dead sinners alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5-6).
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:6–10, NKJV)
Sin intruded upon the idyll setting of Eden’s fellowship between God and mankind, bringing death, shame and fear. Committing sin produced knowledge of their nakedness, prompting Adam and Eve’s attempt to lessen their shame with fig leaf coverings. Their sin also caused them to experience fear for the first time. Hearing God’s voice heightened their sense of shame, and being afraid because they were naked, Adam and Eve hid themselves. Their leave coverings had not remedied their nakedness, nor did it remove the shame of their sin. Sin causes shame and fear as it separates us from God. Thank God, we do not have to live in the shame, fear and death of our sins. God provides forgiveness of our sins in His Son, Jesus (1 John 5:11-13). In Christ there is life instead of death, fellowship instead of shame, and faith instead of fear.
13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:13–14, NKJV)
The depth of our sins magnifies the depth of God’s mercy. The Pharisee in this parable depicts “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Luke 18:9). The Pharisee justified himself in comparison to others. He considered himself to be superior spiritually – “not like other men” (Luke 18:11-12). When we cannot see our own sins we are unable to show compassion to others, much less receive God’s merciful forgiveness for our sins. God is ready, willing and able to show us mercy when we, in anguish over our sins, turn to Him for relief (Psalm 51:17). The tax collector was crushed over his sin. Even so today, a sinner who is “cut to the heart” over his sins receives God’s mercy when he repents and is baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38). The contrite heart turns to God for compassionate forgiveness and receives it. It is precisely when we understand our own need for mercy that we are able to show mercy to others. The merciful do not elevate themselves above others, for they know their own need for mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). The self-righteous do not give or receive mercy.
1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 John 2:1–2, NKJV)
When we say “we have no sin” at least three things happen: We deceive ourselves, the truth is not in us, and we make God a liar (1 John 1:8-10). The fact is we have all chosen to sin (“all have sinned”). We were not born sinners. We do not have a sin nature that forces us to sin. Sin is a choice we make (1 John 3:4; Romans 7:7-11). Although we have sinned, God’s will is that we “may not sin” (1 John 2:1). God wants us to sin less and less. To deny sin’s reality is a lie. When we confess our sins, we are assured of forgiveness and cleansing because we have “an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 1:9; 2:1). As our Advocate He pleads our case before the Father. As the propitiation for our sins, His blood is offered to God as the sacrifice that appeases divine wrath against our sins. Jesus is our Advocate and the propitiation for our sins, not so we can ignore our sins, excuse our sins, deny our sins or continue practicing sin. He is these things so we will confess our sins and practice the truth rather than walk in the darkness of sin (1 John 1:6-9). “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts” (Romans 6:12).
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (John 8:7, NKJV)
They had brought a woman to Jesus who was caught in the act of adultery (John 8:4). Desiring to accuse Jesus of wrong, His enemies tested Him by asking if He agreed with the Law of Moses that the woman should be stoned (John 8:5-6). If Jesus agreed with Moses, they could accuse Him to the Romans. If Jesus disagreed with Moses, they would accuse Him to the Jewish council. What they failed to remember is that Moses charged the witnesses of a death penalty offense to be the first ones to cast the stones (Deuteronomy 17:6-7). That is why Jesus replied as He did. He was not saying it is wrong to judge sin. He was exposing the hypocrisy of those who brought the woman to him (yet for some reason had not also brought the man with whom she was caught “in the very act” of adultery). Jesus was not a witness to her sin. When those who claimed to be witnesses departed, He had no legal ground to condemn her (John 8:9-11). But, He told her to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Jesus knew her sin and commanded her to stop sinning. Are you willing to let Jesus tell you to “go and sin no more?” Or, will you condemn Him for telling you that your conduct is sin?
6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. (1 John 3:6–7, NKJV)
Is John saying that Christians never commit a sin? If so, then he contradicts himself earlier in this epistle when he wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). The Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself with double talk. The key to understanding today’s passage is the word “practices” in verse 7. On the one hand, the apostle is describing one who practices sin as the course or habit of his life (verse 6), while on the other hand describing one who practices (has the habit of) righteousness (verse 7). God’s will is that “you may not sin” (1 John 2:1). God wants us to sin less and less. To deny sin’s reality is a lie. To practice sin is unrighteousness. When we confess our sins we are assured of forgiveness and cleansing because we have “an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 1:9; 2:1). By doing so we walk in the light – establish the habit of practicing righteousness – and are “righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 John 1:7-9; 3:7). As Jesus put it, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31).