As Christians, it’s common to hear people say “we’re all sinners” in response to sin or in the face of temptation. Although this is true, this statement alone does not give the full picture of our true authority as children of God, but rather attributes more power to sin itself, whilst understating the power of God’s grace. Whilst God’s grace delivers us from the penalty of sin, this of course does not give us the liberty to continue to sin. So if we are not supposed to continue in sin, why are we still tempted and what does grace really do for us?
The Bible tells us that we are tempted by our own evil desires borne out of our flesh (James 1:14). We also know from the Bible that Satan accuses us before God, day and night (Revelation 12:10). If someone accuses someone of a crime, they are tried in court before being proven guilty or innocent. A synonym for temptation is to be tried or proven, so oftentimes the accusations of Satan present themselves as temptations. So why does God allow us to be tempted, yet expect us not to sin? 1Corinthians 10:13 lets us know that when we are tempted, God in His faithfulness will always show us a way out so that we can overcome.
Moreover, whilst Satan stands as our accuser, Jesus stands as our High Priest, our Advocate, and our Mediator (1 John 2: 1-2). Therefore, we have an assurance that despite the temptation we face, “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, because His Spirit has set us free “from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). Many of us read that scripture and simply conclude that Jesus has freed us from the punishment for our sins, but that’s only half of it. Where the law exemplifies sin along with its penalty (death), the grace of God given to us through Jesus Christ not only puts an end to the penalty of sin, put also to the power of sin. This is what the scripture means when it says we are set free from the law of sin and death.
As such we cannot believe in the power of God’s grace to deliver us from the penalty of sin without believing in the power of His grace to deliver us from sin itself. This is demonstrated further in Romans 8:3-4 which explains that Jesus took on the form of flesh and destroyed the power of sin in the flesh, by being tempted in every way yet remaining without sin. So when He died (to pay the penalty for our sins), and rose again to eternity, He then made His Spirit available to us so that we also may live without sin and rise to eternity as He did.
Therefore, the commandment to be holy just as He is holy is entirely possible, because Jesus did it before us and gave us His Spirit so that His holiness can be fulfilled in us. That is why Galatians 5:16 tells us to walk in the Spirit, and we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Again Romans 8:4 states that God’s righteousness is fulfilled in us “who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (ESV).
So if we find that we are still struggling with sin, let us continue to pray for the grace to walk in the Spirit made available to us through Jesus Christ. And the next time we are tempted, let us remind ourselves that whilst temptation will always be present and sin persists around us, it no longer has any power over us.
Words by Annette Tony-Fadipe