The Bible teaches that true Christians often struggle with sin. In Galatians 5:17, for example, Paul says that there’s a battle inside a child of God: the sinful flesh versus the Spirit. In other words, a Christian is a saint and sinner at the same time. “Saint” in this case doesn’t mean “perfectly holy;” it means “set apart.” Another way to say it is that the Christian is righteous and rebellious at the same time. Martin Luther has an excellent discussion about this in his commentary on Galatians 5:17. Here are a few excerpts.
Paul is writing to believers, and yet he says that their sinful nature is rebelling against the Spirit. He says the same of himself in Romans 7. It is very wicked to say that Paul and all believers have no sin, for this is to rob the church of a unique consolation, abolishing the forgiveness of sins and making Christ of no value. Paul does not deny that he has the vices of his sinful nature within him. If he felt wrath, impatience, and so on, he resisted them by the Spirit and did not allow these feelings to rule over him. Our anchor must be Christ, who is our only and perfect righteousness.”
“…When you feel this battle, do not be discouraged, but resist in the Spirit and say, ‘I am a sinner, and I feel sin in me, for I have not yet put off the sinful nature. But I will obey the Spirit and not my sinful nature. I will by faith and hope lay hold upon Christ, and by his Word I will raise myself up and will not do what my sinful nature desires.’”
“If you feel the desires of your sinful nature, do not despair of salvation. Feel all its force, so long as you do not consent to it; let the passions of desire, wrath, and other such vices shake you, so long as they do not overthrow you; let sin assail you, as long as you do not give in to it. The more godly you are, the more you feel that battle; hence those complaints of the faithful in the Psalms and in the whole of Scripture.”
“The believer’s sins are just as great as the unbeliever’s, but the believer’s sins are forgiven and are not imputed; the unbeliever’s sins are not pardoned but are imputed.”
These are some great points. Just because we follow Jesus doesn’t mean we will never struggle with sinful desires. True Christians struggle with anger, pride, hatred, doubt, unbelief, same-sex attraction, lustful desires, love of the world, and so forth. In this life, that’s how it is. However, this shouldn’t cause us to despair or give up, as Luther notes. It reminds us to rely on the power of the Spirit at work in us and also keep on trusting in the Savior of sinners, who died to wash away our sins. One day we will be perfect; but for now we struggle onward, knowing that he who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.
The above quotes were taken from Luther’s commentary on Galatians (Gal. 5:17).
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)