The Bible is God’s word. It is inspired. That means that God is the ultimate author of the Bible, making it without error and absolutely true in all that it affirms. We get the idea of “inspiration” from 2 Timothy 3:16 where Paul says that all Scripture inspired (literally, “breathed out”) by God. This is not to say that God had a Bible sitting there, written by human authors, and decided to breathe on it like Aslan, thereby making it holy and inerrant. That’s the wrong picture. Rather, the Bible is the breathed out word of God. When God exhaled, Scripture came out. He didn’t breathe into the text. He breathed the text in existence. It is his word, not a human word injected with divine DNA. God breathed it out. That’s what we mean when we say “inspired”.
I bring this up because, not only do believe that the Bible is inspired, I believe the grammar is inspired. The syntax, the flow of argument, the grammar…God breathed it out. And the more tightly I hold to that seemingly irrelevant nuance, the more joy I get. Here’s what I mean.
I Am Not My Sin
In Romans chapter 7 (specifically verses 7-25), Paul has been talking about his personal struggle with trying to obey God. He is refreshingly honest and his experience matches mine to the T. Verse 15: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Verse 19: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” That’s my situation. That’s every believer in Christ who is struggling to make war on their sin and love Jesus and obey him every day. I try to love and obey God and when I try, it backfires and I end up sinning, doing the very thing I hate more than anything in the world.
And not only that, when I try to do good, when I try to obey God, when I resolve in my heart to be holy, sin is right there waiting for an chance to slit my throat. Verse 21: “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” It is always there and it never sleeps. It always wants to dominate my life.
But Paul uses the pure beauty of logic here. Paul, in his mind (in the inner man) actually doesn’t want to sin. He wants to obey God. He wants to do good. The disobedience doesn’t flow from who he is on the inside. God has redeemed his soul. It’s not his redeemed self that wants to sin. It’s the sin that lives in him that wants to sin. “So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (verse 17). He doesn’t want to sin. “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (verse 20).
The body of death (verse 24) that wages war against the law of Paul’s mind, taking him captive to the law of sin that dwelled in his body parts, does not define him. He is not his sin. I have that written on a sticky note on the visor in my car: “I am not my sin.” Is the sin still my responsibility? Absolutely. Just read Romans 8:13 (“by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body”). But the sin does not define me, just like Paul’s sin did not define him.
Why I Need This
This is so crucial and necessary for me to grasp. When I sin, I instantly go into a depressive tailspin. I’m wracked with guilt. I wallow in my own sinfulness. I forget that, even when I disobey God, I am still in Jesus Christ (see also Romans 6:1-14- notice all the “in Christ”, “into Christ”, “with him” language). That is still my position. Jesus is my identity, not my sin. And that is true when I sin and that is true after I sin.
And here’s where the God’s inspired grammar floods me with joy.
The Beauty of Therefore
After that last chunk of Romans 7, where Paul argues that he is not his sin, that he doesn’t want to sin even if his body wants to sin, we’re faced with a shocking reality. Paul begins Romans 8 by saying, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
I’ve heard that verse so many times growing up in church that it has honestly lost its punch. I hear it and I say, “yes and amen”, but I would still be crippled by guilt and condemnation after every crash and burn. And the reason is that I never heard it in context. I never heard it as a logical extension of the argument from chapter 7.
But that’s where the joy and freedom comes from! Paul says “therefore”. It’s just a little particle. Blink and you might miss it. But as I’ve dwelt on it, I can imagine Paul standing up, his body trembling with passion, pointing wildly back to Romans 7:25, and screaming, “THEREFORE!”
Paul is saying, “So then, consequently, as a logical inference, because of the fact that you are not your sin even when you do sin, even when you curl up into a ball of guilt and shame after you sin, because of that truth, there is now no condemnation for you who are in Christ Jesus.”
All I think I deserve is condemnation after I sin. All I think I AM is condemnation after I sin. When I fail so miserably (or when my day consists of a thousand subtle sins that build up like pus on a wound), I somehow believe, in my mind, “I am my sin”. And that crushes me to the ground under a weight of condemnation.
But Paul goes right back to my identity “in Christ Jesus”. He goes right back to the fact that it is sin that does what I don’t want to do. It’s not me. That’s not who I am anymore/ “I delight in the law of God in my inner being” (7:21). And that’s true because I’m in Christ, even while I struggle and make war on my sin that doesn’t want to obey and delight in God.
And notice that Paul also says the word “now”. Because of the fact that you are not your sin, there is now no condemnation. It is an immediate and an ever-present truth. So that when I sin, when I crash and burn in a pile of depression and guilt and shame, there is always an ever-present reality and truth concerning me: no condemnation.
The condemnation that I’m feeling is a trick, a dark slight of hand from the Evil One. It is not righteous conviction. It is the feeling that I am my sin, that I will never be used by God to do great things, that I am not good enough to serve him. And that is condemnation. And condemnation does not exist for someone who is in Christ Jesus. He is my identity, not my sin.
And just to squeeze more goodness from this verse (Romans 8:1), Paul says that there is now no condemnation for us. It’s a little bit tame in the English. The word is actually an adjective in the Greek and it means something like “not at all, huh-uh, not a bit, not in a million years, impossible, never gonna happen” no. It’s the same idea as in 1 John chapter one, where John says that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. Same concept. We are not our sin. Consequently, (THEREFORE) there is no condemnation in us at all.
You are not your sin. Therefore, there is no condemnation for you. You are in Christ Jesus. So get back up. Uncurl yourself from the fetal position you’ve been moping in. Stand up. And make war on the stubborn sin robs you of your joy. Go ahead. Make war.
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