THE GREATNESS OF DIVINE NATURE
Written by: Lipscomb, Jon Posted on: 05/06/2003
Category: Bible Studies
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THE GREATNESS OF DIVINE NATURE (The First of Five Parts)
When one experiences salvation late in life, he tends to experience
a euphoria, a "High," knowing that he belongs to the Lord of glory.
There is no exhilaration quite like "New life in Christ." Indeed,
one who has all his life been "Dead in trespasses and sins" and is
now alive-in-Christ, most assuredly has reason for rejoicing.
Unfortunately, for most believers, the "High" seems to wear off for
one reason or another. A common characteristic is phrased, "It
seems like to Lord has just gone away and left me."
For some who experience this separation, there is no recovery in
this life. They return to the same form and lifestyle they
practiced before their conversion. They may be saved. They may
have been deceived regarding their salvation, God alone knows, and
The issue is relationship to the Lord of salvation. One either
possesses a relationship of one does not. The Apostle John wrote
to some saints, encouraging them, "...that which we have seen and
heard declare we unto you, that you may also have fellowship with
us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son,
Jesus Christ." 1 John 1.3
There is no doubt that initial relationships change. God is
interested in maturing His sons and daughters. He is about the
business of transforming all who come to the Lord for salvation,
into the eternal reality of His First-born, the Lord Jesus.
"Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep
His commandments. He who says, I know Him, and does
not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is
not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love
of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we
are in Him." 1 John 2.3-5
Babies who cannot have their way, tend to express an unhappy
nature. Allowed to go without confrontation, that baby will grow
up spoiled and worth little more than a great fall can produce.
God will not allow His saved-ones to become spoiled babies. The
price of their salvation is much too high.
The death of the Lord is too worthy of great glory. Great glory is
a worthy price to pay for divine discipline. "Whom the Lord loves
He disciplines..." (Heb. 12.6)
The withdrawal of the Lord's presence is purposed by God to draw
His children onward, to draw them into the glorious realm of The
Son. In experiencing this relationship with some saints, we are
confronted with the reality of what God is after in the lives all
who belong to Him. Naturally, the question of holiness, pure lives
before God and man, was raised. Hence, the purpose for this
CONSIDER THIS QUESTION...
Following his conversion, and growing in grace and knowledge of the
indwelling Christ, learning of the empowering ministry of the Holy
Spirit in him, did the Apostle Paul ever sin in the flesh?
Many who have considered this question thought, "Of course, Paul
was a man like all men, surely he gave in to a moment's temptation
here and there. That's just human nature."
Fortunately, what we are considering here is not the ability of
human nature, but the greatness of Divine nature. If Paul were
saved and merely left to himself, most assuredly he would have
failed miserably. So would we all, sooner rather than later. But
God is not about to allow us to name the Name of His Son and
compromise His testimony because of our unfaithfulness. There is
much more at issue here. "He Who began a good work will perform
it..." (Phil. 16).
God has not merely saved us and left us to ourselves. Neither did
He leave Paul to himself, as this study will reveal.
It is an interesting fact that when we turn to the Scriptures and
consider the life of David, we find this great servant of God
transgressing against His Lord. His prayer for forgiveness and
restoration in Psalm 51 is an excellent demonstration of desired
Considering the Scriptural record further, we find Moses as a
believer sinning against God in the wilderness. This single sin
kept him from entering into the promised land (Num. 20.12; Deut.
Yet when we consider the life of Paul following his conversion,
(recorded in Acts 9), we never find a single charge of sin against
him. How is this? Paul's attitude about himself is clearly
"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all
acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to
save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this
reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ
might show all long suffering, as a pattern to those
who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life."
1 Timothy 1.15-16
In this statement, Paul leaves little doubt regarding his opinion
of himself "Chief," or first place, among sinners. Paul's under-
standing of himself was also for a purpose. The Lord Jesus has
selected Paul to be the first of a new work, and as such, he became
a pattern for future believers.
There is no doubt that prior to his conversion Paul was guilty of
great sin against the church, "I persecuted the church," he said.
Even so, God in His great mercy made Paul a "New Creation in
Christ." All of the old things of his life passed away. Paul was
taught of God to understand that he had been crucified with Christ
(Romans 6, Gal. 2.20). He also found himself resurrected with
Christ. Subsequently, he understood that it was no longer necessary
for him to serve sin as a master for fleshly pleasure.
Therefore, when we turn to the only authoritative record we have,
the Scriptures, we note with some delight that our brother's
testimony is free from sin.
Anticipating this possibility, we magnify and worship the One Who
saved Paul for such great grace. Not only was our brother Paul
delivered to the Lord, but he became the first of the great family
that followed, who could learn to live in, by, and through the Holy
Spirit of God.
The normal presumption is to assume that since Paul was in a body
that had yet to experience the fullness of the resurrection, that
he could and probably did sin. Such a conclusion is perfectly
human. This fact, however, is not support in the Scriptures. Paul
realized that it was "the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ" that had
set him free from the dominion of sin (Rom. 6). He also understood
that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ was the only way he could
realize that deliverance.
To trust Christ to live His life through Paul's life by His in-
dwelling Holy Spirit, is the Christian Life on earth. There is no
principle of sin/confess, here. Instead we discover what God
really intends is transformation in righteousness. As the outward
man perishes, the inward man is renewed day-by-day.
Enlightenment should caution anyone from criticizing without re-
sources to confirm any accusation. If a matter is not to be found
in the Scripture record, one would be wise to be reluctant to
strongly affirm one's opposition. After all what privilege has God
conferred to anyone to judge His servant? In short, do not condemn
those who advocate "Go and sin no more."
Concerning the matter of Biblical direction regarding deliverance
from the practice of sin, the following statements are represent-
ative of the whole Bible regarding attitude toward sin.
"As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the
former lusts, (as) in your ignorance; but as He Who called you
is holy, you also be holy in all (your) conduct." 1 Peter
"For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered
for us, leaving us and example, that you should follow in His
steps, Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return: when
He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed (Himself) to
Him Who judges righteously..." 1 Peter 2.21-23
"For if we sin willfully after we have received the know-
ledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for
sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery
indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who
rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two
or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you
suppose, will he be though worthy who has trampled the Son of
God underfoot, counted the blood of the covering by which he
was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of
grace." Hebrews 10:26-29
The men who penned these words from God are but representative of
the whole of the Bible.
What allowance did Paul provide for the fact that we are merely
human after all and unable to control those momentary indiscretions
that will occur? Interestingly enough, he suggests none. He of-
fers no opportunity for the believer to willfully, or deliberately,
or even accidently sin. Consider his words:
"I say then, walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the
lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and
the Spirit against the flesh; so that you do not do the things
that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not
under law." Galatians 5.16-18
"But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision
for the flesh, to (fulfill its) lusts." Romans 13.14
Paul's declaration in Romans chapter 6 is enough to quiet any op-
position to Paul's attitude regarding the saint and sin.
"What then shall we say? Shall we continue in sin that
grace may abound. God forbid. How shall we who died to sin
live any longer in it?" Romans 6.1-2
"What them? Shall we sin because we are not under law but
under grace? God forbid. Do you not know that to whom you
present yourselves to obey, you are that one's slave whom you
obey, whether of sin to death, or obedience to righteousness?"
The balance of this study will provide additional insight into
Paul's understanding on this matter of personal sin. Paul never
states nor implies that his own sin nature is eradicated.
Sinlessness would be relatively simple under such circumstances.
He does correctly declare that his "Old man," what he inherited
from Adam (the father or us all) had been crucified with Christ
God's intention is clear. When Christ died, all those in Christ
died together in Him. The reason, we should no longer be slaves to
sin, for he who has died has been freed from sin.
We will offer six incidents in Paul's Christian life for review. In
none of them do we find the Lord accusing Paul of sin.
1. CONTENTION with Barnabas regarding John Mark (Acts 15.36-41).
2. COMPROMISE in Ephesus, despair of life (2 Cor. 1.3-11).
3. CONFLICT with the "Thorn in the flesh" (2 Cor. 12.1-10).
4. CONSECRATION by sacrifice in the temple (Acts 21.18-26).
5. COMMISSION, running or had run in vain (Gal 2.1-10).
6. CONFRONTATION rebuking Peter (Gal 2.11-24).
For those who wish to consider Paul's attitude even further,
the prospect that in one area he might be found to compromise to
sin, we offer a few more topical headings applicable to Paul for
1. CALLING (Rom. 4.17, 8.28, 30; 1 Cor. 1.9 7.15, 17-24;
Gal. 1.6, 15, 5.8, 13; Eph. 4.1; Col. 3.15; 1
Thess. 2.12, 5.24; 2 Thess. 2.14; 1 Tim. 6.12; 2
2. CAPTIVITY (Rom. 7.23; 2 Cor. 10.5; Eph 4.8; 2 Tim. 3.6)
3. CARE (1 Cor. 7.21, 32, 34; Phil. 2.20, 4.10; 1 Tim. 3.5)
4. CARNALITY (Rom. 7.14, 8.6, 15.27; 1 Cor. 3.1-4; 2 Cor.
5. CASTING (Rom. 11.1, 13.12; 2 Cor. 10.5; 1 Tim. 5.12)
6. CEASING (1 Cor. 13.8; Eph. 1.16; Col.1.9; 1 Thess. 1.3, 2.13,
7. CHAINS (Col. 4.18; Philemon 13)
8. CHANGE (Rom. 1.23; 1 Cor. 15.51)
9. CHARACTER (Rom. 5.4)
10. CHEERFULNESS (Rom. 12.8; 2 Cor. 9.7)
11. CHERISHING (Eph. 5.29; 1 Thess. 2.7)
12. CIRCUMCISION (Rom. 2.29, 3.30, 4.10, 15.8; 1 Cor. 7.19; Gal.
2.7, 5.2, 6;, Phil. 3.3; Col. 2.11; Titus 1.10)
13. CLINGING (Rom. 12.9)
14. CLOTHING (2 Cor. 5.1-11)
15. COLLECTION (1 Cor. 16.1)
16. COMING (1 Cor. 16.22 cf. Acts 20.29)
17. COMFORT (2 Cor. 1.3-4, 7.6; Phil. 2.1; 1 Thess. 5.11)
18. COMMANDS (2 Thess. 3.4; 2 Cor. 4.6)
19. COMMANDMENTS (Rom. 7.9; Eph. 6.2; Gal. 2.22)
20. COMMENDATION (2 Cor. 10.18)
21. COMMITMENT (1 Tim. 6.20; 1 Cor. 10.8; 2 Tim. 2.2)
22. COMMUNION (1 Cor. 10.16; 2 Cor. 6.14, 13.14)
23. COMPANY (1 Cor. 10.16; 2 Cor. 6.14, 13.14)
24. COMPARING (Rom. 8.18)
25. COMPASSION (Rom. 9.15)
26. COMPLAINING (Col. 3.13)
27. COMPLETENESS (Col. 2.10; 2 Cor. 13.9; Phil. 1.6; 2 Tim. 3.17;
1 Thess. 5.23)
28. COMPOSITION (1 Cor. 12.24)
29. CONCEIT (Phil 2.3; Gal. 5.26)
30. CONCERN (2 Cor. 11.28; Acts 28.31)
31. CONCESSION (1 Cor. 7.6)
32. CONDEMNATION (Rom. 3.8, 8.1, 3, cf. 2.1; 2 Cor. 3.9;
1 Tim. 5.12)
33. CONDUCT (1 Tim. 3.15)
34. CONFESSION (Rom. 10.9-10, 14.11; 1 Tim. 6.12)
35. CONFIDENCE (Phil. 3.3)
36. CONFIRMATION (Rom. 15.8; 1 Cor. 1.8; Gal. 3.17)
37. CONFLICT (Phil. 1.30; Col. 2.1; 2 Cor. 7.5)
38. CONFORMITY (Rom. 8.29, 12.2; Phil. 3.10, 21)
39. CONQUERORING (Rom. 8.37)
40. CONSCIENCE (Rom. 9.1, 13.5; 1 Cor. 10.25; 1 Tim. 3.9, 4.2)
41. CONSIDERATION (1 Cor. 4.1)
42. CONSOLATION (2 Cor. 1.5; Phil. 2.1; 2 Thess. 2.16)
43. CONSTERNATION (Acts 22.30-23.5)
44. CONSTRAINT (2 Cor. 5.14)
45. CONTENDING (1 Tim. 6.6, 8)
46. CONTENTIONS (Gal. 5.20; Titus 3.9;, 1 Cor. 11.16)
47. CONTINUING (Rom. 6.1, 9.2; Gal. 3.10; Col. 4.2)
48. CONTRADICTIONS (1 Tim. 1.10, 6.20; Gal. 5. 17; 1 Thess. 2.15)
49. CONTRIBUTIONS (Rom. 15.26)
These items offer a variety of opportunities to examine Paul's
faith and practice. There are equally as many more categories that
could be considered, however, the results would be the same. The
Scripture does not charge Paul with personal acts of sin following
his conversion, his proclamation of the mystery of the indwelling
Christ, and the empowered life of Christ by the Holy Spirit.
May the results of this study challenge our hearts to hope for and
believe in the great deliverance God has for His people, not only
in eternity, but also in time, to all who trust Him. If it is
impossible to live a life without sin in these bodies that have not
yet experienced the fullness of the resurrection, then we have lost
nothing with this little exercise, considering Paul's life and
However, if such a life is available through faith in the Lord
Jesus Christ should we not pursue it with all our being? Is this
not like the pearl of great price, that when a man found it he sold
all to purchase it? The greatness of this pearl is the Lord Jesus
Christ Himself. His life in me. Can we dare miss such an
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