WHEATON COLLEGE

“AN IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBILITY”—SIN IN THE LIFE OF THE BELIEVER: A THEOLOGICAL EXPLORATION OF 1 JOHN 3:4-10 AND ROMANS 6:5-14

SUBMITTED TO DR. DOUGLAS J. MOO IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF BITH 648-NEW TESTAMENT THEOLOGY

BY JUSTIN LANGLEY DECEMBER 1, 2009

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION 1 JOHN 3:4-10—LET NO ONE DECEIVE YOU Sin is Lawlessness (3:4) Jesus Has No Sin in Himself (3:5) Everyone Who Remains in Jesus Does Not Sin (3:6) The One Who Practices Sin is of the Devil (3:8) Everyone Born of God Cannot Sin (3:9) Righteousness and Sin Distinguish the God’s Children from the Devil’s Children (3:7, 10) ROMANS 6:5-14—PRESENT YOURSELVES TO GOD, NOT TO SIN Our Union with Christ in His Death and Resurrection Has Resulted in the Body’s Release from the Power of Sin (6:5-6, 8) In Jesus’ Death, He Was Declared Innocent of Sin and Raised from the Dead, Forever Free from the Powers of Death and Sin (6:7, 9-10) Thus, on account of Our Union with Christ in His Death and Resurrection, Believers Must Consider Themselves Dead with regard to Sin and Alive with regard to God (6:11) Therefore, Believers No Longer Recognize and Submit to the Sovereignty of Sin; Rather Believers Actively Submit Themselves to the Sovereignty of God (6:12-13) Sin Will Not Govern Believers (6:14) THEOLOGICAL SYNTHESIS—SIN WILL NOT REIGN OVER BELIEVERS WHO CANNOT SIN CONCLUSION BIBLIOGRAPHY

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INTRODUCTION

Christians and non-Christians alike recognize that there is something terribly wrong with the world in which they live. Believers see the truths proclaimed in the New Testament concerning their own freedom from sin, yet, when they evaluate their own individual lives, they do not see total victory over sin. Rather, they see regular failure to forgive others freely, to resist lashing out at their spouses, to obey the speed limit, or to follow consistently the “golden rule.” Then, when believers turn to evaluate their relationship with God, they quickly find that they do not pray without ceasing, they do not mindfully do everything for the glory of God, and they do not love God with every part of their being. We come to certain pronouncements in the New Testament that seem to portray living the Christian life as a life of moral perfection, and we either question our own status as a believer or we struggle to see how our everyday experience can fit with these statements. For example, John teaches in 1 John 3:9 that everyone born of God cannot sin. What can we make of this when we immediately think of a dozen sins we committed this morning? Or Paul, in Romans 6:14, says that sin will not have dominion over the believer. Often, we certainly feel like sin dominates our lives, so how should we understand his statement? J. Christiaan Beker termed the conundrum of sin in the life of the believer as “an impossible possibility.”1 In an attempt to answer the previous question, we will briefly examine 1 John 3:4-10 and Romans 6:5-14 in order to ascertain what each author intended to communicate within the
1

Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in Life and Thought (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980), 218.

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2 context of each respective letter. Then, we will demonstrate how these two texts fit together in the eschatological framework in which each author has written. Finally, we will offer some concluding remarks hoping to help believers think about their sins in ways that do justice to the truths of these texts and that motivate believers to strive for greater obedience and holiness.

1 JOHN 3:4-10—LET NO ONE DECEIVE YOU

John writes the letter known as 1 John to believers in order to guard them from sinning and from deception (1 John 2:1; 3:7). He reminds them repeatedly of the truth they have already learned and accepted, and he eagerly wants to provide them with a solid basis for discernment (e.g., 1:14; 2:3; 3:10; 4:17; 5:2). In chapter 3, he focuses on how believers can know the difference between true children of God and children of the devil. He presents this evidence as a sharp antithesis between righteousness and sin. Sin is Lawlessness (3:4) John begins this paragraph by defining sin in a unique way. “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness because sin is lawlessness” (3:4).2 Explicitly equating ἁμαρτία with ἀνομία is unexpected, particularly because the translators of the LXX seem to use ἀνομία and ἁμαρτία interchangeably. Perhaps following the production of the LXX, ἀνομία took on more of a technical meaning; it appears in the LXX 228 times and in the NT only 15 times. Many commentators suggest that John uses ἀνομία as a technical term referring to the eschatological rebellion of the antichrist figure(s) he has mentioned in 2:18.3 Perhaps this is also related to
2

All NT verses are my own translations from the NA27.

Cf., e.g., I. Howard Marshall, The Epistles of John (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 176-7. Others see a reference to apostasy; see Colin G. Kruse, The Letters of John (PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 118.

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3 John’s linking of sin with the devil in 3:8, 10. Thus, John here characterizes all sin as rebellion against God. Jesus Has No Sin in Himself (3:5) Next, John indicates that Jesus came into the world to take away sins, which people practice in rebellion against God. John notes that Jesus is qualified to take away sins because he has no sin in himself. This strikes an implicit contrast between Jesus and all other humans, as John has said in 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin [in ourselves], [then] we have deceived ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Thus, Jesus is greater than all other humans and is qualified to take away human sin because he has no sin in himself. Everyone Who Remains in Jesus Does Not Sin (3:6) In light of Jesus’ sinlessness, John indicates the results of being united to him. “Everyone who remains in him does not sin” (3:6a). Thus, John expects the behavior of believers, those united to Christ by faith, to reflect the one in whom they remain. He goes on to state the corollary: “Everyone who sins has not seen him nor known him” (3:6b). He emphatically indicates that sin in a person’s life should be viewed as evidence that a person is not connected to Jesus in any genuine way.4 At this point, many commentators attempt to explain that John means either that the one who continually remains in Jesus does not ever sin,5 or that the one who remains in Jesus does not continually sin.6 This reflects an attempt to draw out an emphasis on the potential continuous aspect of the present tense verbs that John uses here. However, this argument cannot explain
4

Cf. John 15:1-8.

5 See, e.g., Ben Witherington III, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: Volume 1 (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2006), 504.

See, e.g., Simon J. Kistemaker, James and the Epistles of John (Baker NTC 14; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986), 303.

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4 these instances because John does not consistently use the present tense to articulate continuous action.7 Nevertheless, perhaps John does intend to communicate continuous or habitual sinning in this context because of the terms he uses. He began this section with ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν, and he now refers to ὁ ἐν αὐτῷ μένων, both present tense participles,8 and these two verbs will occur again later in the paragraph. Both ποιέω and μένω carry continuous connotations.9 Therefore, perhaps John indicates that he means habitual sinning in this paragraph by his choice of verbs. Thus, the one who is united to Jesus the sinless one does not habitually sin, and everyone who habitually sins shows that he or she is not united to Jesus. The One Who Practices Sin is of the Devil (3:8) After John issues his command that his readers would not be deceived, he progresses the discussion of how one may discern where one’s allegiances lie. “The one who practices sin is of the devil” (3:8a). This is similar to John 8:44: “You are of your father, the devil.” Thus, he introduces the contrast between the children of God and the children of the devil.10 John says that this is true “because the devil sins from the beginning” (3:8b). He uses the present tense of ἁμαρτάνω where one might expect the perfect tense or the aorist tense.11 To paraphrase, he seems to be saying that the devil is characterized by sin. Therefore, all who habitually sin show that they also are characterized by sin.
7 Kruse, Letters, 129. Cf. Martin M. Culy, I, II, III John: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2004), 56.

John seems to use the construction, πᾶς + article + present participle, “to divide the human race into two all-inclusive groups.” Raymond E. Brown, The Epistles of John (AYB 30; New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2008), 402. For the strong rhetorical force of this construction, cf. Culy, I, II, III John, ibid.
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For the significance of the connotation of ποιέω in this paragraph, see V. Kerry Inman, “Distinctive Johannine Vocabulary and the Interpretation of 1 John 3:9,” WTJ 40:1 (Fall 1977): 141. Cf. Grace E. Sherman and John C. Tuggy, A Semantic and Structural Analysis of the Johannine Epistles (Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1994), 61.
11 10

9

Cf. Culy, I, II, III John, 76.

5 This situation is the very reason Jesus came into the world. Restating 3:5 in more forceful terms, he writes, “The Son of God was revealed in order that he might destroy the works of the devil” (3:8c). John cannot long write to his dear readers about sin in the world without acknowledging the final victory that Jesus has won over sin and the devil (see also 1:7, 9; 2:1-2; 4:4, 9-10; 5:4-5). Everyone Born of God Cannot Sin (3:9) Now, John expresses the corollary of the statement he made in 3:8 about those who practice sin being “of the devil.” He says, “Everyone who has been born of God does not practice sin” (3:9a). He brings in the metaphor of parentage to conclude this section of his letter, pitting the children of God against the children of the devil. Earlier, in 3:6, he affirmed that everyone who remains in Jesus does not habitually sin; now, with the change of metaphor, he states that everyone born of God does not habitually sin.12 He then explains why this is true by saying, “His offspring remains in him” (3:9b), meaning that God’s offspring remains in Jesus.13 The phrase is debated among commentators,14 with the most common interpretations taking σπέρμα to refer to something implanted in the believer, whether the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, or the divine essence. However, in 43 occurrences of σπέρμα in the New Testament, 7 refer to seeds of plants, while all of the rest clearly refer to offspring; therefore, it seems unlikely that John would use σπέρμα metaphorically with a different meaning without explaining it.15
The phraseology in each verse is slightly different, but I understand οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει to be synonymous with ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ in this context.
12 13

Cf. A.B. Caneday, “Persevering in Christ and Tests of Eternal Life,” SBJT 10:3 (Fall 2006): 41n7. See the excellent survey of views in Brown, Epistles, 408-11.

14

It might be significant to observe that, when John uses μένω in the same way he uses it here, more regularly he refers to people remaining (or not remaining) in Jesus/God. By my count, out of 46 occurrences of μένω referring to an intimate connection between a person and God, 8 times a concept remains in a person (e.g., God’s love, the word), 9 times Jesus/God remains in a person, once the Father remains in the Son, once Jesus remains in

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6 Then, John takes his argument a step further and says that the one who is born of God is not able to sin (3:9c). This person’s inability to sin is grounded in having been born of God (3:9d). The imagery John works with here indicates that the child should look like the parent. So, he concludes, the child of God ought to look like God. This serves as the fundamental reason that he can demand that they not be deceived (3:7a). God’s offspring remain connected to the sinless Son of God, and therefore their lives cannot be characterized by habitual sin. Righteousness and Sin Distinguish God’s Children from the Devil’s Children (3:7, 10) Back in 3:7, John had issued his charge that his readers ought not be deceived. His readers should be able to discern that “the one who practices righteousness is righteous” (3:7b). But this is no truism; rather, the reason they ought to be able to recognize that a righteous person produces habitually righteous living is because Jesus is righteous. Running through this section of John’s letter is the recognition that true children of God are united to Jesus, and their union with Jesus positively affects their behavior. Then, in 3:10 he concludes this paragraph by summarizing some of the evidence he wants his readers to seek in determining those who are God’s children and those who are the devil’s children. Here, he focuses on the negative criterion: “Everyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God; specifically, the one who does not love his brother [is not of God]” (3:10b). So, also running through this section has been an implicit contrast between righteousness and sin, and John is calling each of his readers to examine himself or herself to see what characterizes his or her life.

ROMANS 6:5-14—PRESENT YOURSELVES TO GOD, NOT TO SIN
God’s love, 7 times a person remains in a concept, 14 times a person remains in Jesus/God, and 3 occurrences were unclear to me (in 1 John 2:27-28).

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Paul’s letter to the Romans contains the most elaborate explanation of certain elements of his gospel, which is “the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). In the first three chapters, he has focused on explaining how all people find themselves under the power of sin, and beginning in 3:21 he unfolds God’s righteous actions to remedy the situation. In chapter 5, Paul lays out a framework for understanding redemptive history, in which people find themselves born into a world dominated by the powers of Sin and Death.16 This situation exists because of Adam’s sin in the garden of Eden (5:12), but Jesus Christ has come into the world as the last Adam to defeat Sin and Death, and those who are united to him by faith take part in the new age (5:15-21). Paul must head off a perceived objection at this point. Because of the abounding freedom of grace that increases wherever sin increases (see 5:20), someone might think Paul is teaching that a believer may sin with impunity and that a believer may commit more sin in order to receive more grace. Paul argues against this by emphasizing the believer’s union with Christ in his death and resurrection in baptism (6:1-4). This union has created a new life for the believer in which Sin no longer controls the believer, and, therefore, Paul commands his readers to present themselves to God, to obey him by living righteously. Our Union with Christ in His Death and Resurrection Has Resulted in the Body’s Release from the Power of Sin (6:5-6, 8) Paul reminds believers of their baptism, which ought to remind them of their union with Christ.17 He claims, “If we have been united to him in the likeness of his death, moreover18 we shall be
16

Cf. Beker, Paul, 214.

Indeed, they probably understood their baptism as part of the “conversion-initiation” process. Douglas J. Moo, “Exegetical Notes: Romans 6:1-14,” TJ 3:2 (Fall 1982): 218.
18

17

For ἀλλὰ καὶ meaning “moreover,” cf. Luke 16:21; 24:22.

8 [united to him in the likeness] of his resurrection” (6:5). He begins this stage of his argument by assuring them of their future resurrection, based on the certainty of their union with him in his death.19 Then, he elaborates on what specifically happened to the believer as they were united with him: “Our old man20 was crucified together [with him] with the result that the body was released21 from Sin” (6:6a). Paul graphically explains how the believer has become part of the new creation (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). The “old man” refers to people united with Adam in the old age.22 The crucifixion of the “old man” resulted in the believer being separated from his former ruler, Sin. Being separated from “King Sin,” the believer is no longer subject to Sin (6:6c). In 6:8, Paul succinctly summarizes his thoughts here, saying, “If we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” In Jesus’ Death, He Was Declared Innocent of Sin and Raised from the Dead, Forever Free from the Powers of Death and Sin (6:7, 9-10) Paul then explains why the believer may be released from the power of Sin: “The one who has died has been declared innocent from sin” (6:7). He seems to refer to Jesus with the participle ὁ

Thus, death has a positive side to it, at least in relation to Jesus. See Robert H. Mounce, Romans (NAC 27; Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001), 152. The translation “obsolete self” is attractive. See Robert Jewett, Romans (ed. Eldon J. Epp; Herm; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006), 402-3. Cf. Rom 7:2, 6. See BAGD, 526, and H. Hübner, “καταργέω,” EDNT 2:267, although BAGD does not list Rom 6:6 under the meaning “be discharged, be released,” and Hübner’s statement about Gal 5:4 also fits the context of Rom 6:6. Furthermore, I am taking τὸ σῶμα as the subject of the passive verb (thus, the recipient of the action) and τῆς ἁμαρτίας in an ablative sense. This is parallel to the construction in Gal 5:11.
22 21 20

19

C.K. Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans (HNTC; New York: Harper & Row, 1957), 125.

9 ἀποθανὼν,23 claiming that, in Jesus’ death, God24 declared him innocent of sin.25 Then, in 6:9, he reminds his readers of the resurrection of Jesus, and Jesus’ resurrection had the permanent effect that he would never die again. In Rom 5, Paul had spoken of Death reigning alongside Sin;26 in Jesus’ resurrection, God raised Jesus out of the reach of “King Death.” “Death no longer governs him” (6:9b). Carrying his argument further, he says, “The one who died has died inexorably to Sin, and the one who lives, lives to God” (6:10). Paul here highlights the uniqueness of Jesus’ death,27 in that it is an event that can only happen once, and the results of his death can never be changed or reversed.28 This death, Paul says, Jesus has died to Sin, which seems to indicate that his death removed him from the realm Sin dominates.29 Likewise, his resurrection has now situated him firmly in the realm God dominates. Thus, on account of Our Union with Christ in His Death and Resurrection, Believers Must Consider Themselves Dead with regard to Sin and Alive with regard to God (6:11) In light of what has taken place for Jesus in his death and resurrection, and by virtue of believers’ union with him, Paul now commands his readers to think of themselves in accordance with their

So J.R. Daniel Kirk, Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 113-4. Many others understand this as a reference to a common rabbinic maxim; e.g., C.H. Dodd, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (MNTC; London: Fontana, 1959), 111.
24

23

This seems to be a clear instance of the “divine passive.”

The phrase δεδικαίωται ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας occurs nowhere else in the NT; however, a parallel exists in Sir 26:29. In Rom 6:7, many translations translate this phrase “set free from sin,” which is a concept Paul articulates concerning the believer using the verb ἐλευθερόω in Rom 6:18, 22; 8:2.
25

Perhaps Death ought to be viewed as Sin’s vice-regent, as Adam was to be God’s vice-regent. Cf. I. Howard Marshall, “‘Sins’ and ‘Sin,’” BSac 159:633 (Jan 2002): 14-15. I understand the phrase ὃ ἀπέθανεν to be another oblique reference to Jesus, and it is intriguing that Paul uses a phrase that sounds so similar to 6:7.
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26

Gustav Stählin, “εφάπαξ,” TDNT 1:383. Cf. J.P. Louw and E.A. Nida, “εφάπαξ,” 1:608. ̓ ̓ Cf. James D.G. Dunn, Romans 1-8 (WBC 38A; Dallas: Word, 2002), 323.

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10 position in Christ. What is true of Jesus, has become true of believers. Thus, believers’ union with Jesus’ death has removed them from the realm Sin dominates, and their union with Jesus’ resurrection has situated them firmly in the realm God dominates.30 In 6:5, 8, he assures them of their future resurrection, but here he notes that their union with Jesus’ resurrection also has effects in the present.31 Therefore, Believers No Longer Recognize and Submit to the Sovereignty of Sin; Rather Believers Actively Submit Themselves to the Sovereignty of God (6:12-13) Paul’s primary imperatives in this section are found in 6:12-13. He begins with a third person imperative directed toward Sin: “Sin must not be king in your mortal body with the result that you obey its desires” (6:12). The verb βασιλεύω seems to carry a stative nuance.32 In the LXX, the verb was often used when a person would become king,33 with the person then attaining complete authority over a realm.34 Therefore, if the believer acknowledges Sin’s sovereignty in his or her life, the believer would be made to obey the inherent desires of the human body. He refers to the body as “mortal” perhaps to highlight the fact that a person’s physical body is inextricably bound up with the old age and is therefore doomed to decay and die. The usurper “King Sin” still desires to claim the believer as his subject, so Paul commands his readers, “Do not present your members [as] unrighteous weapons to Sin” (3:13a). Since the believer now lives in the realm God dominates, he must not offer his body parts or
Cf. George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament. Rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 528. Cf. Mounce, Romans, 153. Michael J. Gorman, Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 369. Contra Dunn, Romans 1-8, ibid., κυριεύω is not used synonymously with βασιλεύω, as my translation of vv. 12 and 14 indicate.
33 32 31 30

See, e.g., Judg 9 where Abimelech is made king and this verb is prevalent. J.P. Louw and E.A. Nida, “βασιλεύω,” LN 1:473-4.

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11 anything that belongs to him to serve the enemy, Sin.35 He uses the term ὅπλα here, which may refer to weapons of warfare, so that the image being portrayed involves a fundamental treason.36 So, Paul goes on to command his readers to “present yourselves to God as living from the dead, and [present] your members [as] righteous weapons to God” (6:13b). As subjects of the rightful king, believers must put themselves wholly in the service of their great king. In the warfare that God continues to wage against the usurper, believers are to consider themselves as righteous servants at their king’s disposal to bring about righteous ends. Sin Will Not Govern Believers (6:14) Paul finally gives the reason for this weighty imperative for how believers ought to live under their righteous king: “Sin will not govern you” (6:14a). He assures his readers using the verb κυριεύω, which is used in the LXX and the NT of various rulers actually exercising their authority.37 He then explains how he can make this bold assertion: “For you are not under law, but [you are] under grace” (6:14b). Paul regularly uses the construction ὑπὸ followed by an accusative noun to refer to people in complete subordination to a power.38 Therefore, Sin will not govern believers because believers are not bound by the stipulations of the Mosaic Covenant. He makes a tight connection between Sin governing people and people being under the Mosaic Law. This reflects Rom 3:9-20, where he has stated that everyone is “under Sin” (3:9), quoting a litany of Old Testament passages to substantiate and emphasize the point (3:10-18), and then he immediately refers to those who are “under law” (3:19). He seems to be arguing that, if these Old
Cf. A. Katherine Grieb, The Story of Romans: A Narrative Defense of God’s Righteousness (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002), 67-8. See Marvin Pate, The End of the Age Has Come: The Theology of Paul (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 109-10.
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See, e.g., Jdt 1:14; 1 Macc 7:8; Luke 22:25.

See D. Sänger, “ὑπὸ,” EDNT 3:402. Cf. Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans (BECNT 6; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 326.
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12 Testament statements are directed fundamentally at God’s own people, the Jews, then how much more these statements must be true of the rest of the world.39 In Rom 5:20, Paul has already asserted that the Mosaic Law was instituted in order to increase transgressions,40 and where they increased, grace increased even more. Then, he states that Sin governed in the sphere of Death, and in the same way Grace now governs through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus (5:21). So, he seems to be depicting grace as a sovereign power41 that contrasts with Sin, the Mosaic Law, and Death, and their interconnections.42 Thus, in 6:14, Paul says that Sin will not govern believers because believers are now under Grace. Living in the (new) realm ruled by “King Grace,” believers must live for righteousness (6:13). THEOLOGICAL SYNTHESIS—SIN WILL NOT REIGN OVER BELIEVERS WHO CANNOT SIN Paul tells his Christian readers that Sin will not govern them (Rom 6:14), and John tells his Christian readers that they cannot consistently practice sin (1 John 3:9). Now, John has explicitly acknowledged, in the same letter in which he wrote this grand claim, that Christians do sin (1 John 1:8-2:2).43 Furthermore, all believers since the first century ended have looked at their lives and noted their consistent sinfulness, wondering if, in fact, Sin does govern them. So, how can
Cf. Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 206. Also, see Thomas R. Schreiner, The Law and Its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of the Law (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), 67. For elaboration and explanation of this point, see Jason C. Meyer, The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology (NACSBT 6; Nashville: B & H, 2009), 168-70.
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So Moo, Epistle to the Romans, 389.

For a thorough examination of the “nexus” involved in this triumvirate, see Chris A. Vlachos, The Law and the Knowledge of Good and Evil: The Edenic Background of the Catalytic Operation of the Law in Paul (Eugene, Ore.: Pickwick, 2009). On the alleged contradiction between this passage and 3:4-10, see Chrys C. Caragounis, The Development of Greek and the New Testament: Morphology, Syntax, Phonology, and Textual Transmission (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 90.
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13 believers understand and accept these teachings from Paul and John, when their experience seems to contradict these teachings? Perhaps the key may be found in asking the question, “What time is it?” John tells us the answer explicitly: “Dear children, it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). The eschatological framework within which both John and Paul live and think enables them to acknowledge such astounding statements about sin and the believer. Paul affirms that believers are part of the new creation on the basis of their union with Christ (2 Cor 5:17), and he understands that the new creation dawned with the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ.44 This concept provides the framework within which Paul teaches that Jesus is the “last Adam,” corporate head and representative of the humanity of the new creation (Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cor 15:45). Therefore, as Rom 6:1-4 teaches, because the believer is united to Jesus, particularly with respect to his death and resurrection, the believer now lives the new life45 of the new creation, and this life is no longer governed by Sin but is governed by Grace. However, situating believers in the new realm brought about by God’s eschatological victory over the evil powers of the world in the death and resurrection of Jesus46 only seems to exacerbate the problem related to the reality of ongoing sin in the life of the believer. However, while the reign of God has broken into the world, God has chosen to inaugurate the new creation within and overlapping the old creation. Therefore, believers await the consummation of God’s new creation when Jesus returns in glory. With Jesus’ resurrection, the eschatological
To see evidence that all of the New Testament authors shared this understanding, see Greg K. Beale, “The Eschatological Conception of New Testament Theology,” in Eschatology in Bible and Theology: Evangelical Essays at the Dawn of a New Millennium (ed. Kent E. Brower and Mark W. Elliott; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1997), 12-18. Cf. Dunn, Romans 1-8, 318. Paul’s reference in 6:4 to καινότητι ζωῆς highlights the superiority of living united to Christ. See J.P. Louw and E.A. Nida, “καινότης,” LN 1:593 and cf. BAGD, 497.
45 46 44

See Col 2:13-15.

14 resurrection of the dead has begun, and believers participate in and receive benefits from his resurrection in this life.47 Believers’ union with Christ in his resurrection results in their reception of the Holy Spirit who empowers them to live righteous lives as citizens of the new creation.48 John and Paul both are calling their readers to reflect their true identity, those who are children of God (1 John 3:10), united to Christ, and under Grace (Rom 6:1-5, 12-14). Believers’ union with Christ, according to Paul, means that whatever is true of Christ is also true of believers,49 and John indicates that God’s children look like their Father. In this way, Paul is encouraging believers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, recognizing that God is working in them to transform them into righteous people who look like Jesus.50 Likewise, John is challenging believers to live without sin, like Jesus, so that they actually look like God’s children and not the devil’s children.51 Both John and Paul also make statements intended to provide confidence for their readers that righteousness is possible (perhaps even certain) for the believer on the basis of Jesus’ victory over Sin in his death and resurrection.52

CONCLUSION

Cf. Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 31-2, 98-9.
48

47

Beale, “Eschatological Conception,” 30-31. Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, 320. Phil 2:12-13; cf. Rom 8:29; 12:1.

49

50

1 John 3:5; cf. 1 John 3:1; 2 Cor 13:5. Cf. Georg Strecker, The Johannine Letters (ed. Harold Attridge; trans. Linda M. Maloney; Herm; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 104.
52

51

1 John 3:8, 9; Rom 6:10, 14.

15 Receiving and obeying Paul and John on these issues is difficult for believers today.53 Not only do we see constant suffering and evil in the world around us, but as we take even a cursory introspective glance into our own lives, we also see darkness and sin there that befuddles and frustrates us. We strive to please the Lord and to live righteously, but we seem to fail more frequently than John would allow, so that it often seems like Sin, in fact, is governing our lives. Nonetheless, Paul holds out for us our only hope for victory over sin in our daily lives: the truth that we are no longer enslaved to Sin because Jesus died on the cross with respect to Sin and Death, so that these powers no longer have power over him, and we believers are united to him by faith, so that these powers no longer have power over us either. Jesus has taken away our sins and has destroyed the works of the devil, so that we will live righteous lives. So, we must not despair when we find ourselves committing sins; rather, we must run back to our Advocate, Jesus Christ, who ever stands before the Father interceding for us (1 John 2:1-2; Heb 7:25).54

53

It is probably no more difficult today than it was when the original readers heard these words.

Cf. Frank Thielman, A Theology of the New Testament: A Canonical and Synthetic Approach, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 549.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Balz, Horst Robert, and Gerhard Schneider, eds. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. 3 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990. Barrett, C.K. The Epistle to the Romans. Harper’s New Testament Commentary. New York: Harper & Row, 1957. Bauer, Walter, William Arndt, F. W. Gingrich, and Frederick William Danker, eds. A GreekEnglish Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Third ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. Beale, Greg K. “The Eschatological Conception of New Testament Theology.” Pages 11-52 in Eschatology in Bible and Theology: Evangelical Essays at the Dawn of a New Millennium. Edited by Kent E. Brower and Mark W. Elliott. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1997. Beker, J. Christiaan. Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in Life and Thought. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980. Brown, Raymond E. The Epistles of John. The Anchor Yale Bible 30. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2008. Caneday, A.B. “Persevering in Christ and Tests of Eternal Life.” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 10:3 (Fall 2006): 40-51. Caragounis, Chrys C. The Development of Greek and the New Testament: Morphology, Syntax, Phonology, and Textual Transmission. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006. Culy, Martin M. I, II, III John: A Handbook on the Greek Text. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2004. Dodd, C.H. The Epistle of Paul to the Romans. Moffatt New Testament Commentary. London: Fontana, 1959. Dunn, James D.G. Romans 1-8. Word Biblical Commentary 38A. Dallas: Word, 2002. Gorman, Michael J. Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

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Grieb, A. Katherine. The Story of Romans: A Narrative Defense of God’s Righteousness. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002. Inman, V. Kerry. “Distinctive Johannine Vocabulary and the Interpretation of 1 John 3:9.” Westminster Theological Journal 40:1 (Fall 1977): 136-44. Jewett, Robert. Romans. Edited by Eldon J. Epp. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006. Kirk, J.R. Daniel. Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008. Kistemaker, Simon J. James and the Epistles of John. Baker New Testament Commentary 14. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986. Kittel, Gerhard, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. 10 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-1976. Kruse, Colin G. The Letters of John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000. Ladd, George Eldon. A Theology of the New Testament. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993. Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida, eds. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. 2 vols. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996. Marshall, I. Howard. The Epistles of John. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978. --------. “‘Sins’ and ‘Sin.’” Bibliotheca Sacra 159:633 (Jan 2002): 3-20. Meyer, Jason C. The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology. New American Commentary Studies in Biblical Theology 6. Nashville: B & H, 2009. Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996. --------. “Exegetical Notes: Romans 6:1-14.” Trinity Journal 3:2 (Fall 1982): 215-20. Mounce, Robert H. Romans. New American Commentary 27. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001. Pate, Marvin. The End of the Age Has Come: The Theology of Paul. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.

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Schreiner, Thomas R. The Law and Its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of the Law. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993. --------. New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008. --------. Romans. Baker Exegetical New Testament Commentary 6. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998. Sherman, Grace E., and John C. Tuggy. A Semantic and Structural Analysis of the Johannine Epistles. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1994. Strecker, Georg. The Johannine Letters. Edited by Harold Attridge. Translated by Linda M. Maloney. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996. Thielman, Frank. A Theology of the New Testament: A Canonical and Synthetic Approach. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005. Vlachos, Chris A. The Law and the Knowledge of Good and Evil: The Edenic Background of the Catalytic Operation of the Law in Paul. Eugene, Ore.: Pickwick, 2009. Witherington, Ben III. Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: Volume 1. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2006.

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