This may surprise some of you, but according to the Bible, Christians are actually supposed to be free from sin. Sure, temptation may still be around, and our mortal bodies may still be subject to the lusts of the flesh. But thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross, those things no longer have any power over believers. Or at least that’s what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law [of Moses] could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us…For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you… If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Did you catch that? Without God you have death and sin; with God you have life and peace, right here, right now, in your mortal body. And God can give you that life—which is the opposite of sin and death—through the Spirit of God who dwells in you, because the flesh has been put to death.
It’s a fantastic promise except for the fact that it’s complete bollocks.
The fact of the matter is that while the power of God makes a great sermon topic, and while it’s pleasantly inspiring to think that faith in Christ has the power to kill off fleshly temptations, none of this happens in real life. Even Paul himself admits that this is his own experience.
For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law inthe members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free fromthe body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
The standard Christian excuse here is that God respects our free will and does not want us to be robots, and therefore He allows us to sin when we want to. Notice, though, what Paul is saying: he actually wants to do the right thing, and is being controlled, against his will, by sin. God’s failure to intervene is not protecting Paul’s free will and preventing him from becoming a robot, it’s frustrating his free will and turning him into a robot controlled by sin. The Christian excuse doesn’t really work, as Paul himself demonstrates.
Ironically, this confession occurs immediately before his bold announcement that the blood of Jesus sets us free. And notice, he’s not saying, “evil was present in me,” he’s saying it still is. How does he deal with this issue? By professing belief in a better theology. That’s an interesting technique, isn’t it? He confesses, then he professes, and even though his confession shows that his profession isn’t really true, it still cancels out the confession because it glorifies God.
The problem, for Paul and other Christians, is that in real life, God is limited to only what an imaginary friend can do. You can imagine a friend who helps you resist temptations, but because your friend only exists in your imagination, he has even less power than you do. (You can imagine him having more, but it’s only imaginary power, so it can’t really do much.) You end up having to resist the temptation with only your own willpower.
What happens next is an exercise in biased scorekeeping, as Paul demonstrates. If you happen to succeed in resisting the temptation, then God gets the credit for the win. If not, then you get the blame for the fail. That way, no matter how strong or weak your own willpower is, it makes you look like a sinner and God look like a Savior.
But the part about “the law of the Spirit” setting you “free from the law of sin and death”? Sheer bullshit. I spent decades as a Christian wondering why that promise never came true. (I blamed myself the whole time, of course, but honestly, what control do I have over whether or not God keeps His promises?) You can imagine that sin and temptation have been put to death, but in the end, if you’re honest, you’ll find yourself repeating Paul’s confession, over and over. Romans 8 is just something you believe in. It’s not something that’s true in real life.