God created man in His IMAGE and after His LIKENESS. Gen. 1: 26-27. Jesus Christ is the only Man who made God visible on earth. The pre-fallen man was created in Christ’s image possessing God’s communicable attributes in his perfect (Adamic) inner nature. His likeness points externally to Christ’s glorious light covering him. Remember that Moses spent only forty days with God on the mountain and his face shone. Man sinned and lost his God’s glory surrounding him. Roman 6: 23, Exodus 34: 29-35.
The Essence of Salvation
The central core of salvation is the restoration of man to God’s original pre-fallen creation; the Edenic era of innocence. Consequently, apostle Paul defined the ministry of every church leader: the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers. They are to individually perfect, (mature) and equip the saints to do the work of the ministry to edify or build the body of Christ. This will continue till we all grow in the unity of faith and the knowledge of Christ unto a perfect (matured) man growing up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Man Jesus. (mine emphasis) Eph. 4: 11-14.
How will they do this? It is by following the footsteps of our Master Jesus. The Bible tells us, “Jesus went about all cities and villages, TEACHING… and PREACHING the gospel of the Kingdom and HEALING every sickness and every disease among the people”. Matt. 9: 35. Every minister in the fivefold ministry is expected to Teach, Preach, and Heal the people (physically, emotionally, and spiritually)
Many New Testament prophets stay on the personal prophecy alone (prophesying to individuals). This is the least of their call. The New Testament laity (non-clergy) now has the Holy Spirit in them to lead and guide them, unlike the Old Testament worshippers with unregenerate spirits. The children of God today are to be led by the Holy Spirit.
The prophets today can help to confirm what Christ is telling the believers. The prophets also need to equip and train them on how to flow in the gift of prophecy. This will not make them prophets because the office of a prophet is apportioned only by Christ. Numb. 12: 5-6.
In some sense in Christian theology (or teachings), the phases of salvation are sequential (following a logical order); some elements are understood to occur progressively and others instantaneously. Note that not all agree with a particular order. Our salvation begins with God’s Foreknowledge. The following order of progression is plausible.
Foreknowledge, Predestination, Calling, Regeneration, Saving Faith, Repentance, Justification, Adoption, Sanctification, Preservation, and Glorification. We can also see the three steps of Salvation namely: Salvation from the past penalty of sin (Justification); salvation from the present power of sin (Sanctification) and salvation from the Future presence of sin (Glorification).
Regeneration happens instantaneously as the Holy Spirit rushes the life of God into a spiritually dead soul. In Christ is the life of God (John 1: 4); you begin to live spiritually after accepting Christ into your spirit and begin to walk with Him. The legal transaction where Christ pays for our debts and God the Father declares us free and righteous is the essence of justification. We do not earn this by progressively acquiring the merits of penance (self-inflicted punishment to express public repentance) through our works or self-flagellation as taught in Roman Catholic theology.
Justification is a legal word meaning, “to declare righteous”; it is used for a person in a court trial. He is declared not guilty, discharged, and acquitted as if the offense was never committed. Heb. 8: 12. Justification has the imagery of a bird needing two wings to fly. It offers forgiveness of past sins and then provides us with the imputation of Christ’s righteousness; it saves us from the past and secures the future. It closes the door of hell and opens the gate of Heaven. By it, we were released from satanic bondage in his kingdom and became adopted as children of God in God’s Kingdom. Gal. 4: 4, Rom. 3: 25-26. Rom. 8: 14.
A Christian’s earthly works may go ablaze at the judgment seat of Christ but justification will guarantee him security. (Only the saved appear at that seat) He is also not liable to any punishment. He is accessible from the eternal pain and anguish of the fire of hell; not because of his holiness but by the holiness of another person, Jesus Christ, the righteous, who paid the penalty for the sins of the world. Anybody on earth who refuses to come and pick up this free offer of salvation or (forgiveness of sins) through Christ, will regret it eternally.
The Wretched Man
ROMANS 7: 14-24 record, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Rom. 7: 24. Who is this wretched man? No part of the Bible has ever generated unending argumentative rhetoric from the early church till today, over thousands of years. The consensus within the first three hundred years of the church by Christian expositors was that this wretched man generally called the Roman 7 man or R7 man, was an unregenerate man (an unbeliever) who struggled with sin and the law. However, heated debate commenced as soon as Bishop Augustine, a prominent church father and theologian from Hippo, North Africa (5th century after Christ’s ascension) changed his mind.
He declared that the R7 man was indeed a frustrated regenerate man struggling with indwelling sin. He was only honest enough to voice this out. Another view says that this R7 man is a carnal Christian; a born-again or regenerated man still living like a natural man.
The Perspectives of Some Theologians
Several Bible scholars also observed that the Greek Bible Romans 7: 7-13 is full of past tense whereas Romans 7: 14-25 is almost exclusively in the present tense. This has been used to affirm that Paul at this stage was expressing his own experience. Nevertheless, it may be alright for us to take this man as a hypothetical person from whom we want to learn from his experience. Note that unbelievers do not hate sin nor can they delight in the law of God in their inner man. Rom. 7: 15, 22. So this conflict was not that of a man under the law but a testimony of a man under grace. It is the experience that many have after regeneration and conversion.
Well, Christian carnality is seen from 1 Cor. 3: 1-3. We see carnal regenerate Christians behaving like natural men. Please note also that the whole of R7 or Roman 7 contains no mention of the Holy Spirit unlike in chapter 8 where He is mentioned over 20 times.
Robert Louis Stevenson, a Scottish author, and theologian in conjunction with three others, described this scenario as a war between the flesh and the spirit: a war between the old and the new natures. In life, the psychological temperament of Martin Luther, the 16th-century great reformer, allowed him to enter more deeply into the despair of the sinner and the joy of the redeemed.
John Piper, the American New Testament scholar, called this condition, “The Divided Man”. This is an individual Christian’s struggle with sin and a psychoanalytic explanation for why he still sins after conversion. The tension between sin and grace continues in the regenerate life. Paul was giving a hypothetical imaginary picture of a man who sees the complete hopelessness of salvation by the law.
Dr. Lloyd-Jones, the Welsh Congregational minister, has a different opinion from all others. He declared, “Whether the R7 man is a believer or not is not the point, but the issue is that this problem dramatically illustrates what happens if you seek sanctification apart from the Spirit through the law; no matter who you are it will slay you”.
He also declared that” Few chapters expose the deep power of sin and clarify the role of the law in a believer’s life quite like R7. Yet no section has fuelled more debate”. He believed that whether Paul spoke of his pre or post-conversion experience was not important.
We can observe that chapter 5 of Romans is the theological heart of the book. This is the chapter on Justification. Misunderstanding justification chapters six and seven will be misinterpreted. The entire section reveals our union with Christ through the reign of grace. Chapter 6 proves that our sanctification is guaranteed since we are united with Christ and can no longer live in sin.
Roman 7 also proves that our sanctification has been guaranteed since we are now freed from the law and married to Christ. We are enabled to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Chapter 7 is a dramatic warning of what happens when we seek sanctification through the law apart from the Spirit. Chapter 8 shows that a believer’s sanctification is guaranteed because they are united with Christ and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. There is now no condemnation for Christ’s followers. Chapter 7 opens with the glorious truth of Romans 8: 15. We need to walk through the depths of Romans 7 to reach the heights of Romans 8.
The Wretched Man Like a Prodigal Son
This, we believe, is a regenerate, impotent, and wretched man, utterly unhappy. Remember the elder brother to the prodigal son. Luke 15: 29. He was a faithful child of God but was living the life of defeat like the wretched man in R 7. The man who cries “o wretched man that I am” needs an open eye to God’s provision in Christ.
Even the sanctified life is not by our human efforts but through Christ. The battle between the flesh and the spirit can only be won by, “Looking away unto Jesus,( Greek translation) the author and finisher of our faith… .” Heb. 12: 2.
Unlike many Christians, Paul is brutally honest as he teaches the realities of internal conflicts of a regenerate man. As believers, we all suffer the “I” problem: self-centered, self-focused, self-sufficient, self-absorbed, self-flattering, self-aggrandizement, self-indulgent, self-promotion, self-worship etc.
Our basic problem is our sinful nature, the Adamic root of sin. The Bible puts it the BODY of sin. Calvary has destroyed and judged sin; its power was destroyed. Paul says that sin shall have no dominion either power or legal authority over you …” Rom. 6: 14.
We must hate sin; it’s deadlier than a rattlesnake; put it to death by dying to it daily (sin cannot die) or render it ineffective. Our sinful flesh rears its head in relationships, works, ministry, etc; note that all sins are against God. Confess it to God and nail it to the cross. Repent and forsake it. Luke 14: 26.
Many children of God today are the Roman 7 (R7) men and women, crying, “O wretched man that is”. Rom. 7; 24. We must note that the grace to continue the journey to the end without falling is in Christ. Please note also the assertion of our brother Jude, one of the brothers of Christ Jesus in the flesh, in Jude verse 1, reminding us that we have been called, sanctified, and PRESERVED in Christ. We shall not fall away from Christ in Jesus’ name. Remain blessed.
Elder Samuel Omole. October 29, 2023.