The Fight for Holiness

As I sought to show in the previous post, when we come to the knowledge that in Christ we are freed from sin, we are now empowered in our fight against the sin that once bound us. But Romans 8 teaches us another truth about pursuing a holy life: it is also fight.

The Fight for Holiness

Here it’s important to acknowledge that though we have been saved from the presence of sin, sin still takes its chances in trying to lure Christians into its trap. And the way Paul writes here seem to suggest that sin sometimes succeeds at misleading Christians. Sin is always on an all-out assault against God’s people and sins goal is to trap and destroy them. In Genesis 4:7 God says to Cain, “sin is crouching at the door, and its desire is for you.”The picture of sin as a dangerous animal waiting to capture its prey is fitting and appropriate for us to dwell on.

Civil War

The reality is, there is an inner war in the life of the believer, a civil war between the flesh and the spirit. Galatians 5:17 puts it like this: “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”In other words, sin opposes your desire to live a holy life.

The Westminster Confession speaks about the believer’s experience as one of “…continual and irreconcilable war”between the flesh and the Spirit.

This war is possible on our part because we have been freed from the slavery of sin; we now have the Spirit of God living in us to empower us in our fight against sin. The fight for holiness is a fight to kill sin; holiness in the life of the believer does not come automatically, it involves a fight. And this fight is a fight to the death, quiet literally.  

Paul warns in the first part of verse 13 of the consequences of not fighting sin, “for if you live according to the flesh you will die.” The warning is clear, those who are no longer debtors in the flesh have no business taking orders from the flesh. Oftentimes people say they want to live a holy life, but it seems that they don’t want it bad enough. They put themselves in compromising situations; they hang out with the wrong crowds that are leading them away from God.

Theory & Practice

Like Augustine when in his youth was consumed with sexual lust, he prayed, “Lord give me purity, but not yet.”It is the idea of loving holiness in theory but not in practice. Sin still attracts. It still looks appealing. That’s why today you find a lot of young men and women who profess to know Christ, but are still holding strongly to pornography and masturbation.

I believe that porn is one of the things that holds our generation back from effectiveness in our Christian lives. It is a favourite sin of our generation, mainly because of its easy accessibility, anonymity, and availability. It corrupts dating relationships, where young people enter into relationships not to pursue marriage, but to experiment with intimacy and sexuality.

Living for the flesh results in death. This death is not physical death, but eternal separation from God. Obviously by this, Paul is not saying believers can lose their salvation, but he is exposing the fact that when one is continually living according to the flesh it might be because they do not have a saving relationship with God.

Oftentimes, we do not fight sin because we do not see it for what it is, sin never presents itself in its ugliness, it never tells you the terms and conditions when you indulge in it. But it dresses itself in attractiveness, it promises joy and fun.

Be Killing Sin, Or Sin Will Be Killing You

There’s a story of a young man who went to a mountain, it was a snowy cold day. As he got to the top of the mountain he saw a deadly snake that was freezing and was about to die. The snake saw the young man and asked that he would wrap him under his jacket and take him down the mountain where he can be warm. The young man refused because the snake was dangerous. But it begged him until he relented. He took it, wrapped him around his jacket and took him down.

When he got down the mountain he took the snake out and put it on the grass. As the snake stretched himself out, regaining his strength, he launched towards the young man striking him with a deadly bite. And while lying there dying, the young mas said to the snake, “but you promised not to bite me”.The snake responded, “you knew what I was before you took me.”It was in the nature of this snake to bite, in the same way it’s in the nature of sin to kill those who partake in it. John Owen’s timely advice is important to note here: “be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”

A desire for holiness means treating sin with the same hostility it has towards you: to seek nothing but the destruction of it.

“But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

The only rightful response to sin is to, “put to death the deeds of the body.”To take away its life and influence, it requires a ruthless, full-hearted resistance of sin. It means to be merciless in our treatment of sin, with the goal of totally destroying it.

In killing sin there are at least two things to keep in mind:

  • Killing Sin Is The Christian’s Responsibility

The pronoun “you” indicates that as Christians we have a responsibility in killing sin. Sin does not die on its own, it must be killed. Oftentimes people say things like, “let go and let God” but here Paul doesn’t say that. Although we are to rely on the Holy Spirit there is also a personal responsibility on our part in killing sin.

  • Killing Sin Is Done Through The Spirit’s Help

Notice what Paul says, “if you live by the Spirit.”Here the point is, on your own you can’t do anything; it is only through the Holy Spirit who empowers you that you’re able to kill sin. The Holy Spirit helps us, in our battle with sin, with the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). The word of God is the most effective weapon in killing sin. The example of our Lord in Matthew 4:1-11 stands out in His resisting temptation by the use of the Word of God. Three times he retorted against Satan’s temptations “it is written.” Now, if our Lord treasured God’s word, who Himself is God, how much more should we?


Life in the Spirit is lived by those who have come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour of their lives; those who have repented of their sin and placed in the faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. These are the people of whom Paul says, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).  

Now friends, if it is not true of you that you have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, that you have given Him your life and have surrendered to Him, the opposite of Romans 8:1 is true of you. There is great condemnation for those who are not in Christ Jesus.

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