The Whole-Hearted Christian – part 1

“If I’m the righteousness of Christ, a partaker of His divine nature‘ and have died to sin, then why do I continue to sin?[1]

It’s a baffling question for many believers. Equally as baffling to many is how to deal with sin. The obvious remedy to many believers is to quit sinning. Some believers pray more and try harder to stop sinning–some succeed and others fail.

But to stop sinning is to address a symptom and does not deal with the cause of sinfulness.

Opposing motivational principles

Since the believer has but one ontological nature–the divine nature–why and how does he act “out of character,” according to the flesh?[2] Why doesn’t he function and behave in ways that are indicative of his new righteous nature?

Something motivates a believer to walk according to the flesh, and this functionally divides his heart, and something else motivates him to walk in the Spirit, and this unites his heart. And when a believer vacillates between the two, he functions double-mindedly, double-heartedly, or halfheartedly.

So what are those “things” that motivate contrasting ethical functioning and behavior, and thus the condition or mode of the heart?

The Bible speaks of two opposing principles of moral or ethical human nature, motivation and behavior: sin and love. This diametric duality is a major theme of the New Testament, as are darkness and light, death and life, flesh and Spirit. Just as darkness can be described as the absence of light, death can be described as the absence of life, and flesh can be described as the absence of the Spirit, so too can sin be described as the absence of love.

The diametric duality of sin and love is clearly seen in their respective relationships with God’s law: “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4) and “love fulfills the law” (Romans 13:8-10). Various other biblical examples of sin show the absence of love for God: unbelief (1 John 5:10), rebellion against God (1 Samuel 15:23) and unrighteousness (1 John 5:17). Those are but a sampling.

The Christian has Died to Sin

Paul writes that Christians “died to sin” when they were crucified with Christ: “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?… Our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died to sin is freed from sin…. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus…. For sin shall not be master over you” (Romans 6:6, 7, 11, 14).

Either sin or love is the moral attribute of a person’s spiritual nature. The old man possessed Adamic life and that life’s sin-nature or evil-principled human nature. David, like all of us, was born in a sin state of being and existence. “Behold,” he wrote, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). Before we came to know Christ as our Savior and Lord, each of us was an old man in Adam, with his unregenerate heart, Adamic life, and sin-nature. We were a “slave to sin” (Romans 6:6), and a “prisoner of sin” (Romans 7:23). At salvation, each of us was made a new-hearted, new creature in Christ, and was given His eternal life and His love nature. We were taken out of our old relationship with sin and placed into a new relationship with God and His love. We were no longer a “slave to sin,” or a “prisoner of sin.” We were made “prisoners” of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:1), and therefore prisoners of His love. As new-man species of human being, we are “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17).

As Adam-hearted people we were predisposed to sin because we had a sinful nature, which was devoid of godly love. With our salvation came a new spiritual heart and a new disposition of love–a “new spirit,” as promised by God in Ezekiel 36:26, and fulfilled under the New Covenant (2 Timothy 1:7). Because our life is Christ’s life, we are partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), of which love is the chief moral attribute. John writes that “God is love” (1 John 4:7, 8). And since we are partakers of the divine nature, our nature is love. Because we are children of God, we are children of love.

The duality of sin and love

In Romans 8:2, Paul writes of the “law of sin and death.” This stands in stark contrast with “the spirit of life in Christ Jesus” in the first part of that verse. We can clearly see the contrast between “death” and “life,” but maybe not so clearly the contrast between “the law of sin” or “principle of sin” and the “spirit of life.”
Let’s probe a little deeper to find out what Paul means here. “Spirit,” in Romans 8:2 is from the Greek, pneuma, which means “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit.” The word is not capitalized in the original Greek, but is capitalized in English Bibles when used as a proper noun; for example, the Holy Spirit. Let me suggest, however, that Paul is not speaking here of the Holy Spirit, but of the duality of sin and love. Therefore, “spirit” should not be capitalized. The word “spirit” in this verse is in reference to the moral attribute of love in Christ’s life. This is the same “new spirit” of love that God promised to give to each of His children (Ezekiel 36:26; 2 Timothy 1:7).[3]

Paul is saying in Romans 8:2 that the love and life of Christ has set you free from sin and death. For where there is love there is no sin, and where there is life there is no death.

Further on in Romans 8, we read of God sending His Son to save us. What motivated God to do this? His spirit of love for us! And what motivated Jesus to obey His Father and go to the cross? It was His “spirit of life” or love for God and for us.

Truly, Christ’s love and life have set you free from sin and death. He did that for you and He did it to you. His love and life set you free positionally, relationally, and ontologically; and His love can also purify the heart, clear the conscience, and produce sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5).

You were Made Alive to God’s Love

God loves you (John 3:16; 1 John 4:19), and He gave you a “new spirit” of love like His. “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5b).

God’s love is an expression of His divine nature. It is a love that is so wonderful, so majestic, and so powerful, that we will surely spend all of eternity future discovering more and more of what it is.

But even now, His love is being perfected in you as He conforms your soulical functioning to your new love nature. With this gift of love you can be motivated and empowered to obey the Greatest Commandments, the Great Commission, and to know and to do all else that God wills for you.

[1] 2 Cor. 5:21; 2 Peter 1:4; Rom. 6:2

[2] “ontological” (adjective): of or relating to ontology [the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being.], relating to or based upon being or existence.

[3] Note that the translators got it right in Ezekiel and 2 Timothy. In the Ezekiel instance “spirit” is lower case in verse 26, but is capitalized in verse 27 because it refers to the Holy Spirit.

Part 2 (conclusion) of this article will be sent as the next issue of Grace Notes.

Used by permission of Frank Allnutt. Frank was formerly the Director of CrossLife Books. This article is condensed from the copyrighted book, The Ways of the Heart, by Frank Allnutt, the second of two Advanced Studies. The first Advanced Study is titled The Christian’s New Heart. More information on these and other books by Frank are available on his website:

Honorable mention: For excellent articles on Christian worldview and apologetics, see

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