This is the tertian installment of a three-part series on sphere sovereignty.
You can find part 1 here and part 2 here.
Sphere sovereignty is a helpful framework for understanding God’s orderly creation and where he has vested authority. The family is the first sphere, born on day six of creation. The family is the primary building block of any functioning society. We only destroy or redefine a family at our peril. The family has received commands from God that neither the church nor the government has.
The church is made up of many families and individuals. By the church I mean God’s elect throughout the ages. We rightly say that Israel was chosen by God and was the sole conglomerate of God’s people on the earth. The New Testament church, now made up of both Jews and Gentiles, is grafted into Israel. So the church is distinct from Israel in the same way a branch is distinct from the tree. But the church and the branch are both naturally and necessarily connected the root, who is Jesus Christ. And the church has received commands that neither the family nor the government has.
But what are we to make of the government, especially when a government rejects the authority of God, whether in word or in deed? What makes a government good and just? What is the responsibility, chartered by God, of any civil government? Are there more and less biblical forms of government? We’ll try to address some of these issues now.
For many, the locus classicus of earthly, civil government is Romans 13. It most clearly addresses a government that is not a theocracy or a theonomy, as it was in ancient Israel. Jews and Christians will find themselves under a variety of governmental forms, so they must be ready to live in any set of conditions under any kind of ruler.
Paul begins by saying that everyone should place themselves under the governing authorities. As Americans who value our freedoms, and rightly so when many people around the world have far fewer than we do, we might not exactly love the idea of submitting to the government. This does take some understanding. Starting in Romans 12, Paul is describing not just civil government but how the church should live. Christians are not to seek vengeance for wrong done against them (12:19). Is God therefore unjust? Not at all. In fact, God has set up earthly rulers to deal with injustice. Enter Romans 13.
Civil governments are actually a good thing and a gift from God. Governments, when ordered biblically and without stepping outside their sphere of authority, bring order to a nation. Resisting such divinely-ordered authority is to resist God himself.
Biblically-minded Christians can and should have conversations about whether a government should be small or big. Small governments typically recognize that most decision-making should be done at the lowest level possible, which is the principle of subsidiarity. Small governments actively try to be as unintrusive as possible. Larger governments, which we must admit come with a heftier price tag, are generally more intrusive. Larger governments make more decisions that affect more people and are usually program-oriented.
Political philosophies come in to play. Classic conservatism holds that human nature is both capable of great good and great evil. The purpose of traditional institutions is to promote the good and to temper the evil. The individual receives the most good when the group is prioritized, creating structures of support from which many individuals can be helped. Classic conservatism also believes that decisions are best made by those people who will be affected the most, hence, the principle of subsidiarity. Civil government must therefore promote group health over individual idiosyncrasies.
The other end of the spectrum is classic liberalism. This political philosophy holds that human nature is a blank slate, and individuals are generally good. The highest good is expressive individualism, or the belief that the individual has complete autonomy over him- or herself. Therefore, everyone should be permitted to live any kind of lifestyle they so choose as long as it truly expresses their true nature. Outside forces, such as family expectations and traditional foundations, prohibit such expression. Civil government must therefore be about deconstructing oppressive institutions.
One of the most dangerous tricks of the enemy has been the widespread acceptance of the notion that the church should stay out of politics. If that were the truth, Romans 13 would never have been written. You will, as a matter of fact, develop doctrines about what a government should do. Case in point—if you have ever been mad at a president, then you have a doctrine of civil government. If you align yourself with one political party over another, then you have a doctrine of civil government. If you think that whoever did not vote in like manner as you was wrong, then you have a doctrine of civil government.
So why not develop your doctrine of civil government from Scripture? Romans 13:3 assures us that under a good government, no one should fear those in authority except those who have done wrong. If you have done no wrong, and yet you have cause to fear what the government will do, you have a responsibility to participate in civic processes. In America’s democratic republic, you do that by casting your vote against the guilty party. Having said that, if you live under a just government and you do wrong, you have every right to expect the government to punish your wrongdoings.
Paul had already mentioned how the church is not to act in vengeance. Now he even goes so far as to say that the government is who bears the sword (13:4). This means that the government is to take certain matters out of the hands of the people and to ensure those that threaten the people are dealt with swiftly. We do not have to worry about justice because God has set up governing authorities for that very purpose. God sends his wrath on those who reject his rule, which he often mediates through governing bodies. Do you want to avoid the wrath of God? Do you want to have a clean conscience? Don’t make the government notice you for the wrong reasons.
No one has ever been happy to pay their taxes. No. One. But Paul does tell us that taxes support governmental structures, which in turn serve us (13:6). Even if we have reason to believe that not every cent is used honorably, we continue to pay our taxes in obedience to God. To be clear, he does say that taxes serve to support a government that is concerned with justice. So this begs the question, what is the purpose of government? What do you do when governments no longer concern themselves with justice?
Clearly, Paul sees the purpose of government as protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty. Is there an argument to be made to expand government beyond that? In the same way that a lack of government is a problem, an outsized government is also a problem.
There are times when rebellion against civil authority is not only permitted but necessary. The governmental structure of the Egyptians preserved Isaac’s family from starvation and offered them a safe place to live and prosper. Several generations later, the same structure proved to be a wicked system laser-focused on treating the Hebrews like machines. God raised up Moses to act in defiance of Pharaoh.
Daniel openly prayed in full view of the tyrannical system of government that demanded he cease. For that, he was thrown into a den of lions, though God spare him. His three compatriots refused to pray to the earthly king, and they were therefore thrown into a furnace to be burned alive, though God spared them.
Paul was held in prison for years for refusing to cease in preaching the gospel. He was mistreated and poorly judged. God did not spare him from this, either.
Though this line was used to stand up against religious authorities, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). There is no excuse for Christians to submit to any law or command that prohibits worship of God, especially if it insists upon worship of another god.
Peter also addressed the issue of civil government (1 Peter 2:13-17). He even recognizes various levels of government, from the emperor to local governors. In fact, in honoring our government officials, we honor God and silence those who mock us. We should seek our freedom and the freedom of others. We show those in government offices honor despite their foibles. We are blessed that if we don’t like them, we can voice our concerns and hopefully give them das boot at the end of their term. We should strive to live at peace with everyone.
In general, Christians should pay their taxes and take part in civic responsibilities. We can come to different conclusions about the size of government with a clean conscience. But if we prefer a bigger government, we must be ready to pay for it. Praise God that we live in a country where citizens are represented in their governments. That is a fragile thing we must never take for granted. But Scripture clearly outlines that governments are a blessing from God that foster good order and peace.
The sphere of civil government is still under the sovereign lordship of Jesus Christ, as are the family and the church. One day, every knee will bow. The glory of the nations will be subsumed into his kingdom. Emperors, kings, presidents, and mayors will be brought low. That day will be the beginning of eternity. Until that day, we honor the empower and live at peace with all men as far it is reliant upon us.
This is part 2 of a 3-part series on the doctrine of sphere sovereignty. Parts 2 and 3 are a follow-up to a sermon on the family, which can be viewed by clicking here.
The doctrine of sphere sovereignty is a helpful guide in determining where certain authority lies and why. The three primary spheres of creation are the family, the church, and civil government. We have already addressed the family, its origins, and how authority is layered. Today we’ll address the church, what it is, and how authority functions within the church.
What is the church?
We must have a clear understanding of what the church is before we can think of authority. English has low-German roots, and the English word “church” comes from the German word “kirche”, sometimes seen as “kirk”. But the Greek word we translate in to church from the Greek of Scripture is ecclesia. It literally means “to be called out of”, but by the time of the New Testament it was primarily used in a sense of “gathering”.
Theologically, we can relate this gathering to God’s elect. The ecclesia is the gathering of God’s elect from among the four winds. Some theologians speak of the church in the Old Testament, which if understood as the elect throughout the ages, we can agree. Paul writes in Ephesians 2 that the Gentiles were alienated from Israel, strangers to the covenants, and hopeless (v.12). But God has broken down that dividing wall and made one new man out of Jew and Gentile in order to destroy any hostility between the two (vv.15-16).
Paul also writes in Romans 11 that we should think of the Jewish people as the branches and the Gentiles as a wild olive shoot growing naturally out of that branch (v.17). The image is of something growing naturally out of a tree. The root supports the branches, and the branches support the olive shoots. Note, then, that taken with Ephesians 2, we must say that there is one people of God, made of up Jews and Gentiles. The Jews mentioned are not even entirely ethnic Jews, for “not all Israel is Israel” (Romans 9:6). Not every Jew is truly regenerate, based solely on heritage.
Based on Paul’s imagery, we cannot say that the church is a completely different group from Israel, though it is distinct. The church’s roots (pun intended) are in Israel. That also means that neither has the church supplanted Israel as God’s people (see all of Romans 11). There is one universal church, one people of God, now made up of not only regenerate Jews but Gentiles also. When Jesus told Peter that he would build his church, Peter didn’t ask for an explanation. There is one people of God.
The church is the elect of God from all tribes, tongues, nations, and people, including Jews and Gentiles, male and female, slave and free.
What does the church do?
The church’s primarily responsibility is to worship God. After Pentecost in Acts 2, we read that the believers were fed apostolic teaching, devoted time to being together in person, celebrated the sacrifice of Christ over food, and prayed (v.42). So the church is not just a weekly gathering, though that should be guarded at all costs. The church is the body whose head is in heaven. We live lives that are intertwined with other believers. They are our friends, our brothers and sisters. They are our spiritual fathers and mothers.
When the church gathers, we still hear apostolic teaching. This is the preaching of the word, “more fully confirmed” (1 Peter 2:19) than anything that came before. Preachers are not apostles, but preachers preach what the apostles gave to the church.
When the church gathers, we share in the memory of the sacrifice of Christ. After Paul gives instructions on preaching in gatherings, he moves immediately into the practice of the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11:17-34). We share the bread and the cup, the body and the blood, remembering the reasons we are gathered together at all. In doing so, not only in preaching, but also in communion, we proclaim the death of the Lord, but we also look forward to his second coming.
We also gather at other times simply for fellowship. We should grow in our love for each other as brothers and sisters. It’s perfectly lawful to gather just to enjoy each other’s company. It is not our primary purpose in gathering, but it is a blessing beside.
We gather for prayer, as well. Of course we pray on our own, but there is power in gathered prayer. That’s why it’s an important part of Lord’s Day worship. We pray before and after the preaching of the word. We pray in Bible study time. We pray in small groups. Prayer is no small matter. When people are sick, we bring them before the congregation for special prayer. When people are leaving their families for extended periods of time, we bring them before the congregation for special prayer. Prayer does not change God’s mind, but it does change ours.
Who has authority in the church?
Christ is the head of the church. He is its sovereign ruler. When Peter first confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus blessed him (Matthew 16:17). The divinity of Christ was a divinely-revealed truth. Jesus then makes a pun, of sorts, saying that Peter is the rock on whom Jesus will build his church (Peter’s name in Greek means “rock”.). We do not need to do some complex theological maneuvering to avoid Roman doctrines of the papacy. Jesus clearly said that it would be upon Peter that his church is built. But you will find no doctrine of the papacy here. There is no Petrine succession, no church at Rome, no papal infallibility, nothing of the sort mentioned here.
Peter would go on to be a crucial member of the Jerusalem church. Even before Paul, he would minister to the Gentiles, such as Cornelius. He would become an apostle to both Jews and Gentiles. He would author Scripture. In the new city in the age to come, the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are written on the foundation, and the names of the twelve apostles are written on the gates. We should not elevate Peter to the vicar of Christ, but neither should we demote him from his divinely appointed role in the building of the church.
Even in the Old Testament, God considered the priests to be the shepherds of the people. Throughout the writings of the prophets such as Ezekiel, God condemns the shepherds of Israel for abrogating their duties. Later, Peter would call elders the shepherds of the church and Christ the chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4).
The New Testament regularly chooses different words for the office of elder, oftentimes focusing on a different responsibility of an elder based upon the word it chooses. Those words are elder, overseer, bishop, and pastor. Paul gives the qualifications for being an overseer in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, most of which are character qualifications. The only skill of an overseer that Paul calls out is the ability to teach (v.2). This skill is the primary qualification difference between elders and deacons, the other biblical church office. Paul tells Timothy to devote himself to example-setting and teaching (1 Timothy 4:12-13).
Based on other passages that describe the work of an elder, we can see what they should be doing. When Paul is saying his tearful goodbyes to the elders in Ephesus, he calls them overseers, emphasizing general leadership. He then tells them to care for the church by being alert to the kind of teaching that will try to come in to the church (Acts 20:28-31). This reinforces the fact that the primary discipleship of an elder is his teaching.
Paul says that elders who rule well should be honored (1 Timothy 5:17). He also says that the church should especially honor those elders who teach and preach, implying that just because every elder should be able to command a room and expound the word of God, not every elder will. Some may primarily be overseers while others focus on preaching and teaching.
Paul does command that the office of elder is reserved for godly, qualified men. When Paul writes, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (1 Timothy 2:12), he is not giving a command to one particular culture and one particular time. This is based on his rationale for the command: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (v.13). This command is not based on established gender roles but on the order of creation, which transcends culture.
But that is not all that Paul says. Another passages that builds this doctrine for us is 1 Corinthians 11. Paul mentions that when women prophesy in church, they should do so with their head covered (v.5). Paul does not condemn the women who are speaking; he rightly orders them. Paul has spent considerable energy laying out the pattern of husband-headship and wife-submission in 1 Corinthians 11, and it is in that context that he speaks of women prophesying in gathered worship. Paul even gives the same creation-order rationale in vv.8-9, thereby setting the norm for how we think of these matters.
In chapter 14, Paul is writing about prophecy and how to believe and interpret it (read: preaching). It is when prophecies are being judged for their truthfulness (preaching) that women are to be silent, or not to lead. Male headship is still the norm. Women are permitted to pray and prophesy in church, but when it comes to the explanations of those prophecies, when it comes to preaching, they are to model submission.
It is completely appropriate to have women praying, reading, leading music, and more in gathered worship. But when it comes to explaining those prophecies, when preaching takes place, men model Christ’s headship of the church and women model the church’s submission to Christ when men preach and women are silent. When Paul says that women should ask their husbands about the prophecy and its interpretation, that means that the men in the congregation had better be listening and know their Bibles!
The second office of the church is that of deacon. Acts 6 records what might be called the formation of the proto-deacon. Greek-believing-widows were being passed over when food was being given out as an act of charity and love. The apostles knew that their role of teaching and preparing to teach would not permit them to handle the distribution of food. So they charged the congregation to choose seven men who could handle this responsibility. These men should have good reputations as well as be spiritually-minded and wise. Once the people agreed on seven men, the apostles laid hands on them and charged them to fulfill their duty with integrity. Note that by this time, the church in Jerusalem may have already had elders, such as James. The elders didn’t choose the deacons; the congregation did.
We see here the early deacon was not primarily a teaching role but a service/administration role. Surely these seven men did not hand out all of the food themselves. We even know that Stephen and Philip preached from time to time. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was a deacon. Philip met the Ethiopian and baptized him. The consequence of delineating leaders from deacons was that the word of God and the number of disciples increased exponentially (Acts 6:7).
In the same way that oversees have qualifications, so do deacons. They are almost entirely the same character qualifications with the exception of the requirement to have teaching ability (1 Timothy 3:8-13).
But we should not come to the conclusion that the elders are completely in charge of the congregation. As Baptists, we hold to a congregational form of church government. This form of government realizes that there were letters written to both pastors (Timothy and Titus) and whole churches (Rome, Corinth, Galatia, etc.). When believers refuse to repent of ongoing sin, it is the fellow believers, not just the leaders, who call to repentance (Matthew 18:15-20). As an example, when a man who refused to repent of sexual immorality was found out in Corinth, Paul does not address the elders but the congregation. He tells them that, when they are assembled, to cast this unrepentant man out of the congregation (1 Corinthians 5:4-5). Might elders have an outsized role in this process? Probably. But it is not an elder-based decision; that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the congregation.
This is only a smattering of passages. The church does not only gather for worship, but it also sends missionaries, establishes institutions, and helps those in need. Our worship should be regulated by the word of God, or else we wind up thinking our forms of worship will please God when they don’t. The church speaks prophetically to the world, calling sinners to repentance.
The whole earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Sphere sovereignty helps us see that analytically. Scripture speaks to the family, church, and government directly. When we understand how each sphere stands on its own, only then can we understand how they can work together.
Next week, we’ll see how Scripture addresses civil government.
Yesterday, I heard of a pastor who was fired from his church because he confessed to believing in the doctrines of grace. The “doctrines of grace” is another way of saying “Calvinism” as opposed to Arminianism.
You have probably heard of the five points of Calvinism, or TULIP: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. John Calvin himself did not create the TULIP acronym or even coin the terms it represents. The Canons of Dort are actually where the points come from.
The Canons of Dort were themselves a reaction to the growing influence of Arminianism upon the church in the Netherlands. Arminians had produced a document called the Remonstrance where they set forth five points of their theology concerning salvation and the interplay of nature and grace. In response to the Remonstrance, the churches who held to the doctrines of grace produced the Canons of Dort. Each point of the Canons was a response to a point of the Remonstrance.
The 1689 London Baptist Confession is firmly in line with the Canons of Dort, the doctrines of grace, and Calvinism. These doctrines have a direct lineage to the early church. The points of the Remonstrance also have a direct lineage, but it is to semi-Pelagianism, a heresy condemned in A.D. 529 at the Council of Orange. If you have been taught about God’s “prevenient” grace, such as at the Emmaus Walk, then you have been taught semi-Pelagianism.
The Confession begins,
“The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word; by which also, and by the administration of baptism and the Lord's supper, prayer, and other means appointed of God, it is increased and strengthened.”
Here we see the definitions of both unconditional election and irresistible grace, the “U” and “I” of TULIP. It is election that enables saving faith. Before the intervention of the Spirit, we are God’s enemies. The apostle Paul says quite clearly, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10).
Faith is a grace; it is a gift. We do not cooperate with grace to reach salvation. Grace is not God “wooing” us to salvation. Grace is a work of the Spirit. If we make it anything else, we become participants in our salvation.That simply flies in the face of the Scriptural witness.
Paul writes that we “were dead in the trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Bringing the dead to life is a work of God, not a cooperative effort. Men and women in their fallen state do not seek to acknowledge God (Romans 1:28). To say that God extends grace as an invitation is simply foreign to Scripture. When God calls dead bones to life, they come to life.
That is not to say that there is no response from the one who has been newly made alive. That, of course, is belief. But the bone of contention is whether or not the call of God to be made alive takes effect with or without the accepting of that grace by the person.
How does this call of God appear? Does it just fly through the air? Does God send a lightning bolt to your heart and make you saved? No; God has always used means to bring about salvation.
Those means are remarkable in that their effect is the saving of souls. They are unremarkable is the sense that they are things like preaching and communion. Paul writes again, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14).
God works through his word. By hearing, we believe. The call of God goes out and takes effect in the hearts of men and women through the proclamation of the gospel through the words of Scripture. Preaching is simply explaining the meaning of the text at hand. It may not always be that Christ is the immediate application of any certain passage (such as a particular Proverb), but the preacher must show how this passage finds its ultimate fulfillment in Christ.
Once faith takes root in the believer, faith is sustained by the work of the Spirit, as well. The means the Spirit uses to sustain faith are initially baptism and then communion. Baptism is the initiation rite into the faith. It publicly confesses that Jesus is Lord, that you have died to your sin, and that you will be raised to new life in the age to come. Communion is the ongoing reminder that Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice, made with his body and blood, continue to be all that is necessary for salvation.
The men who reacted against the Remonstrance were brave men who were ready to speak against an ancient system of belief that had been condemned as soon as it sprouted up again. They did not try to reconcile such bile with the Bible. Arminianism, or semi-Pelagianism, is only a hair’s breadth difference from Roman Catholicism, which teaches that grace simply perfects nature, not that we need a new nature. We must be vigilant and discerning when it comes to first-order matters such as these.
If God has saved us, why do we continue in our sin? If he can save us instantly, why does he not also perfect us instantly? If sinless perfection then comes later, can we expect it before we die?
There are those denominations which do believe in perfectionism, meaning a person can be sinless before death. While those of the Baptist persuasion generally disagree with this doctrine, most who do hold to the doctrine of sinless perfection still hold it up to be the grace of God. There are others, such as Todd White, who are complete and total clowns and believe that they have achieved sinless perfection themselves. The two should not be equated.
The question still remains, however, of what to do with the sin that remains. How does the lifelong process of sanctification deal with sin? On the issue of sanctification, the Confession continues,
“This sanctification is throughout the whole man, yet imperfect in this life; there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war; the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”
We must insist that we will one day be made perfect. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul makes two requests in this verse, that God would do the work of sanctification, and that God would keep you blameless at Christ’s return. Paul makes both of those requests of God, not of the Thessalonians. This tells us that sanctification continues throughout this life, and it culminates in the second coming of the Lord. To this humble reader, Paul’s statement seems to exclude sinless perfection in this life. If I need to kept blameless until the second coming, then that implies I will be perfected at the second coming.
The meaning of Romans 7 is often debated, because the question arises about to whom Paul is speaking. I’m of the mind that Paul is speaking as himself. Beginning in chapter 7, Paul is clearly addressing Jewish Christians. So at the very least, the inner monologue of the end of Romans 7 is from the perspective of a faithful Jew, one who delighted in the law of God as opposed to a Gentile who did not, who has now been brought to faith in Christ.
As Paul speaks about his struggle to see Christ as the culmination of the law, he writes, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (v.18). When faced with the obligations of the law, he is unable to meet those expectations. But in this internal dialogue with himself, as a Jewish Christian, Paul can say that nothing good dwells in him. Anything good is from Christ, not the law. Even with a new desire, or a new heart, he still lacks the ability to be completely sinless.
Elsewhere Paul writes about how his flesh and the Spirit of God fight each other. “For 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” (Galatians 5:17). There is great opposition between the desires of the old man and the desires of a renewed heart. This opposition is the constant struggle of the believer. When sin gets the upper hand, the believer mourns his offense to God. He seeks forgiveness through repentance, trusting that God has forgiven him and subsequently sets his heart upon not repeating that same offense.
The Confession continues,
“In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may much prevail, yet through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, pressing after an heavenly life, in evangelical obedience to all the commands which Christ as Head and King, in His Word hath prescribed them.”
Even though perfection and sinlessness is a foregone conclusion while on the grassy side of the grave, that is not the end-state. Paul writes, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). The believer’s hope is that upon the second coming, the Lord will grant that perfection we desire in the present moment, though even our desire is imperfect.
That perfection will include a complete removal of the desire for sin and being given a body without the effect of the curse. When Moses descended Mt. Sinai from being with God, he had to veil his face to keep from blinding the people with the glow of God’s presence lingering on him. But God’s people look upon Christ as the “Head and King” for our sanctification. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The whole life of the believer is one of glory, even if we are not as glorious today as we will be then. We let the heavenly glow shine on us.
And instead of being deflated by our current sins, we press on toward the promise of God. There is no room for self-mutilation, just sin-mortification. "Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). It is the promise of perfection that causes the believer to persevere. Will we sin less as we mature? Most certainly! But we still carry the old man around on our backs until he is completely removed by the power of word of God.