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The Controlling Power of Sin

Rick Moffett​​ 


What do you think when you hear the word​​ sin?​​ If you are like most people, you think of some evil deed that you or someone else has done. But in the​​ Bible, the word​​ sin​​ does not always refer to an action, i.e., something someone did (a verb).


Of all the books in the New Testament, the word​​ sin​​ occurs most often in the book of​​ Romans. It​​ is used​​ 45​​ times​​ in​​ 37 verses in​​ the New American Standard Version (NASB) of the​​ Bible.​​ But​​ in the book of Romans,​​ sin​​ is​​ used​​ only​​ once​​ as a verb​​ (Rom. 6:15). In​​ all​​ other occurrences, it is​​ always​​ used as a noun.​​ You may recall that a noun is a word that refers to a person, place,​​ or thing. You also may be wondering why you need to know this.​​ No, this is not an English lesson, but words have meanings. If you don’t know the meaning of a word, you cannot​​ understand what the writer is saying.


Paul has a life-changing message for us in his letter to the church​​ in​​ Rome. But​​ to​​ comprehend​​ what Paul is trying to say,​​ we must first understand what the word​​ sin​​ means​​ when used as a noun.​​ Consider the following explanations​​ ​​ 


1.​​ Vine’s Expository Dictionary​​ defines​​ sin​​ when used as a noun as follows -​​ 

Sin -​​ from the Greek​​ (Gr)​​ word​​ hamartia;​​ noun​​ -​​ 

(a)​​ a principle or source of action, or an inward element producing acts
(b)​​ a governing principle or power, e.g.,​​ Rom. 6:6; "(the body) of sin," here "sin" is spoken of as an organized power, acting through the members of the body, though the seat of "sin" is in the will (the body is the organic instrument); in the next clause, and in other passages, as follows, this governing principle is personified, e.g.,​​ Rom. 5:21;​​ Rom. 6:12, 14, 17; Rom. 7:11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 25; Rom. 8:2; 1 Cor. 15:56; Heb. 3:13; Heb. 11:25; Heb. 12:4; Jas.1:15​​ (2nd part);


2. From​​ Expository Dictionary of Bible Words​​ ​​ 

Sin -​​ hamartia (Gr);​​ noun​​ –​​ 

Paul, speaking about​​ the brutal power of sin, says​​ “Sin is not only missing God’s mark; it is an inner reality, a warp in human nature and a​​ malignant power that holds each individual in an unbreakable grip”.


3.​​ From​​ Practical Word Studies in the New Testament,​​ commenting on​​ the phrase​​ “... under sin”​​ in​​ Romans 3:9​​ ​​ 

To be subject to the power of or under the authority of; by means of; at the hands of; under the authority of.


4. From​​ A.T. Robertson’s​​ Word Pictures in the New Testament,​​ commenting on the​​ phrase​​ “...​​ sin​​ entered the world”​​ in​​ Rom. 5:12​​ ​​ 

Sin -​​ hamartia (Gr);​​ noun​​ -​​ Personification of sin and represented as coming from the outside into the world of humanity.​​ 


5. From the​​ World Internet Bible College​​ –

Sin -​​ hamartia (Gr);​​ noun​​ -

  • sin as an​​ element or principle within humans​​ which produces corresponding sinful actions​​ (Romans 5:12, 5:20, 6:1​​ and 6:2).​​ 

  • sin as​​ a power or force within unbelievers​​ which​​ dominates, corrupts​​ and​​ distorts all aspects of their human nature​​ and​​ lives, including inward heart attitudes and​​ outward​​ behavior; – even those parts which to other humans seem good​​ (John 8:34, Romans 3:9, 5:21, 6:6, 6:17, 6:20 and 8:2).​​ 


To summarize the above descriptions, we can say that​​ the word​​ sin, when used as a noun in the book of Romans (and in many other places throughout the​​ Bible), refers to​​ a power or a force that seeks to control us.​​ 


The Preacher's Commentary makes an excellent point emphasizing that…

There is a major difference between “sin” and “sins,” so we must be careful not to confuse “doing things that are not right” with the fact that we are dominated by a fundamentally evil dynamic. The difference is not unlike that which exists between the symptoms of a disease and the disease itself. When this is understood it becomes obvious that the human predicament is not so much that we have done things wrongly, but that we are “in the Christless state under the command, under the authority, under the control of sin and helpless to escape from it.” Accordingly, any solution to the human problem that fails to deal with the root cause of “sin” is no more a solution than cold compresses on a fevered brow are a cure for the infection causing the fever.​​ (Briscoe, D. S., & Ogilvie, L. J. The Preacher's Commentary Series, NT. 2003; Thomas Nelson)​​ 


The first place that​​ the word​​ sin​​ appears​​ in the bible​​ it is used as a noun​​ ​​ 


If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”​​ Genesis 4.7 (ESV)​​ 



Here we see​​ sin​​ appearing as a person or entity (a noun) that is lying in wait for just the right time to spring upon and control you. If​​ God warns us​​ of​​ sin’s desire to​​ rule over​​ us, then we must conclude that sin certainly has the ability/power to​​ do​​ it.​​ 



Sin’s desire to rule over us​​ is further confirmed in Romans chapters 5-7.​​ 



1.​​ In Romans chapter five​​ ​​ 


so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.​​ Romans 5.21 (NASB)


Here we see two different “reigning powers” – sin and grace.​​ The word “reign” means to rule as a king.​​ When sin rules,​​ it produces death; but when grace rules,​​ it​​ leads to​​ eternal​​ life​​ in​​ Jesus Christ.​​ 


Both sin and grace are powers that desire to control us. Sin is a wicked tyrant, while grace is​​ like​​ a loving Father. The unregenerate man has no choice but to live under the controlling power of sin. The new man in Christ​​ has been set free from the power of sin and is now free to live by the unlimited grace of God.​​ 


2.​​ In Romans chapter six –​​ 


12​​ Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,​​ 13​​ and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin​​ as​​ instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members​​ as​​ instruments of righteousness to God.​​ 14​​ For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.​​ Romans 6.12-14 (NASB)​​ 


Again, we see a warning not to let sin control or master us. We are also told that we​​ (as Christians)​​ now​​ have a choice whether​​ or not​​ to allow sin to reign over us.​​ Why?​​ Because we have died with Christ to sin’s power​​ (Rom. 6:3-7). While we can still​​ choose​​ to commit acts of​​ sin,​​ now​​ we​​ have the power to​​ choose not​​ to commit acts of sin.​​ 


3.​​ In Romans chapter seven –​​ 


17​​ So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.​​ 18​​ 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.​​ 19​​ For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.​​ 20​​ 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.​​ Romans 7.17-20 (NASB)​​ 


Paul draws our attention to the fact that this power called​​ sin, actually resides in our physical body, regardless of our spiritual condition. This may be hard to believe, but​​ Romans​​ chapters six and seven​​ certainly confirm this. Thus, the battle​​ in which​​ we often find ourselves is not​​ between​​ a “good self” vs.​​ a​​ “bad self”, but rather, it is between this power of sin and​​ our​​ mind​​ (Rom. 7:23, 25).​​ As a​​ new creation in Christ, we have the mind of Christ​​ (1 Cor. 2:16).​​ But​​ we must keep our​​ minds renewed​​ with the truth​​ so we can recognize the lies that will inevitably come into our minds. Be prepared to take every thought captive;​​ and if it’s from Satan (working through the​​ power of sin), reject it​​ (2 Cor. 10:5)!

Note –​​ Our physical body is not evil or sinful. However, it can be used for sinful activities, but it can also be used for activities that honor God.​​ 


What is Sin’s Strategy to Control​​ Us?​​ 


The short answer – it deceives us. But it’s critical to understand​​ how​​ the power of sin​​ deceives us. If you don’t​​ first​​ realize​​ that​​ this enemy​​ exists,​​ and​​ then​​ understand its plan of attack, you will​​ probably​​ live​​ in bondage to its power,​​ even though Christ has won the victory​​ (1 Cor. 15:57)​​ and set you free​​ (Gal. 5:1)!​​ 

A. Satan, working through indwelling sin, puts thoughts in our minds.


But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity​​ of devotion​​ to Christ.​​ 2 Corinthians 11.3 (NASB)

in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.​​ 2 Corinthians 4.4 (NASB)​​ 

3​​ For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,​​ 4​​ for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.​​ 5​​ We are​​ destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and​​ we are​​ taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,​​ 2 Corinthians 10.3-5​​ (NASB)​​ 


B.​​ The power of sin makes us think that its evil desires are our own.


Notice who is doing the lusting​​ in the verse below.​​ 

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey​​ its lusts,​​ Romans 6.12 (NASB)


“its lusts”​​ – the source is the power of sin.​​ The evil desires that​​ we experience​​ are​​ not​​ our​​ own;​​ they come from the power of sin that dwells in our physical bodies.​​ Perhaps the best example of this truth occurs in​​ Romans chapter seven.


C. Paul’s battle ​​ 

Note –​​ In context, the following verses in​​ Romans chapter seven​​ are Paul’s experiences​​ when he attempts to live under the Law.​​ All law, be it the Mosaic Law or any self-imposed laws (rules) you attempt to live by will arouse the power of sin.​​ 

The sting of death is sin, and​​ the power of sin is the law;”​​ 1 Cor. 15:56


In​​ Romans 7,​​ Paul repeatedly​​ states​​ that he does not​​ do the things he wants to do, but instead, he does things he doesn’t want to do (referring to sinful acts)​​ 


For I do not understand my own actions. For​​ I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.​​ Romans 7:15 (ESV)

Now​​ if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.​​ Romans 7:16 (ESV)

For I do not do the good I want, but​​ the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.​​ Romans 7:19 (ESV)

Now if​​ I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.​​ Romans 7:20 (ESV)


In these verses​​ below, he distinguishes himself from the power of sin –​​ 


Romans 7:17 (ESV)​​ 17​​ So now​​ it is no longer I who do it,​​ but sin that dwells within me.

Romans 7:20 (ESV)​​ 20​​ Now if I do what I do not want,​​ it is no longer I who do it,​​ but sin that dwells within me.​​ 


In​​ v20,​​ he realizes that it is the power of​​ indwelling​​ sin that is causing his problem.​​ 

The result of Paul’s struggle​​ ​​ 


but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.​​ Romans 7:23 (ESV)


When we obey the​​ power of sin​​ we become​​ captive to its power.​​ 



D.​​ The power of​​ sin​​ is sneaky!​​ 


From​​ The Power of Sin​​ by​​ Dr. Bill Gillham on the personification of the power of sin and how it works against us​​ ​​ it presents thoughts to the believer's mind using first-person singular pronouns (I, me, my, myself, etc.).”


Here are some examples of what Dr. Gillham was saying -

  • "I can't do anything right"

  • "I am no good and no use to anyone"

  • "I can't take this anymore"

  • “I could never forgive myself for what I’ve done”

  • "It's too late, I blew it. It can never be fixed"

  • “I can’t believe I did/said that, maybe I’m not really a Christian”​​ 

  • “My husband/wife is not meeting my “needs”, I’m going to get a divorce”

  • “Nobody likes me”


Have you ever had any of these thoughts?​​ All of the above statements are either lies or the result of believing a lie. Satan is the father of lies​​ (John 8:44)​​ and God cannot lie​​ (Heb. 6:18), so where​​ do you think​​ these thoughts come from?​​ I believe that​​ they​​ come from​​ Satan,​​ working​​ through this power of sin.​​ 


How Did I Acquire this Power of Sin?


We are told that sin entered the world through one man’s disobedience,​​ and as a result, we were all “made sinners”​​ (Rom. 5:12-21). Said another way, because of Adam’s one sin in the Garden of Eden, sin and death entered into all men, i.e., we were all born sinners “in Adam”, separated from the life of God.​​ ​​ 


The Power of Sin Will Not Always Be with Us!


The power of sin will remain in our earthly bodies until the day​​ we​​ die; however, while this power called sin is​​ in​​ our bodies, it is not us. For example, a bottle of water can be in your refrigerator, but the bottle of water is not your refrigerator. As another example, consider a splinter you might get in your finger. The splinter is in your body, but it is not your body, and it is not who you are.​​ 


It is our spirit that ultimately determines who we are (our identity), not our body.​​ Our body is only a temporary dwelling for our spirit and soul.​​ Someday​​ it will die and be gone forever. Only then will we be free from​​ the presence of sin.​​ We are told that after our earthly body dies, we who are in Christ will have a new imperishable spiritual body​​ (1 Corinthians 15).​​ Amen!


Know​​ who you are


We often hear people talk of man’s sin nature. First, the phrase “sin nature” is not in the​​ Bible (not​​ in an accurate translation of the​​ Bible). However, when we are born, it is our nature to sin, because as I mentioned, we are all born sinners “in Adam”. But our nature changes when we are born again. Our old spirit, referred to as our “old man” or “old self”, along with​​ its​​ old sinful nature, is crucified with Christ​​ (Rom. 6); and thus, we become partakers of God’s divine nature​​ (2 Peter 1:4).​​ 


For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become​​ partakers​​ of​​ the​​ divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.​​ 2 Peter 1:4 (NASB)

The word​​ “partakers”​​ comes from the Greek word​​ koinonos​​ which​​ is​​ a form of the word​​ koinonia​​ from which​​ we​​ get the word​​ “fellowship”. Here in​​ 2 Peter it means​​ -​​ to have in communion with or to share.​​ We share God’s divine nature!


Our new spirit is joined with the spirit of Jesus​​ (1 Cor. 6:17)​​ and it does not have any desire to sin​​ (i.e.,​​ a sin nature).​​ That is why when a Christian​​ commits an act of​​ sin, it produces conflict within him.​​ There is a lack of joy and peace. Why? Because we are no longer suited for sin; it just doesn’t fit the new creation that we have become!


So, if we think​​ that​​ the evil thoughts​​ and temptations​​ that the power of sin puts in our minds are coming from us, we will question our identity; or at the very least be confused and conflicted.​​ So, know that you are a new creation with a new spirit​​ that does not want to sin, therefore live accordingly!​​ Learn more about who you are as a new creation in Christ in the video series on this website​​ here. ​​ 


It is impossible to consistently behave in a manner inconsistent with how you see yourself.​​ Zig Ziglar


Also, know​​ that​​ although​​ we have the power to say no to sin, that power is not to be confused with one’s will-power. Our human willpower (flesh) is no match for the power of sin.​​ It is our flesh that takes over when we embark on the futile effort of trying to change ourselves.​​ Remember, all that we attempt apart from Christ is flesh (self-effort). Functioning according to the flesh is functioning independent of God​​ and that cannot produce life.​​ So, stop trying to fix yourself and start trusting in Christ’s finished work!​​ We overcome the power of sin by resting in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in all those who have been spiritually reborn​​ (Romans 8:2-3).​​ 


But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Gal 5:17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.​​ Galatians 5:16-17​​ 




Satan, working through the power of sin that dwells in your physical body, loves to heap condemnation on you. He cannot steal your salvation, but​​ if you believe his lies,​​ he can cause you to cease to experience the joy and peace that are yours in Christ.​​ 


Know this​​ ​​ 

1​​ Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.​​ 2​​ For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.​​ Romans 8.1-2 (NASB)​​ 


If you are feeling condemned or depressed or bitter or out of control or rejected etc., it is not coming from God. Feelings always respond to what we are thinking/believing (consciously or unconsciously). Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what lie(s) you are believing and replace it with the truth. He will answer that prayer every time. Amen.​​ 


Last Word


Sadly, the truth about the power of sin is rarely taught. The enemy has done an excellent job in keeping his methods of warfare well-disguised!​​ Learn and understand the enemy’s strategy and share it with others! Amen.​​ 



Return to​​ Topical Index



1.​​ Vine’s Expository Dictionary​​ 

2.​​ Expository Dictionary of Bible Words​​ 

3.​​ Practical Word Studies in the New Testament

4.​​ Word Pictures in the New Testament

5.​​ World Internet Bible College​​ 

6.​​ Classic Christianity;​​ George, Bob

7.​​ Victory over Depression; George, Bob

8.​​ Lifetime Guarantee; Gillham, Bill

9.​​ The Power of Sin; Gillham, Bill