ARE WE SINNERS or SAINTS?
BY: FRED PRUITT
TITLE and SUBTITLES
ARE WE SINNERS or SAINTS?
DELIVERANCE from the LAW
The Last Hurdle
What is Self?
Then What Do we Mean by Fire?
Light at Sinai
Coming to the Law
Our Living Experience
God Is Our Sustenance in the Wilderness
Balaam the prophet speaks:
Law’s Dominion – Romans Seven, Verse One:
Coming to the Heart
NO CONDEMNATION-ROMANS 8-1
THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE
What is Law?
What is the law of the Spirit of life
One with God – what can that mean?
One means completion and perfection.
How do we answer people who say to us, that you may be saved as a believer in Christ but you must remember you ARE still a sinner?
Where I seem to feel confused and ineffective (not knowing how to respond) is when people will readily quote from 1 John — if we say we have no sin then the truth is not in us — and then from there they will believe that our normal life in Christ is in a continuance in sin. Please know, I am not denying that I have sinned, (instead of conveniently saying, “I have made a mistake”), but when the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin, (a behavior or action), I agree with the Lord and repent. And then I go on rejoicing in the holy blood of the Lord Jesus which cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
It seems to me, however, most Christians spend more time talking and preaching to other people about how sinful they are, but I believe they would do better to proclaim that Christ has truly delivered them from the slavery of sin and death and that they are made alive in Christ through the Father.
How do you deal with this issue?
* * * * * * *
Thank you for asking that question. Since I have been privileged to be traveling to many different places, sharing the truth of our union with Christ, that question in various forms pops us almost everywhere I go. It is one of the most common issues among believers.
So for a moment let’s review what the Spirit has revealed to us as truth, which is, of course, what you have stated so well in your last paragraph above.
As Paul said in Ephesians 2:1-3 – And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
Simply put, there are none of us who at one time were not “dead” (to God), and were by NATURE children of wrath, since we were held in bondage by the one who captured our first parents in the Garden, thus making the whole human race from then on his prisoner from birth. That “one” is the great serpent, the dragon of Revelation, the tempter, accuser, and liar from the beginning, known as Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, and by many other names. He blinds the minds of those who believe not (2 Cor 3:4), causes us to oppose our own selves (2 Tim 2:25), and it is his very lusts that Jesus Himself said that we do when we are his children (John 8:44).
Now of course we also have to know, that this captivity to the god of this world, in which we are held by deception, and from which we cannot by our own efforts escape, manifests itself in evil AND good, because that is the tree from which Adam and Eve ate. This is an important point, because we are so used to thinking of sin simply as bad or evil deeds we do or attitudes that we have. But those deeds and attitudes (sins) are the manifestations of Sin, which is the indwelling spirit of error who IS sin. And those deeds and attitudes can be outwardly “good” or “evil.” The importance of seeing this is that we can begin to take our eyes away from only good or evil deeds and attitudes, and focus on the spirit from which they originate. And this is the beginning of “judging righteous judgment,” rather than by the appearance of a thing. In other words, we begin seeing things from the inside out, rather than from outside in (John 7:24). (And this is one of the key issues regarding our sin question, as we shall see later.)
Sin originates from and is the characteristic of Lucifer/Satan, who, as a created angelic being, found himself enamored with himself, and in his self-enamorment, thought himself capable of ascending above his Creator and being “like” God in power and might (Isa. 14:12; Ezek. 28:13-18). The very name, Lucifer, means “light bearer,” and in his proper office he would have been the bearer of the light of God, and the manifestor of blessing and delightful creation in the angelic realm in which and for which he was created. But in his self-deception, asserting that the light of God in him was his own self-light (as if the moon could assert that its light was its own, instead of the sun’s), and that the power and beauty in which he lived was his own, separate from the Creator Who Himself IS those very realities, therefore his light became darkness and the self-giving love of God in which he was created, turned in on itself into self-serving love, which produces pride and eventually wrath (rage). And the reason it is pride and wrath is because in his pride of self, self-enamorment, he broke himself off from the True Eternal Source of all peace, joy, true goodness, and self-giving Love and Life, in which is all fulfillment and contentment, and forever turned in on himself in eternal unfulfilled desire and need, becoming a raging inferno of eternal hunger and consuming self-desire, a fire that can never be quenched, that seeks only to devour (suck into itself) and to destroy everything in its rage and eternal pain.
We cannot say too much about this because God hasn’t revealed to us much more than this. We cannot say too much about how or why this could be, that is, how or why God, Who works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11), Who cannot lie (Heb 6:18), Who cannot tempt (James 1:13), and who is forever fixedly self-giving love, could suffer a created angel, with no power or life of his own outside the Life of God, to “rebel” against his own Creator, and seemingly introduce into creation something which God Himself is not. There is no answer to this that can ever satisfy the reason of man, though we may see it by the Spirit and accept it in faith.
What we are told by Paul is that the Father subjected the creation to vanity for His own purposes, and that through this subjection to vanity – wrongful self-focus, false independent self-relying self – we might come to hope, i.e., that through the negative of being caught inescapably in vanity, we might come to see, desire and eventually to know the Positive (God Himself), through which only we find our release and ultimate liberation. And then through that, the creation is finally delivered (from Above) from corruption by means of the final manifestation of the sons of God, whose ultimate revealing is the restoration of all things (Rom. 8:19-22). And even now we can see that completion in the kingdom of God within us, and we can see it afar off amidst the turmoil and strife of our current world, since John tells us that we are NOW sons of God, though everything concerning our sonship is not yet seen (1 John 3:1-3; Ps 8:4-6).
Also, we cannot see this after the flesh, i.e., according to natural reason. The scriptures are plain (at least to me) that our state when we are blinded to the Light of God is one of subjection to and of being under the domination of the “god of this world,” Satan, whose self-serving falsely independent life we all lived in and expressed (Acts 26:18; 2 Cor. 6:14,15; 1 John 3:8,10; 5:19). This comes out of a union between ourselves and the sin spirit, but it is a union that is not of the same quality or quantity as our union with Christ when by God’s revealing we discover the mystery. Because even Satan is IN God, and even in his own rebellious purposes God uses him to accomplish all His will, even as He used Pharaoh to manifest his glory through the plagues in Exodus. Even in our bondage to and captivity by him, he is only in us as a usurper, like a virus, with no true right to us, since in the foundation of our being we were created in the image of God (in whom we ALL live and move and have our being – Acts 17:28), and even while held in darkness in our inner selves we are all at our depths truly the children of God in whom the Light of Christ lights us all (John 1:9), drawing us all to Himself (John 12:39), through which by grace we may respond and come out of darkness into His marvelous light (Col 1:13). And this is a false union, one that really doesn’t fit us, because all of us in our hearts know there is something not right about us, because even though Satan has captured us temporarily, that Light that lights every man that comes into the world continues to make us uncomfortable (as our conscience) in our darkened condition, and we all feel it.
And now here we are getting to the key point of our discussion. We have stated above the condition of all mankind, which is the condition of us all until we individually experience the new birth, without which no one can see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Now let us briefly look at the Cross, the means of the new birth, so that we may find our solid foundation by which we come to understand how it is we are no longer sinners who must inexorably obey sin, but are now saints, who by grace are now obedient to and expressers of righteousness. (And by “Cross” I don’t mean the actual wooden cross, but the work which Jesus accomplished through his death on the Cross and subsequent Resurrection the third day.)
The Cross is prefigured in numerous places in the Old Testament: in Abel’s sacrifice, in the flood of Noah, in the sacrifice of Isaac, in the blessing of Esau and Jacob, in the Passover, in the Red Sea, and in many, many more. One of the most vivid prefigures of the Cross is the story of the serpent in the wilderness, which is mentioned by Jesus in John 3:14.
And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. (Num 21:6-9)
Just as it was the serpent who deceived Adam and Eve in Eden, gaining access to them through the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, by which he became their hidden harsh taskmaster in their inner selves, which immediately produced in them self-focus, fear, and guardedness, i.e., spiritual death, this story of the Israelites in the wilderness is a parable of the same reality. All of mankind has been “bitten” by this serpent, and all became “sick” because of his bite. And the fact that all of mankind has been or is still “sick” from this serpent’s bite needs no proof. We only need watch the evening news – or perhaps look even a little closer to home.
But there IS a cure, and the cure is, to the natural mind of man, just as absurd in our day of technology, science and innumerable self-focused, self-relying and self-idolizing philosophies and religions, as it must have been to the children of Israel, when told all they had to do to be cured of the serpent’s bite was to behold the brass serpent raised up on a pole in the wilderness. What the children of Israel were shown and given in a figure or type, we have been shown in its fullness and totality in our time in the Cross of Jesus Christ. Our total cure, our total deliverance from all the works of the devil, from start to finish, was forever accomplished in the Cross of Jesus, and we only need to receive it by grace through faith as a gift from the Lord.
Now, before we move into an explanation of what this “cure” is in its totality, let me one more time unequivocally state what the source of this sickness is, and what is the chief symptom of this sickness.
What is often referred to as “sin nature,” or sometimes even “human nature” when that term is used to denote our so-called “flawed” condition, originates in the person of sin, Satan. What the parable of the fiery serpent in the wilderness states hiddenly, the New Testament declares in plain words, referred to in the many scriptures above, but which many fail or refuse to see. We WERE his, and did his works! (Even our so-called “good works,” when we are operating outside the life of God as the slave of sin, are only for ourselves, simply because we cannot be any other way but for ourselves at our core.) There has been a hidden virus in everyone of us from birth, which infects us all from our inner core, so that we not only commit sins (good or evil deeds or attitudes), we ARE sin! It doesn’t matter if we are the most moral of men, or the most base and crude, because when we are living our lives from the hidden inner basis of darkness – self-for-self – it is out of a condition of sin coming from the “god” of sin. That condition runs the gamut, from the most altruistic philanthropists and good-deed-doers who gather themselves together at great banquets and give each other humanitarian awards and congratulate themselves and each other on what great human beings they are, to the most despicable tyrants who ever lived, to prostitutes, criminals and drugs addicts on the streets. In this state we are all the same in the eyes of God, when pride of self is at the inner core. None of that, the good or the evil, is of any merit or demerit toward holiness or wickedness, since all of the “good” or “evil” that comes out of that false tree from which we have all eaten, has the same inner source, the liar from the beginning, the serpent.
The chief symptom of this condition of sin, which we have all likewise inherited from our first parents and which has through the succeeding millennia reached a great level of sophistication and has built a mighty building throughout the whole world to which all the world gives homage (until by grace we are delivered), is false, independent, self-relying, self-acting, self-loving self – a false self that, like its father Lucifer in Isaiah 14, would, in its supposed independence, be “like the Most High,” would ascend above God Himself, and would BE God! That seed sown in Adam and Eve by the serpent has grown into a great tree that permeates all our world, the seed of “I, Me, Mine,” a false building of self that thinks (wrongly) that it runs its own life, determines its own destiny, and is or can be in itself, God. Humanity did not originate this lie. It is the same self-deception by which Lucifer deceived himself, to act as if the fire of self in him was his own, that he was his own light, his own wisdom, his own power, his own goodness, and he need “serve” no other God beyond himself, since he deceived himself into his own self-sufficiency, his own self-deification, and in his rebellion cast off the only Source of Life there is, and in effect became the opposite of God, Who in Himself is only forever Self-giving Love. Lucifer, however, became forever self-serving self-loving love, love turned inward instead of outward, which is hell. And it is Satan’s hell-life that we manifest and participate in, which produces the hell in the world, all of which comes from the pride of false independent self which has overtaken all.
And now we are ready to understand what the new birth is.
When we receive Christ, our first understanding is His forgiveness of our sins, our outer deeds, by the effects and working of His blood. This is a great mystery, because we cannot possibly understand how blood, even the blood of Christ, can accomplish this great thing. In our beginning consciousness in Christ, God gets our attention by means of our selfish acts and thoughts, and in some way brings us to a desire for repentance. In that “repentance,” which means a “turning away,” or a “change of mind,” the Spirit of God meets us with great grace, and somehow we know that something mightily different has happened to us, something we could not possibly have anticipated. Even though we are not yet aware of what has happened to us, for the first time we begin to feel a true inner peace as a completely new affection takes hold of us, and a love not our own (but we don’t know yet that it isn’t our own) begins to flow out of us, first toward God and then toward others. Scales drop from our eyes, and for the first time we begin to see the kingdom of God. And inwardly, in our minds and hearts, we begin to experience what really is a miracle – the forgiveness of sins.
Now let’s understand what this forgiveness of sins is, because it is not something to be lightly passed over. We have been taught that God was angry with us, that He is bent on punishing us, and that because of our breaking of God’s laws, for which death (separation from God) is the punishment, we are held in God’s wrath and will one day, if we do not repent, experience the full measure of that wrath when the life in this body is over. Now almost all of us perceive that in a very outer way, with God being as if He is some Great Person apart from us, sitting on a Great Throne in some far-off heaven, and it seems as if what has caused the separation between us is the breaking of some legal requirements, and salvation appears to us almost like an earthly legal contract, in which God makes note of the fact that we have believed in His Son Jesus, and by that takes our name from one column – the wrath column – and moves us over in His book to the saved column. And that’s that.
But first of all, it isn’t God who changed or went anywhere, but because of our inherited life from Adam, it is man that went away. God is like the father of the Prodigal Son, who never changes, whose heart toward his son never loses its love, and who longs after his son the whole time of his wandering away. It is the son who has left to spend his inheritance in riotous living, while the father, whose heart is always with his son in concern and hope, awaits at home til his son, while feeding on the husks even the pigs wouldn’t eat, comes to his senses in the middle of a pen full of pig dung.
Remembering our first parents in the Garden, it was Adam and Eve who suddenly felt fear and shame, and not God. The wrath came alive in them! God Himself is only Love, Whose arm is ever outstretched toward us all, Who would have none of us perish, Who sent His son to seek and gather all who are lost into Himself, if they will. When Adam and Eve sinned and as a result hid among the trees in the Garden, God expressed no anger toward them. Instead He seeks them: “Adam, where are you?” Of course God knew where they were, and what they had done, and even when they come forward and confess to Him what they had done, still He expresses no anger nor wrath toward them, but only compassion and provision as He tells them what are the consequences of what they have done. He even clothes them before He sends them out of the Garden on their (our) long road back to Him.
And it was not because of disobedience to an arbitrary commandment, as if God just picked something they could not do, and because they didn’t do what He said, the punishment was death. Obedience is the point, but not because obedience is the point, but because obedience points to Life, and disobedience didn’t lead to death just because it was disobedience, but because the thing they chose to do was Death itself. In the Tree was the wrath, and eating it awakened the wrath, because the Tree hiddenly contained the god of wrath, who they received within themselves when they partook of the fruit. Even in pronouncing His curses, which really weren’t curses but the just consequences of eating the fruit, the Lord God spoke the first Promise of the Redeemer. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Gen 3:15) In that promise is the first foreshadowing of the Redeemer to come, the Bruiser of the Serpent, who truly was a Lamb slain before there was ever a sinner to redeem, and He has ever been that from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8).
Now the point I am making here is that something occurred inside Adam and Eve, and thus inside all of us, that causes us to participate and live in the wrath of God, to experience it in our selves as if it is our own, since, as the scripture from Ephesians first quoted above states, we became “by nature children of wrath,” because we took the wrath into us when we ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God doesn’t change; He is only Love eternal. However, we changed, and wrath became our lot.
And this has effects. Because under the domination of this god of wrath we find ourselves opposing ourselves. We are ashamed of ourselves. We are guilty and we know it even if we won’t accept it. And the more we lie, cheat and steal, the more we are guilty and out of sorts, though we try to cover it up with all sorts of methods – alcohol, drugs, education, houses, religion, philosophy, hobbies, sex – anything we can do to take our minds off our inner misery of heart and mind. And throughout life it accumulates and accumulates, building a great structure in us that we either try to keep hidden from everybody else by pretending we are moral, loving people, (because we all know that is what we SHOULD be), or else we cast off all pretense and live evil to the uttermost. And all this produces in us fear, torment, and wrath, just as it was awakened in Adam and Eve the moment they swallowed the fruit.
But then in the fullness of time, the Bruiser of the Serpent appeared in the flesh, as “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:14, 15)
The chief characteristic of Jesus’ ministry among the masses and to individuals who were glad to see him coming, was a personal and individual declaration of the forgiveness of sins to those who were hurting and almost crushed to powder under the great weight of the accumulation of sins and guilt in their lives. To the man sick of the palsy he said, “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.“ (Matt. 9:2) To a prostitute who washed his feet with her hair and tears, he said again, “Thy sins are forgiven.“ (Luke 7:48) The Pharisees, who thought they were the most obedient to God and moral of men as meticulous keepers of the Law, reasoning among themselves and offended that Jesus would associate with such a sinner (not realizing the sin within themselves), thought, “Who is this that forgiveth sins?” And in another place they said, “Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” (Luke 5:21)
And in Jesus’ possibly greatest offensive act to the Pharisees, to the woman taken in the act, the very act, of adultery, and deserving of death by stoning under the law of Moses, He told her, “Neither do I condemn thee, go thy way, and sin no more.” (John 8:11) Now by these declarations Jesus was demonstrating the true heart of God, instead of the wrath and anger the people perceived God to be. For this is the true heart of God toward all His lost sheep, Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isa. 1:18).
And the very commission Jesus stated He fulfilled in the synagogue in Nazareth, brought out this very heart and purpose of God, which was not retribution and punishment, but forgiveness and deliverance: “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD …” (Isa. 61:1,2)
What is interesting to note in Jesus quoting that prophecy by which He announced His commission and the fact that He was, indeed, the Messiah, is that He did not quote the full verse, but stopped before reading the last part, which was, “and the day of vengeance of our God.” There is a ministry from the Lord that is given for that, but it was not incumbent upon the Son of Man to declare that within His purpose, but only deliverance and healing, uplifting and forgiveness.
And this is the true attitude of God toward us, in that, while we were dead in trespasses and sins, while we were enemies in our hearts and living in pride and wrath, while we were the ungodly and did all we could to rebel and wreak havoc in our lives and the lives of those around us, He nevertheless reached out to us to “first love us,” to “choose us” before we chose Him. This is the true heart of God toward us.
I’ve taken a long time to make this point because so many of us can’t shake the idea that God is displeased with and angry with us. Jesus’ life portrayed in the gospels dispels that notion, but the reason we have such difficulty believing it and apprehending it so that it is our own, is because of this lifelong accumulation of guilt and self-loathing (even if covered up by self-pride), and we can only see God through this veil of guilt and shame, and that’s where the blood of forgiveness comes in. His blood is the total cleansing of our CONSCIENCES before God, by which we experience peace, not just from God whose heart toward us has always been peace, but peace within ourselves through this wiping away of the residual effects of every act of lust, cruelty, inhumanity, hatred, or prideful lifting up of ourselves we’ve ever done or considered, and God forever remembers them no more. In the blood of the Eternal Lamb Who is without spot of blemish, our consciences and consciousness are forever wiped clean and made completely new. Not only do we know God’s forgiveness in the blood of Jesus, but because the blood is a purging of our consciences, a doing away forever of a consciousness of and toward sin, we now forgive ourselves! This is something which the tabernacle sacrifices could not accomplish, but still pointed to the blood of Jesus, whose once for all sacrifice, eternal in the heavens, purges our consciences from the effects of sin, and by it gives us a holy boldness to come before the throne of grace, which we could not do while our consciousness of our sins and iniquities kept us as the children of Israel who could not touch the mountain, lest they die. No one can come into His true presence in a consciousness of sin. But because of the blood of Christ, in which all our sins are eternally forgiven, we may be BOLD with God, since there is now no partition between us, but we are now through Jesus as sons with a Father, with all the rights and privileges of sonship.
And now we come finally to the Body of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Heaven, through which the totality of our salvation is fully secured. As I stated above, we have been invaded in our inner center by the spirit of unrighteousness, who has been our hidden motivator in all that we do. (Even then we are not outside the plan of the Father so that even while under the captivity of Satan, God has known us from before the foundation of the earth, and has “separated us from our mother’s womb” with the intent, as with Paul, to one day “reveal His Son” in us! [Gal. 1:15, 16])
Here is where we see how appropriate the story of the brazen serpent is, as what is hinted at in types and shadows through Moses, is accomplished in totality and plain sight through the body death of Jesus. As I have been saying, sins, or outer deeds, thoughts and attitudes, are not our first problem. The blood comes and deals with the results of those, and since that is the first thing most of us see, we think that those things are God’s main issue with us. He wants us, we think, to act good and we act evil and that’s the sum total of our problem. If we can now do good things, good works, we think, God will now be pleased with us. Now of course God does seek in us the fruit of righteousness, but its origin isn’t found in our deeds and thoughts. It is found in our spirit center. So in order for the sin question to be finally and fully dealt with, the true reason for why sins occur must be uncovered and dealt with. That is what is accomplished in the body death of Jesus, and where we begin to see how COMPLETE and TOTAL our salvation is, and why we can legitimately believe and know we are no more “sinners,” but saints. And this is absolutely vital if we are to come to maturity in the Lord, to be able to walk in freedom and love, with rivers of Living Water flowing out of our lives for the blessing of the world God calls us to.
Now we all know that when a person dies, his spirit leaves that body and the body is left as no more than a decaying shell. I remember one of the first times I went to a funeral after I knew the Lord, how it became so visibly obvious to me that the life had left the body, and I could vividly see with my eyes how the body of my brother lying there in the casket, was nothing more than a shell. I knew my brother was no longer there, that the body I once knew as him had been merely a container of the true man I knew, and now that true man, the spirit, had gone on to be with the Lord. It hit me like a dump truck load with one glance at his body.
When Jesus was on the Cross, according to the Father’s plan and with Jesus’ foreknowledge, (which is why the struggle in Gethsemane was so difficult), it was more than just a representative sacrifice, as the animal temple sacrifices had been through the Law of Moses. The blood of bulls and goats merely pointed at what was to come, but in themselves could accomplish nothing. During those times God certainly honored those who participated in those sacrifices with faith toward God, but in Jesus the veil of the temple is rent in twain and we are able to see no longer through the veil, but plainly and clearly what God has done. The problem with us was that we had been invaded and captured, so that one who essentially had no right to us, had stolen us and made us his unwitting (for the most part) slaves, and it was not in our power in any sense to escape his captivity, even if we knew about it. Someone stronger than he and we had to come to effect this deliverance, to separate us from the spirit of rebellion that blinded our minds and hearts. And because his spirit inhabited our spirits in our bodies, something which we cannot see according to the flesh but can only know by the Spirit, the only means of escape is by death, because a spirit only departs the body when the body dies. What we are describing here is the “old man,” which in the Cross is taken into death, and this is how this happens.
When Jesus cried on the Cross, “My God, my God, why have thou forsaken me?” He was entering His uttermost intercession for us. As I said above, we weren’t sinners simply because we did bad things, but we did bad things because we were sinners, because in our inner center, having been infected by Satan’s own sin nature within us, we WERE SIN! In order for Jesus to fully affect the salvation of the Lord in us, He had to not only deal with sins and their effects, He had to deal with SIN at the root of it. And the root of it was the spirit of sin in us. So the Father put upon Jesus the Son all that we had become, and cast Him down into death into the uttermost depths as far down as sin would take us, into the depths of hell and separation. Jesus, who had known all manner of temptation as we had but without having sinned, gave up His own righteousness from God and then the Father caused Him to be all that we were! Just as it was a serpent raised on a pole in the wilderness who healed the Israelites from the bite of the serpent, even so Jesus became the serpent raised on the pole for all eternity to see. HE BECAME SIN FOR US! “For he [God the Father] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)
What we were, SIN, He became, that in His resurrection by the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, now raises us from the dead, and we become, by HIS WORK, not by anything we do, the righteousness of God. Because when Jesus’ body died and His spirit left His body, even though the Father let the spirit of sin work its full work in him to the point of Sin taking him into the heart of the fires of hell, IT COULD NOT HOLD HIM. By a power not His own, since He had completely laid down His life unto death, trusting the Father would not allow Him to see corruption, He was raised forever to the right hand of God, and thus was given a name above every name, and became by that the Captain of our salvation and leads captivity captive and many. many, many sons unto glory. He went where we were and took us out of there and up to the Right Hand of the Father with and in Him! And that is now the life that works in us, so that we who were formerly slaves of sin, are now bond slaves of righteousness. Our members, our humanity, which was once given to unrighteousness and selfishness, now belong to Christ and are the members of Christ, and the expression of righteousness.
Therefore it is bordering on blasphemy to still call ourselves sinners, after so great a work by so great a sacrifice has been accomplished. How DARE WE call ourselves sinners, for if we are, then Christ’s death is of no effect, and we waste our time in all this. The resurrection of Jesus is also OUR resurrection unto righteousness, and by His life we have been called (and when we are called by God it means we ARE) SAINTS!
This is no mere new wine in old wineskins. This is a completely new creation, not a patched up repair job, but new wine in new wineskins, in which ALL THINGS have become new, and all old things have passed away, and we come near to doing despite unto the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29), to call what God has cleansed common (Acts 10:15)
Purge out therefore the old leaven that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:7, 8)
Only saints can come boldly before the throne of grace, and because we are, we can. Let us therefore do it!
(Part two of this, in which we come to the final understanding of moving from the dilemma of Romans 7 [“the good I would I don’t do, the evil I would not I do”] to the Romans 8 life in the Spirit, through the discovery of the final self-effort lie, will come next.)
DELIVERANCE FROM THE LAW
We are gearing up now to make the final push into the liberty of love, through the wilderness of self-reliance and its impenetrable brick walls by the law, to the ultimate goal, which even though while in the body we have yet to come over the horizon into full sight, is still more marvelous and full of grace in the present moment than we can ever comprehend.
In coming to an inner complete loss of all things including our very selves, we find in that nothingness that all we know is God through Christ in us. But then by unbelievable yet unfailing grace, we surprisingly and joyfully find ourselves again, having been hidden all along right smack dab where we had already been looking, but somehow not seeing. Right in the middle of our own person, in the “I” that we each are. So that now in this seeing of God only, suddenly our true self arrives. By the Cross and a new life (Christ, self-giving love) in us, replacing the old (Satan, self-absorbed love), what rises in resurrection is a new self no longer consumed with itself, which now shines as a clear light without restraint into the world.
That is the “Land of Promise” as it pertains to this life. That we are the grace of God in Jesus Christ shining into the world in whatever capacity God wills by us, and that we in some sense come into a personal consciousness of grace and power by a union of selves in our daily living, in which God not only wills by us and as us, but also works by and as us, and we know His working.
THE LAST HURDLE
So here we then come to the last major hurdle in reaching that Land. We call it independent self, some writers just self, others the flesh, self-reliance, self-effort, and the list goes on. The vast majority of teachers and writers on the subject often come close to identifying the problem, which we covered in part one, the spirit of error as our inner director instead of the spirit of truth. Most balk at a total solution, or, in the final analysis, leave the solution up to us. “If” we apply whatever solution they offer, “then” we may overcome, they say. But by experience we have found ourselves lacking, and not up to the task. If we are at this threshold, then we know we have no strength to even try anymore. We have finally become aware that there really are giants and great walled cities in the land and we truly are as grasshoppers in our own sight. We have finally realized we cannot take the land by anything we have or are.
Many have settled with, “We try as best as we can to live as God wants us to, but we always have to remember we sin every day,” or some similar notion, which is a sad turning away with the ten spies to walk more years in the wilderness (Numbers chapters 13 & 14). But Paul’s Romans seven is plaintively asking, is it possible to cut to the chase with humanity’s deepest problem, our so-called “fatal flaw” according to literature, or “sin” according to the gospel, and cut it out at the root, so that we now continually live without sin unto God and bear fruit by Him?
Aren’t we reaching here a bit beyond our capacity and being mighty presumptuous? We all know that “nobody’s perfect except Jesus.” But still that is the question Paul is faced with in his, “I want to but I can’t,” dilemma of the famous Romans chapter seven, and we ourselves must face, also.
WHAT IS THE SELF?
So before we move into taking this bull by the horns, we have to briefly cover one more basic issue. The issue of the self itself. What are we? What is the self?
No one could possibly define it in every aspect, so there is no attempt at that here. But there is one certain aspect that is basic, which is that the self is fire. How can we say that? We start with the word from Hebrews which says, “our God is a consuming fire.”
Our selves can only exist as selves in Him in God’s own Self-existence (being), since His existence is all there is. So that is the sense in which I take liberty to say, if God, Who is the True I AM, is fire, then so are we. We are fire of His Fire. He is the only Life, the only True Person there is, so we can only be existing as created and sustained in His very being. The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly. (Prov 20:27)
THEN WHAT DO WE MEAN BY FIRE?
It is the fire of self. In human beings, in the physical it is felt as heat, sexual desire, or hunger. In the emotions and reason fire manifests as passion or inspiration. In the spirit it is life reaching out of itself to find a reflection of or extension of itself. Self is a fire that has to have fuel for its burning. It is a born need, a desire that must be fulfilled.
But fire burns things up. It destroys. Fire consumes everything placed into it or within its reach. It has no mercy, because a fire that burns hot enough consumes everything. So if God is consuming fire, fire that burns everything up and destroys it in that consumption, then how can God be love, which we might say is the result of fire, but not fire itself: as fire gives light, heat, provision?
What is it that transforms us inside ourselves? Can that fire that has burned within me, which has been consuming everybody and everything around me, by everything being ultimately for me – MY family, MY job, MY career, MY faith, MY spirituality, MY walk, MY spouse, MY hopes, MY fears, MY talents, MY flaws, MY God – actually be changed and redirected so that that fire’s same wants and needs are now wed into the love of God in which the fire becomes satisfied and thus overflowing with life for others, instead of other’s lives for me? Is it possible?
LIGHT AT SINAI
The burning bush at Mt. Sinai is a tremendous picture of this (Exodus chapter 3). A fire is burning in a bush, and the bush is not consumed. The voice in the bush identifies Himself to Moses as “I AM THAT I AM.” It is a picture of life in harmony with God, with man being in an inwardly conscious union of God and man, signified by the flame burning in a regular normal bush. The fire that does not consume the bush is – I AM – God, and the bush that is not consumed and yet is burning in the fire of God and out of which the Voice of God speaks, is us. He in us as us. (“When you see me, you see the Father,” said Jesus.)
Some time later, back at the same mountain, the whole mountain seemed a flame of fire to the Israelites and they were terribly frightened, having been given strict instructions not to touch it, and if they did they would die. But Moses had no restrictions. He could go up into the darkness, flames and smoke, and come down without penalty (Exodus chapters 19 and 20). How could that be?
Moses’ previous encounter at Mt. Sinai had brought him in his consciousness into the grace of realized union with God, whereby he knew his speaking was God speaking. He has lost his consciousness of independence, self-reliance, flesh-mindedness and self-absorption through the desert, and at the burning bush he saw a picture of himself as God was revealing Himself in Moses, “I AM.” His fire of self that years before had sought to be somebody, to do something, to become something, to show everybody who he was, had burned hot enough to murder an Egyptian overseer, and Moses ended up fleeing the king he sought to overthrow.
But at Sinai that Moses is gone, having perished in the desert, and this is a new Moses that has discovered in the flame in the bush, “Not I, but Christ.” The bush that burns with God’s fire but is not consumed demonstrates how the fire of God is in us not to enslave us or put us into bondage, but instead to be the glory and the freedom of right self in us. Right self is Christ in us as one with us, so that we living are He living, and yet it is us!
We were asked recently at a church in Florida, “If God comes into us to be our very life, do we cease to be ourselves? What happens to us?” The reply was, Christ comes into us and lives our lives in order that we might become ourselves. He makes me to become the real “me.”
That sounds confusing but is that not the picture on the mount? A common bush burns with a fire that is so bright it attracts Moses’ attention far below. It is a regular normal mountainside bush, but it glows with a glory not its own, is aflame with fire but not burning up, and out of the bush the voice of God speaks. That’s you and me!
The fire is the fire of self, both God’s and ours, intertwined as one person living, always living in the fire which always burns. There is in the fire of self a desire to always go out of itself to seek what it will be and to be it. It is dangerous material, this self, because of the fact that it is fire and ultimately power, and hypnotizing to boot. God has eternally determined in Himself to be love for others, so that the blaze of Self is always coming from the Lamb slain in the midst of the Throne. Therefore since at the heart of God there is eternally as it were a Cross, He has thus made Himself eternally safe in love, so that He wills only love, He purposes only love, and His acts are only love.
But what about the human self, which is also compounded of this fire? Something has to make my fire safe. I have to be made safe to take up the fullness of myself, with all its powers and potentials. Satan had formerly taken that self-fire and turned it in on itself in us, so that inwardly we burned with pride of self and self-adoration, and were hiddenly for ourselves, even in seeking God, because we were wanting God to make US something! It’s the hiss of the snake but seems so innocent from our own viewpoint.
That is why the Israelites could not come up or even touch the mountain, or they would die. The mountain engulfed by the flame of fire on top and surrounded by the thick darkness, was both the dwelling place of God and of being an affirmed right self in Him, as Moses had found. The Israelites had not yet learned what Moses had been shown, that only God’s life in them could make them safe and free to find themselves in freedom, truth and love, to be inwardly transformed into those who give themselves to others instead of take from others. But in their consciousness they were still flesh or self-minded, still being the center of their own lives, and they hadn’t been yet made ready, by the wilderness and the law, to be themselves in full bloom.
They could not even touch the mountain or it would kill them, because “no flesh shall enter my presence.” Now, that obviously isn’t talking about human physical flesh, because Moses went up in his body. In different ways, so did Enoch and Elijah. So, it is the consciousness of flesh, of independence, of self-idolizing, of self-focus, of gaining and getting for myself (no matter how subtle), that cannot approach God. Let us get this straight. The flesh the Bible speaks of when it is referring to our waywardness and rebellion, is not the physical body, nor is it the human soul, with its emotions and human reasoning faculties. It is our fallen consciousness of independence, and all its ramifications, which we identify as “the flesh.” (Keeping that in mind will make everything we go over below much clearer.)
This is the consciousness with which our whole race has been infected since Adam, a devil originated and upheld falsehood, on which the whole system of the world is based, and in which we all live even as believers until we are delivered in our minds by the Spirit by an inner awareness of who He is in us, and we in Him, “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” (1 Cor. 6:17), and we are now able to “be no more children… but may grow up into Him in all things, even Christ.” (Eph. 4:14, 15)
COMING TO THE LAW
In part one, we went over the work of the Cross through Jesus’ blood and body, how we found forgiveness of sins and a purging of our consciences in His blood, and how in Jesus’ body we were delivered from Satan, who, often appearing as an angel of light, of good, of peace, had invaded our minds and hearts by trickery, convincing us we were just ourselves functioning alone doing good or evil, making things work or screwing things up, in whatever we said and did. Though all the while… in this spirit we did his works of darkness, of self for self, whether in supposed good or actual evil. And we showed that in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we were delivered from that spirit of sin, removed from his domain, taken from hell to heaven, from darkness to light, and thereby being no longer slaves or expressers of sin, since he who IS Sin, has no place in us anymore. Therefore we cannot rightly continue being called “sinners,” because we are now partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), which is Christ expressing His righteousness by means of our human selves, so that in Jesus Christ through His Cross, we are made saints of God (2 Cor. 5:21). This is the true canonization, and is a common sainthood to all in Christ.
But there is another aspect which we didn’t cover and from which we were delivered in the Cross, and that is our deliverance from the Law. That is the least understood of our deliverances, and the final key to our total liberation.
We see that the path the Israelites had to take to the Promised Land, after the deliverance by the plagues in Egypt and the Red Sea, before they can go up to possess the Land, is through the wilderness and a confrontation with the Law.
Their exodus from Egypt and rescue in the Red Sea is their baptism into Moses, who was Christ to them in the form of the Law. They have escaped the harsh taskmaster of Egypt, the devil/pharaoh who held them in captivity. They have been cleansed by the Lamb’s blood of the Passover, and have been baptized into Him in the cloud and the sea, the spirit and the water (1 Cor. 10:1-4). Figuratively, they are as new born Christian babes, who having been given a vision of the new life that awaits them, and lost in the joy of such unbelievable and surprising grace, set out with grit and determination to attain the goal.
Only soon they find themselves in a wilderness, and someone is thundering down at them, telling them they must live up to the standards that are now being shown to them – things not mentioned back in Egypt!
OUR LIVING EXPERIENCE
This is a picture of how it is with us. In my case, when I found Jesus I went absolutely nuts! Being born again changed everything, and I began to see things from that new perspective. I was enthralled in a new found wonderment, as if I was seeing everything in the universe for the very first time. To be born in the Spirit of God truly is like becoming a little child all over again.
Janis and I had bought a Volkswagen bus a few months before. It was a 1959, with the old 40hp engine. A previous owner had modified the bus into a makeshift camper by cutting out the middle third of the roof, replacing the space with a plywood doghouse-looking structure. The result inside was that we could stand up in the rear and feel roomy. The result outside and to the vehicle was twofold. One, the plywood was thick and heavy, so it added a huge amount of weight for the already strained little engine to push. And the other was that it created a flat surface for near perfect wind resistance, adding even more to the strain on the engine. This made highway driving relaxing, but unfortunately slow and sometimes laborious, as we found out on our first trip in it to Florida, in which we couldn’t make more than 50 mph unless we were going downhill. Later, when we drove from Georgia to California, we were stopped twice on the interstate for going too SLOW!
But, back to this story. Like I said, I went crazy for Jesus. I went to the Christian bookstore and bought every bumper sticker they had and plastered them to all sides of the bus. I bought little New Testaments to pass out. But what took the cake home was this. Janis came out of the house one day and found me on top of the bus with a bucket of fire engine red paint and a large brush. “What are you doing up there?” she demanded.
“I’m painting a big red JESUS on the bus!” I replied proudly. And I did, JESUS in twelve inch high RED letters, front and back, so that coming or going, people KNEW we loved Jesus! (Hitchhikers’ thumbs would go down faster than lightning when they saw us approach.)
She wasn’t as proud of it as I was, I don’t think. Poor wives, what they sometimes have to put up with!
But my point is how crazily enthusiastic I became when I was born again. Nothing seemed impossible. Miracles happened. Prayers were answered. Everything was new and wonderful.
After a few months of that and our subsequent move to California, a brother said to me, “Fred, with that big Jesus sign on your bus, you’ve put yourself in front of others as an example. Now you’re going to have to get your life in order so you can live up to it!”
And, like the children of Israel who replied to Moses when he came back from the mountain with the law said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient” (Exod. 24:7), I said the same. And I fulfilled it as well as they did.
When my brother told me that, as did the preacher from the pulpit, and the Bible teacher from his lectern, and my counselor did from his desk chair, that I needed to be better, to obey God, to apply biblical principles, to obey the law in everything, that I might become pleasing to God and a blessing to others, I heartily went along with the plan as far as I could take it. How could I not? They seemed to be offering a sure fire way to the prize. How nice to have a path! Just do these things, and you’re there. Oh yes, I hear you and I’m on the bandwagon. I’m going to pray. I’m going to storm heaven until I get an answer. I am going to study. I’m going to love my family more, and be more giving. I’m going to become a thoughtful, listening, loving person. Just apply this, apply that. Keep these laws.
And I tried and I tried, and the more I tried, the harder it became, and the more condemned I felt. And that first joy I felt and wept in, seemed to go away.
GOD IS OUR SUSTENANCE IN THE WILDERNESS
Now understand, here in this process I am not saying it is not of the Spirit of God. On the contrary, it is God who leads us this way and engineers our bout with the Law. We are led by the Spirit as a fiery pillar in the night and a cloudy pillar by day. Our shoes don’t wear out, and there is always enough to eat and water to drink. It seems like we are in the wilderness of our own making, (oh, if I was just more dedicated, if I was more loving, if I was this or that!), but we actually are in the wilderness where God has led us and continually sustains us. We are being taught by living experience Who is our real bread to eat and Who is our real water to drink, and the best way to get that across is by privation, as Jesus was driven into the wilderness Himself to be tempted of the devil, whereby The Father proved Himself in Jesus. The wilderness is not about testing us – though we do find out about ourselves there. But it isn’t about us. It is about finding God the upholder of all, as All in all in us. It is about God proving Himself to us and in us, that He is the faithful One, who causes all things to be, and is our upholder in all things. You see the same process of failure and privation to glory in many of the stories: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David most particularly, where all of them found the sufficiency of God in the deserts where God led them.
And even while we are still in the wilderness, despite the fact that we are still living in flesh or self mindedness in our immaturity and ignorance, God sees us the whole time of our wilderness days by that oddly expressed word of Balaam the prophet. Balaam is essentially out only for personal gain and the King of Moab hires him to curse the whole of Israel camped in the valley. But Balaam is instead taken by the Spirit of God, and pronounces only blessing on Israel in one of the most glorious passages in scripture.
BALAAM THE PROPHET SPEAKS:
God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it. He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! (Num. 23:19-23)
Well were the heathen warned, “This is the work of the Living God!” Those who look on the Christ’s Church and the people of God only outwardly, while they are in this their time of testing, and see only the disagreement, quarreling, failures, and the always mentioned and hidden-behind “hypocrisy,” miss a great wonder which is already in plain sight and is also hiddenly being molded into maturity.
But my point is that in the vision of the Living God, He sees His people through His own righteousness, which is Jesus Christ, and He sees not a spot of evil in His people. Because His eyes, the eyes of the One who lives in us and who knows us better than we know ourselves (He’s that close!), are eyes which see only the real truth; they can see no lie. He cannot see any spell (power) that could bind Israel (ourselves), because in His eyes, and He sees the Truth, and that truth is that He Himself is the Strength and the Deliverer of Israel, the Impenetrable Shield against false divination (the hypnotic spell of anything not God), always upholding those who are His own.
And yet while Balaam is declaring these very things from the mountain above, in the midst of the camp below, through the hands of angels and mediators, God is being represented to the children in the wilderness by the law. And make no mistake, it is His law, without any doubt, perfect in every regard, rigid in its standards, and righteous through and through.
So we have to go there, too, to see what this means, so that as we understand the law process happening in us, we may transmit this spiritual rite of passage to others, too, which will go on and on, and ultimately all God’s people will see the fullness of the glory in which we all already walk in Christ.
LAW’S DOMINION – ROMANS SEVEN, VERSE ONE:
“Know ye not, brethren… how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?” (Rom. 7:1) The law, meaning in this case life through obedience to outer precepts, concepts, rules, etc., only applies when a man is alive. Only someone alive in himself can hear and respond to the law. The law says, “Thou shalt,” and we say, “We will, or at least try,” or the law says, “Thou shalt not,” and we say, “We won’t, or at least try not to.” However, someone who is dead cannot hear the law and therefore cannot respond to it.
Paul reinforces that concept in verses two and three, as he then likens our past relationship to the law with that of marriage, again making the analogy that as in the death of a spouse we are free from the law of that marriage, in that same way by analogy we have been in a marriage relationship with the law, and if we are dead as he has declared so plainly in chapter six, then we are freed from that marriage relationship to the law. We are no longer responsible to it.
And then in verse four, there is another stunner. Paul says, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” (Rom. 7:4)
Now, this is a strange thing to say for a couple of reasons. One, in chapter six, he has just told us that we had been the slaves of sin, captives in unrighteousness, or, in effect, married to sin. We had been the wife of sin, bringing forth sin’s children.
Now he’s telling us we have been the wife of the law, to which we are now dead, in the same way he had just said we were now dead to sin. What gives? How can both be true? This law is God’s law, and its commandments are right. Nothing whatsoever is wrong with the law. So why is our marriage to it mentioned as if it is something to be delivered of or to be dead to, the same as our former union with our slave boss, Satan, with sin? Satan is not the law, and the law is not Satan.
COMING TO THE HEART
Now we are getting to the heart of the matter, nearer to the goal. And we have to remember that we are not trying to come up with some dogmatic way to understand this Romans seven dilemma and then to apply it, and thus “make it work” in our lives. No, no, no! This is a work of the Spirit, and what we are describing here is that struggle we all face within ourselves that is enacted in us from start to finish by the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ. This is how the Spirit makes real to us the inward truth of who we are in Him and Who He is in us, by this bout with the law to show that He only is our living truth, our everything, and that it is in the turning on of that light of Christ as our only totality within us, that the lie is dissipated and made null and void. We don’t fight the lie, but find and speak the truth, and the lie is no more. So what we are unfolding here is what happens as God brings us here. It is God who brings us to this threshold, and who Himself takes us to the other side “on wings of eagles.”
Paul has said that not only are we dead to the law by the dead body of Jesus Christ, but also by that separation we are now married to Another, Jesus Christ who is risen. Now by that marriage to Him, we now bring forth fruit unto God. This is the second strange thing about that verse four. Because Paul is tying our final freedom, i.e., that of our being able to bring forth fruit unto God, rather than the spiritual barrenness we had been experiencing, to our freedom from the law. Fruitfulness, Paul is saying, is directly tied to our death to the law. Now how can that be?
So then what Paul is saying for those who have ears to hear, is that our, “I want to but can’t, or “I don’t want to but do,” dilemma with sin and life in general, finds it final deliverance in this work of the Spirit and deliverance from the law, and the final result of it is what we have been looking for, what any wife looks for, that we find ourselves no longer barren, but able to give children to our husband, as Sarah bore Isaac to Abraham, as a child of promise. So this is the discovery we are making: finding out how it is we died to the law, and since having been delivered from it, by God in Christ “blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14), we now find out how we are now married to Christ, and how that marriage brings forth God’s desired children by our lives. This is what Paul is about to tell us.
Now starting with verse five, Paul begins to describe how it is the law does this work. The reader might want to follow along in Romans seven.
While we were in the flesh – remember our definition from before – the stirrings of sin in us were by the law. What can that mean? How could the law have touched us then when we either weren’t aware of it or didn’t seem to care? Paul has told us earlier in Romans that there are two ways we come into contact with the law. A person born into Israel or most any religious institution in our day, would have been confronted with a codified divine law from birth. But even those who have no codified law, Paul says, know the law because it is written in our consciences. So that no one is without excuse. Therefore, Paul is saying, even in our former days when we were under the domination of Satan, when we lived “according to the prince of the power of the air,” sin was stirred up in us by the law, either by codes or by conscience, and the fruit of that stirring, before we were delivered, was death. In other words, we all have known always what is right and what is wrong. That is another aspect of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But part of its deception is that the knowledge of it doesn’t produce the doing of it. In fact, as we are about to find out, it produces the opposite.
How? How could the law stir up sin? We’ll defer the question for later, because Paul gets to that. He’s just setting the stage right now.
Paul again states that we are delivered from the law, and the result from that deliverance is that we serve no longer God according to the “letter,” but by the “newness” of the Spirit. In other words, we have been delivered from an obedience to an outer coded set of laws, which themselves stirred up the sins we were trying to avoid, and now by that deliverance, we live from a new Spirit (God in trinity – Father, Son, Spirit) within us. We are beginning here to get to the heart of the issue. We are moving from outer to inner, from flesh to Spirit.
Paul asks, “Is the law sin?” Of course not, he replies, but it doesn’t have the purpose we all thought it did. We all thought the law’s purpose was to train us to be godly people. By learning the precepts, commandments, biblical principles and laws, we thought we were taking these things into ourselves and by so doing we would in some way gradually become spiritual people, or at least be somewhat pleasing to God for making the try. Like teaching a kid to brush his teeth… in the hopes that it will become habit to him by our continuous training. But it doesn’t work like that in the kingdom of God. God’s life is a gift, and can’t be earned, because it is far beyond anything we could possibly come up with to pay.
We have thought of God’s laws and commandments, which are all righteous, holy and still viable, as means to an end, to which if we apply ourselves with exceptional diligence, like studying math or grammar, we would someday pass some spiritual exam and become Christ like. But Paul is saying here that the law’s purpose isn’t that at all. No, strangely, the purpose of the law is that we would know sin, not that we would produce righteousness. That seems a strange effect to look for, but it is what Paul has discovered is the purpose of the written law.
Verses Eight – Ten:
And now the even further result of our bout with attempted obedience to the law is that we actually find ourselves doing the very things the law forbids us. Then Paul gives the example of his own “coveting.”
Now coveting sounds innocent. It sounds like something innocuous that shouldn’t get anyone into too much hot water. What’s the harm in just “wanting” something? This is not a frivolous issue, however. We are being challenged here to our very inner core. And the issue of “coveting” is at the heart of this matter, because this has to do with what we want, not what we do, and this is at a level below where we normally look.
So let’s take a moment and look into this issue of coveting a little more closely, that we might be able to see what the deception really is, and by that what final result the Spirit is working in us.
Paul finds that he cannot control what he desires, and the more he concentrates and strives to not have those desires, the more they come up. Had the commandment not come, the commandment which says, “Thou shalt not covet,” he would not have even been aware that he was in captivity to covetousness. He was living his life, “alive without the law,” but unaware of the truth of the matter, which was that he couldn’t help his self-wants, his self-desires. Though he had an outward show of devotion to God, inwardly he still felt himself driven by a selfish motivation to have what others had and over which he found himself jealous that they had something which he did not. Then, when his covetousness was pointed out by the law, bringing forth in him the desire to escape his possessive coveting, the condition only worsened.
Verses eleven and twelve:
“For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.” The commandment that says, “Thou shalt not covet,” is as right as can be, and points to life, but Paul has found it to be death to him. Why? Sin has used the commandment, the law, Paul says, and by the very law itself, deceived him and by that deception produced death in him. It KILLED him!
How? What is the deception? Here we are getting to the real purpose of the law. The real purpose of the law is to expose the falsely independent self that thinks it can keep the law, and the way that God does it is to use the law, which we cannot keep, and Satan, to remind us continually that we are lawbreakers since we are all repeat offenders.
The reason why death occurs when we attempt to keep the law is that the self that thinks it can keep the law, is this same false, independent, self-relying self that we have been talking about in our whole discussion. The deception is the deception of sin, of Satan, the originator of this sin and lie, who deceives us that we are these capable responsible selves who can keep the law, who are capable in ourselves of good or evil, which is the same deception by which he deceived our first parents in the garden, in which he convinced them by their taking and eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that they would become wise as gods, and would therefore become equal to God, knowing everything.
That is the deception of sin when it beats us up with the law. By responding to the commandments as if we could keep them, we are brought short immediately because we cannot keep them whatsoever. If we keep one, we break another. Therefore, while in this mindset of flesh, of independent self-focus, we can’t help but to buy into the condemnation of the devil, who stands by at the ready to accuse us to ourselves and to God of being perpetual spiritual ne’er do wells, who are never pleasing to God or anyone else. It is this mindset of the flesh, of independent self-focus, of wrongful self-reliance, of separated self, that is finally by the law being exposed for the falsehood and the total fabrication it really is.
Paul again takes us further into the law’s purpose. We see by Paul’s shared life that this is no mere theological exercise he is describing. Nor is he working up a systematic theology that we can all go by for the next two thousand years. Paul is describing what has happened to him in his life with the law, that we might know the same thing when we experience this work of the Spirit, too.
The reason why we fail when we attempt to keep the law through self-effort, is so that this heinous sin which has grasped the whole human race might be exposed in us, that it might be seen as the heinous sin which it is, that it might be known that it is exceedingly sinful, and that it is the abomination of desolation, at least the earnest of it, and that it has occurred in every one of us, in that we have all been self-deifiers, self-gods, and have all lived a life in which we are as a self which thinks it generates it own life and in its own will it sits in the house of God as if it were entitled to the Throne, when it is itself only a caricature of a real person and really nothing but a buffoon. Except… that it is not funny in the least, since it is the very heart of sin and wickedness and of every foul thing that ever rebelled against the light of God.
That is the purpose of the law – to show us that creature in our very selves which has tainted all that we are, the creature of self-focused, “I, me, mine” – and then through the law’s work of killing “us” by this exposure, we might know our total and final deliverance from this snake and his lies.
Here Paul makes the classic statement, on which the whole of our “two-natures simultaneously” fallacy has been based: “I am carnal, sold under sin.”
We have to see here that Paul is speaking metaphorically, as if he is just flesh, that he is just the old person he used to be. He is speaking autobiographically I am certain, but I am equally certain he is not talking about his current daily life in the Spirit. If he is, then we should cut out the sixth chapter of Romans before and the eighth chapter after this, the chapter of our total liberation, and while we’re at it let’s throw out Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and the book of Hebrews, too. And I’m just getting started!
Paul is only using a figure of speech when he says he is carnal, sold under sin. That is part of the deception of sin: that we are enslaved to it, and we can’t help our involvement in it. And that is just what Paul has taken all this time in the previous chapters in his Romans letter to refute, to declare that we are no longer slaves of sin, and now that we are no longer slaves to sin, we therefore have no more debt to it, to obey it “in our members.”
“How shall we, who are DEAD TO SIN, live any longer therein?” Paul asks as a challenge in Romans 6:2. As I said, the whole theme of the sixth chapter of Romans is precisely that we ARE NO LONGER slaves of sin, that now our “members,” i.e., our humanity – spirit, soul and body – is now the servant, slave, doer, bearer, of righteousness.
So therefore, Paul is speaking metaphorically of a past struggle here, when he says he is carnal, sold under sin. Everything about Paul’s life, ministry, and writings dispel that notion. “Out of them all, the Lord delivered me,” Paul wrote to Timothy. He is the one who worked “more mightily than they all.” Paul’s life doesn’t speak of continual effort and continual defeat, but only of victory, only of glory, only of the stuff of Joshua and Caleb – faith.
What he is describing is the process by which that struggle is finished in us, through which we come into God’s rest in ourselves, and learn intimately in our inner selves that His yoke is easy, that His burden is light, and that His righteousness, expressed in our daily living in thought, word, and deed, comes through grace by means of His Spirit life in us, as we will come to in the next chapter.
But first we have to see how the Law has its perfect work in us, as Paul continues in the next few verses of Romans seven.
Verses Fifteen to Twenty:
Paul now comes to his famous lament, which is repeated in prayers every day in every nation, by men and women everywhere, in church or out. We prayed Paul’s predicament every time we had communion in my former church. It was honest as far as we knew, and heartfelt. Certainly that is how life feels, the older we grow and the more experience we have. “We have done those things which we ought not to have done, and have left undone those things which we ought to have done,” we prayed every Sunday, and I think everybody earnestly meant it. Somehow in that confession we felt relieved for a little while, at or least forgiven for that moment in the bread and wine, the prayers and the absolution. And certainly I am not discounting that grace was there, for it was there for me.
But instead of accepting that predicament as a lifelong situation, Paul is driven onward. He starts questioning himself and this whole process. What’s going on here, he wonders. What about the law? I know that to keep the commandments is good, he says. God’s law [his standards] are right. And I know that and believe that, and want it to be true in my life. And because I inwardly want this to be so, that I don’t want to be a lawbreaker, that I want to keep God’s law, I have come to realize that something outside of me, something that isn’t me, i.e., something not the real me, is making this happen. What is doing this?
His conclusion is that the problem is something he calls “sin.” And he says it dwells in him, “in me.” So anything dwelling “in me” makes it very intimate, but there is also a sense about his description of this indweller that makes it foreign to Paul, something he recognizes as an invader with some sort of toehold, but not really part of him.
Let’s stop here for a moment. Paul says “sin that dwelleth in me.” Those are pretty strong words. And there can be no mistake, this confession is not that of someone living in the self-lust of the prince of the power of the air. “I delight in the law of God after the inward man,” can only be the cry of the Spirit of God, speaking in Paul’s mouth. So this is an already redeemed Paul speaking of his own final confrontation with the law.
So our first question has to be, what is this sin he’s speaking of? Then our next one follows: then how can it be living in me?
We have previously identified sin, not to be an abstract principle, but as a person. I have listed above, especially in part one previously, the scriptural basis on which we say that sin is a person, so I won’t repeat all those here. The reason we say sin is a person, rather than a principle or a law, is because at the bottom of all things, there are no separate “principles” or “laws” floating around the universe. There is only One Person at the bottom of everything, “the ground of all being,” as Paul Tillich calls God.
But there is a furtherance of that person-life out of God into His creation, and we are those created persons, something we share in part in common with angels. And in being persons, we are privileged to be distinct in ourselves as “I am,” yet deriving our “I am” from He Who is the Only True, “I AM THAT I AM.” We find our right selves only in Him, existing as expressions and manifestations of Him.
But in that we are truly persons, created in His image, we are also participators in His creating. His purpose is that we as creatures might fully participate in His eternal creation, out–picturing God through our created lives, expanding the Word and God’s kingdom through the creating which God expresses in our lives. And this is to the heart of the matter, because in Lucifer, whose knowledge of the power of creation sought to rival the Father’s, that self fire we have been speaking of, again strove almost infinitely for itself, and birthed a separate will, a will that sought to overcome God by being like God, which is sin and is hell.
However, we don’t have this knowledge so we can wring our hands and fret and say how sorry we are it has come to this. There’s a joke being played on us here! Because in wreaking his havoc, (which is all the stuff we see on the news which is also what we see in our own lives or in our friends’ lives), Satan is only as Joseph’s brothers who also meant what they did to Joseph for evil. He is God’s servant in his evil, because it was God’s purpose that Joseph should have been put into a pit. It was God’s pleasure that He was then sold to traveling Ishmaelites. God designed Joseph’s post as Potiphar’s steward, knowing it would lead to his downfall and imprisonment. Joseph had to face the temptress and prevail, even though he was falsely accused and then thrown into prison to languish for years. It pleased the Lord to bruise Joseph for His purposes. (Isa. 53:10), and this was God’s joy. It was God’s unabashed delight that Joseph was raised by Pharaoh to second in the kingdom, (as a man in Christ is made king over all God’s works in his life, second only to God, having become servant to all). And then it was shown to be God’s purpose all along, when his brothers showed up from Canaan in the famine, bowing to him as foretold in the dream which had caused their jealousy so long before, that he might be a refuge for his father at the end of his life, just as our Christ is a refuge for His Father in that He has brought many sons unto Him and delivers unto Him the kingdom in the end. And all of this, from the pit to the throne, was God’s purposed plan, “to save much people alive.” (Gen. 50:20) That’s the kind of devil we have, who purposes for evil, and the kind of God we have, who MEANS IT for good!
People get hung up on location in this passage, and are disturbed that Paul says that his problem is sin dwelling in him. If we have just identified sin as a person, and that person is the creator of sin, Satan, then it sounds like we are saying that after we have been delivered from Satan as our inner death and condemnation, after Jesus has cast him out in the Cross, that he is somehow back into at least some part of us again doing his dirty work.
But that isn’t the case. He has been put out of us, spirit, soul and body, and One stands guard to prevent his retaking us. We have come to total safety and refuge in the Son. He promises no one can pluck us out of His hand, and we know that He speaks the truth. Understand, when Paul is talking about sin dwelling “in me,” and again, “in my flesh,” he is talking about our flesh-consciousness. He has correctly identified his problem is not his intrinsic self. Nor can it be simply his body, as we have mentioned before.
“I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me …” He is now seeing his emptiness, his “not good-ness.” He has not found evil in his purpose and desire, so that isn’t the problem. Now he is realizing that this “arm of the flesh” that he has been exercising all his life, his own self-reliance, his own self-responsibility, is simply nothing. It is “no good thing.” All his self strivings emanate from absolutely nothing. First of all they aren’t necessary. And they do or accomplish nothing. They are only a smokescreen or a veil in front of the truth of who we already are without those self-strivings.
Now Paul is reaching the end of himself and the final key to this dilemma. He finds it a law, in other words, this is the way it works and now I am seeing how it works. How it works is this. When “I” – and here he is meaning himself in a mindset of separation, of false self-responsibility and effort – would, or try to do good, evil is present.
We are so geared to thinking deeds; it is easy to miss this. He doesn’t say that he does something evil, though in the previous verses he says he can’t figure out how to perform the good he wants to do, and that the evil he wants not to do he finds himself doing. But he doesn’t repeat that here. He instead says, “when I would do good, evil is present with me.” So he’s seeing something deeper here. Evil is present, he is saying, in the “I would.” The very reach into, “I will try to be like God,” is the most subtle temptation there is, because it sounds so righteous and holy, and there is no one on earth who hasn’t fallen to it. And that is what the law has finally dug out of Paul. He is touched here to the innermost, because he is now seeing the hiding place, the lair of the culprit, and how things work.
That liar has been cast out of us, but like a disgruntled programmer, fired from a company, plants a worm and a virus in the company computer before he leaves, so that from offsite he can continue to have access, that evil bad devil left that mindset when he left us, and God let him leave it, and it’s a mindset that still is his to manipulate. And it is this mindset, manipulated by sin in our members, i.e. the flesh consciousness that God uses to bring us to this point. God wastes nothing, and His purposes are fulfilled in everything! We always see this as God’s process, through and through, and it is not something engineered by Satan to trip us up, but the necessary school God puts us through that we might grow up into Him in all things.
Verses Twenty-two and Twenty-three:
As we said above, we delight in God from our most inward source. Through and through we are taken with Him. He has shown Himself to be our heart a million times over, and we can’t be shaken from Him.
But Paul is really disturbed about this. He isn’t settling for this struggle as something permanent. He’s about to crack up with it, and just the knowledge that when he tries to do good, evil is present with him, is no solution in itself, though at least he realizes at last that his own self-efforts accomplish nothing for him, and that is the beginning of the revelation of all revelations. He has come to the end of “himself,” i.e., his own self-efforts, self-responsibility, self-ability. He has finally come to see, “I can’t do this.”
He has correctly identified his inner self as righteous, as he stated clearly in chapter six. But this other thing, in his “members,” “in me,” “in my flesh” as he variously describes the same reality – flesh consciousness in separation, self-reliance, wrongful self-focus, etc. – is driving him crazy because he can’t go on like two people in one body, as if one side of him serves sin and the other side serves righteousness. He preaches the exact opposite of that, so either what he has been telling people is wrong or there has to be a solution beyond perpetual spiritual hell. What happened to, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst?” (John 4:14)
Is there no rest in God? O wretched man that I am.
And there we are. We finally come to the bottom when we have no more to give. We have emptied out and there is nothing left and what there was wasn’t enough anyway. Our cruse of oil has run out. All our righteousness really is like filthy rags and now we know it. We still thought we had a rag or two He would accept. Or maybe we thought He might not notice when we substituted our own self rags for the proper wedding garments only He gives. When he said, “Love others,“ we tried to and thought that was enough. Didn’t he notice what we did? We tried to have some good thoughts. He said, “Be humble” and we studied humility so we could be humbler than anybody else. But He noticed, and said, “no flesh shall enter my presence.”
So now we’ve seen it finally, that sin is exceedingly sin. God in His perfect love will have nothing but truth, righteousness and holiness in us, all of which come only from Him. There is no other. We cannot assert some false truth, false righteousness, or false holiness in him. It cannot stand. Once we’ve seen it for ourselves, this self-reliant self that thinks it is something when it is nothing (Gal 6:3), then we know it is an abomination, and becomes to us forever the accursed thing, and we never want to touch it again.
But now that we’ve seen this earthshaking thing, that while in this consciousness of flesh I am in a body of death, and I can’t help myself in my participation in it, (i.e., I can’t believe right, think right, act right, know right or do anything else right as some self “technique” I can use to rescue myself), we finally call out for rescue from this perpetual wheel of hell in the greatest desperation ever, a call from someone to save my life. “Who shall deliver me?”
And here again, this is not a principle Paul is calling out for, nor a law or a doctrine. He’s not even quoting a scripture and standing on it. He is calling for HELP! WHO CAN HELP ME? WHO? WHO? He is calling for a somebody!
“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord …” Now Paul’s deliverance from the law, and thus finally from all the ruin of the enemy’s lie which is undone forever in this moment of light and revelation, is coming into full view
The first tremendous thing Paul is seeing and this is certainly in the top five of List of Life’s Greatest Revelations,” is that in his own just discovered “nothingness,” Another has come in this spot, just as He has come in all the other spots. He is the Deliverer. He is the sword, shield and buckler. He is the one to overcome this seemingly impossible dilemma, and by His own life in us will bring us Himself into the land of His abundance. He is the fulfiller of all the “Thou shalts.”
And then Paul has seen this principle to the uttermost, when he says, “with the mind I serve the law of God, and with the flesh the law of sin.” Again, he is talking of consciousness. One is consciousness of the Spirit – a mind set on the Spirit he says later in the next chapter, and the other a mind set on the flesh. It is not two minds existing at once, constantly warring each other and canceling each other out. Though for a time it appears like that and whole denominations have taken that as a sad permanent abode.
But this can’t possibly be a giving over of humanity back to the helplessness of sin, so that we must, as one lady said in a meeting recently, inevitably sin. Paul has just been given a revelation of the final depths to our salvation, in the revelation of flesh and spirit, in that they are not warring parties each contending to win out in us, but wholly separate realities, both in God, but one true and one false. Paul is simply saying that one mind, the mind of the Spirit, is the reality of Life outgoing, love expressing, righteousness and holiness in flesh (earthen) containers. And that the other mind, the mind (consciousness) of the flesh, which we have described over and over above, is the reality of independent self-focus, self-concern, possessiveness, manipulation and attention-getting, which is death.
And this revelation is what finally propels him into his next astounding statements and further unfoldings of what he has seen, in the next chapter.
Chapter 8, Verse One:
We all hang our hat on this one! There is no condemnation. God is always like going home to grandma, at least my grandma, where I was acceptable no matter where I had been, what I had done, how long my hair was, or what kind of clothes I was wearing. Always glad to see me and give me a hug. That’s no condemnation. It’s the prophecy of Balaam, quoted above. The Father always sees us through the Son, and in the Son we are in Him and He in us. He cannot condemn us, because lamb’s blood has been shed for us and bought us and made us part of the family. How could one condemn one’s own? No, there is never any condemnation from God, because there is none in Him. When we find Him in us we realize there need be none in us, either. Not for ourselves nor for anyone else.
Verses Two and Three:
We are coming to the end our dealings with the law now. Paul has come to his undoing, finding himself incapable of “doing good,” and the consciousness of himself as a separate self doing his own thing exposed by the law as false, and therefore by that wretchedness and repentance produced in this hellish struggle for survival, he is forced to cry out beyond himself for deliverance. The deliverance he finds is a person, the Lord Jesus, who Paul has found out now is the Real Doer in Him, the one who dispels the notion of the lie and indebtedness to the flesh, and the one who enacts and causes the Spirit life in Paul to overflow in love and power to serve, and every other godly thing.
Notice that the term “law” has shifted in Paul’s language during this struggle. First his “law” is a written ordinance, which he outwardly “tries” to obey. But as he continues with this, the laws he discovers are not outer precepts, but inner truths, and both inner truths, originate in spirit truths, and spirit is always person.
So he then comes in verse two, to a final declaration about the law. And let us repeat, this hasn’t been a struggle for Paul to come up with the best doctrines or a correct systematic theology. His “doctrine” is the life of God working out in him, and he is sharing that working out with us, so that we understand it as God moves us through this same process into His total rest, where the works we do are then the works of God.
That final declaration is our own declaration of freedom as well, because it is all unfolded here. There are two immutable laws (spirit realities) as it relates to human living. One law, the law of sin and death, operates out of independence and self-will, and no matter where it is found, it is death and separation from God in an inward way. It is not itself any particular behavior, but is of the spirit of error, though it is called the flesh. The other law is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, and according to Paul, this is a higher law than the law of sin and death, and when it comes into the picture, that higher law of life in Christ Jesus sets us free from the law of sin and death.
Again, this is not we operating as if we are two people, with a good side and a bad side. The life of Christ Jesus in us, Paul says, is the very thing that sets us free from, that negates, nullifies, and sets aside as if it doesn’t exist, the law of sin and death.
In verse three he acknowledges the written law’s greatest weakness, which is that it depended on man for its fulfillment. Man, the weakest and most in-the-dark of all the creatures, a spirit person engulfed in a body, soul and world he doesn’t understand and can’t make work, was put in charge of half the law’s fulfillment, God’s part being the other half. But we couldn’t do it, because we are not capable of it. Finally we see that, and that is the whole reason the law was sent. This is “the sin” law was sent to expose.
And now that the law has given it this exposure, by that exposure, by that shining light, we now see He has come and is Himself the higher law which has set aside that lower law, giving us our final liberty from the law of written ordinances that we might walk in the freedom and power of the Spirit.
And here we are finished with our dealing with the law, because it is now fulfilled in every way in us, since we are in our minds now of the Spirit, and the very living fulfillment of the law, Christ Jesus, is in us to be the life, power, joy, wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and love. That was what the law was going for, and now by grace we see it. A new law, a higher perfect law, a law that doesn’t depend on the will or ability of the flesh, independent humanity, for its fulfillment, but a law from the One who promised:
“And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezek. 36:27 see also vs. 26, 28-30)
And also: “Faithful is he who calleth you, who also will do it.” (1 Thes. 5:24)
End of Part Two. We still have yet to get into the Spirit life of Romans Eight, which is in us to be rivers of living water to others, and we will have that in part three, coming later
NO CONDEMNATION: ROMANS 8:1
In Romans 8:1 Paul reaches critical mass. This little, innocuous, so well-used term, “no condemnation,” is like the great flash of light that precedes everything else in a nuclear detonation. “No condemnation” is pure light out of heaven, exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.
Each one of us in some degree knows this condemnation. This is far more than putting ourselves under a guilt trip, or a sort of “Christian” negative self image. This condemnation is from deeper sources than our own psychology or past behaviors. It has nothing to do with anything about ourselves as we might think. It has nothing to do, for instance, with whether we are self-confident or self-doubting. A confident person knows this condemnation as much as a timid person.
We are not more condemned if we have made many more bad choices than others who have not made the same choices. Likewise, if we have made very few so called bad choices, we are not spared any measure of this condemnation. All of us share it in common measure. It is the inheritance we have been born into. “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation…” Rom. 5:18a
The choice in the Garden was not about good and evil, or right and wrong. That is what the whole world lives in, but good and evil was not what the choice was about. It was about life and death. When they took the fruit, which was something to make them “wise as gods,” they chose death (having been warned beforehand), and immediately there appeared on the scene the precursor and continual reminder of death – condemnation, which has hounded all our heels ever since. It is like a sense of impending doom, that I must hide, protect, hunker down, make boundaries, declare territories, to ward off certain death as long as is possible.
Now it is very common in the beginning to get the gospel mixed up with right and wrong actions and thoughts, morals, world viewpoints, etc. We even get it mixed up with our up and down feelings, all of which ultimately become the wrong track. But it’s a wrong track which brings us here to this brink where great light is beginning to flood in as we stand ready to go into God’s rest.
Now this condemnation, which means a continual sentence of death hanging over our heads, is the natural outcome of living by the law, of living by “knowing good and evil.” The law as outer precepts is impersonal. It has no mercy or grace.
That is what happened with Adam and Eve. As soon as they partook of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, seeking something they saw outside themselves, which they were tricked into taking into themselves in order to become wise as gods, they instead instantly knew death and fear – condemnation!
But we have been learning that now in the Cross we have been delivered from the law. Romans seven is about finding out that we cannot approach God by that path. The reason we cannot approach God down this road is because the law, though both inwardly and outwardly representative of Him, still is, in a sense, “one step removed” from God. It is not He Himself. The Law expresses the nature of God, yet it is not God. There simply is no set of standards that could be written, much less applied and obeyed, that could possibly equalize the created with the Creator.
Paul said the law “was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.” (Gal. 3:19, 20) In other words, the law is separation. Under the law we are one step removed from God and always remain so. The veil that divides us (condemnation – Gen. 3:6-10) continually remains. The veil is there because of the law and the flesh which tries to keep the law.
The law presupposes the separate self to obey it. And that self, which in its false separateness can only hear the law as if it is coming from outside itself, is bound to both the demands of the law and to the separateness in which to do them.
The law demands that the person fulfill precepts which are descriptions of God’s own life as He is. In order to do that one would have to either be like God, or else be God. The first, to be “like Him,” is impossible, even if we were to have, as we say, “His help.” One cannot recreate or imitate the Eternal. It’s the most absurd thought that ever came into the temporal universe. We’ve all tried that.
The second, to “Be Him” is likewise impossible, but still the only recourse left after we exhaust the first. Here we find our final answer. We have found to the uttermost we cannot be like Him, and we certainly know we cannot BE Him, but now we see that Christ has come into us to be US! Not to make me be “like” Him, but He has come to live in “me” to be “me,” and in “you” to be “you.” He and I… one person together.
And this is where our NO condemnation takes form in us. We’ve grown up all our lives knowing nothing but this condemnation. If others didn’t put it on us then we put it on ourselves. We know our guilt and we know what we deserve and now this Romans seven has brought it all sharply into focus.
But here we find Paul at the end of Romans seven, finally coming to the resolution of his struggle, like a slow train, steadily getting there. He has now taken us to the final hump, where he sees two operations, one the law of sin and death, or the law of the flesh, and the other the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
This is an important juncture here, and the absolute crux of the matter. On one hand Paul seems to be saying that he is operating both laws simultaneously, walking in his flesh according to the flesh, and at the same time in his spirit walking according to the spirit. This seems a weak solution, since it still leaves him very much a double person all his days. Or on the other hand, Paul seems to be saying that he walks one way one moment – when he minds the flesh he walks according to the flesh – and another way another moment – when he minds the spirit he walks according to the Spirit. But how do we do that? I thought we’d gotten out of that whole “effort” thing.
And we seem to be left there holding just that bag as we close out Romans seven.
The problem seems to be at this point, if we were left just here, is that the solution is a sort of limbo, and the limbo is because we don’t really know which way this is going to go. But this “limbo” is really the final nail in the coffin of this self that thinks it is something in itself and has some capability to now operate the life of the Spirit. Who is sufficient for these things?
The vast majority of the Church of Christ through the centuries has been stuck right here in this limbo. We cannot keep ourselves from sin, and cannot propel ourselves into the fullness of spiritual life. We seem perpetually to be “two,” not just between ourselves and God, but between our “flesh” self and our “spirit” self, or sin nature and righteousness nature, or however anyone describes it.
The limbo is, now that we have realized this world-destroying truth about ourselves, we have not yet come to know fully the One with Whom we have to do, and having not yet come to know Him as He is, we have no framework from which to say or believe that we will ever be anything but this two-sided person. There must be a rescue from outside ourselves to solve this.
It is a scale-dropping revelation to see we are nothing in ourselves, and to see from an observer’s point of view, opening in our consciousness by the Spirit, how with the flesh we walk in the law of sin and death, and with the “mind” we walk according to the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. O, how wonderful! Praise God, that’s how it is, and now we see it.
But wait! What’s next? There must be more to this than knowing that fact, glorious as that is. Unless something further comes, in which this continual inescapable two–ness (between God and myself and between myself and myself) is supplanted by a certain wholeness and eternal (continuous) oneness, I’m still stuck, because what I’ve learned through this valley of self-effort the Lord has taken me through, is that I can do nothing of myself. If that is so, then I likewise cannot operate the life of the Spirit, or by anything I know to do or say, keep myself in it. No, not ever!
The conscious life of the Spirit begins when the Spirit opens our consciousness to the fact that it is forever, “Not I, but He,” and, “the Son can do nothing of Himself… the Father that dwells in me, He does the works!”
The life of the Spirit is always operated by the Spirit, so that we are forever in weakness as the lambs of God. And it is only through this final hump here, which on one side perpetually appears as if we are two, sometimes flesh and sometimes spirit, and through this revelation which comes first as this blinding flash of NO CONDEMNATION that blots out everything else, we come through this portal onto the other side, where we know Christ and ourselves joined as one spirit, so that the life we are now living is Christ, and that He has now appeared here in our form to be in us our All, in all.
We have gone finally now from the law, i.e., knowing “about” God, as if God is an object we could study and analyze, but now having gone over this hump, we come into knowing God, not as an “over there” person we can look at and touch, but as being mixed in union and oneness in that union through Jesus, so that inwardly we now know that we living is He living. One person.
All our lives God has spoken to us and in us in various ways, drawing us to Himself in order to reveal the Son in us. Every moment God’s true heart has been saying to us, “You are my beloved son,” even if for years of our lives we could not hear the voice. But all that time He has unfailingly, little by little, in every circumstance and event of our lives, been perfectly drawing us into Himself in order to reveal in us His love.
And now here, as we are coming into this life that is Christ’s LIFE being lived out and expressed in the world through and AS our humanity, the greatest shockwave ever hits our mortality, swallowing it up into life, as we for the first time hear in ourselves, the Word which God has eternally been saying of us, “You are released from death, and have passed forever into my Life. You may rest from your labors in Me, knowing that I will only be in you life everlasting.”
Suddenly everything in the universe turns around and changes. The music changes keys.
You have found favor! There is One Who sees you and delights in you!
How could that be for one such as I? Only God knows, but here you are, now delivered from the law, now delivered from the self-efforts of a falsely independent self and all its tricks and foibles, now delivered by great wonders out of darkness into light, here right now you are, called and chosen of God, to bear His name and light in fear and trembling into the world.
The handwriting of ordinances, which was against us, has been removed, nailed to His cross, and with it the condemnation it brought us all our lives has likewise gone back into the pit from which it came.
And the word of NO condemnation is the portal, the announcement, of that which is to come, because condemnation is that last little bit that has been about “me,” and from now on we move away from “me” in the life of the Spirit. As we become settled in who we are – Christ living as us – we move into an entirely “for others” life, out of the spontaneity of the Spirit who keeps all these things happening. We no longer accept any such thing as “condemnation” because we are He living as us, who is always the “beloved Son,” in whom the Father is always pleased.
Next: We try to make it to Romans 8:2 and maybe beyond in our next discussion of “Saints, Not Sinners.”
THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE: ROMANS 8:2
Now, as we said before, we move immediately away from “ourselves,” and begin to see what has happened as we come through into this fullness of God.
Paul takes us right into the total, as he describes how this new law has taken over, the “law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” and that law, which we now find operative in us, has accomplished a final release from the former law under which we were held – the “law of sin and death.”
WHAT IS LAW?
Before we move further, let’s review just a moment regarding this word “law.” Paul uses the word several different ways, and it may clear up some confusion if we can get a handle on these meanings.
There really are two different kinds of law. One definition is simply the natural way by which something works. We call what happens when you let go of an object and it falls to the ground, an example of the law of gravity. In this case, the law of gravity is not some outside separate influence on matter, telling it that it must fall if it is released. The law of gravity is instead the description of how things function normally in this universe. Gravity is a force that operates on all physical objects in our universe, and everything works according to its function. That description we call the “law of gravity.”
For example, if I held a rock up chest high and then let it go, it would immediately fall to the ground. The rock would function according to the natural law of what it is, a rock, and would be automatically attracted to the earth by its irresistible gravitational force. That is an example of a naturally functioning law.
There are no written instructions for the rock to refer to, nor does anyone have to tell the rock to fall. It just does because it is natural to it. It would be silly to tell the rock it should or ought to fall. Let it go and it falls, without instruction or extra encouragement. This is something working according to the natural law of what it is.
The other use of the term has to do with codes and admonitions that outwardly tell us how things should or ought to work. Elsewhere Paul has told us this outer set of codes and precepts regarding human behavior, called “the law,” are not for the righteous, but for the unrighteous. In the beginning there was no law contained in precepts. It only entered the picture when things malfunctioned. Going back to our law of gravity picture, if we were to let go of the rock and instead of falling down it were to fall up, then it would be necessary to apply an outer law to remind or even force the rock to keep its own inner law.
That is what has happened now that unbelief has entered the picture. We have been taken captive by another law through the spirit of error, using the knowledge of good and evil as the instrument and implementer of the law of sin and death. Through that captivity, we no longer naturally function according to the inner law out of which our being is compounded, the law of self-giving love – (which is really not a law, but is the image of God with which we are all stamped and in whose single existence [being] we find our own existence). We still are functioning in love, but it is love in malfunction, because that love has been captured and turned inward on ourselves. God mercifully then sends the law of precepts and codes to us, which, since we are caught in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, makes some sense to us because we know we should be “good” and we each know secretly our own “evil.” It strikes home.
God then uses this law of precepts variously in our lives so that we are brought one way or another to full acknowledgement of our deep selfishness in thought, word, and deed, and then finally by the same law of precepts we are brought to this current threshold. This is where by the Spirit we have seen the breaking of this lifelong consciousness of a self spiritually deluded into a consciousness of false independence, which has manifested all our lives as self-righteousness, self-effort, self-responsibility, etc. This is the absolute core, rock bottom, the axe laid to the root of the tree.
Now we have come to the “end of ourselves.” We have come firmly to see by the Spirit’s revelation that we died with Him in His cross; we were crucified with Him, dying with him to the spirit of sin who held us all captive. And now by virtue of His death and resurrection comes this inner word of revelation to us that thereby we now know we are dead to the law, dead to sin, and, being dead, we again now know to the uttermost we can do nothing of ourselves, because dead people cannot do anything at all.
WHAT IS THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE?
“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
Up to now in our discussion we have approached our object – a real life of walking in the Spirit, thus not fulfilling the “lusts of the flesh” – as if this object is something we can put up for display on our table, dissecting the parts, and by doing so can learn the answer which we can then apply and reach our goal.
But everything in our discussion changes now, because there is an impasse here at this point. What we are speaking of must of necessity move from outside to inside in order to enact itself in our consciousness. I don’t mean from outside as if it is actually outside, but only that what I am speaking of is outside our own consciousness of “what is,” and that to grasp anything outside anyone’s consciousness of what is, there must be a total shift in one’s awareness of “isness.”
Such as, let’s say, running into a real live werewolf in the woods on a full moon night. For most of us, werewolves are creatures in late-night movies, and nothing more. That same most of us, I suspect, don’t really believe werewolves exist in real life. Movie life? Yes! Real life? No!
However, suddenly running into a real live werewolf on a moonlight walk in the forest, being forced on the spot to accept an immediate and shocking change of “what is,” of necessity causes an immediate and hopefully timely total shift in thinking – one’s consciousness of reality. One moment, werewolves are fantasy and do not really exist. Next minute: THIS IS A REAL LIVE WEREWOLF GROWLING AT ME AND TRYING TO BITE ME!!!!! WHAT THE…. ????!!!!”
Now that’s the kind of shift in thinking, or awareness/consciousness, I am speaking of. That which a moment before couldn’t possibly have been true, suddenly in a moment we see has always been true, and we just hadn’t seen it.
This “death” we have experienced in coming to the end of ourselves, in “forsaking all that we have,” (how much more complete can death be?), is now the open door for the floodwaters of the Spirit. Though the Spirit has been there all along, still, as long as we were full in ourselves, He could not be recognized. It is only in our continual human emptiness that we find the fullness of the Godhead bodily living in us.
The reason why everything changes at this point is that the focus has been changed. Everything about the law, whether we are obedient or not obedient, up to the condemnation by the law, operates because of a wrong self focus. Under the law, the focus of our spiritual sight is not God in ourselves, but ourselves as if we are alone and everything is up to what WE do about ourselves. It is all about ourselves and no efforts of any kind can rescue us from that self-focus.
But now in this death, this falsely independent, self-relying self, on which we had focused so long, has died. Even the self that tries to obey the law has died.
This death makes way for the new self which can now be seen. The new self has only one awareness, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth,” and has only one food and delight, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,” which is Christ, because that is now who is living.
Now the focus of our knowledge and understanding has been “taken up” as it were, into a higher truth, a greater reality, where God reveals Himself as the hidden propagator in everything. This new self that comes up as us, is taken up into the rapture of the Spirit, because its life pours out of One Who is everywhere present in all things.
The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is simply this revelation having come into fullness in us: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)
The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is being taken up into the knowing of God. Here we leave truth “about.” True “knowing” is not conceptual knowledge. It is not the accumulation of facts and evidences. It may start there, but if it stays there is it a trap.
True knowing is being. One becomes, or is, that which he knows. That’s why Jesus said, “Ye shall know them by their fruit.” One is known by what he is, and one is what one knows.
For instance, if one truly knows truth, he is truth. It isn’t because he has learned facts about what truth is, or that he has practiced them. It is because to know truth is to be truth. One cannot speak or be what he does not know, because it is not familiar to him. But if you know truth, then truth is what you are, what you do, what you say. There is no separation between you and truth, as if truth were something outside yourself that you could put on. It is simply you. That is, it is you if you truly know truth.
And that is how it is with us and God. Now that the veil of separation is out of the way, we are taken into the oneness of God.
ONE WITH GOD – WHAT CAN THAT MEAN?
I almost contradict myself to give an answer, because anything I say can only be a signpost or a pointer. Anyone who goes past this point goes up to the mountain alone and hears God himself.
One means first of all solitary. There is only one God. To be one with the One means to be solitary in yourself. That is, in yourself you are not two, but one. There is no other except One who is all in all, containing all, through all, above all, below all, in all, One and the same. Without distinction (which is division) but only One, everywhere One. In ourselves One. I and my Father are One.
One means in the world but not of it. Everywhere there is, He is only One. There is a world, spoken by Him, consisting by Him, upheld by Him, but He is to the world as one who does not break a bruised reed or quench a smoking flax, whose sun and rain shine and fall on all, blessing it in His being, blessing with Himself the very state of flux in the world, for He is One even in the world.
One means that everywhere that is, in everything that is, there is a lamb slain. The Word of the One is a lamb slain eternally, and it is by this Word, and therefore by this lamb slain, that all things consist and are upheld. Therefore before there was substance, before there were stars and there was water and an earth, before there was a man and before there was a woman, there was safety and certain hope in the heart of all the eternal, and in creation that same safety and hope equally complete and total in every particular as much as in the universal.
What that means is that we live in the oneness of God, and everything that is at its heart is the same lamb slain, equally everywhere, including in ourselves, and in all life and events. One means that as Paul we continually “bear about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus.”
One means if He is the light of the world then I am the light of the world. It is simply the truth. We do nothing to evoke it. He IS and we are. One.
ONE MEANS COMPLETION AND PERFECTION
Nothing brings more rancors out of folks than this one. In all our travels this year, in almost every place, someone would say something like, “What, you think you’ve arrived?” Or, “Are you saying you don’t sin?” Or, “Who do you think you are – God?” Or, “Sure, we’re one with God. But there are still things in us blocking that oneness, and we all have to be on a quest to find out all those stumbling blocks and get rid of them as we approach closer and closer to oneness.” And such like.
There is no argument against such things. This comes in its day. The Spirit gives His own witness.
That is what it is to “know” God. It means to be Him in the world. It means more than being a container of His. It means more than being His temple. It is more than being a branch on the vine. It is more than being His servant. Not that all those things aren’t continually true in their place as we are helped along in our understanding toward the total.
But the total is “one.” He and I are one. One person? One heart? One mind? One Spirit? One intent? One will? One everything? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!
This is outside of experience as we have always known experience. Walking around and living in the world is the experience. We walk around being ourselves, unconscious of ourselves as ourselves, and that is what it is to know God. We know Him by being Him which is being ourselves.
That is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus which now holds and works in us. It is the kingdom of heaven grown up, we know not how, in us even as ourselves, which is truly a wonder of wonders. We are at first as surprised as Jacob who said, “Surely God is in this place, and I knew it not.”
So we then conclude our series on Saints, Not Sinners. In the cross we are made the righteousness of God. In Him we are One in the Father, Son and Spirit, in the same oneness in which they are One.
From here on out, now that we know that, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death,” we are now His in the reconciliation of others.
So let us move on then with our various assignments as God gives them!
ARE WE SINNERS or SAINTS, Part 1-4 [Fred PRUITT] 2-27-07 1