Notes of an Address on Romans
I desire to say a few words on the subject of deliverance from sin. It is a most important subject. It may be that we are but little able to help one another in that direction, but I am sure no one will question that it is an important point to arrive at. The way of it is brought before us very clearly in this epistle, indeed, I may say it is the main point the apostle has before him in the writing of it. The gospel is said to be the power of God to salvation to every one that believes, and where we are in any measure in the benefit of the grace unfolded to us in its teachings, we are able to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. A slave may do this, and he will do it when his soul is set free from the thraldom of sin.
In chapter 3 the prominent point is the mercy seat. There the blood is under the eye of God. It is the risen Christ who is the mercy seat. He is before God, having obtained eternal redemption, and the way He has obtained it is by His blood, and the redemption is in Him in resurrection. This is an important point. It is not redemption such as Israel obtained from the hand of the enemy, and which, leaving them still in the flesh and upon the ground of their own responsibility, and under probation, was not able to carry them through the wilderness, nor to keep those who eventually entered the land from coming again into bondage. It is redemption which is in Christ Jesus, and founded in His blood, which is the witness that the flesh has received its judgment, and the responsible man been brought to an end, and the term of his probation been closed forever; and now the One in whom all this has been brought about is before the face of God, eternal redemption having been brought in in Him, for He is not there in the life in which He bore the judgment, but in the power of an endless life; death has no more dominion over Him; He lives to God in a life to which death has no application; He never again can come under the power of it.
Now redemption is in Him. He has become unto us redemption. It is learned as we learn the place, relationship, and favour in which He is in the presence of God. We are not fully in that redemption yet, nor shall we be until we are glorified, but through it we are now justified: “Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” It is because of this redemption, which we have in Him, that God can account us righteous down here in our pathway through the world. Through this redemption we have forgiveness of sins, we are reckoned righteous. The foundation of all is the blood of Christ; we are justified in the power of it.
In chapter 4 it is the God of resurrection who comes before us. By the death of Christ the power of death has been broken, and God has raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead for our justification. The power of God has wrought on our behalf, and has brought in righteousness for us, without any cooperation on our part. Then, chapter 5, through our Lord Jesus Christ we have peace with God, and by Him have access into the favour in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. All this is said to be through our Lord Jesus Christ. I do not doubt that He does it in the power of the Spirit. By the Spirit we are able to take in the value of the blood, as that which is the witness to us of the accomplishment of righteousness as far as the judgment of our sins is concerned, for the man who was under judgment is gone in the execution of that judgment in the cross of Christ, and He is our subsisting righteousness in the presence of God. Therefore our consciences are set perfectly at rest; we have peace with God. And the favour in which He is, sets forth the only place in which man can be in relationship with God, and we are enabled by Him to take up our place in that favour. Then another world comes before us, a world which shall be brought about by the display of the glory of God, and we hope to share in that glory when it is revealed; and that hope does not make ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and that love in our hearts is the pledge and guarantee that when He appears we shall appear with Him in glory.
In these three chapters God brings Himself before us in Christ, by whom He has drawn near to us, to deliver us from the bondage of sin, that we might live to Him. Therefore the gospel is the gospel of God concerning His Son. We learn in the Son of God the way in which God has intervened on our behalf. By His mighty power He has raised up One who will give effect to the whole will of God concerning us. We are already justified, have peace with God, stand in grace, and the love of God in our hearts, and all through Him. He will also save us from wrath, and we shall be saved in the power of His life, and we boast in God through Him. But as I have said, this is God bringing Himself before us in His grace and love in and by the Person of His Son, that our faith, hope, and boast might be in Himself.
This picture is complete in itself, and as has often been remarked, we would need nothing more, if we were to be taken out of the world when we believe the gospel and receive the Spirit. What we have in chapters 6, 7, 8, largely refers to our pathway through this world after we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and are able to make our boast in God. In chapters 3, 4, 5, it is no question of what we were, except that we needed the interposition of God. We were hopelessly undone. We were sinners, short of the glory of God, ungodly and helpless. But we have Christ dying for the ungodly, as the witness of the love of God to us; and we have the power of God put forth to raise Him from the dead, that He might be our righteousness in resurrection, that the ungodly might be justified, and that we might be able to boast in hope of the glory of God.
But when we come to chapter 6 another question is raised, and that question concerns our deportment with reference to sin, which is the great ruling principle in the world, and under which all men are enslaved. Proof is given of this great fact before there is the unfolding of the grace that has brought deliverance. In chapter 3:9, the apostle says, “We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles that they are all under sin.” The Jew might have been ready to argue the point, and dispute the charge, but the apostle brings forward the law as a witness against him. All are proved to be under sin, for all serve it with every member of the body. The throat, tongue, lips, mouth, feet, and eyes are all given over to the service of sin, and this is the overwhelming proof that all are under its dominion.
Now the grace of God has reached us when in this dreadful condition, justified us, and has given us a hope of participating in the glory that is about to be revealed, and the question is, are we to continue in the service of sin? In spite of all that we were, though serving sin with every member of our body, though completely under its dominion and without the slightest bit of good in us or about us, the grace of God abounded to us. It has proved itself greater than our sin. If sin abounded, grace much more abounded. Ungodly and helpless, Christ died for us, and ungodly, God justified us. Are we therefore to continue in the condition in which we were when this grace reached us?
The answer is given in this sixth chapter. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein? Was it possible that the Romans to whom he writes were ignorant of the true import of Christian baptism? The whole profession has been placed by baptism on the footing of death. If they were baptised to Christ as Leader of their salvation, they were baptised to His death. Death is the only thing that can free a man from this bondage. As long as he is alive in his natural condition he will serve sin. All do. But we are buried with Him by baptism unto death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
The children of Israel were baptised to Moses, but it was in the cloud and in the sea. The sea was destruction to the power that had held them in slavery, and in the cloud God was declaring Himself as a mighty Saviour on their behalf. And we also are committed to the death of Christ in the light of the glory of the Father, which is the full revelation of God, and which has raised Christ from the dead, and we believe that we shall also live with Him. If we take the place of dead with Him, it is in the light of the power of the God of resurrection put forth as to Christ, and which we believe will be put forth as regards us. We shall live with Him in resurrection.
But in the meantime we walk here as characterized by His death, and in the light of the Father’s glory, and the effect of this is, we come out as the children of God in newness of life; the life of Jesus comes out in our mortal flesh. We must keep both these great points in mind. It seems to me to be what is set forth in the cloud and in the sea. We accept the death to which we are committed, but we do not go down into an abyss of hopeless darkness, but we accept it in the full light of the perfect revelation of God, as the God of resurrection; as Israel entered and passed through the sea in the light of a Saviour-God, whose mighty power and stretched-out arm had opened out to them this way of deliverance.
And this way is simple and easy to be understood, for we know that our old man has been crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. We learn the crucifixion of our old man from chapters 3 and 4, for there Christ is viewed as the One delivered up to death for us to bear our judgment, and in His death, our old man, that is to say, all that we were in the flesh, has been condemned and brought to an end. If this be so, and we are true to our baptism, sin has nothing to work upon. It has dominion only over those who are alive in the flesh as children of Adam; but all that state having been condemned in the cross, the body of sin is annulled, its power is broken, and we are free from its thraldom.
But in resurrection Christ has passed beyond the reach of death; it has no more dominion over Him. Not that it ever had dominion over Him in one way, but He submitted to it on our behalf, and was made sin for us; but when He died, He died to sin once for all, and now that He lives, He lives absolutely to God. When He died, He died to the whole sphere of sin’s dominion, where it reigned in the power of death. He has now nothing more to do with it. It cannot intrude into the sphere into which He has entered. He lives now altogether to God, where no foreign influence, no principle of evil can enter to cause grief or disturb the unbroken calm of ineffable love and holiness. He lives to God. We also are to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Him. This is our unspeakable privilege. Alive to God in the life of Christ, to live to God as He lives to God, to live in His life. And we are to reckon thus. This is not quite our life of responsibility. It is not what is spoken of as walking in newness of life. It is more absolute than that. It is apart from the whole course of things down here. It is that we live to God, as Christ lives to God since He has died to sin. He had to do with sin when He was here. It was, as it is now, nor more nor less, abhorrent to Him; but He had to do with it in men in the world, in His disciples, in the very atmosphere of earth; He had to endure its presence, its intrusions, its suggestions, always from without, for He knew no sin; its contradictions, its persecutions, and last of all as made sin for us; but now this is all over, He is in an atmosphere of unbroken peace and joy and delight and holiness and truth and love, and He lives absolutely to God. It is our happy privilege to live to God thus, and we are to reckon ourselves alive to God in Him. We are to live to God in our spirits, and in the affections of our hearts, in our inner man.
We come in verse 12 to our life of responsibility, and to our mortal body, and we are not to allow sin to dominate our bodies. We are not to obey it. And we need not obey it, for we are not under law but grace; and the benefit of being under grace is, that we get all the help we need from God, so that sin may not have dominion over us. Our members are to be yielded as servants to righteousness. Those members which were all used in the service of sin, as described in chapter 3, are now to be used in the service of righteousness. In short, we are to come out here where sin reigns, as servants of God, having our fruit to holiness, and the end everlasting life. When we yielded our members servants of sin, the result was iniquity and uncleanness, the things of which now, with the light of God in our souls, we are ashamed, and the end of such things is death, for this is the wages of sin. But now that we yield our members servants of righteousness, the fruit is holiness, and the end everlasting life.
In chapter 7 those that know the law are addressed. The Jew had become dead to the law by the body of Christ. It was a Christ who had died and risen again that had been preached to Jew and Gentile alike, and the Jew who knew law had turned from it to be justified in Christ. He had abandoned the old system in coming to Christ in resurrection, and the death of Christ had loosed the bond between him and the law, and as partaker of the grace and vitality of this new Husband, he was to bring forth fruit to God. He was not now to be thrown upon his own resources and condemned and cursed for every failure, but he was to find nourishment and strength and vigour from Christ so that he might bring forth fruit to God.
To be under law is to be in the flesh, for the law is addressed to man in the flesh, and is the measure of his responsibility as a child of Adam. From verse 5 we have the experiences of a man with good desires, on account of a work of God in him, but with no ability to put those desires into practise. And the law does not help him. The truth is, he would be better without the law, for the law occupies him with the evil he is not to practise, and not with the good which he ought to do. The commandment drew attention to the evil by forbidding it, but gave no power to resist it, neither did it bring the good before the soul, as a counter attraction, but called attention to the evil which it forbade, but which the flesh was prone to do; and the law of sin in the members being stronger than the law of good in the mind, the evil was done, and the good left undone. The nature of the flesh is seen to be evil. It is insubordinate, lustful, and rebellious, and there is no mending it. This has to be learned through bitter experience by every one of us. Some of us are a very long time at the lesson, and perhaps we flatter ourselves that we know there is no good thing in the flesh, when we really do not know it at all, but only believe it as a doctrine of scripture. It is one thing to believe what God has been pleased to put on record, it is quite another thing to be able to say we know it. We believe things upon testimony, we know everything by the Spirit. It may be replied, that the man whose state is described in this chapter has not received the Spirit. This is true, but it is a man who has the Spirit who is describing the state.
What is needed is a new fountain of life within, what the Lord proposed to give to the sinner at the well of Sychar. The old fountain is corrupt, its waters polluted and foul. Filtering is valueless, for there is nothing there but what is virulent and deadly. It is not a mixture of good and evil, clean and unclean, it is in its very essence satanic and wicked; it is enmity against God, it is not subject to His law, neither indeed can be. Power is wanted, not to move it in a right direction, but to prevent it moving at all.
This is obtained from Christ. He gives the Spirit to them that ask Him. He has received the Spirit from the Father, and to every one who believes on Him He bestows that great gift. This becomes in the believer a new fountain of life, the waters of which are clear, pure, and sweet. He is also the power by which the will of the flesh is kept quiescent, the quiescency of death. And this is the power by which deliverance is effected; the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
But it is God who has brought this about through Jesus Christ our Lord. The gospel sets God before us as a Saviour God. In chapter 1 the gospel is the gospel of God, and His power to salvation to every one that believes; in chapter 3 God sets Christ Jesus forth as a mercy seat, and takes the place of Justifier of the believer; in chapter 4 He raises up Christ from the dead by His mighty power, as our righteousness; in chapter 5 His love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, that love that He commends to us in the death of Christ; in chapter 6 His gift is eternal life; in chapter 7 He is our deliverer from the thraldom of sin, and all this through Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is exceedingly important to bear in mind in considering the subject of deliverance from sin. It might be very easy to state that the Holy Spirit is the power by which this deliverance is effected, but we will not gain much by the statement, unless we get some idea of the way in which He operates, so that our souls are set at liberty. It has often been remarked, that the law set before man his duty, but revealed no object for his heart. But the law was powerless to lead man in the way of righteousness, the flesh would not be led; it was weak through the flesh. But what the law could not do, God has done. How? By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and condemning sin in the flesh in His cross. God brings Himself before us in His great love to us, which is witnessed in sending His Son, that sin in the flesh, where it had its seat, might be judged, and that in that judgment flesh might be brought to an end, so that from the ascended Christ we might get the Spirit, who would bring our hearts under the power of the complete revelation of God in Christ, and that God thus declared might be a more powerful attraction for us than all that can be found attractive upon earth; that we might be by the power of the Spirit so drawn, and attached, and firmly bound to Christ in whom God has declared Himself, that we would be guided, and held, and led in the path of the will of God, in such a way that the righteousness of the law would be fulfilled in us. It is God brought to light in Christ that is the great motive power and secret of deliverance. We are to reckon ourselves dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ, but it is to God well known in the death of His own Son.
How different all this is to the law! The law occupies you with the evil that you are not to do, refers your attention to it, forbids it, and sets the flesh in motion, and curses you for transgressing. The Spirit of God draws your attention to God revealed in Christ in all His heart’s deep love, and occupies you with Him to whom you are to live. That which was a heavy yoke of bondage becomes a law of liberty. We serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. Even if we did fail, we know there is no curse or condemnation, for there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.
The Spirit of God occupies our hearts with divine love, and with things that belong to another world than this one. He does not take us up as if we were mere lifeless instruments, but enables us to rise up out of the service of sin, and walk as overcomers through this lawless and polluted world. He has His own way of accomplishing our deliverance. First, He sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts, so that God to whom we are to live becomes the great delight of our hearts; second, by His leading we fulfil the righteous requirement of the law; third, by His power we mortify the deeds of the body; fourth, He is the Spirit of sonship by which we cry Abba Father; fifth, He witnesses with our spirits that we are the children of God; sixth, He makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; seventh, our mortal bodies shall be quickened by the Spirit who dwells in us.
What a marvellous gift! Nothing else would have met our deep need. May we know how to use the gift bestowed upon us, and may we in His power be able to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord; and may we be able to yield our members as instruments of righteousness to God, and have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.