J. A. Trench.
Article 12 of 55 from 'Truth for Believers' Volume 2.
There are two expressions in verse 2 that I wish particularly to draw your attention to. Life in Christ Jesus, and the Spirit in me, the power of that life. Life was the beginning of God's blessed ways with our souls; till then we were dead, alive to any worldly object but dead to God. Now in His sovereign grace the Spirit has laid hold of our hearts and consciences by some word of God or by the truth revealed in it, and there has been the communication of divine life. As we were born into natural life, so are we born absolutely anew. Except a man be born anew he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Nothing can be more important than this. The very beginning of all God's ways of grace with us has been the communication of divine life, with the nature which is inseparable from it. (John 1:4) "In him was life; and the life was the light of men." Precious truth; we see these two things, life and light, inseparably bound up together; as surely as there is life there is light in a soul.
But now comes the evidence of our natural state: "The darkness comprehended it not." Such was our condition in sin; if the light had simply shone into the world we should never have known its presence (vers. 10, 11) but love has come in with it and been active to bring in the rays of the light into our souls. "As many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God, who were born . . . of God." Thus only has He been received. It is only as by His sovereign grace we are born of God, that any of us would ever have received Jesus. Apart from life there is no real conviction of sin in the soul, but now life is not peace, it is the beginning of trouble, and that is where the first part of the epistle to the Romans comes in. It lays the foundation in righteousness of all His ways of grace with the sinner in setting forth His Son to be the propitiation, that every question of what troubled us might be gone into and settled for His glory. There is God's acceptance of His finished work in raising Him from the dead (Rom. 4:24, 25), the glorious proof given to the believer that our sins that He bore on the cross are gone for ever. "When he had by himself purged our sins he sat down on the right hand of God." He never sat down there till He had purged our sins away.
Then, as we have seen in Romans 5:12 on to Romans 8, we find the deeper question raised not of sins but of the root that produced them. Just as we needed the conviction of our sins to know forgiveness, so we needed the conviction of self in its utter evil and absence of strength that we might be brought at last to give up the vain struggle to make anything of it, and to bow to the judgment of all we are, as well as of what we have done, and to see that judgment executed when God condemned sin in the flesh in the death of His Son. (Romans 8:3). The moment I am brought to this point to see my judgment executed in the death of Him who became my life, identifying myself by faith with His death, I know that my old man was crucified with Him. I am entitled to reckon that all that happened to Him who became my life has happened to me, and thus the ground is clear; not merely my sins are gone but this flesh, this self that I could make nothing of, is gone too from before God's sight, and now the eye lifts from self and rests on my Deliverer, and chapter 8 brings out the position and condition of the delivered man, the normal one of Christians.
We began by receiving His life, but then we needed to know His work for forgiveness and liberty that we might enter into and realise our immense privileges. Here we find the wonderful elements that go to make up our position in Christ. "There is therefore now no condemnation," etc. Condemnation must first reach Him before it can reach us. We have not merely come to an end of self in the judgment of the cross, but there is what He has brought in in the place of what He had to condemn. I am in Christ risen from the dead, passed every question of sins and sin, the judgment of God and the power of Satan. If I have lost my place as man in the flesh in the judgment of God, I have my new place in Him who has come out of that judgment, in all that Christ is as man before God and in the Spirit as the power of that new place. That is the position of every delivered child of God. What a range of truth opens out to us in it; for it is not all — that I am in Christ, but inseparably connected with it as the power of this position, God the Holy Ghost dwells in me.
The two parts of His work come before us in the testimony borne to His glory in John 1:29, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world"; and then verse 32, "John bare record saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove," etc. Now in the room of that which had to be taken away in judgment He was to send the Holy Ghost to bring us in power into the whole of His position as the risen Man. Now go to John 7:39, "The Holy Ghost was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified." This shows us how entirely distinct a thing the gift of the Spirit is now in Christianity. He was not given while Jesus was here, or ever before. Jesus is glorified now, and the Holy Ghost is given as He never was before, so you cannot look back to the Old Testament for it. (John 14:16) "He shall give you another Comforter that he may abide with you for ever." Come from that glory where Jesus is, the Holy Spirit can never be taken from the believer now. This is entirely distinct from being born of the Spirit; the unbeliever has to be born of the Spirit, but it is only in the believer that He can dwell. (John 16:7) "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you." So great and inestimable is the blessing that it is better for us that He is gone — that He is glorified, for He has sent His Spirit to dwell in us always and never to leave us. And then see what He does. (Verse 13) "He will guide you into all truth. He shall take of mine and show it unto you." In Acts the great fact is that God the Holy Ghost has come: ever since, His dwelling-place has been here upon earth and in the believer.
Now you may ask, When does the believer receive the Holy Ghost? Turn to Acts 10: where Peter was sent to Cornelius. The man had been born of God and had been producing many precious fruits of the divine life, and Peter was now to tell him "words whereby he should be saved." Now read verse 43: "Whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word." So we see that the Holy Ghost taking His place in us is connected with the remission of sins; the moment you received the remission of your sins that moment God the Holy Ghost took up His dwelling-place in you. (Ephesians 1:13). "In whom also after that ye believed" (that is "the gospel of your salvation") "ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise." The ray that convicted me of my sins revealed to me the Person of my Saviour and became life in my soul; when the testimony to His finished work is believed the Holy Ghost dwells in me, come from the glory to be the power of Christ's life in me. Thus we have the first great part of our deliverance: "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free." (Verse 2)
We carry the flesh in us still, it has undergone no change; the two natures remain within me, each having their own character; as the last verse of Romans 7 coming after the deliverance is reached, states; but now I am entitled to reckon myself dead to the old, and am no longer in the flesh but in Christ and in the Spirit given to dwell in me and to be the power of the believer's walk. Through it I am enabled to keep the evil nature within me in the place of death. Secondly, we are free by the new range of objects presented to us. (Ver. 5) The flesh finds its objects in the world that God has judged — just what is suited to it; but, blessed be God, there is a sphere of things suited to the new nature, "the things of the Spirit," or else we should be like fish out of water. The Holy Ghost takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us. He is not merely the power of the life we have received in Christ Jesus, but communicates to us the things of that life — of its home and hopes, new relationships, new joys, new objects where Christ is. We look at unseen things: we have our mind on things above, our citizenship there. Therein we find the immense practical power of our deliverance; I am as a delivered person free to enjoy the things that the Spirit thus ministers to me. It is the immense formative power of an object when it is adequate and absorbing. We see the power of it in poor earthly things; he who seeks money is avaricious, fame ambitious, and so on; how much more so when the object is divine.
Using the ark again as an illustration of these things — there were two principles within, illustrated in the raven and the dove: the raven that the moment it was given its liberty found its food in the masses of corruption floating on the waters of judgment; the dove that found no rest for its foot in such a scene and returned again unto Noah into the ark. The raven is the flesh, but we have learnt its character. If you have a robber in the house whose character you know, you will keep him under lock and key. By faith our death with Christ, and the Holy Ghost, are the power now to refuse the flesh its liberty, having proved its character, and to keep it in the place of death. The dove, the new life in the power of the Holy Ghost, finds no rest here. When Christ was here the Spirit descended on Him in the form of a dove, and now that same blessed Spirit directs our hearts to where He is, to the One that will fill them for all eternity. Is He not an adequate object? Can He not satisfy now? He delights to do it if you will only let Him. Are you allowing the Spirit to take of the things of Christ and form your hearts by the Son of God as your object — like Noah with his one window up above, or are you trying to break a hole in the side to be interested in and find your object in a judged world? He will never depart from us, but we may grieve Him and then all communion, and joy in it, and power is obstructed, and I believe there is no heart more miserable than one who has tasted of what Christ is as an object, and turns away to be occupied with the things of the world.
One thing more belongs to this wonderful position. (Ver. 11) We now wait for the moment when the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven, we know not the moment, but the Lord is at hand. Then we shall have resurrection bodies, changed in the twinkling of an eye or raised. The two first parts of the deliverance, by the Spirit as the power of life, and by the Object of that new life — we wait for the deliverance of the body and then all will be complete. What a deliverance, and what a Deliverer is ours!