The Path of Life and Paul’s Deliverance, Reckoning, and Persuasion

Notes of 2 Addresses on Romans 6, 8:2, 18, 38-39

The Path of Life (Romans 6)

There are two things which are always found together, and they are sin and death; they cannot be separated, neither can righteousness and life. Death is the consequence of sin. There is s notion in some people’s minds that it has come into the world in a natural way, but it is the consequence of sin. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin” (Rom. 5:12); and whether we look at these things in connection with a head, such as Adam was, and Christ is, or whether we look at them in connection with ourselves as individuals, the facts remain the same, sin and death run hand in hand, and so do righteousness and life. Sin came in by the first head, Adam, and all his posterity are under death, for all are sinners, there have been no exceptions.

Now the law spoke of life for man, but it was on the principle of obedience, or practical righteousness, he was to enter into it. Moses told the people they were to walk in all the ways which God had commanded them, that they might live (Deut. 5:33). The man who did those things was to find life in the doing of them. But man did not find life in the law, he found death there, and why? Simply because he did not keep the law, but broke it. He could not justify himself by it, and not being able to justify himself by it he found in it no deliverance from death. He became in one sense worse off under law than without it, for under the law the curse was upon him, as it is written, “cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” Not that there was anything evil in the law, but the flesh being unmendably wicked and rebellious, man could not fulfil his obligations, he could not gain righteousness by it, and therefore life was out of the question for him, it became a ministration of death and condemnation. Had man been able by the law to establish his own righteousness, he would have made out a title to life, and death could not have reached him. Death had lain upon man from Adam till Moses, who gave the law; but as I have said, they found no relief in it, it only emphasized the judgment which lay upon them on account of sin, and even added to this the curse.

It is plain, therefore, that if life is to be found it must be in another head, for everything is hopeless under Adam, none of his descendants has been better than himself, and it is hopeless to look for the power of recovery on that line. But God has raised up another Head for man in the Person of Christ. When He came into the world, it could be said of Him, “in him was life.” Life was brought into the world in Him for all; but for all that, it was not available for any until righteousness was accomplished. He was personally righteous, and could not be defiled by sin; it was that hateful thing to Him that it was to God, and in Him as a Man on earth God found His delight.

It is not merely that He did no sin, it was abhorrent to Him; He loved righteousness, and hated lawlessness; His meat was to do the will of Him that sent Him, and to finish His work. But if He was to take the place of life-giving Head to other men, He must fulfil righteousness, that is to say, the judgment which lay upon man on account of sin must be borne. This He has done, and not only this, but when made sin and bearing the judgment due to it, God found in Him One who felt the dreadful and exceeding sinfulness of sin. The Lamb for the sacrifice has been without blemish and without spot, and sin to Him was so utterly obnoxious and loathsome that sympathy or patience with it in His mind would have been high treason against the holiness, righteousness, and authority of God. He felt sin to be that horrible thing which God felt it to be, acknowledged to the full the righteous judgment of God against it, and gave Himself up to bear it in the sight of heaven and earth, and in the presence of all God’s intelligent creatures, who were spectators of that gibbet upon which the Sin-bearer was impaled. That cross is both the expression of God’s utter abhorrence and judgment of sin, and the expression of Christ’s zeal for the honour and glory of God, and His hatred of that which has insulted and dishonoured Him, in that He gave Himself to bear its judgment, that it might be put away.

But God has raised Him from the dead. He was delivered for our offences, and has been raised again for our justification. Righteousness and life are in Him for all men. He is last Adam in resurrection, His death has enabled Hun to take this place, and in Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses. In the gospel this is made known. He is preached as glad tidings to the whole human race. He can now take man out of death. It was, as I have been saying, to this end that He made propitiation, and now life is available to man, and we are in life by His Spirit. We are not free from death in the life of flesh, but we are free from it in the life of Christ.

By His death and resurrection He has gained rights over men. He is Lord of all, and none else has to say to man but Himself: He died, and rose, and lives, that He might be Lord of dead and living. He has the keys of death and bade. He is Life-giver, and He is also judge of living and dead; and this place has been acquired by Him through death and resurrection. All who do not come under His life-giving influence will be judged by Him in the day of judgment.

Life and righteousness are in Him, and in Him for all, and we are drawn to Him that we might not only be justified, but that we might be made righteous in a practical way, and live by His quickening power. This is the effect of having the Spirit, the well of water, the new fountain in us which springs up into everlasting life. The old fountain, the flesh, was unclean, and out of it were all the issues of life. We may or we may not have discovered the utter irremediable badness of the flesh, but God who knew it saw that there was no help for us except by putting into us a new fountain of life. Paul says, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing,” and we may reasonably conclude, that if there was no good in Paul’s flesh, there must be no good in ours, and this would be a very safe conclusion to arrive at, but it would not be the same thing as learning it experimentally of ourselves; but whether we have learned it or not, it is none the less true that the fountain of the flesh is bitter and foul, and that nothing sweet or pure can come out of it, and the end of the things produced by it is death; that is, that what springs from it is obnoxious to God, and brings judgment upon man, for on account of these things comes the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience (Col. 3:6).

But we have received the Spirit of the righteous One, and therefore we have not only the desire to practice that which is right, but we have also the power. If the man who was under judgment had not gone in the judgment of His cross we could not have received the Spirit, but we have received the Spirit, and are in Him by the Spirit in whom the judgment has been executed, and in whom the life of flesh has come to an end, and in walking after the Spirit righteousness is produced, and life is the result: “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”

In Romans 6 we get the path of life. It is the path of life because it is the path of righteousness; righteousness and life must go together. In Psalm 16 the Lord speaking as the dependent Man says to God, “Thou wilt show Me the path of life,” and that path was obedience unto death, even the death of the cross, but opening out in resurrection into the presence of God, where there is fullness of joy, and to His right hand, where there are pleasures forevermore. He has shown us the path of life by treading it Himself, for in that He died He died unto sin once, and in that He liveth He liveth unto God, and He teaches us to reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Him. He has gone before the sheep, and He calls them after Him, and they follow Him in the path of righteousness, and in that path they enjoy eternal life, and can never perish, for in that path there is no death.

And to His death we are committed in baptism, in it we are set in the attitude of dead to sin, and in the power of His life we live to God. Sin reigns over every man who is born into the world, and every man submits to its dominion, save where the mighty grace of God works to deliver from its authority. But where the grace of God works there is deliverance, and sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace and all who are under grace get all the help of God against sin, and all the help He gives lies in the Spirit. It might be said that the Spirit is not mentioned in Romans 6, and this is so, but the reason of this is because the question is not in what power the path is to be trodden, the path itself which is marked out; but Paul tells us that it was the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus had made him free, and what made Paul free is the only power which can make anyone else free.

I am entitled by my baptism, and by the fact that our old man has been crucified with Christ, to take up the attitude of death to sin, and I am empowered to do it by the Spirit; and the way the Spirit works is by bringing our hearts on the one hand under the power of that which has come to light in the death of Christ, and on the other with that which God has established in Him in resurrection, so that a new order of things permeated by the love of God fills our vision, God Himself is before our souls, come to light in the Person of His Son, and we reckon ourselves dead to sin, and alive to God, for God has secured the affections of our hearts, and we live in His love.

In the path of sin there is not a particle of life, it is not to be found in the path of disobedience: “If ye live after the flesh ye shall die.” If we desire to enjoy life we must find it in the way of righteousness; there is no death there, it teems with life. He tells them they had been the servants of sin, but this state was over, and he thanks God for it, for what fruit had they then in those things whereof they were now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But having got their freedom from sin, and became servants to God, their fruit was unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. The path of sin is like a deep, dark river, and is full of death; but the path of righteousness overflows with living water. “In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death” (Prov. 12:28). May we know how to reckon ourselves dead, to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Paul’s Deliverance, Reckoning, and Persuasion (Romans 8)

I do not intend to go over all this chapter, but to confine myself to the three passages which I have read. The apostle tells us here what he was able to say of himself. There were many things he could say of all believers, but there were other things which were so experimental that each one must in such things speak only of himself; and in these three passages which I have read he singles himself out from others, and speaks of that in which he found the deliverance so necessary to pursue the path of life, and also how he estimated the sufferings which were his portion in this present time, and how he was persuaded as to the love of God.

A few evenings ago I spoke of chapter 6 as the path of life, and sought to point out that it was the path of life, because it was the path of righteousness. Death is found in the pathway of sin, there is no life there. Man set his foot upon the pathway of sin, and death sprang up for him at every step of the way. But in the pathway of righteousness is life. We shall not find life in the pathway of sin, neither shall we find death in the pathway of righteousness. Romans 6 is that path, but we are not told in the chapter the power in which that path alone can be trodden; we have to come to chapter 8 for that. Here the apostle tells us what made him free from the law of sin and death, which in the previous chapter he speaks of as that which held him in bondage, so that the good that he would he did not, but the evil that be would not that he did. He says here, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death”; and we may rest assured that what made the apostle free is the only power which can make us free.

The great subject of chapter 8 is the Spirit, and the Spirit is God’s great gift to man, and that man may have the Spirit he is attracted to Christ by the testimony of the grace of God presented in Him. He says to the woman at the well, “Thou wouldst have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.” If you had asked that poor woman what she needed most, she would probably have replied that her great need was forgiveness of sins, but the Lord knew better than she did, and He speaks to her of living water.

In Luke 11 he says to His disciples, “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” He speaks of one going to his friend at midnight asking three loaves, and his friend rises and gives him as many as he needs, that is to say he does not confine himself to the request. So he says to His disciples: “Ask.” You may not put your request in the best form, you may not come at the most seasonable hour, you may not ask the thing you most need, but you come to One who is full of grace, and who knows your need infinitely better than you know it yourself, and as to whose love for you there can be no room for doubt, for it has been declared in the death of His Son, and your need will be met. And what meets your need is found in Christ. Whatever your need may be He can meet it. You need bread, bread is the support of life, and if you come to Him He will not turn you back upon the old covenant, and give you a stone which will be death to you. The energy of life is set forth in the fish, and if you come to Him He will not throw you back upon the energy of the flesh, whose tortuous, crooked, and evil ways result in death. You ask an egg, in which lies hidden the secret of life, and He will not fill your heart with fear, which stings with the torment of death. HE WILL GIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT TO THEM THAT ASK HIM. This and this alone will meet your need. In the power of the Spirit you will be filled with the bread of life, and with the energy of life, and your heart will be made acquainted with the secret of life, the love of God. And all these things are in Christ; the bread of life, the energy of life, and the secret of life; and all these things are appropriated by us in the power of the Spirit.

In the latter part of chapter 7 you find a man who wants to go against the current of evil, but it is too powerful for him, and he is carried along with it. It is all the stone, and the serpent, and the scorpion there. What does he need? Power: and he gets it in the Spirit. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made him free from the law of sin and death. He can now go against the stream.

Read verse 3 of this chapter 8. “For what the law could not do.” What could it not do? It could not guide my feet in the way of righteousness. Why? Because of the badness of the flesh. But what the law could not do has been done by Another. Yes, but how? “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin (by a sacrifice for sin), condemned sin in the flesh”, in the cross sin received its judgment in that in which it had its seat, and this was the end of flesh as before God, and now the righteousness of the law is “fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” What the law required from man was love to God, and to his neighbour, but it could not produce it in man; but God has brought it about by the revelation of His own love in that which was the end of flesh, and by the Spirit the love of God becomes the life of our souls, so that we love God and our neighbour, and love works no ill to his neighbour, therefore the law is fulfilled, and that without the believer being under it, or led by it. We are led by the spirit. The sons of God are not led by the law. We have the Spirit of sonship, and cry Abba, Father. The Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God, “and if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” The Heir has been killed and cast out of this world, and as we are joint heirs with Him we must be in this present time joint partakers of His sufferings. This brings us to the second point I wish to consider for a brief moment.

He says, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,” or perhaps to us. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God, but when the glory appears, the holy city will be the vessel in which it will be displayed, and for this the creature waits. We are in a groaning creation. It was made subject to vanity, not of its own will, it had no will in the matter, it fell with its head Adam. But it is not hopeless, it will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. It awaits the manifestation of the sons of God, and it must go on with its groaning until they are manifested. Men around us form themselves into associations for the benefit of the creature, seeking to ameliorate its lot, and to lessen its woes, but while all this may be praiseworthy enough from a human standpoint, I say the creature expects nothing from such means; it awaits the moment when the heavens will open and the sons of God will appear with Christ, and then its woes shall be ended, but until that day its groans must continue.

But we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan, because by these mortal bodies we are connected with this groaning creation, and by having the firstfruits of the Spirit we feel the bondage and the sorrow all the more keenly, and added to all we come into reproach and suffering on account of the name of Christ. But we must learn to reckon with the apostle, and not only be assured that the coming glory will compensate us for all the suffering here, but so great is the coming glory that the apostle will not even compare the sufferings of the present time with it. And even now the Spirit helps our infirmities, by making intercession for us, when we know not how to make intercession for ourselves. The thought of God for us is conformity to his Son, and although this will never be perfectly true of us until we are glorified, all the work of God in us is to that end, and to that end the Spirit makes intercession for us. He does not intercede for us that we may have an easy time of it down here in this groaning creation, but that the work of God may go on in our souls, and when His work is finished, and we are glorified with Christ, He will be able to rend the heavens and display His many sons along with His Son, the firstborn among His many brethren, and instead of darkness and lawlessness and disorder, and the pride of man and groaning and death and corruption, the knowledge of the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

The apostle will not allow that the sufferings of this present time, the light momentary affliction, is worthy to be compared with the eternal and weighty glory which is about to be revealed in us. And if he lets us know how he reckons, it is in order that our hearts might be encouraged to reckon as he does. He did not occupy himself with the difficulties and sorrows which beset his path, but with the things unseen, the glories hidden with Christ in the heavens which were about to be revealed, and he knew that in those heavenly and eternal things lay more than compensation for all his loss here below.

But I will come to the third and last point. He leads up to it by bringing before us the mighty fact that God is for us, for us in the death, resurrection, glory, and intercession of Christ His own Son; and for us in the love of Christ, through all the difficulties, sorrows, and persecutions which encompass us upon our pilgrim path through the world; and as those ways in which the blessed God has declared Himself on behalf of His people come before his soul he declares, “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Everything is in Christ, the life, the glory, and the love of God, and we are brought into the benefit of all by the Spirit, that we may be in liberty as the apostle was, able to reckon as he did, and as fully persuaded as he was.