On the Epistle to the Romans

J. N. Darby.

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Romans 5

We are then justified by faith. With this the doctrine of Christ's work, in so far as it is a question of His blood and of the putting away of our sins through the shedding thereof, in a manner closes. The resurrection of Christ is the proof, that God has accepted this work as satisfaction for our sins, and assuredly for His own glory. What a blessed thought! The righteousness of God rests in the value of the work of Christ. This righteousness has been displayed therein by His having raised up His Son from among the dead, and justified us on account of Him; our sins are forgiven, we are washed clean in His blood. We have contributed nothing to our justification, and can contribute nothing; we are justified solely by the work of Christ. Our sins are the only part we have in the sufferings of Christ, by which we are cleansed before God. The value of this work has become our portion by faith, which, however, can add nothing to it. This work is our highest motive for serving Him and for praising Him unceasingly for ever, but neither by it do we add aught to the work of Christ in the sight of God; it is complete, and not only that, but it is accepted and owned as fully sufficient before God. How blessed it is to know that all our sins are put away by God Himself, and this conformably to His own righteousness; inasmuch as He has raised Christ, on account of the work done by Him for us, an ever subsisting proof that God has accepted this work as fully satisfying His glory. This would be enough for our justification, but God has done yet more. He has raised Christ to His own right hand; there He sits now as Man at the right hand of God, until His enemies be made His footstool. "By one offering he has perfected for ever" (as regards the conscience) "them that are sanctified." If they are not perfected by this offering, they never can be, nor can their sins ever be put away. For without shedding of blood is no remission, and Christ cannot shed His blood for us afresh; the work is done, or it can never be done at all.

The first part of chapter 5 (vers. 1-11) summarises all the features of this infinite grace of God. Let us briefly consider the contents of these precious verses. The work is accomplished; faith knows that God has accepted it, because He has raised up Christ and seated Him at His right hand. Nothing remains between the man, born again and sanctified, and God, but the value of the work of Christ, and the acceptance of His Person. The blood of Christ is ever before the eye of God, and He Himself appears in the presence of God for us. This gives us, in the present, the most blessed privileges, as well as the hope of glory for the future which we shall enjoy with Him. We will not, however, go outside our chapter, but confine ourselves to the consideration of the perfection of the grace of God, so wondrously developed in it. We find here what God is for us, whilst our position before Him in Christ is only taken up later on.

330 The first eleven verses contain the development of grace and the ways of God in grace; they speak first of what grace gives, and then of the experiences of those that are the subjects of grace. Christ having been delivered for our sins, and raised again for our justification, we are justified by faith; it is a complete justification; our sins are blotted out, our conscience is purged, and since the value of this work is immutable and for ever before the eye of God, so our justification is valid for ever. Consequently we are in possession of unalterable peace with God. No sins can be imputed to us, for they have been already borne, so that we can have no more conscience of sins. We are, it is true, conscious of the presence of sin in the flesh, but there can be no question of sins that Christ has already borne for us. We have indeed to humble ourselves, when anything occurs to remind us that we were guilty of the hateful fruits of sin, and have brought the load of them upon the beloved Saviour; but in the presence of God, where Christ and His blood are for ever present, we can never question whether all is forgiven. It is important that I should not confound the state of my soul with the value of a work accomplished outside me, with the accomplishment of which I had nothing to do, unless by my sins. But if my sins were laid there on Christ, they cannot any longer be before God. Christ has not got them on Him in heaven. If I come before God, I find there, on the one hand, because Christ is there, infinite, unchangeable love; and, on the other, nothing but perfect and divine righteousness in Him, also because He is there. Infinite love, perfect and divine righteousness, and unchangeable favour, have become the believer's portion in Christ before God.

This leads us a step farther in the consideration of the fruits of grace. Not only are our sins put away through grace, so that we have peace with God, but we can also enjoy the grace of God by which peace is made, grace which is now ever in the heart of God for us. Grace has not only set aside every obstacle through the work of Christ, but it remains unchangeably the same in the heart of God. His eye rests on us with the same love as on Christ. Through Christ we have peace, through Him also access by faith into the grace and favour in which we stand in Him before God. We enjoy this favour in the presence of God. Not only does the heavenly Judge justify us, but a heavenly Father receives us; the light of His gracious countenance, beaming with a Father's love, illumines and gladdens our souls, and comforts our hearts, so that with perfectly restful hearts we are in His presence and walk in His ways; we have the precious consciousness of standing in favour. As regards our sins, they are all put away; as regards our present condition before God, all is love and favour in the bright light of His countenance; as regards the future, glory awaits us; it is our portion, although we do not yet enjoy it. Peace, divine favour, the glory in expectation, such is the portion of the believer, the blessed fruit of God's love.

331 Here it might, then, be said, We have all, for past, present, and future. The apostle has still, however, something to add. The glory being still a thing of the future for us, we have yet a path to trace to reach it, and God does not forget us in the path also. Therefore the apostle says, "Not only so, but we glory in tribulations also." The wilderness is the place where the experiences of the redeemed are gone through with regard to their actual condition and the ways of God in government. Redemption is accomplished; we have been brought to God, as it is written: "I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself." This is a fact, determined beforehand in the counsels of God, and now accomplished. The glory forms part of the counsels of God, and this also must have its fulfilment for those who are justified. The wilderness forms no part of these counsels, but it is the place where we learn His ways with us. Assuredly the thief on the cross went the same day to be with Christ in paradise, to dwell with Him there. His condition was fit for such a position. If on the part of man he has to suffer the consequences of his misdeeds, on the part of God Christ bore for him all that he was guilty of before God, and the justified sinner follows Him the same day into the mansions of bliss, but had not therefore to enter upon a long pathway of experiences. But in general, the believer has to tread his pilgrim way through a world where difficulties and temptations encounter and surround him on every hand. Christ has gone before us through this world, and we are called to walk in His footsteps; but our condition is thereby tested. Redemption does not here come in question, for it is just that which brought us into the wilderness. But we are responsible according to the calling and position in which redemption has placed us, to walk "worthy of God who has called us to his own kingdom and glory."

332 The soul is tested by afflictions as to how far self-will is active; they make manifest the working of sin in us, that we may be able to detect it. God searches us. By this means we learn on the one hand what we are, and on the other what God is for us in His faithfulness and daily care. We are weaned from the world, and our eyes become better able to discern and appreciate what is heavenly. Thus the hope that is already in the heart becomes more lively and clearer. It is in this light we can view all our afflictions, because we possess the key to everything - "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." The providential care of God in this respect is wonderful. "He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous." He thinks of everything that concerns His children, their characters, their circumstances, their trials; He does all that is necessary to bring them to the blessed end of their pilgrimage. After forty years' wandering in the desert, the feet of the children of Israel did not swell, neither did their clothes wear out. He makes all things work together for good to them that love Him.

But we have yet to consider some other and very important points. We find the Holy Spirit mentioned here for the first time. The Holy Ghost shed abroad in the heart is quite another thing from the new birth. We must, of course, be born again to be able to receive the Holy Ghost, but the sinner needs something more than the new birth. In this passage the Holy Ghost is looked upon as the seal given to the believer of the value of the blood of Christ, and of the perfect purification in which he participates by the application of this blood. Washed from his sins, he becomes the habitation of the Holy Spirit. He is the unction, the believer's seal, and the earnest of glory. By Him we cry, "Abba, Father," Gal. 4:6. By Him we know that we are in Christ, and Christ in us; John 14:16-20. And here, in this passage, we learn that by Him also the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. The ordinance of God for the purification of the leper (Lev. 14) furnishes us with a striking type of what takes place now with the believer. The leper was first washed with water, then sprinkled with blood, and finally anointed with oil. So now, also, a man is first converted, then made a partaker of the perfect purification wrought by the blood of Christ, and finally he receives the seal of the Holy Ghost. It is by Him we have the full assurance of our participation in an accomplished redemption by virtue of our blessed relationship with God and with Christ, and He is the earnest of the future glory. But all is the result of the sprinkling of the blood of Christ.

333 Thus we know God, we are made partakers of the divine nature, we have apprehension of our redemption and justification, and experience His faithfulness. He reveals Himself to our souls, and reveals to us also the glory which lies before us. We know that we are in Him, and that God dwells in us. Thus we glory, not only in what He has given us - not only in our salvation - but also in God Himself. A grateful child is not merely happy to have received much from his father, but his heart rejoices in having such a father as he has shewn himself to be by his loving ways. He is happy because his father is all that his heart could desire; he rejoices in what he personally finds his father to be, and glories in him. What a privilege for us to be able to boast in God Himself! That enhances the joy, and the enjoyment of grace. The highest character of our eternal joy is thus already realised here below, and profound peace accompanies this joy. What God is in Himself is the infinite yet present object for a nature that is capable of enjoying Him, the Holy Ghost revealing Him to the soul.

With this ends the first part of the epistle, and the doctrine of the whole epistle. What follows is our standing in Christ, as well as the experiences which the soul goes through in entering upon this position. Then follow exhortations to those who are delivered. Our position is not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, or in Christ. But to be truly delivered we must learn what the flesh is, and that by experience; then, and then only, do we pass from the legal condition of the soul into the spiritual in Christ, by virtue of the death and the life of Jesus Christ. But we shall return to this later on. We must first consider the position itself, or rather the two positions, and the doctrine relating thereto. It is of importance to remark here, that for deliverance it is a question of experience, by which alone it can be known. It is quite otherwise as to the forgiveness of sins. It is indeed true that God must teach us in all; but to believe that something is done, or has taken place, outside me, is entirely different from believing something about myself of which I do not find the practical realisation in myself. The work of Christ on the cross, by which I obtain forgiveness and peace, in so far as it has to do with forgiveness, is a thing accomplished outside me, and I am called to believe that God has accepted it in satisfaction for my sins. It is indeed the work of God in my heart that I believe this, but the thing in itself is simple.

334 A child who has to be punished understands perfectly what is meant by receiving forgiveness. But if it be said, If you believe, you are dead to sin; I reply, and all the more that I am in earnest and sincere, That is not true, for I feel the activity of sin in my heart. The question, then, of our condition, is treated in the second part of the Epistle to the Romans. Are we in the flesh or in the Spirit? Are we in Christ, and Christ in us? Have we thus died to sin, or are we merely children of Adam, so that sin exercises its power in us even when we would not have it so?

The consideration of this question begins with chapter 5:12. The apostle speaks no longer of what we have done, as in the first part of the epistle, but of what we are, and that in consequence of Adam's sin. By the disobedience of one, the many (that is, all who are by birth connected with him as their father) were made sinners. "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (v. 12). The continuation of this statement is found in verse 18. Verses 13-17 form a parenthesis, the object of which is to shew in what relation the law stands to this question, and to prove that man, without having received a law from God, is under the yoke of sin, and subject to judgment. Death is the proof that sin reigns over all men. Adam was under a law; he was forbidden to eat of a certain tree. The Jews, as we all know, were placed as a people under the law of Moses. Now, if Adam did not observe the original commandment, nor the Jews the law of God, they were definitely guilty in those points wherein they had disobeyed. They had done that which the law had forbidden. Verse 14 refers to what is said of Israel in Hosea 6:7: "They, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant." Adam, like Israel, stood in relation with God by a positive law. With the heathen it was otherwise, they possessed no law. They had conscience, indeed, and obedience to God was obligatory, but one could not say that in this or that point they had transgressed a known commandment of God, because there was none. No law existed for them, so what they had done could not be reckoned to them as transgression. But sin was there; conscience took cognisance of everything that was done against its voice, and death reigned over them. The reign of death accordingly demonstrated the existence of sin, of which it was the consequence. Each one, even if not placed under law, had defiled his conscience, and death was the constant proof of the existence of sin. The Gentiles, who had no law, died just as much as the Jews.

335 Were the operations of grace to be limited, then, to the narrow circle of Judaism, because the Jews alone possessed the promises and all the privileges of a revelation, specially the word of God? On the contrary. Christianity was the revelation of God Himself, not merely of the will of God with regard to man; therefore this revelation necessarily reached far beyond the limits of Judaism. In Christianity there is no nation singled out with a law given to them. To Israel a law was given which taught what man ought to be, but it did not reveal God. It was accompanied, it is true, by promises, but promises which were not yet fulfilled; and at the same time it precluded man from approach to God. But Christianity brought in a revelation of God in love in the Person of His Son; it announced an accomplished redemption through His death, a perfect, present, justification by faith, in virtue of His death. It testified that the veil which precluded access to God was rent, so that access became perfectly free, and the believer can draw near with boldness by this new and living way. Thus eternal blessing is not in the first and sinful man, nor yet through the law. For this, as applied to him, could not do otherwise than condemn him, because it formed the perfect, divine, rule of conduct for man; and since man is a sinner, it puts all under the curse who were placed under the law. The blessing of God is in the last Adam, the second Man and that as glorified, after having been previously made sin for us - in Him who met the power of Satan and subjected Himself to death, although He could not be holden of it; who underwent in His soul the curse and the forsaking of God, and whom God, having been perfectly glorified by His work, raised from the dead and seated as Man at His own right hand. A God who has revealed Himself in such a way could not be God of the Jews only.

336 In verses 15-17 the apostle shews that grace far surpasses sin. If (ver. 15) the consequences of Adam's sin did not remain limited to him, but extended also to his descendants, how much more the consequences of the work of Christ extend to those who are His! According to verse 16, by Adam's sin all his descendants are lost; but grace, the free gift, is not merely efficacious for the lost condition, but also for many offences. The superabounding of grace comes out in special relief in verse 17, where it says, "For if by one man's offence death reigned by one" - one would expect the corresponding thought to be "much more life will reign"; but no, "much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ."

The parenthesis closes with verse 17, and the apostle resumes in verse 18 the train of thought interrupted at verse 12. The consequences of Adam's fall concern all; in the same way the free gift through the work of Christ concerns all. The gospel can thus be applied to all; it addresses the whole world, all sinners. In verse 19 we have the actual application. By the disobedience of one man, the many connected with him, that is to say all men are found in the condition of this one, which is a sinful condition. By the obedience of one man, all who are connected with him, that is, all Christians, are found in the position of this One, namely, in a position of righteousness before God. Adam was the figure of the Man that was to come. In the one we were lost, in the other all those who are connected with Him are saved, righteous before God. The guilt of a man depends upon what he has done; his actual condition, on the contrary, on what Adam has done. Adam and Christ are the heads of two races; the one of a sinful, and the other of a race righteous before God, and here life and standing are inseparable. The law came in by the way between the first and second Adam. The root of the fallen human race was Adam, the first man. The Head and the root of life of the blessed and saved race is Christ.

But "the law came in by the way," as the measure of what fallen humanity should have been, but never actually was. The law was never the means of life or of salvation, but the rule of what man ought to have been down here, connected with a promise of life: "the man that doeth them shall live in them" (Gal. 3:12); but it commanded sinful man not to sin. Its object was, as the apostle here says, to make the offence abound, not sin, for God can do nothing to augment sin; but when sin was already there, He could give a rule to bring the fruits of it to light. Thus, although the law formed the perfect rule of conduct for a child of Adam, yet as a matter of fact it was always something by the way. Man was already a lost sinner, and the law brought out the fruit of the rotten and corrupt tree. We shall see, further on, that it did more than this In this passage we are only told that it made the offence to abound.

337 We get a glimpse, indeed, of the ways of God in the first, as in the second Adam. Man was a sinner, a lost sinner; Christ, a Saviour. The law was of use as a proof of what man was, because it required righteousness from man, according to the measure of his responsibility. The object of the law in the government of God was to manifest man's self-will in disobedience and transgressions, for without law there is no transgression. Now that supposes sin, as may be seen in the law itself. The judgment of God is exercised according to man's responsibility according to what he has done, whether without law or under law. His lost condition is another thing. He was lost in Adam; the world furnishes a proof of it in a terrible way, and our own hearts even more if indeed we know them. The disobedience of the one has alone brought in the condition. This condition is not a future judgment, but a present fact; we are constituted sinners. The whole family is, through its father, in the same condition with himself; separated from God, yea, driven out in enmity against Him, shut out from His presence, and without even a desire to enter into it. Man prefers pleasure, money, vanity, worldly power, fine apparel, in short, everything, to God, even when he professes to be one who believes that the Son of God has died for him in love. There is but one subject which in the world is intolerable; namely, Christ, and the revelation of God in Him, although it be a revelation of love. By the disobedience of one the many have been brought into the position of sinners.

Thus the important truth here set before us is not the guilt brought about by wicked works, and the grace by which it has been put away, but the condition of the fallen children of Adam, as a general principle. (This is why the law is set aside as a secondary thing, although it was valid for the conscience of the Jew, and remains always a perfect rule of human righteousness, and also represented that rule wherever, supported by the authority of God, it was applied.) In connection with this there is the introduction of a new or second root of saved men, and this in the risen One, just as Adam is the root of fallen man. Adam did not become the head of a race till he became sinful, and Christ was not in fact the head of a new creation (although God from the beginning had wrought by His Spirit) until divine righteousness had been manifested in His being glorified. Now when the righteousness of God had been revealed, and indeed become applicable to us, in that Christ was glorified after He had borne our sins, and perfectly glorified God when He had been made sin - not till then did Christ become the life-giving Head of the new race, accepted of God; and all, from first to last, is the fruit of the unfathomable, infinite, and unutterable grace of God. Grace reigns, but being founded on the work of Christ, reigns through righteousness. The end is eternal life, and that in its full and true character, according to the counsels of God, in the glory where Christ, according to this righteousness, has already entered as Man. Righteousness does not yet reign; it will reign in the day of judgment. But then human righteousness, namely, that which was due from man, will form the measure of judgment; man will then be judged according to the duties towards God and towards his neighbour, which were imposed upon him by the righteous claims of God. But the original source of salvation for man is grace, because God is love and we are sinners; for grace is the exercise of love towards those who have no desert, no merit. And love has therein been manifested, so that the angels learn to know it by God's ways towards us. But God is also righteous, and must maintain righteousness, and His holiness cannot for ever tolerate sin in His presence. He has proved that all men lie under sin and are guilty, and then He has acted in His infinite love, not merely in forgiving sins (of which we have already spoken), but in providing an entirely new position according to His eternal counsels, and for His eternal glory, according to what He is in His own nature. The carrying out of this counsel, and that too in virtue of the work of Christ according to His perfect righteousness, is the expression and the manifestation of His infinite love. Love is therein manifested, in that He sent His Son and gave Him up for us to death and the curse. Righteousness is manifested therein, in that He has set Christ, who had glorified Him perfectly, at His right hand in divine glory - in that glory which as Son of God He had already with the Father before the world was, but to which He had won His title as Son of man, so that divine righteousness must of necessity give Him this place. And we have part in this glory of God, because the work by which God has been perfectly glorified was at the same time accomplished for us. We form part of the glory of Christ for eternity. He would not see of the fruit of the travail of His soul, if He had not His redeemed people with Him in glory.

339 Romans 6

But here the flesh, which wants to have its own righteousness, and the world, which affects to be the guardian of morality, brings forward an objection in order to resist the truth and grace which shew man to be lost on account of sin. They say, if by the obedience of one we are constituted righteous, it is then just the same whether we be obedient or disobedient. This objection only proves that he who makes it knows nothing of the truth, that he has no apprehension whatever of his own lost condition, nor of the new life which the believer has received, and which, because it is of God, cannot tolerate sin.

Let us observe here what important truths are involved in the change of ground on which man's relation with God rests. The turning-point is the cross, the death of Christ. The old man, Adam's race, has been tested without law, under law, and then under the revelation of grace and truth when the Son of God was in this world as Man. God Himself was come, manifest in the flesh, not to impute sins, but "reconciling the world unto himself"; and if the blessing of the race of the first Adam had been possible it ought to have taken place then; but it was impossible. Much is said of a connecting link found between God and man, but even God manifested in grace and truth found none. On the contrary, the death of Christ is the positive, definitive, and absolute breach between man and God. It was not only that man without law was under sin, nor that under law he was openly disobedient to it, but in rejecting Christ he refused the grace of God which shone forth in Him. The Lord said (John 12:31), in speaking of His death, "Now is the judgment of this world"; and in John 15:24, "They have both seen and hated both me and my Father." Therefore it says, in Hebrews 9:26, "Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared." The cross was morally the end of man; but at the same time, and by the same fact in the death of Christ, was laid the foundation of the new creation according to the righteousness of God. The same fact which on God's part has made an end of the first Adam, inasmuch as his race rejected the Son of God, has also laid the foundation of the new condition of man in the second Adam. Christ was made sin on the cross; sin was there judged, and the old man for ever set aside. Now access to God through faith has been made possible; in the resurrection, the new life, even for the body, has been actually brought to light, and the second Man has taken His place in glory. Just as the first man was driven out of the garden, to become the root of a sinful and lost race, so the second Man has entered the heavenly paradise as root and head of the saved race, as the righteousness of God which is valid for man; and so life and righteousness have become inseparable. Forgiveness through the blood of Christ is the most powerful motive for an upright walk; the resurrection of Christ in itself unites righteousness and life; it is a "justification of life" (chap. 5:18).

340 The truth that we are risen with Christ is not further developed in the Epistle to the Romans. As to the part we have in His death and resurrection, it only says that by faith we reckon ourselves dead to sin, that the glorified Christ is our life, and the Holy Spirit is given to us.

If, then, by the obedience of the One we are constituted righteous, and if there, where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, "shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" "Far be the thought," says the apostle. But in his answer to this question, he does not place us again under law. That would be nothing short of recognising the old man, the flesh, and, when we are already lost, to introduce afresh responsibility and condemnation; for the flesh is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. The answer of the Spirit points, on the contrary, to the death of Christ; but all that He has done is valid for us. The old man has proved itself irremediably bad, and this was, in fact, shewn in the death of Christ. It is impossible for me now, who am crucified with Him, to recognise the very man that put Christ to death - I am come to Christ, because man (I myself in my old condition) was such - and because I have now received a new life, Christ risen from amongst the dead. But we must consider this somewhat more closely.

341 In having been baptised unto Christ Jesus (our true confession of faith), we were not baptised to a Christ whom the world has received, or who found a connecting link with the first Adam. On the contrary, the world, man, rejected Him, and drove Him out of the earth; and in this way, as already said, it was shewn that a union between God and man as a child of Adam was perfectly impossible. Therefore God has begun afresh; we are born anew; Christ has, thanks be to God, as the rejected One, accomplished the work of atonement; He has acquired for those who believe on Him, justification, forgiveness, and glory. But He is the second Man, and in Him man is found in an entirely new position before God, as well as in an entirely new condition. A risen Christ is our life, a risen Christ our righteousness; the old man is for ever condemned. He who possesses Christ as his life shares in all this, because he has part in His death and resurrection. In Romans the first part only is developed - we are dead with Him, have died with Him. He is indeed presented also as our life; but our resurrection with Him is not treated of, because the Holy Spirit here looks at Christians as men living on the earth. Christ is dead and risen; we are baptised unto His death. We have part in His death, inasmuch as He is our life. He, who is my life, died, and He died to sin. I recognise Him alone as my "I," and as this new "I," I reckon my old "I" as dead. According to this new life I am alive to God; but as regards my old man I have died with Christ. How could I still live the life of the old man, if as such I have died? Therefore, buried with Christ by baptism unto death, it behoves us to walk in newness of life. If we have part in His position, as dead to sin, we shall also have part in His resurrection. The apostle does not say that we have part in it, but that we shall have part in it. This resurrection life will be perfect in glory; but it expresses itself now already in a new walk; just as the power of the life of Christ, which, in a positive way, came out in His resurrection, was also actually manifested in His walk on earth. "Knowing this," says the apostle, "that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed" (that is to say, that sin in us as a whole might be annulled), "that henceforth we should not serve sin" (ver. 6); "for he that is dead is freed [or justified] from sin." But this requires fuller explanation.

342 First it is important to seize clearly that the Christian has not yet to die to sin, but that he has died inasmuch as he is crucified with Christ; now that he has received Christ as his life, he reckons the old man dead. It is not only particular sins or lusts from which he has been delivered, but the old man as a whole is set aside, dead, and to be held for dead by faith which acts according to the new man. It is true that the nature of the old man is still present in us; our having died with Christ does not result in its having no longer any existence in us, but it has no more dominion - "that henceforth we should not serve sin." There is no necessity to have even a single evil thought, although the nature which produces them still exists; but we do not in any way serve this nature, not even in thought, when the new life and the power of the Holy Spirit are active in us. The Christian is made free, not because his sins are for ever pardoned, but because he is dead to sin, crucified with Christ. As dead with Christ he is justified from sin, just because he is dead; but he is also alive in Christ. It is not only true that sin has no longer dominion, but the Christian is also free to yield himself up; he possesses a new nature, a new holy life. But to whom shall he now yield himself?  - to righteousness and to God. This yielding of oneself is not the act of the sinner, as is very often falsely affirmed, but that of the delivered soul. The Christian, because he is purified, justified, assured of the love and favour of God, and in possession of a conscience made perfect through the blood of Christ, in that no sin can any more be reckoned to him, is free, has boldness before God. The same blow that rent the veil removed also all his sin. Now through the rent veil the light of God shines openly upon him, to shew that his garments are white as snow. He is set free from the power of sin, because Christ is his life, and, crucified with Christ, and now living by Him alone, he reckons himself dead as regards the flesh. He is free before God, and also freed from sin. In this liberty he yields himself to God.

343 Thus the new life, walking with God, gains already something along the way. We have fruits, even before we reach the glory, and this fruit is holiness. Blessed fruit! Beginning with being made partakers of the divine nature, we grow also in practical communion with God, by the growth of holiness in us. This growth does not set aside the truth that the new nature which we have received is perfect in itself. We belong absolutely to God, are bought with a price, separated from sin and the world. We belong to God, according to the value of the sacrifice of Christ, according to the new nature, and the power of the Holy Spirit. After the inward man we already belong to the new creation, although "we have this treasure in earthen vessels." We are in Christ, and in Him we are perfectly accepted. He is our righteousness, a righteousness which is fit for the glory; for He is in the glory according to this righteousness. But He is also in us as our life, and according to the power of the Spirit. This life in itself is perfect, and cannot sin; but we must also have a sanctifying object before us. Therefore the Holy Spirit takes what is in Christ and reveals it to us; yea, He reveals to us all that is up there where Christ is, and where the Father is also. By this we grow objectively in that which is heavenly; we are weaned from the world, live in spirit in the heavenly places, enjoy the Father's love, and become thus holy in practical ways.

We are sanctified according to the counsels of God the Father, through the sacrifice of Christ, by His blood; we are so, as to our being, because we possess a new nature, a new life; we are so by the presence and operation of the Holy Spirit; and we may add, by the word of God. The sanctification of the Spirit is brought about by our being born of God. But we must, as I have said, have an object, and the divine nature, the life which we have received, is capable of enjoying this object, God Himself. By the word the Holy Spirit communicates to us the objects that are holy and divine. We are first born anew by the word through faith; then we are nourished by the same, and the heart is purified also by faith; and, indeed the one as well as the other by the revelation of Christ in the heart - "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth … And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth," John 17:17-19.

If we would be accurate, we could not say that the new man, the life which we have received from God, is being sanctified; for the new life itself is holy, and inasmuch as we have received it, we are sanctified for God; therefore it is that in the apostolic epistles believers are called saints. But holiness in us is relative; that is to say, it refers to God, because we cannot be independent. No doubt an actual condition is thereby produced in us; but we are not holy as independent; for it is sin for a creature to be independent, nor is it possible to be really independent. Thus holiness in us is objective; this is an important principle. All that the Holy Spirit has revealed to us - the love of the Father and of Christ, the holiness of God, the perfection of Christ, His Person which has been given to us and delivered up for us, His being glorified now in heaven - all this operates in us, and forms the heart, the thoughts, the inward and thereby also the outward man, according to the object that we contemplate. All that Christ has done and suffered is concerned in it, not only because His walk and His ways are a pattern for us, but because they engage the heart with Him. The affections of the heart are occupied with Christ and with His perfection, and He fills our hearts. That is sanctification; for this also fills the Father's heart. "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life," John 10:17. The Father appreciates what Christ has done, and what He was in doing it, and it was done for us. We have holy thoughts in loving and appreciating what He has done, and what He was. Thus we have in us the mind which was in Christ. It is one side of the Christian character.

344 But the power of sanctification is wrought in us especially by the contemplation of the glory of Christ. The heart is indeed nourished by all that He was down here; we eat His flesh and drink His blood, enjoy also the bread which came down from heaven; but what transforms us into His image (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 3:2-3) is the glory in which He now dwells. Beholding this glory we are changed into the same image. The glory of Christ produces in us the energy of life, because we count all else for loss. The life and the sufferings of Christ engage the heart with Him. (See Philippians 2 and 3.)

He has for our sakes sanctified Himself, so that we might be sanctified by the word. Wondrous grace! wondrous association! This separates us from the world, associates us with what is heavenly, and conforms us to the heavenly. The end is eternal life in this very glory, when our earthly vessels also shall have been transformed into the likeness of this glory.

345 With regard to holiness we learn further, in Hebrews 12:10, that the discipline of God has for its object to make us partakers of His holiness. In this passage we discover not only the unceasing care of God, but we learn also the precious character of this holiness. We have deserved death as the mournful wages of our sad work; eternal life, the gift of God, has become ours through Jesus Christ our Lord; and this is pure grace. Who else could give us life - eternal life, divine life, but God Himself? Christ Himself is this life, sent from the Father into the world, and here revealed in manhood. Now "he that hath the Son hath life"; "he that believeth on him hath everlasting life," 1 John 1:2; ch. 5:12; John 3:36. Although in the last verse (of our chapter) the reference is more to the result in glory, because in the counsels of God eternal life means perfect conformity to Christ in glory; yet it is none the less given to us now as life, although we are not yet in the glory. It is important for us to remark that it is the gift of God. Man had through sin earned death for himself; life, eternal life, in which we are capable of having fellowship with God, must be given of God. This life is Christ Himself; I John 1. He is the life which was with the Father, and came down here. In Him was life; he that hath the Son hath life, and this life will be fully manifested in glory. That is the principle of the new standing. We have died with Christ to the old standing, and Christ is become our life.

Romans 7

The apostle treats a new question in this chapter: What is the effect of the law in relation to our new position? The principle is simple. We have died with Christ; but law has dominion over a man only so long as he lives. If a murderer is condemned to death, and suffers death according to the sentence, the judicial authority has nothing more to do with him. Now we have died; yet if it were only by the law that we were put to death, we should be not only dead but condemned also. But now we have died with Christ, and He has borne for us the consequences of sin, as guilt. Thus we are dead, and the law, therefore, exercises no more authority over us. Christ has taken the place of the law. Instead of a law which forbade sins and lusts, and must of necessity condemn us (because the flesh, to which the law addressed its claims, was not subject to it, nor could be), we possess a new life in Christ; while by faith we reckon the flesh dead, which is disposed to sin. The apostle makes use of marriage as an illustration; death dissolves the tie between husband and wife. Thus we are dead with respect to the law, and are connected with another husband; namely, the risen Christ. The figure is employed here inversely. Not the law, but we, as having had our life in the flesh, have died. Such is the doctrine. In what follows, the apostle speaks of experience. This in no wise annuls the important principle, but rather confirms the deliverance of the soul from the law by having died with Christ, who is now become our new life. According to the figure of marriage employed by the apostle, we are connected as by marriage with Christ, and thereby are brought into an entirely new position - that of relationship. Therefore it says, "When we were in the flesh." Being "in the flesh" means standing on the ground or in the position of the first Adam before God, and being responsible to Him according to this position. It is not a question here of guilt, but of the deliverance of the soul from the yoke of sin. When one is lawless, and seeking nothing but pleasure, the conscience can indeed be awakened for a time, but the power of sin is not felt. He goes with the stream, and is not aware that he is under the dominion of sin. When one is converted one is first occupied with guilt, with the burden of sins. Even when one has learnt to know the forgiveness of sins, and to believe that one is a child of God, the form of experience may indeed be changed because it is no longer a question of justification; but the soul is none the less troubled so long as, in the path of experience, it is not delivered from the power of indwelling sin. The question ever afresh arises, "How can God accept me, or how can He delight in me, when sin, which I cannot overcome, is still present?" As long as forgiveness is not known, the question is, "How can I obtain forgiveness?" If it has been found, the question still remains, "What am I before God? How can such an one as I be accepted? May I not really have deceived myself?" In a word, the eye is solely directed to that which we are in ourselves before God. We see that sin is still there, and yet a Christian ought to obtain the victory over sin. Such an one is in fact, or in the condition of his mind and thoughts, still in the flesh.

346 We have already remarked that the position is found in the first four verses. The fifth and sixth verses lead us on to experience. In the flesh we were connected as by marriage with the law. This gave neither life, nor strength, nor confidence in God; it forbade sins, and imputed them to me. Not only that, but it gave occasion to sin in the flesh to become active so as to bring forth fruit unto death. It brought sins and lusts before the heart by forbidding them. If a heap of money lie on the table, and I am told not to take any of it, immediately the desire to do so is awakened in me. Or if I say, "I have something here in this drawer, but no one must know what it is," instantly every one, small and great, feels a desire to open it. The passions of sins are in no way of the law, but by it. It supposes, however, the existence of the flesh, and that we do not possess the strength of Christ. But now (in Christ) we are delivered from the law, being dead to that wherein we were held. In the flesh we were under the yoke of the law; the flesh was the source of sins, and now for faith it is dead, that we may serve in newness of spirit. The death of the flesh, of the old man, forms the basis of the transition from bondage in the flesh to liberty in the Spirit. At the same time this death stands in connection with redemption.

347 But how is this end to be attained? This is quite another thing from desiring it. The doctrine is presented very clearly and simply in the word of God. But there are many who, according to this doctrine, know that the Christian is dead with Christ, and even raised with Him; who believe also that they have died with Him, because the word of God so plainly declares it; who do not doubt that they are children of God, and that such a position belongs to the child of God, and who, in spite of all this, are not delivered. There are even upright souls, who, seeing that they do not walk as they would wish, begin to doubt, and to ask if they are not hypocrites, if they have not deceived themselves. They believe, and rightly, that God looks for something in them other than He sees. They make everything depend on what they are in themselves before God. But that is law, and not grace. The answer to the question, how the condition of liberty is reached, is developed from verse 7 onwards.

In order to be truly delivered, one must learn, and that by experience, that one is captive to the power of sin, and has no power to deliver oneself, even when desiring to be free. To this end God makes use of the law, and the desire of the new man to be free from the yoke of sin that he hates. Thus the Christian learns, not that he has sinned - this is not here the subject under consideration - but that while he would like to attain to holiness, a principle of sin is at work in his flesh. The law teaches him that God cannot permit this; his renewed mind recognises that God could not allow it; neither does he himself desire it. And yet this principle of sin exists, powerfully active, too strong for him to be able to free himself from it.

348 On this account the law has not only established with divine authority, the duties for all human relationships, but has also added, "Thou shalt not lust." That is a touchstone for man, bringing clearly to light what his state is, even if he has not outwardly sinned, even when through conversion his will is directed to holiness. This holiness after which he seeks he cannot attain. When he was without law, the sentence of death was not felt, if he had not done anything against the voice of his conscience. He lived on at ease, not carrying about with him the sense of condemnation. But the law came, and pronounced condemnation on lust. Experience teaches that this lust exists in the heart, and now conscience feels the sentence of condemnation; lust itself is awakened, and all comes to light. Conscience feels the sentence. One would like to do good, but finds that evil is constantly present.

The law says, "This do and thou shalt live." The converted man, over whose conscience the law exercises its power, regards it as the law of God. The fear of God is in his heart, and he would fain do what the law says. We speak here of the condition of one who is converted, not of a delivered soul. Since the law promised life to the one who kept it, it was accordingly given for life; but since the flesh is not subject to the law, it was found to be in reality for man unto death. The upright converted soul makes experience of this. It is well to remark here the difference between a natural man who has only conscience, and the condition of a man as here presented to us. The conscience discerns between good and evil. God has taken care that man, become a sinner, should bring conscience with him into the world. It condemns according to its nature what is evil; man none the less practises evil. A heathen, whose will is not changed, might say, 'I approve indeed what is better, but I do not desire what is good, and follow what is evil.' But it is not thus with the man of whom the apostle here speaks. His will is renewed; he delights in the law of God. That is the mind of Christ Himself, and proves that the man in whom this mind is found is converted, and in the bottom of his heart has received a new life. Conscience in the unconverted man leads him to acknowledge what is good; but the will of the flesh remains ever the same. He lives even in the flesh, has indeed a conscience, but not a new will. The will, on the contrary, is not lacking in the man described in Romans 7, but the power to do what he would. It is the condition of a soul which desires good which is in question here.

349 In verse 13, the apostle goes on to describe the effect of the law on the experience of the soul who thus desires what is good. In the previous verse it is recognised that the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. The question now naturally arises, "Was then that which is good made death unto me?" In nowise. But sin worked death by that which is good (the law) in order that sin might be fully manifested, might assume its true character, and become exceeding sinful, in that it has made use of what is good to bring about death. The evil does not manifest itself only as evil in itself, but also as disobedience, because it is forbidden, and thus through the prohibition becomes exceeding sinful. Sin in man has a strong will; in that he wills to do what is evil, even when God has forbidden it. If my child runs out to amuse himself instead of doing his tasks, it is a bad habit; but if I forbid him to run out, and he still goes on with the bad habit, it is disobedience besides. By the commandment sin has become exceeding sinful. It shews that in me not only were there evil lusts, but that self-will which commits the evil, in spite of God's prohibition, is also there; God and His word are despised.

But we learn yet more from the law; namely, our weakness, even when we would do good. The converted but undelivered man does not find it in him to do what he desires to do; he lacks the power. He finds that he is carnal, sold under sin; that is to say, a slave to it. He knows that the law is spiritual; but he is in the flesh, carnal, under the yoke of sin, to which he is sold as a slave. Conscience is active in so far as by the law he knows the will of God, and he sees indeed in the law not only external precepts, but something which condemns the springs of evil in the heart. He may be outwardly blameless; Saul and many others were; but they were thereby full of self-righteousness. But the law in forbidding lust might as well forbid us to be men; therefore God has added the commandment, "Thou shalt not covet."

350 It is not here, then, a question of what I have done, but of what I am, and thus for the first time I discover that in me there is no good thing. I would do good, but I do it not. I am under the yoke of sin in the flesh. I acknowledge that the law is good; I hate sin, and yet I do it. But what I hate, I am not myself; I do, indeed, hate it. Thus taught of God, I learn to distinguish between myself and what I do. As the apostle says, "Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." Yet this is not liberty; that requires power. But it is none the less a very real comfort, by the way, to have learnt not only that in me dwells no good thing, but also to distinguish between me and the sin that dwells in me. I delight in the law after the inward man; the conscience is in activity, and the will is controlled. What is still wanting is power, and that is not there because of redemption not being fully known. We learn, experimentally, not only that we do nothing good, but also that we are unable to do it; the yoke of sin is ever there. And this is precisely what has to be learnt; viz., that one has "no strength" to do the will of God.

Up to this, then, three truths have been spoken of, which have to be learnt experimentally:
1. In the flesh dwells no good thing.
2. We have to distinguish between the self, that would do good, and the sin that dwells in us.
3. There is no power in us to overcome sin in the flesh as long as we are not delivered; we are rather overcome by it.

We cannot then deliver ourselves; on the contrary, we have to be delivered; and the soul must be brought to the knowledge of this. "Who shall deliver me?" is the expression of the consciousness that we cannot do it ourselves; we look round for another. That is what we have to learn, not our guilt, but our weakness - our utter powerlessness, our dependence upon God. But here there are several things for us to notice.

Only one who has been in this condition, and has come out of it, can describe it. It is impossible for a man, who has got into a bog, quietly to describe his situation as long as he is in it. He only feels that he is sinking and perishing, so that he can do nothing but call for help. But after he is delivered, he can calmly describe it all. One who has never been in such a situation might perhaps say to him, "Why did you not go on until you found a firm footing?" "Well," may the other reply, "that is easily said, but in the bog when I lifted up one foot the other sank in all the deeper." That is just the state of the soul in Romans 7, described, it is true, by a Christian who had himself been in it, but is now delivered. I say, "by a Christian"; for when the apostle says "we know" (ver. 14), this is Christian knowledge. But the experience is that of individual consciousness. Thus, when he says, "I am," it is experience and not doctrine. Everything in the experiences communicated to us here is legal throughout. The person concerned consents to the law that it is good; yea, he delights in the law. The conscience and the will are right in divine things; but both have the law as object and measure. We do not hear a word of Christ or of the Spirit; the law is the only object before the soul. But in verse 25 true liberty is reached, and the delivered Christian thanks God. Conflict, it is true, continues; we find this in Galatians 5:16-18. But there it is said that the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, but the Spirit against the flesh. If, however, we are led by the Spirit we are not under the law; that is, not in the state described in Romans 7.