Forgiveness and Liberty

There is a deliverance, a liberty wherewith Christ makes us free, which is other than forgiveness and the joy that may accompany it, and which is often felt to be experimentally a mightier change than the first discovery of mercy, and conversion to God. The Epistle to the Romans treats distinctly of these two things. First, propitiation and forgiveness of sins - justification from all the first Adam produces - through Christ's being delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification, and the blessed grace which has thus given us a portion with God, and given us to joy in Him. This closes with chapter 5:11.

Then comes the state of the sinner by one man's disobedience, what we are and where we are, not guilt from what we have done. We are in the flesh. The quickening power of God does not deliver. It works the desire of holiness, and shows us the necessity of it; but the flesh works still. To this the law, which requires righteousness from us, directly applies. The remedy for this is not the same as for guilt and sins, though it be still Christ's death. There it was Christ hearing our sins in His own body on the tree, making propitiation, purging us from them before God. But the remedy for the power of sin in us, our state as in the flesh before God, is taking us out of it, our having been crucified with Christ. We have part in righteousness by having part in death. If we have part in death, we shall not live on. We are, by the Holy Ghost given to us, in Christ, not in the flesh. It is a new state and place, not the forgiveness of the sins of the old; as Israel not only escaped judgment by the blood on their door-posts, when God was a judge, but were wholly out of Egypt at the Red Sea, where God was a deliverer. So we are not only secured from judgment, but out of the flesh, sin, and the world, when through the work of Christ we have received the Spirit through faith. We are not only born again, but have put off the old man, have been crucified with Christ, are dead; our life is hid with Christ in God. The Christ who has become my life - the new I which lives to God and to Him only - has died, and I reckon myself dead. It is a mistake to say, when we are emptied of self, we can thus live. It is as alive from the dead that we yield ourselves to God as truly free. The doctrine of this is in Romans 6; the practical process by which we arrive at it is in chapter 7, a humbling process, as it always is (though it may be modified by the knowledge of forgiveness), under law the first husband, where a state is required which we are not in. The flesh is not subject to the law of God, nor can be. We discover then our state, what the flesh is, not guilt. "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing"; then through divine teaching that it is not I, but sin that dwells in me; but then that it is too strong for me, that I am captive to the law of sin in my members.

This is clearly not the Christian state at all, but a renewed soul under law. It does not say that the flesh is in me, but that I am captive to it, sold under sin. I am there, though it be not I, and cannot get out. But this is my state under the first husband, law. Death dissolves this bond. I have died in Christ, I have been crucified with Him, and power in the life of the risen Christ is now my portion, the flesh reckoned dead, and I alive to God in Christ. Consequently it is not when brought to be empty of self I am filled with the Spirit, but when brought to find self or flesh wholly evil and that I cannot get rid of it or yet the victory over it. When I have learned that I have no strength as well as that I am ungodly (a point much harder to learn and more humbling), then I find I am delivered, having died in Christ to sin, and the flesh, and the law withal. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, Christ risen, hath made me free from the law of sin and death. I am not a slave or captive, but free. What the law could not do, being weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin (a sacrifice for sin), has condemned sin in the flesh - not forgiven it. But when it was condemned, death was; so that, while condemnation has been carried out in Christ, it is for faith dead since He is, and now the power of life in Him risen is that in which I live, dead to sin and alive to God, not in Adam or flesh at all, but in Christ.

Now being wholly free I can yield myself to God as one alive from the dead. I reckon myself dead as regards the flesh and alive in Christ only. I am not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God, given on cleansing by the blood, dwell in me; and if Christ be in me, the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Thus there is not any reason for ever having an evil thought even. Sin has no dominion over me. I am not a debtor to the flesh; and, being set free in the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, I am able (for Christ's power is there) to hold the flesh for dead. There is no reason why one single thought in my mind should come from the flesh, or from anything but the life of Christ which is in me in the power of the Spirit. There is no excuse if such do arise.

There are two elements in this state; having put off the old man and put on the new, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness; and having the Holy Ghost dwelling in me. Hence God's way of acting is my measure of good, Christ (God manifest in a man) being the expression and model of this. 1 have perfect liberty 'in divine favour, loved as Christ was loved, and knowing it; and I may, and ought to be, occupied with what is revealed in Him, my affections being engaged there, and I filled with the Spirit.

But as this is a state of dependence, diligent seeking of grace alone can keep us thus, and, in fact, in many things we all offend. But my normal state is not grieving the Spirit, and so in God's presence, being able to think of Him and not of self. No state here is the object of the saint. He is not alive in the world, and he looks, having this life, to be conformed to Christ in glory, and if he thinks of himself at all it is only to judge himself. But I believe - in complete deliverance from the law of sin which is in our members - that I am called to be filled with the Spirit, which would not allow thoughts from the flesh to arise in the mind, nor anything that would soil the conscience, but would make us live in the atmosphere of the divine presence. The practical realizing this is by always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus; and then God helps us by delivering us to death by trial, that this may be fully made good. (2 Cor. 4.)

I allow therefore no captivity to sin, no dominion of it. This, even when hopeless of getting the victory, we find to be ours in Christ; and there all has to come from the Spirit, and all is fulness of joy with God. But this is carried out, first by knowing, when helpless as to victory over the flesh, that we have died in Christ, and then by always bearing about His dying, death still working in us, that the life only of Christ may be manifested.

"So that ye cannot do the things that ye would" is utterly false in Galatians 5. It should be "in order that ye may not do," etc.

But there is complete deliverance from the whole power of sin  -  we reckoning ourselves dead  -  and undistracted enjoyment of divine favour in the relationship in which Christ is. The only normal state of the Christian, then, is unclouded fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ, and the uninterrupted manifestation of the life of Christ in his body, and when in God's presence not having to think of sin in himself, but freedom to think of God and what He is. He is divinely free through and in Christ. But he has no thought of a present state of perfection or of purity (only the Spirit is ungrieved, and has not to make him think of himself); for his only owned state is conformity to Christ in glory, God having wrought him for that selfsame thing, in virtue of which he purifies himself as He is pure; and if he does think of himself, he has the consciousness of his not being like Christ as he would, but is glad to have to think of Christ only. But purifying himself is not consciousness that he is pure. His conversation is in heaven, his motives there, and hence necessarily, if he thinks of himself, the consciousness of shortcoming, though he be not troubled by any present thought of sin, but is able to think of Christ. A return to think of himself is for him already failure. J. N. Darby.