Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)
This chapter is an inventory of the treasure in the house of faith and the blessings that flow from justification by faith. In the preceding chapters the apostle had unfolded the principles of God's righteousness and the conditions through which it is received; and now, before he closes this second chapter on the divine salvation, he proceeds to enumerate and sum up the special blessings of this great salvation. In so doing he anticipates a little the subject of sanctification, which is to come in the next chapter; and so we find some things in this enumeration which properly belong to the sanctified life. We must not think this strange or illogical, because while in the nature of things justification and sanctification are distinct and are very distinctly treated in this epistle, yet in the mind of God they are associated very closely, and in the experiences of the believer they ought not to be as widely separated as they usually are.
Indeed, it seems to be the thought of God that they should immediately succeed each other. When God's people left Egypt, He meant them to go immediately into the Land of Canaan, and if they allowed an interval of 40 years to intervene, it was not because God wanted it.
And so, in the Pentecostal experience of the Apostolic church, it would seem as if all who accepted Jesus were at once taken into His fullness and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the same as the apostles--passing at once into the sanctified life, living in entire consecration--so that it would be said, "No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own...and much grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:342b, 33b).
Through the lowering of the Christian standard, there has come about a kind of Christianity which has no spiritual warrant; a condition in which people are justified and yet do not expect to live a holy life--and do not live it, until through truer teaching and the preparation of God's Spirit they are awakened to realize the true life of holiness to which God has called them, and after years of wandering they at length come into the experience of sanctification which they should have known from the first.
While the summary of blessings which the apostle unfolds in this chapter has reference chiefly to the fruits of justification, yet it reaches out into all the fullness of the believer's sanctified life and takes in, by anticipation, some of the things which are to be more explicitly unfolded in the chapters that follow...
God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us...Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:5b, 9-10)
There is a revelation of the love of God in the moment of conversion through the grace of Jesus Christ and the promise of salvation. But there is a deeper experience of the divine love which comes to the soul after it has been proved and tried and brought into the intimacy of His fellowship. This comes from the Holy Spirit pouring out the love of God into the heart.
There are atmospheres in Christian life that greatly differ. Some of God's children live in a cellar all their days, where the light is dim and the air damp; others live in shaded rooms and dim light, where the sun seldom shines; but others dwell in the very sunlight of God's perfect love. The element of their being is not duty, conscience, doctrine, intellectual conviction or even Christian work, but divine love--the sweet, mellow, warm air of the Father's house and the Father's heart, the love of God poured out into the heart like the warm sunshine by the Holy Spirit abiding in the heart, and dwelling ever on God's glorious gift and everlasting pledge of His perfect love, His own beloved Son.
Others talk about their love, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (5:8).
"How much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!" (5:9b). The grace of Christ is the starting point of Christian life and the ground of our justification, but the life of Christ, our risen Lord, is the source of our spiritual life. His intercession for us at God's right hand and His indwelling life in our hearts bring to us the strength and grace that keep us day by day and carry us victoriously through all our pressures and trials.
Faith in a crucified Savior alone may give earnestness and depth to our Christian life, but it is only the revelation of a living Christ that can elevate us to the heights of grace and inspire us with the strength we need for victorious living.
We are saved by His faith in a very real and precious sense, but in a yet more glorious manner we are saved by His life.
Then the climax of all these blessings is reached in the 11th verse when he said, "But we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation [atonement, KJV]." This is a different joy from that meant in the third verse. There the joy is based upon a thing, here it is drawn from a person. There it is the joy that springs from the hope of our coming glory, here it is joy in God Himself, through our reconciliation to Him and our fellowship with Him.
This word atonement means literally "at-one-ment." It denotes not only our reconciliation to God but, we believe, denotes also our being brought into perfect harmony with God in all His will and introduced to such perfect fellowship that we have His very own joy in our heart and life.
This is the joy that is not subject to vicissitudes, nor influenced by circumstances. It springs from the very heart of God Himself, and is as eternal as His own blessedness.
Now these are the blessings of the justified, and with such a catalog of glorious things the apostle finally sums up the chapter by a magnificent contrast between Adam and Christ, and the fall of man through the former, and his redemption through the second Adam, the Lord Jesus.
He gives us the points in which they agree. In both cases the consequences came through a single individual. Our ruin comes from Adam, our redemption comes through Christ.
Again, in both cases, the consequences spring from a single act. By one act of disobedience Adam ruined his posterity, by one act of atonement Christ redeemed His.
Again, in both cases, the acts of the individual descend to his posterity. Adam wrecked his whole race by disobedience, Christ saved his spiritual seed by His atonement, and so the verse is true, "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22).
There are two generations in the world, the Adam race and the Christ race, and we all belong either to one or the other. We have received our natural life from Adam; but if we are born from above, we are the seed of Christ, and are partakers of His obedience and His life.
Then he contrasts these two heads of humanity:
A. One has brought a heritage of sin, the other has brought a divine righteousness. "For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous" (Romans 5:19).
B. One has brought us condemnation, the other has brought us justification. "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men" (5:18).
C. One has brought us death, the other, life. So we read that, "For if by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ" (5:17).
D. The consequences of Christ's redemption are greater than the consequences of Adam's sin and fall, for "where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (5:20b-21).
This is true in the fact that the redemption of Christ elevated humanity to a much higher place than Adam could ever have inherited for most of his posterity.
Christ has not come to restore the saved to Adamic purity or an Eden paradise. The holiness that Jesus gives is far higher than the holiness that Adam knew. It is that we should be partakers of the divine nature, and the glory to which He raises us is transcendently greater than paradise restored.
A single redeemed man in the glory of the ages to come will be higher than the whole human race could have been in the Adamic life, and the number of the redeemed will be vaster, no doubt, than all that ever have been or ever shall be lost. The day is doubtless coming when the myriads of planets that sweep across the immensities of space shall be colonized--yes, ruled by ransomed man--and all the universe shall be a monument to the grandeur of Christ's redemption.
In a more individual sense it is also true that grace superabounds over sin in every life that fully yields itself to Christ. God loves to take the most lost of men and make them the most magnificent memorials of His redeeming love and power. He loves to take the victims of Satan's hate, and the lives that have been the most fearful examples of his power to destroy and use them to illustrate and illuminate the possibilities of divine mercy and the new creations of the Holy Spirit.
He loves to take the things in our own lives that have been the worst, the hardest and the most hostile to God, and transform them so that we shall be the opposites of our former selves.
The sweetest spirits are made out of the most stormy and self-willed; the mightiest faith is created out of a wilderness of doubts and fears; and the most divine love is transformed out of some heart of hate and selfishness.
Boanerges becomes John, Jacob becomes Israel, Simon the son of Jonas becomes the lowly and glorious apostle, crucified with downward head.
The grace of God is equal to the most uncongenial temperaments, to the most unfavorable circumstances; and its glory is to transform a curse into a blessing and show to men and angels of ages yet to come that "where sin increased, grace increased all the more" (5:20b)...
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. (Romans 6:11-13)
In this chapter, the apostle begins the third section of his epistle. In the first section he gave us the picture of sin; in the second, of salvation through the righteousness of God and the atonement of Christ, received by faith, and brings us into a state of justification. In the third section, he deals with sanctification.
He begins by asking: "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" (Romans 6:1). And he answers the question at the very outset by a tremendous "By no means!" (6:2).
We will notice that from this time he uses the singular number in speaking about sin. In the earlier picture he spoke of our sins--our acts of sin. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (3:23). But now he speaks of sin, the state and character of evil from which all our acts spring, as the miasma exhales from a fetid marsh, as the water flows from an unclean fountain.
Justification deals with our sins, but sanctification deals with our sin. God can forgive sins, but sin He can never forgive nor tolerate. It must be destroyed and removed, and the very idea of continuing in sin is met at the threshold by the solemn "By no means!" (6:2), which requires from every follower of Christ that "holiness [without which] no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).
But how is this deliverance from sin to be brought about? The answer involves three points, which the apostle unfolds in these three chapters.
1. We are sanctified, not by the improvement of the old nature, but by its death and the resurrection life of the Lord Jesus Christ, instead.
2. We are sanctified, not by our old master, the law, or by any efforts or struggles of our own, but by the free gift and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and through union with Christ alone.
3. We are sanctified by the indwelling life and power of the Holy Spirit in us and filling our spirit, soul and body with the life of Jesus Christ.
It is on the first of these points that we shall dwell at present, as it is unfolded in the first portion of the sixth chapter of Romans. In developing this thought, the apostle presents a number of points with great logical force and clearness.
1. The principle of death and resurrection is set forth in the symbol of Christian baptism. "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" (6:3).
This, then, is the true meaning of baptism. It is the appropriate symbol of death and resurrection, and not only of death, but of a death so definite and final that it is followed by burial, so that the old life is out of sight forever, and we are detached from it as thoroughly as the soul is separated from the body that lies in the grave.
2. The same principle is again set forth in the symbol of planting. "If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection" (6:5).
This is Christ's own chosen figure to represent His own resurrection. "Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:24).
Nature is full of this principle of death and resurrection. Every springtime reiterates it, every harvest springs from it, every flower and tree proclaims it. The little seed must disappear, corrupt and die, and out of its bosom come the germs of life and fruitfulness. That is God's parable of true spiritual life.
3. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross laid the foundation of our death and resurrection. When He was offered up on Calvary, it was not only for our sins, but for our sinfulness. In Him we were recognized by God as hanging on that cross with Him, and dying when He died, so that His death represents our death, and when we recognize it, appropriate it and identify ourselves with it, it becomes the same as if we had been crucified and our old life had gone out with His. "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin" (Romans 6:6-7).
4. There must be, on our part, a definite appropriation of Christ's death for our sanctification, and a committal of ourselves to Him in death and resurrection.
While the death of Christ is available for all who will claim it, it is effectual only to those who do claim it. It is necessary, therefore, that we make this an actual fact in our experience and yield ourselves unto death with Christ; then it becomes a fact in our life and the Holy Spirit makes that which we have reckoned, real in our own experience.
There must be a definite planting of the seed in the ground. There must be an actual yielding of the life to be crucified with Christ. There is a moment when we consent to die and pronounce sentence of death upon ourselves, and then God executes it and reckons it to us when we have claimed it for ourselves. Now it is assumed by the apostle that we do this in our baptism. This is the real meaning of baptism in its deepest significance, and it is taken for granted that all who are baptized enter into this experience.
The fact is, however, that many do not take in baptism all that it really means and it becomes to them only an acknowledgment of salvation and a confession of Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
In the divine plan, sanctification is closely connected with justification and assumed as immediately following it. The fact is that in the Christian life of many persons it comes at a later period. But this is not God's intention and, therefore, the New Testament assumes that sanctification is to accompany or immediately follow the first action of faith. This is what really did occur with the first disciples on the day of Pentecost. As soon as they had received Jesus, they also received the Holy Spirit, and this should be the experience of all Christians. But with many persons this is not their experience. They are baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and at a later period they come to receive the Holy Spirit as their Deliverer from indwelling sin.
In this chapter, however, it is spoken of as something immediately connected with their baptism and to which that act committed them. In any case, it is a definite act and must have a clearly marked point of time in the experience of every sanctified soul.
Beloved, have we thus passed sentence of death upon ourselves? Have we committed ourselves to death with Christ? Have we made that definite and complete surrender which brings to us the power of His death and separates us from our former self?
5. Through this definite act of committal and the effect of Christ's death, which it appropriates, we become dead to sin.
Now let us understand exactly this Scriptural expression. It is not said that sin is dead--by no means. Sin is very far from dead. It surrounds us on every side like the dark and murky atmosphere, like an overflowing flood. But we are dead to sin.
What is dead? Is it a part of us? Is it one of our natures that is dead? Is it some principle in us that is dead? Is it the evil in us that is dead? No, you are dead, the whole of you. The old man as an individual--the person--is as if he were not the same person any more, but had passed out of existence and another person had been born from above and dropped right out of heaven to earth instead. "I have been crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2:20a)--not my sin or my sinful nature, but "I," the old man, the former individual. Both good and bad have died alike, my strength and my weakness, my sin and my self-sufficiency, my good qualities and my bad; and "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (2:20b).
6. The act of self-surrender must be followed by the attitude of reckoning. Having taken this position, we must adjust ourselves to it and henceforth abide in it. We must not be everlastingly getting crucified over again and going through a continual reconsecration and recrucifixion, but we must count it once for all done and finished, and we must steadily reckon that it is so, in spite of how it might seem.
Here is the very crucial point and secret of its power. It is in the reckoning that the secret of our strength will always be found. And so we read:
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:9-11)
Here it is very plain that the apostle recognized our crucifixion as being as definite and complete as Christ's, and accepted once for all; that we are not to be always getting crucified, that there is a fatal power in the doubting to bring back the old man to life.
Now we are touching here an important and extraordinary principle, both in nature and in grace. We become what we count ourselves. Let even a child begin to consider itself base and wicked and it will soon grow reckless and bad.
There is a strange story in modern fiction of a man who lived two lives, one mean and horrible and the other noble and lofty. At certain times a spell was thrown over him and he considered himself another man, and while that consciousness was upon him he acted like this man in every way, and was just as base, sordid and vile as his ideal. He feared this awful influence, and when it came upon him he was filled with horror and dismay and tried in vain to resist it. At other times he counted himself the other man, then he was noble, just the opposite of his former self.
"For as [a man] thinketh in his heart so is he" (Proverbs 23:7, KJV). The consciousness of guilt degrades a man. The fear of evil paralyzes the soul. The sense of innocency elevates the purpose.
Let that woman feel that she is a true wife, and all her womanhood is exalted. But let the thought come into her mind that she is degraded and in a wrong relationship; let her find that she is not a wife, and immediately the consciousness of wrong defiles her and fills her with shame and every temptation of sin.
Therefore God has fortified us in our new life by the spirit of faith against the power of evil. He allows us to take a stand in Christ, and then the Holy Spirit makes it an actual experience, and gives us faith to hold fast to it, and abide in the consciousness of it, that it may cleanse and elevate our whole being.
"But," you say, "how can I reckon myself dead, when I find myself continually filled with the old thoughts, suggestions and incitements to sin?" Ah, beloved, it is just here the power of reckoning comes in. When the old self seems to return, refuse to recognize it as yourself, and that attitude will destroy it. When the corpse insists on rising from the grave and thrusting itself upon your consciousness, let the wand of faith wave over it and bid it back to its grave, and it will return to its place in the cemetery of the soul.
We know that in modern spiritualism the faces of the dead sometimes seem to return and speak to their friends in living tones, and thousands of the dupes of spiritualism believe that these faces are really alive and represent the fathers, mothers and friends who have died. But we know this is not true. The man who died a year ago is still in his grave, and were you to go out to yonder cemetery you would find his dust. This is a delusion painted by the devil on the mind. Treat it as an illusion and it will vanish; but talk to it, believe it, and it will stay and have the same influence upon you as if the dead man were really before you.
So when your old self comes back, if you listen to it, fear it and believe it, it will have the same influence upon you as if it were not dead; it will control you and destroy you. But if you will ignore it and say, "You are not I, but Satan trying to make me believe that the old self is not dead. I refuse you, I treat you as a demon power outside of me, I detach myself from you!" If you treat it as a wife would her divorced husband, saying: "You are nothing to me; you have no power over me. I have renounced you; in the name of Jesus I bid you hence"--lo! the evil things will disappear, the shadow will vanish, the wand of faith will lay the troubled spirit and send it back to the abyss, and you will find that Christ is there instead, with His risen life to back up your confidence and seal your victory.
Satan can stand anything better than neglect. If you ignore him he gets disgusted and disappears. Jesus used to turn His back upon him and say, "Get behind me, Satan!" (Matthew 16:23). So let us refuse him, and we shall find that he will be compelled to act according to our faith.
In the early annals of the Church, Mr. Jamieson tells us, there was a beautiful Christian girl in Antioch whom a wicked man sought to seduce. For this purpose he employed a magician and sent him to practice upon her mind his devilish arts and throw over her the spell of unholy thoughts and passions. This wicked man himself became enamored of the fair Christian maiden and, proving false to his employer, tried to win her for himself; and by some diabolical dealing he succeeded in injecting into her mind thoughts, feelings and imaginations to which she was an utter stranger.
She found, to her horror, that she was entertaining thoughts and feelings from which her pure inner spirit recoiled but was utterly unable to cast out. Gradually she became discouraged and wondered if her own heart was growing impure under this hideous influence which almost mastered her and made her reckless.
At last she went in her distress to her pastor, the good Bishop of Antioch, and told her story. Then he told her this was not her sin at all and explained to her that it was simply a temptation of the evil one; that these feelings were not her own but entirely foreign to her, and that if she so treated them they would have no power over her. He instructed her to refuse them and treat them as the thoughts of Satan or of some other mind, and stand against them in the consciousness of her own purity and innocence. As she did so she found the visions vanished; the Holy Spirit filled her and she rose to a strength she had not know before.
Soon the man who had been exercising his vile arts upon her was quite broken down and came to her and confessed his sin and told her that from the moment when she took her new stand that he felt that his power was broken and that a mightier power was crushing him.
Beloved, "this is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4b). Let us abide in our reckoning and God will make it real.
7. But we must not be always dealing with death. Sanctification is not merely the death of the old but the resurrection life of the new. And so we read also, "If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection" (Romans 6:5). "Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (6:4). "In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (6:11). The death is for a moment, but the life is forevermore. The death is one act, the life is a perpetual succession of acts and experiences.
Some people are always living in the atmosphere of the cemetery, and carrying about with them the smell of mold. God would have us get through with the death, as Jesus did, and dwell in the life forevermore, "For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him" (6:9).
Just as we have to yield ourselves to the death by a definite act and follow it up by a constant attitude of reckoning, so we must take Christ as our life by a definite appropriation and must retain Him by continual recognition.
It is not that we feel ourselves living, because the life is not in our feelings. "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). We do not always feel it or say it. We just have it laid up in Him and transferred to us, and we are continually counting upon it and claiming it, going forth in dependence upon it, reckoning upon it as we would draw upon our bank and expect the draft to be honored; and as we do so, we find that the life is supplied to us through Him, and we are enabled to overcome in all the situations of our life.
8. There is yet one more step in this beautiful progression, and that is the habitual yielding of ourselves to God in the new attitude of dependence and obedience. "Offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments [or, weapons] of righteousness" (Romans 6:13b).
Now the yielding spoken of here is not at all the act of surrender by which we consecrate ourselves to God to be sanctified. That is all presupposed as over and past. We have now come into the attitude of death and resurrection. The yielding is subsequent to this and its true consequence. We have become united to Christ in His death and resurrection, and we should now simply act accordingly in all the details of life as they come to us from day to day. As a wife who has been married to her husband now takes a new attitude and yields herself to him in obedience and affection, so we, now standing to Christ in a new relation, habitually, constantly, moment by moment, yield ourselves to Him for each member in detail to be used for His will, service and glory.
Now this is not yielding ourselves that we may be crucified, that we may be purified, that we may be chastened, that we may accept the sword which cuts deep into our being; but it is yielding ourselves as those that are already dead--and now alive from the dead--for self-forgetting service and holy obedience.
It is a very different thing to yield yourself that you may die, and to yield yourself as one that is alive from the dead. The one is yielding yourself to the surgeon's knife for the operation, the other is volunteering as a soldier for service and duty.
God wants us in the attitude of service, and out of the attitude of self-consciousness. There is nothing more distressing than to be continually watching your sanctification and nursing your spiritual state, or superintending your growth and living in the hospital of an invalid experience. And there is nothing so wholesome as leaving yourself with Christ, pressing on in self-forgetting service to glorify God and save others.
The very expression used here, "weapons," implies the opposite of a subjective state. Our attitude is an aggressive one. We have taken the sword of God into our own believing and consecrated hands, and yielded ourselves unto Him to possess us, fill us and make the best of us. We are going forth at His command, in His will, for His glory, and the very unselfishness of the whole situation has in it the most sanctifying and elevating power.
Beloved, so let us die, so let us live, so let us reckon, so let us yield, so let us prove all the fullness of this wonderful divine method of sanctification through death and resurrection by Jesus Christ our Lord....
Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:8-9)
We now come to the third section of the Apostle's treatise on sanctification, in which he shows that sanctification is not through the flesh, but through the Spirit. These verses which we have just quoted contrast the two lives--the flesh and the Spirit--and declare their irreconcilable and eternal antagonism.
It is very important at the outset that we understand exactly what is meant by the terms flesh and Spirit. The flesh just means our whole natural life. It is not our body, nor even our carnal nature, but the whole old man, including all that was born of Adam, spirit, soul and body. "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit" (John 3:6). Everything born of the flesh is flesh.
Some teachers seem to leave the impression that only the material part and the soulish part of our nature are essentially wrong, and that the spiritual part is somehow higher and better; and so men have been trying to get rid of matter and soul, and get into spirit. But this is all a mistake. The natural spirit of man is just as evil as his soul, and needs just as much to be crucified and superseded by the Spirit of God. The whole of our Adam life is fleshly and must be laid down, and brought, through the death of Christ, into the resurrection life--not only the evil things in us, but those which we have accounted good. "The grass withers and the flowers fall;/ because the breath of the LORD blows on them" (Isaiah 40:7).
Not only must the corrupt flesh of Noah's time be destroyed by flood, but even the natural affection of Abraham for his Isaac must be crucified, and then come forth, after the scene on Mount Moriah, as a resurrection love, by a new affection that had passed through the fire, and henceforth loved its object not for its own sake, or even for the sake of the object, but in and for God alone.
What is meant by the Spirit? It means not our human spirit, but the Holy Spirit. It should be spelled with a capital "S" all through. The meaning is made very plain by the words, "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature [the flesh, KJV] but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you" (Romans 8:9).
A spiritual man, then, is a man who has the Holy Spirit. There is a great difference between this and our own converted spirit. There must come a distinct epoch in every sanctified life when the converted spirit becomes the abode of the divine Spirit, and the Holy Spirit comes to reside and abide as the source of all our life and strength.
There are two sides to this abiding. In one sense the Spirit is in us, in another we are in the Spirit. It is like a great ocean into which we plunge until it is all around us and becomes the very element in which we live, but as we come into the ocean, the ocean comes into us, and fills us and overflows until it encompasses us on every side, and becomes the very element of our being.
Now, we note in this passage a very remarkable variety in the terms in which the Holy Spirit is spoken of. First, He is spoken of as the Spirit of God, then as the Spirit of Christ, and then as Christ. This is all most suggestive. The Spirit of God represents His true deity as He was revealed in the Old Testament. The Spirit of Christ represents the New Testament revelation of the Holy Spirit, as we see Him in the person of Jesus, and His deity is softened, humanized and brought nearer to us by His residence in Jesus Christ.
He is the Spirit who lived in Him and by whom all His works were done. Jesus did not go forth to His ministry until He received the Holy Spirit, nor are we better able to go forth to any service for God without His enduring wisdom, power and love. It is delightful to know that when we receive Him, we receive the One who inspired the whole ministry of our blessed Lord, and He comes to us with a tenderness and almost a humanness which the Old Testament revelation could never bring.
But more than this: He is not only the Spirit of Christ, but He is called Christ Himself. He comes to reveal Christ and to bring His personal presence into our heart and life.
Like a divine painter He stands in the background and draws on the canvas the face of another, even the face of Christ, and we do not see the hand that draws the picture, but only the face that He reveals.
Like a perfect telescope, he brings to us the revelation of the heavenly worlds, and as we look through the reflector, or the tube, we do not see the instrument, but only the object which it brings to us.
Therefore the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us is practically the indwelling of Christ, and the most direct consciousness of the heart in which the Spirit dwells is of the person of Jesus rather than of the person of the Holy Spirit, although both are known to us, and it is right to commune with either or with both. It is a life in the Spirit, and it is at the same time a life in Christ. It is abiding in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and yet Christ speaks of it as abiding in Him.
Now these two lives are very vividly contrasted in this chapter:
It is weak: "For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature" (8:3a). Our natural life is weak in all spiritual and natural directions. It has many high aspirations, but it is unable to accomplish them.
The poetry, philosophy and even the fine art of past ages are full of high ideals, but men have never been able to realize them. Seneca, Cicero and Marcus Aurelius could tell us of deep longings for "the true, the beautiful and the good"; Plato and Zeno could unfold many of the principles of higher ethics, but they could not reach these patterns themselves.
The marble statue, the painted canvas, the poetic dream, could idealize virtue, but the marble statues were better than the men who molded them, their poems were higher than their authors, their philosophy was purer than their lives; and they fell back from the momentary dream into the slimy depths of corruption and shame.
The worst of men often have better thoughts and resolve to break their chains, but like the Laocoon in ancient story, they sink at last, crushed in the folds of the hideous serpent that they resist in vain. "The flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41, KJV).
But is is not only weak, it is wicked. "The sinful mind is hostile [enmity, KJV] to God" (Romans 8:7a). It is not merely an enemy of God, but it is embodied, intense, unmitigated enmity. Everything in it and about it is hostile to God. It hates His law, His will, His ways, and even His plan of salvation and mercy through Jesus Christ. "It is evil, and only evil," and there is nothing really good about it.
It may have much benevolence and apparent virtue, but when it comes to direct relations with God, it always shows its malignity and its utter depravity.
The flesh is not at enmity with God, but it is hateful to God. "Those controlled by the sinful nature [the flesh, KJV] cannot please God" (8:8). God takes no pleasure in any part of the natural man. The whole Adam race, as well as the Adamic earth, is under a curse. Cain may bring his brightest offerings, the fairest flowers and the richest fruits, to the altar of Jehovah, but they will be rejected with the worshiper. They are fleshly things, born of the sin-cursed earth, and with Cain they must be rejected.
The flesh may be as beautiful as the daughter of Jairus, as she lay in her loveliness a moment after death, or as hideous as the body of Lazarus, corrupting in the grave. It matters not whether it presents itself in robes of fashion in the heated ballroom or in the ecclesiastical millinery of the ritualistic altar. It matters not whether it comes to the march of the music of the carnival of revelry and the lewd songs of the drunkard and debauched, or in the splendid choruses of the opera, oratorio or religious quartet. It is equally displeasing to God.
Its beautiful music, its eloquent sermons, its elaborate good works, its costly benevolence, as well as its filthy excesses and brutal lusts, are alike offensive and accursed in the holy eyes of Him who has sworn, "I am going to put an end to all people" (Genesis 6:13).
The flesh is incurably bad. "It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so" (Romans 8:7b). It never can be any better. It is no use trying to improve the flesh. You may educate it all you please. You may train it by the most approved methods, you may set before it the brightest examples, you may pipe to it or mourn to it, treat it with encouragement or severity; its nature will always be incorrigibly the same.
Like the wild hawk which the little child captures in its infancy and tries to train in the habits of the dove, before you are aware, it will fasten its cruel beak upon the gentle fingers that would caress it, and show the old wild spirit of fear and ferocity. It is a hawk by nature, and it can never be made a dove. "The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so" (8:7).
The only remedy for human nature is to destroy it, and receive instead the divine nature. God does not improve man. He crucifies the natural life with Christ, and then He imparts the resurrection life of Christ and educates the new man into all the maturity of the life divine.
The strongest argument I know for eternal punishment is--eternal sin. When a lost soul gets out into the liberty of eternal sin, it will reach possibilities of wickedness that we can scarcely conceive today, and will sin enough in a single hour to condemn it for a million years.
No, if the hallowed influences of Christianity and the Holy Spirit do not bring men to God, the atmosphere of perdition will certainly accomplish less. The wretched soul will grow more miserable and more malignant through the everlasting ages, and "evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3:13).
In contrast with the flesh, this chapter unfolds the fruits of the indwelling Spirit in the believer's life.
There is no condemnation: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). This is essential to progress in holiness. We must keep in the light of God's love and the full assurance of His acceptance if we would grow in grace; but it is not until we receive the Holy Spirit and come into this deeper union with Christ, expressed by the phrase "unto Christ," that we pass out of condemnation and begin to live in the perpetual light of His countenance. The unsanctified soul is always getting into condemnation; it is ever sinning and repenting and trying to come out from under the shadow of God's displeasure.
But when we receive the indwelling Spirit, the first effect is to lift us into a life of perpetual peace and the unbroken consciousness of God's acceptance, approval and love. Henceforth it is true of us, "The sun will no more be your light by day,/ nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,/ for the LORD will be your everlasting light,/ and your God will be your glory" (Isaiah 60:19). "So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,/ never to rebuke you again" (54:9).
There is deliverance from the power of indwelling sin: "Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2).
Two laws are mentioned here. The first is the law of sin and death. It is that principle in our fallen nature which operates with the power and uniformity of a law and leads us to sin and death. We are unable to resist this law through the mere force of our human will. But we put the natural law under its opposite, viz.: the spiritual life in Christ Jesus. That is the life of Jesus Christ brought into our heart by the Holy Spirit and operating there as a new law of divine strength and vitality, and counteracting, overcoming and lifting us above the old law of sin and death.
Let me illustrate these two laws by a simple comparison. Sitting at my desk by the law of gravitation my hand naturally falls upon the desk, attracted downward by the natural law which makes heavy bodies fall to the earth.
But there is a stronger law than the law of gravitation--my own life and will. So through the operation of this higher law--the law of my vitality--I defy the law of gravitation, and lift my hand and hold it above its former resting place and move it at my will. The law of vitality has made me free from the law of gravitation.
Precisely so the indwelling life of Christ Jesus, operating with the power of the law, lifts me above and counteracts the power of sin in my fallen nature.
This is the secret of sanctification. It is not so much the expulsion of sin, as the incoming of the Holy Spirit, which has broken the control which sin formerly exercised, lifting me into an entirely new sphere of holy life and victory.
There is practical righteousness: "in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit" (8:4). Sanctification is not a mere sentiment or interior experience, but it leads to practical righteousness, or fulfillment of the law in our heart and life, so that we walk according to the Spirit and fulfill the righteousness of the law.
The difference between this and the Old Testament morality is that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us first, and then by us in practical obedience.
There is habitual obedience: "Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on [do mind, KJV] what the Spirit desires" (8:5b). We can all remember the time when our mother used to say to us, "Now, mind what I say. Mind your work, mind my words and orders." That meant, of course, that we were to set our mind upon it, to give diligent heed to it, and carefully to obey her wishes in everything.
So in our spiritual life we are to mind the Holy Spirit, our true mother--and to hearken and obey in all things.
This indwelling life of the Spirit brings us life and peace: "The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace" (8:6).
This literally means, "the minding of the Spirit is life and peace." This life in the Holy Spirit brings us divine peace and an overflowing life, full of the deep consciousness of God's approval, presence and blessing. It is, indeed, a sweet and happy life, where we "come in and go out, and find pasture" (John 10:9), and our Shepherd makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside the waters of rest, anointing our head with oil and making our cup overflow (Psalm 23:2, 5).
It brings us physical healing and quickening: "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to [quicken, KJV] your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you" (Romans 8:11).
There is no doubt that this passage refers to the life of the Spirit in our body. It is the mortal body that is here spoken of and it means the present body, liable to death, and cannot mean the dead body at the time of the resurrection. It is the Spirit who now dwells in us that quickens us while He dwells, and the quickening here described is not the raising from the dead of the lifeless corpse; the word literally means the exhilarating and reviving of the life that is not extinct, but exhausted and waning. It is applied to Abraham in the fourth chapter, referring to the quickening of his exhausted energy, in order that Isaac might be begotten when he himself was past age.
Now, this divine quickening of our mortal frame is one of the privileges of our life in the Spirit. It is only for those in whom the Spirit dwells, not as an occasional visitor, but as an abiding Guest.
There may be many a poor home that you often visit, but when you come to live in a house and make it your home, you are very likely to repair what needs repairing to make it clean and comfortable, renewing the broken windows and leaking roof, and regarding it as your healthful and happy home.
Now while the Holy Spirit only visits you at times, He will not undertake to alter the dwelling, but if you give Him the keys and make it His home, He will make it a home worthy of Himself and of you. He will make it a blessed home, and bring His retinue of heavenly beings to make it a little picture of heaven.
It brings the mortifying of our members: "If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live" (8:13b). The Holy Spirit is the only One who can kill us and keep us dead. Many Christians try to do this disagreeable work themselves, and are going through a continual crucifixion, but they can never accomplish the work permanently. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, and when you really yield yourself to the death, it is delightful to find how sweetly He can slay you.
Some modern legislatures have adopted electricity as the mode of capital punishment, and by the touch of the dynamic spark, they tell us, life is extinguished almost without a quiver of pain. But however this may be in natural things, we know the Holy Spirit can touch with celestial fire the surrendered thing and slay it in a moment, after it is really yielded up to the sentence of death. That is our business, and it is God's business to execute that sentence and to keep it constantly operative.
Let us not live in the ways of perpetual and ineffectual suicide, but reckoning ourselves dead indeed, let us leave ourselves in the hands of the blessed Holy Spirit, and He will slay whatever rises in opposition to His will, and keep us true to our heavenly reckoning and filled with His resurrection life.
Divine guidance is the next privilege of our life in the Spirit: "Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" (8:14). He guides us, counsels us, points out our way and sweetly leads us in it.
Another privilege is the witness of our sonship. "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father'" (8:15).
The Holy Spirit brings us into a more intimate and childlike consciousness of our sonship. The word "Abba, Father" is the same as our "Papa," and expresses a very tender filial affection.
The indwelling life of the Holy Spirit brings us out of the distance and the dread of our old life into the very bosom of the Father, and enables us to cry instinctively, with the simplicity of a child, "Abba, Father!"
Many Christians are living as servants, rather than as sons, and in the Old Testament, rather than the New; but it is the mission of the Holy Spirit so to unite us to Jesus and bring Him into our hearts that we become identical with Him in His sonship and look up to the Father with the same love and trust that He feels--His Father and our Father, His God and our God.
The next effect of the Holy Spirit is, to awaken in us the Spirit of hope:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (8:18-25)
This splendid passage unfolds the attitude which we, along with the "whole creation," sustain toward the coming of our Lord. We "wait in eager expectation" and a mighty hope, and with groanings and travailings of Spirit, for the redemption of our body and of the whole creation from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God. And this mighty hope enables us not only to endure "our present sufferings" but to triumph over them, and regard them as "not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
Such a hope must be born of the Holy Spirit, and when He comes in His fullness into the consecrated heart, this is one of His most blessed operations.
Then it becomes not a theory, not a doctrine of the Lord's coming, but a personal hope of unspeakable sweetness and power, influencing and controlling all our life, and lifting us above our trials and our fears.
The Holy Spirit prepares us for the coming of the Lord and to be among "the firstfruits" at His appearing. There is a remarkable expression here which has a deeper meaning than appears on the surface: "We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit" (8:23).
It means that the Holy Spirit is preparing a first company of holy and consecrated hearts for the coming of the Lord and the gathering of His saints, and that these will be followed later by the larger company of all the saved.
There is a first resurrection, in which the blessed and holy shall have part, and for this He is preparing all who are willing to receive Him in His fullness. This is the happy privilege of those who receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit, that they are called and qualified for the marriage of the Lamb, and trained to form part of His Bride. Transcendent honor! Unspeakable privilege! May God enable us to have a part in this blessed hope!
The Holy Spirit helps us in the ministry of prayer: "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will" (8:26-27).
The Holy Spirit becomes to the consecrated heart the Spirit of intercession. We have two advocates. We have an Advocate with the Father, who prays for us at God's right hand; but the Holy Spirit is the Advocate within, who prays in us, inspiring our petitions and presenting them, through Christ, to God.
We need this Advocate. We know not what to pray for, and we know not how to pray as we ought, but He breathes in the holy heart the desires that we may not always understand and the groanings which we could not ourselves utter nor comprehend.
But God understands, and He, with a loving Father's heart, is always searching our hearts to find the Spirit's prayer, and to answer it in blessing. He does not wait until the prayer is formally presented, but He searches the heart and finds many a prayer there that we have not discovered, and answers many a cry that we never understood. And when we reach our home and read the records of life, we shall better know and appreciate the infinite love of that divine Friend, who has watched within as the Spirit of prayer, and breathed out our every need to the heart of God, and of that Heavenly Father who, waiting to be gracious, has so often fulfilled His own great promise, "Before they call I will answer;/ while they are still speaking I will hear" (Isaiah 65:24).
Such are some of the steps in the life we may live in the Holy Spirit. It is indeed a glorious life, and it is the privilege of all who will cease from themselves and receive the Holy Spirit and the blessed Christ He brings to abide in them and live out His own blessed life in their mortal bodies.
Let us receive the Holy Spirit. Let us mind Him. Let us obey Him. Let us be led by Him, and let us follow on in all His perfect will until we reach the fullness of our spiritual maturity and are prepared for the coming dispensation, with its larger developments and grander prospects and possibilities.
*A.B. Simpson. The Christ in the Bible Commentary, Vol. 5. (Camp Hill: Christian Publications, 1994). pp. 53-88