Deliverance from the Law
Saints Not Sinners Part Two:
Deliverance from the Law
by Fred Pruitt
We are gearing up now to make the final push into the liberty of love, through the wilderness of self-reliance and its impenetrable brick walls by the law, to the ultimate goal, which even though while in the body we have yet to come over the horizon into full sight, is still more marvelous and full of grace in the present moment than we can ever comprehend.
In coming to an inner complete loss of all things including our very selves, we find in that nothingness that all we know is God through Christ in us. But then by unbelievable yet unfailing grace, we surprisingly and joyfully find ourselves again, having been hidden all along right smack dab where we had already been looking, but somehow not seeing. Right in the middle of our own person, in the "I" that we each are. So that now in this seeing of God only, suddenly our true self arrives. By the Cross and a new life (Christ, self-giving love) in us, replacing the old (Satan, self-absorbed love), what rises in resurrection is a new self no longer consumed with itself, which now shines as a clear light without restraint into the world.
That is the "Land of Promise" as it pertains to this life. That we are the grace of God in Jesus Christ shining into the world in whatever capacity God wills by us, and that we in some sense come into a personal consciousness of grace and power by a union of selves in our daily living, in which God not only wills by us and as us, but also works by and as us, and we know His working.
The Last Hurdle
So here we then come to the last major hurdle in reaching that Land. We call it independent self, some writers just self, others the flesh, self-reliance, self-effort, and the list goes on. The vast majority of teachers and writers on the subject often come close to identifying the problem, which we covered in part one, the spirit of error as our inner director instead of the spirit of truth. Most balk at a total solution, or, in the final analysis, leave the solution up to us. "If" we apply whatever solution they offer, "then" we may overcome, they say. But by experience we have found ourselves lacking, and not up to the task. If we are at this threshold, then we know we have no strength to even try anymore. We have finally become aware that there really are giants and great walled cities in the land and we truly are as grasshoppers in our own sight. We have finally realized we cannot take the land by anything we have or are.
Many have settled with, "We try as best as we can to live as God wants us to, but we always have to remember we sin every day," or some similar notion, which is a sad turning away with the ten spies to walk more years in the wilderness (Numbers chapters 13 & 14). But Paul's Romans seven is plaintively asking, is it possible to cut to the chase with humanity's deepest problem, our so-called "fatal flaw" according to literature, or "sin" according to the gospel, and cut it out at the root, so that we now continually live without sin unto God and bear fruit by Him?
Aren't we reaching here a bit beyond our capacity and being mighty presumptuous? We all know that "nobody's perfect except Jesus." But still that is the question Paul is faced with in his, "I want to but I can't," dilemma of the famous Romans chapter seven, and we ourselves must face, also.
What Is The Self?
So before we move into taking this bull by the horns, we have to briefly cover one more basic issue. The issue of the self itself. What are we? What is the self?
No one could possibly define it in every aspect, so there is no attempt at that here. But there is one certain aspect that is basic, which is that the self is fire. How can we say that? We start with the word from Hebrews which says, "our God is a consuming fire."
Our selves can only exist as selves in Him in God’s own Self-existence (being), since His existence is all there is. So that is the sense in which I take liberty to say, if God, Who is the True I AM, is fire, then so are we. We are fire of His Fire. He is the only Life, the only True Person there is, so we can only be existing as created and sustained in His very being. The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly. (Prov 20:27)
Then what do we mean by fire?
It is the fire of self. In human beings, in the physical it is felt as heat, sexual desire, or hunger. In the emotions and reason fire manifests as passion or inspiration. In the spirit it is life reaching out of itself to find a reflection of or extension of itself. Self is a fire that has to have fuel for its burning. It is a born need, a desire that must be fulfilled.
But fire burns things up. It destroys. Fire consumes everything placed into it or within its reach. It has no mercy, because a fire that burns hot enough consumes everything. So if God is consuming fire, fire that burns everything up and destroys it in that consumption, then how can God be love, which we might say is the result of fire, but not fire itself: as fire gives light, heat, provision?
What is it that transforms us inside ourselves? Can that fire that has burned within me, which has been consuming everybody and everything around me, by everything being ultimately for me – MY family, MY job, MY career, MY faith, MY spirituality, MY walk, MY spouse, MY hopes, MY fears, MY talents, MY flaws, MY God – actually be changed and redirected so that that fire’s same wants and needs are now wed into the love of God in which the fire becomes satisfied and thus overflowing with life for others, instead of other’s lives for me? Is it possible?
Light At Sinai
The burning bush at Mt. Sinai is a tremendous picture of this (Exodus chapter 3). A fire is burning in a bush, and the bush is not consumed. The voice in the bush identifies Himself to Moses as “I AM THAT I AM.” It is a picture of life in harmony with God, with man being in an inwardly conscious union of God and man, signified by the flame burning in a regular normal bush. The fire that does not consume the bush is -- I AM -- God, and the bush that is not consumed and yet is burning in the fire of God and out of which the Voice of God speaks, is us. He in us as us. (“When you see me, you see the Father,” said Jesus.)
Some time later, back at the same mountain, the whole mountain seemed a flame of fire to the Israelites and they were terribly frightened, having been given strict instructions not to touch it, and if they did they would die. But Moses had no restrictions. He could go up into the darkness, flames and smoke, and come down without penalty (Exodus chapters 19 and 20). How could that be?
Moses’ previous encounter at Mt. Sinai had brought him in his consciousness into the grace of realized union with God, whereby he knew his speaking was God speaking. He has lost his consciousness of independence, self-reliance, flesh-mindedness and self-absorption through the desert, and at the burning bush he saw a picture of himself as God was revealing Himself in Moses, “I AM.” His fire of self that years before had sought to be somebody, to do something, to become something, to show everybody who he was, had burned hot enough to murder an Egyptian overseer, and Moses ended up fleeing the king he sought to overthrow.
But at Sinai that Moses is gone, having perished in the desert, and this is a new Moses that has discovered in the flame in the bush, “Not I, but Christ.” The bush that burns with God’s fire but is not consumed demonstrates how the fire of God is in us not to enslave us or put us into bondage, but instead to be the glory and the freedom of right self in us. Right self is Christ in us as one with us, so that we living are He living, and yet it is us!
We were asked recently at a church in Florida, “If God comes into us to be our very life, do we cease to be ourselves? What happens to us?” The reply was, Christ comes into us and lives our lives in order that we might become ourselves. He makes me to become the real “me.”
That sounds confusing but is that not the picture on the mount? A common bush burns with a fire that is so bright it attracts Moses’ attention far below. It is a regular normal mountainside bush, but it glows with a glory not its own, is aflame with fire but not burning up, and out of the bush the voice of God speaks. That’s you and me!
The fire is the fire of self, both God’s and ours, intertwined as one person living, always living in the fire which always burns. There is in the fire of self a desire to always go out of itself to seek what it will be and to be it. It is dangerous material, this self, because of the fact that it is fire and ultimately power, and hypnotizing to boot. God has eternally determined in Himself to be love for others, so that the blaze of Self is always coming from the Lamb slain in the midst of the Throne. Therefore since at the heart of God there is eternally as it were a Cross, He has thus made Himself eternally safe in love, so that He wills only love, He purposes only love, and His acts are only love.
But what about the human self, which is also compounded of this fire? Something has to make my fire safe. I have to be made safe to take up the fullness of myself, with all its powers and potentials. Satan had formerly taken that self-fire and turned it in on itself in us, so that inwardly we burned with pride of self and self-adoration, and were hiddenly for ourselves, even in seeking God, because we were wanting God to make US something! It’s the hiss of the snake but seems so innocent from our own viewpoint.
That is why the Israelites could not come up or even touch the mountain, or they would die. The mountain engulfed by the flame of fire on top and surrounded by the thick darkness, was both the dwelling place of God and of being an affirmed right self in Him, as Moses had found. The Israelites had not yet learned what Moses had been shown, that only God’s life in them could make them safe and free to find themselves in freedom, truth and love, to be inwardly transformed into those who give themselves to others instead of take from others. But in their consciousness they were still flesh or self-minded, still being the center of their own lives, and they hadn’t been yet made ready, by the wilderness and the law, to be themselves in full bloom.
They could not even touch the mountain or it would kill them, because “no flesh shall enter my presence.” Now, that obviously isn’t talking about human physical flesh, because Moses went up in his body. In different ways, so did Enoch and Elijah. So it is the consciousness of flesh, of independence, of self-idolizing, of self-focus, of gaining and getting for myself (no matter how subtle), that cannot approach God. Let us get this straight. The flesh the Bible speaks of when it is referring to our waywardness and rebellion, is not the physical body, nor is it the human soul, with its emotions and human reasoning faculties. It is our fallen consciousness of independence, and all its ramifications, which we identify as “the flesh.” (Keeping that in mind will make everything we go over below much clearer.)
This is the consciousness with which our whole race has been infected since Adam, a devil originated and upheld falsehood, on which the whole system of the world is based, and in which we all live even as believers until we are delivered in our minds by the Spirit by an inner awareness of who He is in us, and we in Him, “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” (1 Cor 6:17), and we are now able to “be no more children … but may grow up into Him in all things, even Christ.” (Eph 4:14,15)
Coming to the Law
In part one, we went over the work of the Cross through Jesus’ blood and body, how we found forgiveness of sins and a purging of our consciences in His blood, and how in Jesus’ body we were delivered from Satan, who, often appearing as an angel of light, of good, of peace, had invaded our minds and hearts by trickery, convincing us we were just ourselves functioning alone doing good or evil, making things work or screwing things up, in whatever we said and did. Though all the while in this spirit we did his works of darkness, of self for self, whether in supposed good or actual evil. And we showed that in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we were delivered from that spirit of sin, removed from his domain, taken from hell to heaven, from darkness to light, and thereby being no longer slaves or expressers of sin, since he who IS Sin, has no place in us anymore. Therefore we cannot rightly continue being called “sinners,” because we are now partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4), which is Christ expressing His righteousness by means of our human selves, so that in Jesus Christ through His Cross, we are made saints of God (2 Cor 5:21). This is the true canonization, and is a common sainthood to all in Christ.
But there is another aspect which we didn’t cover and from which we were delivered in the Cross, and that is our deliverance from the Law. That is the least understood of our deliverances, and the final key to our total liberation.
We see that the path the Israelites had to take to the Promised Land, after the deliverance by the plagues in Egypt and the Red Sea, before they can go up to possess the Land, is through the wilderness and a confrontation with the Law.
Their exodus from Egypt and rescue in the Red Sea is their baptism into Moses, who was Christ to them in the form of the Law. They have escaped the harsh taskmaster of Egypt, the devil/pharaoh who held them in captivity. They have been cleansed by the Lamb’s blood of the Passover, and have been baptized into Him in the cloud and the sea, the spirit and the water (1 Cor 10:1-4). Figuratively, they are as new born Christian babes, who having been given a vision of the new life that awaits them, and lost in the joy of such unbelievable and surprising grace, set out with grit and determination to attain the goal.
Only soon they find themselves in a wilderness, and someone is thundering down at them, telling them they must live up to the standards that are now being shown to them – things not mentioned back in Egypt!
Our Living Experience
This is a picture of how it is with us. In my case, when I found Jesus I went absolutely nuts! Being born again changed everything, and I began to see things from that new perspective. I was enthralled in a new found wonderment, as if I was seeing everything in the universe for the very first time. To be born in the Spirit of God truly is like becoming a little child all over again.
Janis and I had bought a Volkswagen bus a few months before. It was a 1959, with the old 40hp engine. A previous owner had modified the bus into a makeshift camper by cutting out the middle third of the roof, replacing the space with a plywood doghouse-looking structure. The result inside was that we could stand up in the rear and feel roomy. The result outside and to the vehicle was twofold. One, the plywood was thick and heavy, so it added a huge amount of weight for the already strained little engine to push. And the other was that it created a flat surface for near perfect wind resistance, adding even more to the strain on the engine. This made highway driving relaxing, but unfortunately slow and sometimes laborious, as we found out on our first trip in it to Florida, in which we couldn’t make more than 50 mph unless we were going downhill. Later, when we drove from Georgia to California, we were stopped twice on the interstate for going too SLOW!
But back to this story. Like I said, I went crazy for Jesus. I went to the Christian bookstore and bought every bumper sticker they had and plastered them to all sides of the bus. I bought little New Testaments to pass out. But what took the cake home was this. Janis came out of the house one day and found me on top of the bus with a bucket of fire engine red paint and a large brush. “What are you doing up there?” she demanded.
“I’m painting a big red JESUS on the bus!” I replied proudly. And I did, JESUS in twelve inch high RED letters, front and back, so that coming or going, people KNEW we loved Jesus! (Hitchhikers’ thumbs would go down faster than lightning when they saw us approach.)
She wasn’t as proud of it as I was, I don’t think. Poor wives, what they sometimes have to put up with!
But my point is how crazily enthusiastic I became when I was born again. Nothing seemed impossible. Miracles happened. Prayers were answered. Everything was new and wonderful.
After a few months of that and our subsequent move to California, a brother said to me, “Fred, with that big Jesus sign on your bus, you’ve put yourself in front of others as an example. Now you’re going to have to get your life in order so you can live up to it!”
And, like the children of Israel who replied to Moses when he came back from the mountain with the law said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient” (Ex 24:7), I said the same. And I fulfilled it as well as they did.
When my brother told me that, as did the preacher from the pulpit, and the Bible teacher from his lectern, and my counselor did from his desk chair, that I needed to be better, to obey God, to apply biblical principles, to obey the law in everything, that I might become pleasing to God and a blessing to others, I heartily went along with the plan as far as I could take it. How could I not? They seemed to be offering a sure fire way to the prize. How nice to have a path! Just do these things, and you’re there. Oh yes, I hear you and I’m on the bandwagon. I’m going to pray. I’m going to storm heaven until I get an answer. I am going to study. I’m going to love my family more, and be more giving. I’m going to become a thoughtful, listening, loving person. Just apply this, apply that. Keep these laws.
And I tried and I tried, and the more I tried, the harder it became, and the more condemned I felt. And that first joy I felt and wept in, seemed to go away.
God Is Our Sustenance in the Wilderness
Now understand, here in this process I am not saying it is not of the Spirit of God. On the contrary, it is God who leads us this way and engineers our bout with the Law. We are led by the Spirit as a fiery pillar in the night and a cloudy pillar by day. Our shoes don’t wear out, and there is always enough to eat and water to drink. It seems like we are in the wilderness of our own making, (oh, if I was just more dedicated, if I was more loving, if I was this or that!), but we actually are in the wilderness where God has led us and continually sustains us. We are being taught by living experience Who is our real bread to eat and Who is our real water to drink, and the best way to get that across is by privation, as Jesus was driven into the wilderness Himself to be tempted of the devil, whereby The Father proved Himself in Jesus. The wilderness is not about testing us – though we do find out about ourselves there. But it isn’t about us. It is about finding God the upholder of all, as All in all in us. It is about God proving Himself to us and in us, that He is the faithful One, who causes all things to be, and is our upholder in all things. You see the same process of failure and privation to glory in many of the stories: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David most particularly, where all of them found the sufficiency of God in the deserts where God led them.
And even while we are still in the wilderness, despite the fact that we are still living in flesh or self mindedness in our immaturity and ignorance, God sees us the whole time of our wilderness days by that oddly expressed word of Balaam the prophet. Balaam is essentially out only for personal gain and the King of Moab hires him to curse the whole of Israel camped in the valley. But Balaam is instead taken by the Spirit of God, and pronounces only blessing on Israel in one of the most glorious passages in scripture.
Balaam the prophet speaks:
God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.
He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.
God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.
Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! (Num 23:19-23)
Well were the heathen warned, “This is the work of the Living God!” Those who look on the Christ’s Church and the people of God only outwardly, while they are in this their time of testing, and see only the disagreement, quarreling, failures, and the always mentioned and hidden-behind “hypocrisy,” miss a great wonder which is already in plain sight and is also hiddenly being molded into maturity.
But my point is that in the vision of the Living God, He sees His people through His own righteousness, which is Jesus Christ, and He sees not a spot of evil in His people. Because His eyes, the eyes of the One who lives in us and who knows us better than we know ourselves (He’s that close!), are eyes which see only the real truth; they can see no lie. He cannot see any spell (power) that could bind Israel (ourselves), because in His eyes, and He sees the Truth, and that truth is that He Himself is the Strength and the Deliverer of Israel, the Impenetrable Shield against false divination (the hypnotic spell of anything not God), always upholding those who are His own.
And yet while Balaam is declaring these very things from the mountain above, in the midst of the camp below, through the hands of angels and mediators, God is being represented to the children in the wilderness by the law. And make no mistake, it is His law, without any doubt, perfect in every regard, rigid in its standards, and righteous through and through.
So we have to go there, too, to see what this means, so that as we understand the law process happening in us, we may transmit this spiritual rite of passage to others, too, which will go on and on, and ultimately all God’s people will see the fullness of the glory in which we all already walk in Christ.
Law’s Dominion – Romans Seven, Verse One:
“Know ye not, brethren … how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?” (Rom 7:1) The law, meaning in this case life through obedience to outer precepts, concepts, rules, etc., only applies when a man is alive. Only someone alive in himself can hear and respond to the law. The law says, “Thou shalt,” and we say, “We will, or at least try,” or the law says, “Thou shalt not,” and we say, “We won’t, or at least try not to.” However, someone who is dead cannot hear the law and therefore cannot respond to it.
Paul reinforces that concept in verses two and three, as he then likens our past relationship to the law with that of marriage, again making the analogy that as in the death of a spouse we are free from the law of that marriage, in that same way by analogy we have been in a marriage relationship with the law, and if we are dead as he has declared so plainly in chapter six, then we are freed from that marriage relationship to the law. We are no longer responsible to it.
And then in verse four, there is another stunner. Paul says, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” (Rom 7:4)
Now, this is a strange thing to say for a couple of reasons. One, in chapter six, he has just told us that we had been the slaves of sin, captives in unrighteousness, or, in effect, married to sin. We had been the wife of sin, bringing forth sin’s children.
Now he’s telling us we have been the wife of the law, to which we are now dead, in the same way he had just said we were now dead to sin. What gives? How can both be true? This law is God’s law, and its commandments are right. Nothing whatsoever is wrong with the law. So why is our marriage to it mentioned as if it is something to be delivered of or to be dead to, the same as our former union with our slave boss, Satan, with sin? Satan is not the law, and the law is not Satan.
Coming to the Heart
Now we are getting to the heart of the matter, nearer to the goal. And we have to remember that we are not trying to come up with some dogmatic way to understand this Romans seven dilemma and then to apply it, and thus “make it work” in our lives. No no no! This is a work of the Spirit, and what we are describing here is that struggle we all face within ourselves that is enacted in us from start to finish by the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ. This is how the Spirit makes real to us the inward truth of who we are in Him and Who He is in us, by this bout with the law to show that He only is our living truth, our everything, and that it is in the turning on of that light of Christ as our only totality within us, that the lie is dissipated and made null and void. We don’t fight the lie, but find and speak the truth, and the lie is no more. So what we are unfolding here is what happens as God brings us here. It is God who brings us to this threshold, and who Himself takes us to the other side “on wings of eagles.”
Paul has said that not only are we dead to the law by the dead body of Jesus Christ, but also by that separation we are now married to Another, Jesus Christ who is risen. Now by that marriage to Him, we now bring forth fruit unto God. This is the second strange thing about that verse four. Because Paul is tying our final freedom, i.e., that of our being able to bring forth fruit unto God, rather than the spiritual barrenness we had been experiencing, to our freedom from the law. Fruitfulness, Paul is saying, is directly tied to our death to the law. Now how can that be?
So then what Paul is saying for those who have ears to hear, is that our, “I want to but can’t, or “I don’t want to but do,” dilemma with sin and life in general, finds it final deliverance in this work of the Spirit and deliverance from the law, and the final result of it is what we have been looking for, what any wife looks for, that we find ourselves no longer barren, but able to give children to our husband, as Sarah bore Isaac to Abraham, as a child of promise. So this is the discovery we are making: finding out how it is we died to the law, and since having been delivered from it, by God in Christ “blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col 2:14), we now find out how we are now married to Christ, and how that marriage brings forth God’s desired children by our lives. This is what Paul is about to tell us.
Now starting with verse five, Paul begins to describe how it is the law does this work. The reader might want to follow along in Romans seven.
While we were in the flesh – remember our definition from before – the stirrings of sin in us were by the law. What can that mean? How could the law have touched us then when we either weren’t aware of it or didn’t seem to care? Paul has told us earlier in Romans that there are two ways we come into contact with the law. A person born into Israel or most any religious institution in our day, would have been confronted with a codified divine law from birth. But even those who have no codified law, Paul says, know the law because it is written in our consciences. So that no one is without excuse. Therefore, Paul is saying, even in our former days when we were under the domination of Satan, when we lived “according to the prince of the power of the air,” sin was stirred up in us by the law, either by codes or by conscience, and the fruit of that stirring, before we were delivered, was death. In other words, we all have known always what is right and what is wrong. That is another aspect of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But part of its deception is that the knowledge of it doesn’t produce the doing of it. In fact, as we are about to find out, it produces the opposite.
How? How could the law stir up sin? We’ll defer the question for later, because Paul gets to that. He’s just setting the stage right now.
Paul again states that we are delivered from the law, and the result from that deliverance is that we serve no longer God according to the “letter,” but by the “newness” of the Spirit. In other words, we have been delivered from an obedience to an outer coded set of laws, which themselves stirred up the sins we were trying to avoid, and now by that deliverance, we live from a new Spirit (God in trinity – Father, Son, Spirit) within us. We are beginning here to get to the heart of the issue. We are moving from outer to inner, from flesh to Spirit.
Paul asks, “Is the law sin?” Of course not, he replies, but it doesn’t have the purpose we all thought it did. We all thought the law’s purpose was to train us to be godly people. By learning the precepts, commandments, biblical principles and laws, we thought we were taking these things into ourselves and by so doing we would in some way gradually become spiritual people, or at least be somewhat pleasing to God for making the try. Like teaching a kid to brush his teeth in the hopes that it will become habit to him by our continuous training. But it doesn’t work like that in the kingdom of God. God’s life is a gift, and can’t be earned, because it is far beyond anything we could possibly come up with to pay.
We have thought of God’s laws and commandments, which are all righteous, holy and still viable, as means to an end, to which if we apply ourselves with exceptional diligence, like studying math or grammar, we would someday pass some spiritual exam and become Christ like. But Paul is saying here that the law’s purpose isn’t that at all. No, strangely, the purpose of the law is that we would know sin, not that we would produce righteousness. That seems a strange effect to look for, but it is what Paul has discovered is the purpose of the written law.
Verses Eight – Ten:
And now the even further result of our bout with attempted obedience to the law, is that we actually find ourselves doing the very things the law forbids us. Then Paul gives the example of his own “coveting.”
Now coveting sounds innocent. It sounds like something innocuous that shouldn’t get anyone into too much hot water. What’s the harm in just “wanting” something? This is not a frivolous issue, however. We are being challenged here to our very inner core. And the issue of “coveting” is at the heart of this matter, because this has to do with what we want, not what we do, and this is at a level below where we normally look.
So let’s take a moment and look into this issue of coveting a little more closely, that we might be able to see what the deception really is, and by that what final result the Spirit is working in us.
Paul finds that he cannot control what he desires, and the more he concentrates and strives to not have those desires, the more they come up. Had the commandment not come, the commandment which says, “Thou shalt not covet,” he would not have even been aware that he was in captivity to covetousness. He was living his life, “alive without the law,” but unaware of the truth of the matter, which was that he couldn’t help his self-wants, his self-desires. Though he had an outward show of devotion to God, inwardly he still felt himself driven by a selfish motivation to have what others had and over which he found himself jealous that they had something which he did not. Then, when his covetousness was pointed out by the law, bringing forth in him the desire to escape his possessive coveting, the condition only worsened.
Verses eleven and twelve:
“For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.” The commandment that says, “Thou shalt not covet,” is as right as can be, and points to life, but Paul has found it to be death to him. Why? Sin has used the commandment, the law, Paul says, and by the very law itself, deceived him and by that deception produced death in him. It KILLED him!
How? What is the deception? Here we are getting to the real purpose of the law. The real purpose of the law is to expose the falsely independent self that thinks it can keep the law, and the way that God does it is to use the law, which we cannot keep, and Satan, to remind us continually that we are lawbreakers since we are all repeat offenders.
The reason why death occurs when we attempt to keep the law is that the self that thinks it can keep the law, is this same false, independent, self-relying self that we have been talking about in our whole discussion. The deception is the deception of sin, of Satan, the originator of this sin and lie, who deceives us that we are these capable responsible selves who can keep the law, who are capable in ourselves of good or evil, which is the same deception by which he deceived our first parents in the garden, in which he convinced them by their taking and eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that they would become wise as gods, and would therefore become equal to God, knowing everything.
That is the deception of sin when it beats us up with the law. By responding to the commandments as if we could keep them, we are brought short immediately because we cannot keep them whatsoever. If we keep one, we break another. Therefore, while in this mindset of flesh, of independent self-focus, we can’t help but to buy into the condemnation of the devil, who stands by at the ready to accuse us to ourselves and to God of being perpetual spiritual ne’er do wells, who are never pleasing to God or anyone else. It is this mindset of the flesh, of independent self-focus, of wrongful self-reliance, of separated self, that is finally by the law being exposed for the falsehood and the total fabrication it really is.
Paul again takes us further into the law’s purpose. We see by Paul’s shared life that this is no mere theological exercise he is describing. Nor is he working up a systematic theology that we can all go by for the next two thousand years. Paul is describing what has happened to him in his life with the law, that we might know the same thing when we experience this work of the Spirit, too.
The reason why we fail when we attempt to keep the law through self-effort, is so that this heinous sin which has grasped the whole human race might be exposed in us, that it might be seen as the heinous sin which it is, that it might be known that it is exceedingly sinful, and that it is the abomination of desolation, at least the earnest of it, and that it has occurred in every one of us, in that we have all been self-deifiers, self-gods, and have all lived a life in which we are as a self which thinks it generates it own life and in its own will it sits in the house of God as if it were entitled to the Throne, when it is itself only a caricature of a real person and really nothing but a buffoon. Except that it is not funny in the least, since it is the very heart of sin and wickedness and of every foul thing that ever rebelled against the light of God.
That is the purpose of the law – to show us that creature in our very selves which has tainted all that we are, the creature of self-focused, “I, me, mine” – and then through the law’s work of killing “us” by this exposure, we might know our total and final deliverance from this snake and his lies.
Here Paul makes the classic statement, on which the whole of our “two-natures simultaneously” fallacy has been based: “I am carnal, sold under sin.”
We have to see here that Paul is speaking metaphorically, as if he is just flesh, that he is just the old person he used to be. He is speaking autobiographically I am certain, but I am equally certain he is not talking about his current daily life in the Spirit. If he is, then we should cut out the sixth chapter of Romans before and the eighth chapter after this, the chapter of our total liberation, and while we’re at it let’s throw out Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and the book of Hebrews, too. And I’m just getting started!
Paul is only using a figure of speech when he says he is carnal, sold under sin. That is part of the deception of sin: that we are enslaved to it, and we can’t help our involvement in it. And that is just what Paul has taken all this time in the previous chapters in his Romans letter to refute, to declare that we are no longer slaves of sin, and now that we are no longer slaves to sin, we therefore have no more debt to it, to obey it “in our members.”
“How shall we, who are DEAD TO SIN, live any longer therein?” Paul asks as a challenge in Romans 6:2. As I said, the whole theme of the sixth chapter of Romans is precisely that we ARE NO LONGER slaves of sin, that now our “members,” i.e., our humanity – spirit, soul and body – is now the servant, slave, doer, bearer, of righteousness.
So therefore, Paul is speaking metaphorically of a past struggle here, when he says he is carnal, sold under sin. Everything about Paul’s life, ministry, and writings dispel that notion. “Out of them all the Lord delivered me,” Paul wrote to Timothy. He is the one who worked “more mightily than they all.” Paul’s life doesn’t speak of continual effort and continual defeat, but only of victory, only of glory, only of the stuff of Joshua and Caleb – faith.
What he is describing is the process by which that struggle is finished in us, through which we come into God’s rest in ourselves, and learn intimately in our inner selves that His yoke is easy, that His burden is light, and that His righteousness, expressed in our daily living in thought, word, and deed, comes through grace by means of His Spirit life in us, as we will come to in the next chapter.
But first we have to see how the Law has its perfect work in us, as Paul continues in the next few verses of Romans seven.
Verses Fifteen to Twenty:
Paul now comes to his famous lament, which is repeated in prayers every day in every nation, by men and women everywhere, in church or out. We prayed Paul’s predicament every time we had communion in my former church. It was honest as far as we knew, and heartfelt. Certainly that is how life feels, the older we grow and the more experience we have. “We have done those things which we ought not to have done, and have left undone those things which we ought to have done,” we prayed every Sunday, and I think everybody earnestly meant it. Somehow in that confession we felt relieved for a little while, at or least forgiven for that moment in the bread and wine, the prayers and the absolution. And certainly I am not discounting that grace was there, for it was there for me.
But instead of accepting that predicament as a lifelong situation, Paul is driven onward. He starts questioning himself and this whole process. What’s going on here, he wonders. What about the law? I know that to keep the commandments is good, he says. God’s law, his standards, are right. And I know that and believe that, and want it to be true in my life. And because I inwardly want this to be so, that I don’t want to be a lawbreaker, that I want to keep God’s law, I have come to realize that something outside of me, something that isn’t me, i.e., something not the real me, is making this happen. What is doing this?
His conclusion is that the problem is something he calls “sin.” And he says it dwells in him, “in me.” So anything dwelling “in me” makes it very intimate, but there is also a sense about his description of this indweller that makes it foreign to Paul, something he recognizes as an invader with some sort of toehold, but not really part of him.
Let’s stop here for a moment. Paul says “sin that dwelleth in me.” Those are pretty strong words. And there can be no mistake, this confession is not that of someone living in the self-lust of the prince of the power of the air. “I delight in the law of God after the inward man,” can only be the cry of the Spirit of God, speaking in Paul’s mouth. So this is an already redeemed Paul speaking of his own final confrontation with the law.
So our first question has to be, what is this sin he’s speaking of? Then our next one follows: then how can it be living in me?
We have previously identified sin, not to be an abstract principle, but as a person. I have listed above, especially in part one previously, the scriptural basis on which we say that sin is a person, so I won’t repeat all those here. The reason we say sin is a person, rather than a principle or a law, is because at the bottom of all things, there are no separate “principles” or “laws” floating around the universe. There is only One Person at the bottom of everything, “the ground of all being,” as Paul Tillich calls God.
But there is a furtherance of that person-life out of God into His creation, and we are those created persons, something we share in part in common with angels. And in being persons, we are privileged to be distinct in ourselves as “I am,” yet deriving our “I am” from He Who is the Only True, “I AM THAT I AM.” We find our right selves only in Him, existing as expressions and manifestors of Him.
But in that we are truly persons, created in His image, we are also participators in His creating. His purpose is that we as creatures might fully participate in His eternal creation, outpicturing God through our created lives, expanding the Word and God’s kingdom through the creating which God expresses in our lives. And this is to the heart of the matter, because in Lucifer, whose knowledge of the power of creation sought to rival the Father’s, that self fire we have been speaking of, again strove almost infinitely for itself, and birthed a separate will, a will that sought to overcome God by being like God, which is sin and is hell.
However, we don’t have this knowledge so we can wring our hands and fret and say how sorry we are it has come to this. There’s a joke being played on us here! Because in wreaking his havoc, (which is all the stuff we see on the news which is also what we see in our own lives or in our friends’ lives), Satan is only as Joseph’s brothers who also meant what they did to Joseph for evil. He is God’s servant in his evil, because it was God’s purpose that Joseph should have been put into a pit. It was God’s pleasure that He was then sold to traveling Ishmaelites. God designed Joseph’s post as Potiphar’s steward, knowing it would lead to his downfall and imprisonment. Joseph had to face the temptress and prevail, even though he was falsely accused and then thrown into prison to languish for years. It pleased the Lord to bruise Joseph for His purposes. (Is 53:10), and this was God’s joy. It was God’s unabashed delight that Joseph was raised by Pharaoh to second in the kingdom, (as a man in Christ is made king over all God’s works in his life, second only to God, having become servant to all). And then it was shown to be God’s purpose all along, when his brothers showed up from Canaan in the famine, bowing to him as foretold in the dream which had caused their jealousy so long before, that he might be a refuge for his father at the end of his life, just as our Christ is a refuge for His Father in that He has brought many sons unto Him and delivers unto Him the kingdom in the end. And all of this, from the pit to the throne, was God’s purposed plan, “to save much people alive.” (Gen 50:20) That’s the kind of devil we have, who purposes for evil, and the kind of God we have, who MEANS IT for good!
People get hung up on location in this passage, and are disturbed that Paul says that his problem is sin dwelling in him. If we have just identified sin as a person, and that person is the creator of sin, Satan, then it sounds like we are saying that after we have been delivered from Satan as our inner death and condemnation, after Jesus has cast him out in the Cross, that he is somehow back into at least some part of us again doing his dirty work.
But that isn’t the case. He has been put out of us, spirit, soul and body, and One stands guard to prevent his retaking us. We have come to total safety and refuge in the Son. He promises no one can pluck us out of His hand, and we know that He speaks the truth. Understand, when Paul is talking about sin dwelling “in me,” and again, “in my flesh,” he is talking about our flesh-consciousness. He has correctly identified his problem is not his intrinsic self. Nor can it be simply his body, as we have mentioned before.
“I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me …” He is now seeing his emptiness, his “not good-ness.” He has not found evil in his purpose and desire, so that isn’t the problem. Now he is realizing that this “arm of the flesh” that he has been exercising all his life, his own self-reliance, his own self-responsibility, is simply nothing. It is “no good thing.” All his self strivings emanate from absolutely nothing. First of all they aren’t necessary. And they do or accomplish nothing. They are only a smokescreen or a veil in front of the truth of who we already are without those self-strivings.
Now Paul is reaching the end of himself and the final key to this dilemma. He finds it a law, in other words, this is the way it works and now I am seeing how it works. How it works is this. When “I” – and here he is meaning himself in a mindset of separation, of false self-responsibility and effort – would, or try to do good, evil is present.
We are so geared to thinking deeds, it is easy to miss this. He doesn’t say that he does something evil, though in the previous verses he says he can’t figure out how to perform the good he wants to do, and that the evil he wants not to do he finds himself doing. But he doesn’t repeat that here. He instead says, “when I would do good, evil is present with me.” So he’s seeing something deeper here. Evil is present, he is saying, in the “I would.” The very reach into, “I will try to be like God,” is the most subtle temptation there is, because it sounds so righteous and holy, and there is no one on earth who hasn’t fallen to it. And that is what the law has finally dug out of Paul. He is touched here to the innermost, because he is now seeing the hiding place, the lair of the culprit, and how things work.
That liar has been cast out of us, but like a disgruntled programmer, fired from a company, plants a worm and a virus in the company computer before he leaves, so that from offsite he can continue to have access, that evil bad devil left that mindset when he left us, and God let him leave it, and it’s a mindset that still is his to manipulate. And it is this mindset, manipulated by sin in our members, i.e. the flesh consciousness, that God uses to bring us to this point. God wastes nothing, and His purposes are fulfilled in everything! We always see this as God’s process, through and through, and it is not something engineered by Satan to trip us up, but the necessary school God puts us through that we might grow up into Him in all things.
Verses Twenty-two and Twenty-three:
As we said above, we delight in God from our most inward source. Through and through we are taken with Him. He has shown Himself to be our heart a million times over, and we can’t be shaken from Him.
But Paul is really disturbed about this. He isn’t settling for this struggle as something permanent. He’s about to crack up with it, and just the knowledge that when he tries to do good, evil is present with him, is no solution in itself, though at least he realizes at last that his own self-efforts accomplish nothing for him, and that is the beginning of the revelation of all revelations. He has come to the end of “himself,” i.e., his own self-efforts, self-responsibility, self-ability. He has finally come to see, “I can’t do this.”
He has correctly identified his inner self as righteous, as he stated clearly in chapter six. But this other thing, in his “members,” “in me,” “in my flesh” as he variously describes the same reality – flesh consciousness in separation, self-reliance, wrongful self-focus, etc. – is driving him crazy because he can’t go on like two people in one body, as if one side of him serves sin and the other side serves righteousness. He preaches the exact opposite of that, so either what he has been telling people is wrong or there has to be a solution beyond perpetual spiritual hell. What happened to, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst”? (John 4:14)
Is there no rest in God? O wretched man that I am.
And there we are. We finally come to the bottom when we have no more to give. We have emptied out and there is nothing left and what there was wasn’t enough anyway. Our cruse of oil has run out. All our righteousness really is like filthy rags and now we know it. We still thought we had a rag or two He would accept. Or maybe we thought He might not notice when we substituted our own self rags for the proper wedding garments only He gives. When he said, “Love others, “ we tried to and thought that was enough. Didn’t he notice what we did? We tried to have some good thoughts. He said, “Be humble” and we studied humility so we could be humbler than anybody else. But He noticed, and said, “no flesh shall enter my presence.”
So now we’ve seen it finally, that sin is exceedingly sin. God in His perfect love will have nothing but truth, righteousness and holiness in us, all of which come only from Him. There is no other. We cannot assert some false truth, false righteousness, or false holiness in him. It cannot stand. Once we’ve seen it for ourselves, this self-reliant self that thinks it is something when it is nothing (Gal 6:3), then we know it is an abomination, and becomes to us forever the accursed thing, and we never want to touch it again.
But now that we’ve seen this earthshaking thing, that while in this consciousness of flesh I am in a body of death, and I can’t help myself in my participation in it, (i.e., I can’t believe right, think right, act right, know right or do anything else right as some self “technique” I can use to rescue myself), we finally call out for rescue from this perpetual wheel of hell in the greatest despearation ever, a call from someone to save my life. “Who shall deliver me?”
And here again, this is not a principle Paul is calling out for, nor a law or a doctrine. He’s not even quoting a scripture and standing on it. He is calling for HELP! WHO CAN HELP ME? WHO? WHO? He is calling for a somebody!
“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord …” Now Paul’s deliverance from the law, and thus finally from all the ruin of the enemy’s lie which is undone forever in this moment of light and revelation, is coming into full view.
The first tremendous thing Paul is seeing, and this is certainly in the top five of List of Life’s Greatest Revelations,” is that in his own just discovered “nothingness,” Another has come in this spot, just as He has come in all the other spots. He is the Deliverer. He is the sword, shield and buckler. He is the one to overcome this seemingly impossible dilemma, and by His own life in us will bring us Himself into the land of His abundance. He is the fulfiller of all the “Thou shalts.”
And then Paul has seen this principle to the uttermost, when he says, “with the mind I serve the law of God, and with the flesh the law of sin.” Again, he is talking of consciousness. One is consciousness of the Spirit – a mind set on the Spirit he says later in the next chapter, and the other a mind set on the flesh. It is not two minds existing at once, constantly warring each other and canceling each other out. Though for a time it appears like that and whole denominations have taken that as a sad permanent abode.
But this can’t possibly be a giving over of humanity back to the helplessness of sin, so that we must, as one lady said in a meeting recently, inevitably sin. Paul has just been given a revelation of the final depths to our salvation, in the revelation of flesh and spirit, in that they are not warring parties each contending to win out in us, but wholly separate realities, both in God, but one true and one false. Paul is simply saying that one mind, the mind of the Spirit, is the reality of Life outgoing, love expressing, righteousness and holiness in flesh (earthen) containers. And that the other mind, the mind (consciousness) of the flesh, which we have described over and over above, is the reality of independent self-focus, self-concern, possessiveness, manipulation and attention-getting, which is death.
And this revelation is what finally propels him into his next astounding statements and further unfoldings of what he has seen, in the next chapter.
Chapter 8, Verse One:
We all hang our hat on this one! There is no condemnation. God is always like going home to grandma, at least my grandma, where I was acceptable no matter where I had been, what I had done, how long my hair was, or what kind of clothes I was wearing. Always glad to see me and give me a hug. That’s no condemnation. It’s the prophecy of Balaam, quoted above. The Father always sees us through the Son, and in the Son we are in Him and He in us. He cannot condemn us, because lamb’s blood has been shed for us and bought us and made us part of the family. How could one condemn one’s own? No, there is never any condemnation from God, because there is none in Him. When we find Him in us we realize there need be none in us, either. Not for ourselves nor for anyone else.
Verses Two and Three:
We are coming to the end our dealings with the law now. Paul has come to his undoing, finding himself incapable of “doing good,” and the consciousness of himself as a separate self doing his own thing exposed by the law as false, and therefore by that wretchedness and repentance produced in this hellish struggle for survival, he is forced to cry out beyond himself for deliverance. The deliverance he finds is a person, the Lord Jesus, who Paul has found out now is the Real Doer in Him, the one who dispels the notion of the lie and indebtedness to the flesh, and the one who enacts and causes the Spirit life in Paul to overflow in love and power to serve, and every other godly thing.
Notice that the term “law” has shifted in Paul’s language during this struggle. First his “law” is a written ordinance, which he outwardly “tries” to obey. But as he continues with this, the laws he discovers are not outer precepts, but inner truths, and both inner truths, originate in spirit truths, and spirit is always person.
So he then comes in verse two, to a final declaration about the law. And let us repeat, this hasn’t been a struggle for Paul to come up with the best doctrines or a correct systematic theology. His “doctrine” is the life of God working out in him, and he is sharing that working out with us, so that we understand it as God moves us through this same process into His total rest, where the works we do are then the works of God. NowV
That final declaration is our own declaration of freedom as well, because it is all unfolded here. There are two immutable laws (spirit realities) as it relates to human living. One law, the law of sin and death, operates out of independence and self-will, and no matter where it is found, it is death and separation from God in an inward way. It is not itself any particular behavior, but is of the spirit of error, though it is called the flesh. The other law is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, and according to Paul, this is a higher law than the law of sin and death, and when it comes into the picture, that higher law of life in Christ Jesus sets us free from the law of sin and death.
Again, this is not we operating as if we are two people, with a good side and a bad side. The life of Christ Jesus in us, Paul says, is the very thing that sets us free from, that negates, nullifies, and sets aside as if it doesn't exist, the law of sin and death.
In verse three he acknowledges the written law’s greatest weakness, which is that it depended on man for its fulfillment. Man, the weakest and most in-the-dark of all the creatures, a spirit person engulfed in a body, soul and world he doesn’t understand and can’t make work, was put in charge of half the law’s fulfillment, God’s part being the other half. But we couldn’t do it, because we are not capable of it. Finally we see that, and that is the whole reason the law was sent. This is “the sin” law was sent to expose.
And now that the law has given it this exposure, by that exposure, by that shining light, we now see He has come and is Himself the higher law which has set aside that lower law, giving us our final liberty from the law of written ordinances, that we might walk in the freedom and power of the Spirit.
And here we are finished with our dealing with the law, because it is now fulfilled in every way in us, since we are in our minds now of the Spirit, and the very living fulfillment of the law, Christ Jesus, is in us to be the life, power, joy, wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and love. That was what the law was going for, and now by grace we see it. A new law, a higher perfect law, a law that doesn’t depend on the will or ability of the flesh, independent humanity, for its fulfillment, but a law from the One who promised:
“And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezek 36:27 see also vs. 26, 28-30)
And also: “Faithful is he who calleth you, who also will do it.”(1 Thes 5:24)
End of Part Two. We still have yet to get into the Spirit life of Romans Eight, which is in us to be rivers of living water to others, and we will have that in part three, coming later.