HOW WE ARE SET FREE
HOW WE ARE SET FREE Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The law of sin and death is the interaction between the Law of Moses and the law of sin that operates in our sinful nature. The law of the Spirit of Life sets us free from the law of sin and death, the Apostle Paul informs us. But just how does it do this?
HOW WE ARE SET FREE
Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2—NIV)
Much of the Book of Romans is addressed to Jewish believers or Jews who were contemplating becoming believers. It helps us Gentiles understand Romans when we keep this in mind.
We might think of Chapters Seven and Eight as being one whole. Paul is reasoning with Jews concerning the superiority of the new covenant and how the new covenant works out in practice.
In Chapter Seven Paul points the Jew to the fact that the Law of Moses brings guilt and death to the seeker. There is nothing wrong with the Law. It is just that the law of sin operating in the sinful nature of the worshiper contradicts the Law of Moses, defying it and acting against it.
So the devout Jew serves God in his mind, agreeing with God that the Law of Moses is righteous, but his sinful nature keeps insisting that he disobey the Law.
Paul asks, "Who will deliver me from the spiritual death caused by my sinful body?"
The eighth chapter proceeds to offer the solution.
If the devout Jew is intrigued by the thought of abandoning Moses in favor of looking to Christ for righteousness, he still is torn by the problem of guilt. All his life he has been taught that to disobey the Law of Moses is to sin against God, and the result of sin against God is death to the soul.
"What if I start mingling with Gentiles, not observing the kosher dietary laws, not keeping the feast days, not attempting to obey all the principles set forth in the Talmud? I would love to forget about all these details, they are a yoke around my neck. But I don't dare forsake Moses."
Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? (Acts 15:10—NIV)
So Paul commences his explanation of the solution to the dilemma of the devout Jew by saying: "There is no condemnation resting on those who are in Christ Jesus. Since Christ kept the Law perfectly He is able to transfer the righteousness of the Law to those who obey His Spirit."
You can come to Christ without a defiled conscience because God through Christ has assigned the righteousness of the Law to you.
The writer of Hebrews says the same thing:
How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:14—NIV)
Because the One who kept the Law of Moses perfectly was offered as a sin-offering, He has the authority to ascribe to us the righteousness He gained by obeying the Law of Moses perfectly.
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. (Romans 8:4—NIV)
The righteous requirements of the Law of Moses are met fully in us if we choose to live according to the Spirit of God rather than according to our sinful nature.
Now the Jew can come to Christ with a cleansed conscience. The blood of God's Sin-offering has paid the debt incurred by transgressing the Law of Moses.
What comes next? The Jew has no condemnation resting on him. With his mind he loves the righteous ways of God. But he has a sinful nature. Can the new covenant do anything about his sinful nature?
Paul answers, "Yes!"
The law of the Spirit of Life in Christ can set us free from the law of sin and death, from the death produced by the interaction of the Law of Moses and our sinful nature.
Since the law of sin and death has two parts, the Law of Moses and the sin operating in our sinful nature, if the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ is to set us free from the law of sin and death it must set us free from both the Law of Moses and the sin operating in our sinful nature.
First, how does the law of the Spirit of Life set us free from the Law of Moses?
The law of the Spirit of Life sets us free from the Law of Moses by counting us dead on the cross with Christ. Our death on the cross with Christ, which we dramatize in water baptism, is a real death from God's point of view—more real by far than physical death.
God tends to view our physical death as the sleep of the body in the ground while the spirit and soul are elsewhere. "Why are you so concerned? The girl is only sleeping?" Jesus said. Those who "sleep in Jesus" the Lord will bring with Him when He appears.
But once we count ourselves dead on the cross with Christ, two realities occur. First, we become legally free from the Law of Moses. The Law has jurisdiction only over the living. Second, the work of Divine judgment begins in our personality. It is appointed to men once to die and after this the judgment.
The law of the Spirit of Life sets us free from the Law of Moses by regarding us as dead on the cross with Jesus Christ.
But what about our sinful nature, how does the law of the Spirit of Life set us free from this?
When dealing with our sinful nature, two aspects must be considered: the guilt of our sin, and the compulsion to sin resident in our sinful nature.
The law of the Spirit of Life takes care of the guilt of our sinful nature, plus the guilt we inherited from Adam, by forgiving us on the basis of the sin offering made by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.
The soul that sins shall die. Thus we are in debt to God. The blood of Christ pays that debt, it cancels the debt. The blood of Christ forgives the sin, appeasing the wrath of God. The blood of Christ sprinkled on us through our faith purifies us, making us holy in the sight of God.
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22—NIV)
Forgiveness on the basis of the blood atonement has been preached well by the Christian ministry. In some instances it has been overdone, leaving the impression that forgiveness is all that the blood accomplishes, and also that no matter how we behave God "sees us through the blood" so no real moral transformation is necessary.
The truth appears to be that when we begin the program of redemption the blood covers our transgressions. We see this prefigured in the red ram skins that covered the black goat hair of the tent over the Tabernacle of the Congregation. However, as we mature, instead of the blood only covering our sins, it actually cleanses us from them.
It may be true that in past time the emphasis of the Spirit was on our receiving by faith the covering of the blood of atonement. Now God is giving us the Spirit of judgment so we can confess our sins, the result being that the blood of Christ not only forgives our sins but actually cleanses us from all unrighteousness
We readily can understand we have been kept by faith to the Day of Redemption. Now the Day of Redemption is at hand and the Spirit of God is directing us to confess our sins that they may be put to death and finally purged from us altogether. This is the doctrine of eternal judgment, the eternal judgment of sin and Satan.
We are to confess our sins, not pretend God does not know about them.
Christians, thanks to good teaching and preaching, understand God cannot forgive us just because we are sorry. The cancellation of the debt we owe can come only through our faith in the blood atonement made by the Lord on the cross of Calvary.
However, if the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ is to set us free completely from our sinful nature, it must deliver us not only from the guilt of sin but also from the compulsion to sin.
Deliverance from compulsion to sin has not, to our knowledge, been preached clearly and biblically in Evangelical churches. There are preachers who do an excellent job of pointing out, from the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans, that Christians are not to sin, and if they do there are severe consequences. However such preachers and teachers do not appear to be in the majority.
It is our point of view that even the preachers who do a good job of exhorting us not to sin do not emphasize strongly enough the disastrous consequences of continuing in sin after we have received Christ. They often conclude that if a Christian continues to sin there will be distressing results during his or her lifetime. They do not always stress, however that by continuing to sin we are affecting the nature of our resurrection from the deadin fact, we may be placing in jeopardy our very salvation. There can be eternal consequences resulting from living according to our sinful nature, even though we make a profession of Christ.
It is not always stated emphatically that if we do not bear the fruit of righteousness we are in scriptural danger of being removed from the Vine, from Christ.
Whether we think of the parable of the talents, or the sower, or the ten virgins, the message is clear: there is a fearful future awaiting Christians who do not obey Christ and His Apostles by taking up their cross and following the Lord.
It is against this backdrop of the consequences of not gaining the victory over our sinful nature that we will continue with our discussion of how the Spirit of Life in Christ sets us free, not only from the guilt of our sins but also from the compulsion to sin found in our sinful nature.
To begin with, let us think about the sinful nature itself. Where is it found in us? What is the substance and nature of it?
Paul says the sin resides in the members of our body.
But I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. (Romans 7:23NIV)
We might conclude from Paul's statement that sin is a physical force. However, we realize sin began in the spirit realm and that even today we wrestle against fallen angels who once held positions of great authority in Heaven.
Also, we are aware of the presence of demons of rage, lust, lying, violence, jealousy and so forth. Now consider: such spirits seek to find fulfillment in our flesh. Yet even when they cannot, they still have within themselves the compulsions of rage, lust, lying, violence, and jealousy. We speak, for example, of a spirit of rage or a spirit of lust.
We understand, therefore, that these compulsions are actually spiritual in nature. They inhabit our flesh but are separate from the chemical constituents of our body. They are not fashioned from our skin or nerves or tendons or bones or muscles. They are spirits of rage, violence, jealousy etc.
The fact that the various sins that drive our flesh can exist in the spirit realm independently of residence in a human body tells us that we will not gain deliverance from our sinful nature merely by dying. Our sinful behavior can exist in the spirit realm apart from our body! I say this because many Christians are hoping when they die they will be set free from sin. There is no basis in Scripture or in logic for this to be true. We are not changed by dying, only by our interaction with the Lord Jesus Christ.
It appears each human being has areas of weakness in his or her personality that makes him or her vulnerable to specific spirits. For example, an individual may be especially vulnerable to lust or rage or violence. Whether we think of these spirits as dwelling in the person, or having access to a door in his or her personality, probably is not really important to our discussion. What is important is the provision God has made under the new covenant to give us victory in our behavior.
It is our behavior, the way we think, speak, and act that is at issue. God demands iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to His will. Although He leads us along gently, He will settle for nothing less in His children.
Now, how does the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ set us free from the compulsion to sin operating in our sinful nature? Our answer is, the authority of the blood of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, working together with our faith and determination, result in the subduing or casting out of the evil inclinations of our sinful personality.
This is how the evil is removed. But then the "house" must be occupied. The house of our personality is occupied as we, with the assistance of the Spirit of God, keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles. As we keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles (all of which really are the commandments of Christ), Christ is formed in us.
There is no sinful nature in the Christ who is formed in us. The climax of our redemption occurs when the Father and the Son come and dwell for eternity in Christ who has been formed in us. This is the ultimate covenant. There shall be no higher covenant presented after this.
This is the response of the Apostle Paul to the Jew who does not find through the Law of Moses the salvation he is hoping for.
Can you see how infinitely greater the new covenant is compared with the Law of Moses? The new covenant, the law of the Spirit of Life, sets us free from the compulsions of our sinful nature by first subduing or casting out the spiritual evil that is driving us to sin, then creates Christ in our mind and heart, and finally fills us with the Persons of the Father and Christ. The work of salvation attains its fullness when our body is raised from the dead and swallowed up by our body from Heaven, which has been created as we continually have been crucified and resurrected in Christ.
Here is full redemption. The evil has been driven from us. Christ has been formed in us. The Father and the Son have occupied our new born-again nature. The whole is clothed in a body composed of our resurrected flesh and bones plus the robe from Heaven, made radiantly white as it has been washed in the blood of the Lord Jesus.
Now we have been conformed to the image of Christ and are dwelling in untroubled rest in the Father through Christ. We are ready to fulfill our role in the Kingdom of God, the role for which we have been predestined from the beginning of the world.
But exactly how do the blood and the Spirit work together to subdue and finally drive from us the compulsion to sin?
The authority of the blood is absolute. The blood of Jesus is the centerpiece of redemption. It is the foundation, the basis for all forgiveness and all removal of sin.
The Spirit of God is all powerful. There is no evil spirit or tendency that can resist the Spirit of God. The blood grants the authority. The Spirit possesses the power.
But the judge, the arbiter, is the individual. The blood and the Spirit will act only as we make a judgment.
Satan deceived man in the beginning, and man permitted Satan to enter the new race and world God had created. God has made Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, to be Judge of all angels and people and Lord of the entire creation.
Christ is sharing the authority of judgment with His Church.
Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, (John 5:22NIV)
If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. (John 20:23NIV)
Do you not know the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! (I Corinthians 6:2,3NIV)
No deliverance takes place in the believer's personality until he or she makes a judgment. Let us say you are harboring unforgiveness. You have to decide whether or not you want to be delivered. You have to make a judgment.
If you hold on to the unforgiveness, justifying your sin on one basis or another, you will not be delivered. You have to come before God and declare that your unforgiveness is a sin and belongs in the Lake of Fire, not in you. You have to judge your attitude.
Once you confess this sin, firmly denouncing it as a wicked attitude that does not belong in the Kingdom of God, and ask God to forgive you and remove it from you, He will. There is authority and virtue in the blood of Jesus to forgive unforgiveness. There is power in the Spirit of God to remove unforgiveness from you.
We do not have to analyze further than this. If you remain firm in your judgment, the day will come when this attitude is completely subdued if not removed altogether. God is faithful and righteous to forgive your sin and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
The main consideration is that God does not want you to continue in a state of unforgiveness. If you do, He will not forgive your sin. There shall be catastrophic consequences for retaining this attitude. You absolutely <I>must be set free from unforgiveness. You absolutely <I>shall be set free if you confess, renounce, and denounce the unforgiveness with all vigor and determination.
You have made a judgment. You are a member of the Body of Christ with the authority through Christ of judgment. The blood has the authority to cleanse you from unforgiveness. The Spirit of God has the power to deliver you from this unrighteousness. Everything depends on your resolve to be rid of this wickedness.
In the future, draw near to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. You have done what God has said. God will do His part. There is unlimited authority and power in the blood of the cross and the power of the Spirit of God working together. But apart from you as the judge, nothing happens.
In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus the Jewish Day of Atonement is described. The ceremony focused on two goats. One goat was slain and its blood sprinkled in the Most Holy place. The other goat was not slain. Rather, the high priest confessed the sins of Israel, placing them on the living goat, and this goat was led away into the desert.
He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelitesall their sinsand put them on the goat's head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert. (Leviticus 16:21,22NIV)
The significant fact, in my point of view, is that both goats were considered to be a sin offering and atonement was made with both goats, even though the one goat was not slain.
From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. (Leviticus 16:5NIV)
But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat. (Leviticus 16:10NIV)
Since a sin offering and atonement must be made with blood, and since both the slain goat and the living goat were referred to as a sin offering and an atonement, we conclude that the action was one whole. Forgiveness of sin, gained by the blood of the slain goat, and removal of sin, gained by the removal of the living goat, constituted one sin offering, one atonement.
This being the case, we see that the atonement made by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary includes both forgiveness and removal.
There are passages that suggest the removal of our sins will occur in the last days.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30NIV)
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27,28NIV)
Who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (I Peter 1:5NIV)
It is clear there is coming a day of redemption, a day of salvation, for those who are waiting for Jesus. We do not consider this to be the second coming of Christ, because in that day every eye shall see Him, not just those who are waiting for Him.
I would like to venture an opinion based on my limited understanding of the Scriptures plus fifty years of thinking about, experiencing, and ministering moral deliverance.
The New Testament, in numerous passages warns Christian people about the peril of continuing in sinsin being disobedience to the commandments of Christ and His Apostles. The entire Book of First John, for example, warns Christians concerning continuing in sin.
The Book of Hebrews contains several severe warnings addressed to believers who continue to sin. In his Epistles, the Apostle Paul warns us that if we do not put to death the actions of our body, we will die spiritually and reap corruption. We will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
The true Christian is being led by the Spirit of God to put to death the behaviors of his sinful nature.
God has given us abundant grace, under the new covenant, to live the life of victory over sin. We have the born-again experience, the Holy Spirit, the Epistles of the Apostles, the body and blood of Christ, the gifts and ministries of the Spirit, to help us overcome sin. Also we can come boldly to the throne of grace to receive help as we strive against sin.
To not be engaging in the warfare against the worldliness, bodily passions, and self-will of our personality is to be neglecting our salvation. The Apostle Paul beat his body and made it his slave. To not deny ourselves, not take up our cross, not follow Jesus, not remain patiently in the prisons in which we find ourselves, is to neglect our salvation. We shall not escape Divine punishment if we neglect our salvation.
To sow to the flesh is to reap corruption. To not put to death the deeds of our body is to slay our own resurrection unto life, in the Day of the Lord. There are very severe consequences, sometimes eternal consequences, when we as a Christian do not take our cross each day, do not present our body a living sacrifice to God, do not follow the Holy Spirit in putting to death the sinful appetites and passions of our flesh.
It seems to me that as we confess, renounce, and denounce our sins, we gain the upper hand over them. I think, based on experience, that in some instances there are evil spirits residing in our flesh that are removed as we judge them and then resist them. I myself have had a few dramatic deliverances, deliverances that I could feel take place. Usually, however, the deliverance comes, sooner or later, as I continue to walk in faith, doing what God has commanded. This has been my experience.
I would venture further that the second part of the Day of Atonement, that having to do with the living goat, has begun and will continue throughout the thousand-year Kingdom Age that will follow the appearing of the Lord.
I think the Lord is ready to remove sin from His Church in preparation for His coming. When He comes, and we are resurrected and then caught up to meet Him in the air, we must be ready to appear with Him, helping to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth.
It seems reasonable to me that the removal of sin from His Church, the redemption or salvation predicted for the last days, should take place prior to our being caught up to meet the Lord in the air, prior to our receiving a glorified body. And I see no reason for the same removal not to be taking place among the saints in the spirit realm who are waiting to return with Jesus in the Day of the Lord. Do you see any scriptural reason why this should not be so?
I am suggesting that we have come to a giant step forward in the development of the Kingdom of God. Such giant steps do occur, you know, such as in the change from Moses to Joshua or in the case of the birth of Christ in the manger. It appears God's people are not always aware when some of these awesome events occur. Maybe one is taking place in our day! Think of that!
Your next move should be to go to Jesus in prayer and see what He says to you. If God is dealing with you about some area of sin in your life, why don't you do as we have suggested. Confess it to God. Openly and vigorously declare it to be sin and unfit to be in a member of the Body of Christ. Ask God to forgive you and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Then see if He does. The Bible says He shall forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
This does not mean you now are perfect. But it does mean you have taken a step forward toward victory over sin, and that is always desirable.
I think if you are faithful in gaining the victory over sin, as the Holy Spirit guides you, then, when the Lord returns, He will remove the last vestiges of sin and clothe you with the robe of righteous behavior that has been woven in Heaven while you have been obeying God in the earth.
Thus the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus can do for us what the Law of Moses can never do. It frees us totally from the guilt of sin by means of the blood atonement made on the cross. It will free us totally from the compulsion to sin as we follow the program that the Scripture outlines, the process of judgment and deliverance that is conducted by the Spirit of God. As we follow the Spirit of God, the righteousness of the One who kept the Law of Moses perfectly is ascribed to us.
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 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. (Romans 8:3,4NIV)