CHOOSE THIS DAY! (EXCERPT OF A STUDY GUIDE FOR THE BOOK OF ROMANS)
From: A Study Guide for the Book of Romans
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
An understanding of the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans makes clear the role of righteousness and holiness in the Christian salvation. The consequences for the believer of continuing in sinful conduct is spiritual death while the result of cooperating with the Holy Spirit in putting to death the deeds of the flesh is eternal life. Through Christ the Christian has the power to choose to obey sin (bringing spiritual death) or righteousness (bringing eternal life).
To understand the sixth chapter of Romans is to comprehend God’s program of salvation from sin.
Romans, Chapter Six.
What question does Paul raise based on what he has just taught concerning our receiving righteousness on the basis of our faith in Christ?
Should we continue in sin, that grace may abound—grace meaning the gift of righteousness and virtue that comes to us on the basis of our faith in the promise of God?
What is Paul’s answer?
“May it never be!”
A related question is, will the sins of the Christian be judged, or has the believer been released from the consequences of his actions because of his statement of belief in Christ?
Our point of view is, the believer is not released from the consequences of his actions, with two specific provisions:
- The sins committed before the individual heard the Gospel and received the Lord Jesus. These are covered by the blood of the Lamb.
- The sins that the believer confesses and forsakes as he walks in the light of God’s will. These are forgiven and removed by the Lord Jesus.
It indeed is remarkable that the God of Heaven entrusted to one man—Paul—the explanation of the nature of the new covenant and the ways in which the new covenant differs from the old covenant.
The differences between the two covenants are not as easy to explain as we might wish. Many Christian people would find it quite difficult to explain the principal points of difference.
Paul understood the differences and presented them clearly. But the teachers and saints even of his own day could not grasp Paul’s thinking.
Peter reflected on the problem:
as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. (II Peter 3:16)
We understand, therefore, that the Scripture itself reports that the writings of Paul contain “things hard to understand.” Apparently Peter himself did not understand the principal differences between the two covenants. It appears he did not clearly understand the relationship of circumcision to Christ’s salvation (Galatians 2:14).
In explaining the difference between the two covenants many Christians would say, “We are not under the Law but under grace.” The problem is, they would not be able to define grace in a manner that would agree with Paul’s epistles.
Most likely they would claim that grace means God overlooks the sins of Gentiles who believe in Jesus whereas He would not overlook the sins of the Jews under the old covenant; or that righteousness came from obeying the letter of the old covenant while righteousness now results from faith under the new covenant.
This would be a mixture of errors. God does not overlook the sins of Gentiles who believe in Jesus. Also it is not true that righteousness came from obeying the letter of the old covenant. From the days of Abel righteousness always has come by faith, as we read in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews.
The faith of today’s Christianity is not always true faith in the Lord Jesus because true faith in the Lord Jesus leads to a new creation. Faith in the Lord is a continuing relationship with the living Jesus in every detail of life. Today’s “faith” tends to be a belief about Jesus. The demons have no faith in the Lord Jesus but they do indeed have a belief about Jesus.
It is important today for Christian believers to understand the changes that are made as we pass from the old covenant to the new covenant, and also aspects that remain the same throughout all of God’s covenants.
A Christian believer might say, “I am not saved by works but by grace.” If he were asked to define what he meant by works he might present the meaning as “doing good”; “not sinning”; “being like Jesus”; or a similar definition. Also, he probably would explain grace as salvation obtained by acknowledging and accepting Christ as the Son of God apart from godliness of character and behavior. This is the modern form of Gnosticism, an ancient heresy that emphasized the possession of certain secrets of knowledge, belief in which would bring the person into union with God.
If Paul, in the early chapters of Romans, meant we are saved by belief in points of theology pertaining to Christ, and godly moral behavior is not the proof of our salvation, then Paul is contradicting Jude, First John, Hebrews, First and Second Peter, Revelation, much of the writings of the Old Testament Prophets, and the bulk of his own statements in his Epistles.
Paul, in his arguments, was not contrasting grace and righteous behavior. If he were, then God’s goal no longer is a new creation but a universe of people whose acceptability to the Lord results from their belief in an abstract, imputed (ascribed) righteousness.
Someone recently taught that the saints do not have to overcome sin. Jesus did all the overcoming, they stated, and we receive perfect righteousness by believing that Jesus overcame sin. Our belief “actualizes” victory in us. Furthermore, they maintained, whenever we are convicted of sin, this is a trick, a lie of Satan. There can be no sin in us because we believe in the victory won by the Lord Jesus. This is Gnosticism.
An experienced Christian might find such a viewpoint too close to Christian Science or other “science of mind” doctrines or the “faith-prosperity” errors to accept it as being the Divine plan of salvation. There would be no reason for the Christian to put on his armor because there is no need for him to fight. Jesus did it all.
But how does the “Jesus did it all” approach to salvation differ from the concept that righteousness comes by faith in Christ apart from godly behavior (which is the basic Christian position)?
It appears to us that the two doctrines come from the same root.
If Christian grace is salvation by naked belief in the existence and atoning work of Christ, then repentance can never have a place in the Christian experience. Of what would one repent if God does not see his behavior except through Christ?
If Jesus did all the overcoming and we merely accept the finished work by faith, then repentance is a meaningless exercise. In fact, it is an affront to God who already has given us perfect righteousness.
We saints may suspect that something is wrong with the concept of receiving and maintaining a perfect state of righteousness apart from a change of our behavior. But Paul’s writings are so hard for us to understand we are unable to pinpoint the error.
When Paul spoke of works he actually was referring to the observances of the Law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments, circumcision, the Sabbath day, the dietary regulations, and the sacrifices of the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
Certain Jewish teachers, some seeking their own gain, were following the Apostles into the Gentile assemblings and teaching the Law of Moses. When Paul contrasts grace and the Law of Moses, as he does in the beginning chapters of the Book of Romans, he is refuting the teaching of the Jewish teachers.
Paul is contrasting being saved by the covenant God made with the Jews with being saved by accepting what God has accomplished through Christ. Paul is maintaining we are saved by faith in the Person and atoning work of Christ and that it is not necessary to add to the Divine atonement the statutes of the Law of Moses.
Paul was not contrasting God’s salvation in Christ with righteous, godly behavior when teaching we are saved by grace and not by works. He was comparing the atonement made by Christ with the Law of Moses.
Paul was not saying “we are not saved by righteous behavior but by God’s grace.” God’s grace when correctly received always leads to righteous behavior. There can be no contrast between God’s grace and righteous behavior.
Paul was teaching that we are not saved by the Law of Moses but by the atonement made by Christ on the cross. The atonement made by Christ does not lead to keeping the observances of Moses: to circumcision, to the observance of feast days, to the washing of pots and dishes, to the laws of diet, to animal sacrifices. There is a difference between grace and the Law of Moses.
Can you understand the distinction between these two different ideas: grace compared with the Law of Moses as distinguished from grace compared with the righteous and holy conduct of life?
It is worth one’s while to consider the distinction between the two. Paul was stating that because we are under grace we no longer are required to observe the Levitical statutes (the “works” to which he was referring).
If, however, Paul had been maintaining that because we are under grace we no longer are required to crucify the flesh with its lusts and appetites, we no longer are required to observe the eternal moral laws, then most of the New Testament writings, including the Sermon on the Mount, would have little relevance to the new covenant.
Some Christian theologians teach that Christians are not obligated to observe the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount because Christians are saved by grace and not by works. This perversion of Paul’s intention and doctrine has destroyed the moral strength of the churches.
The dispensational purists appear to be teaching that the New Testament exhortations to holiness are not a part of Christianity, since we are saved by grace and not by godly behavior. They are teaching error, and the result is that the testimony of many of the Christian churches has been ruined in the latter part of the twentieth century.
Modern Christian teaching is a mixture of humanism, Gnosticism, and dispensationalism (perhaps the most destructive of the three).
Righteous behavior must proceed from both the old covenant and the new covenant or else Divine judgment certainly shall follow. If righteous behavior does not proceed from the new covenant, while it did in many instances proceed from the old covenant, as we know from the godly lives of the saints mentioned in the Old Testament, then the old covenant is superior to the new covenant in accomplishing the eternal purpose of God.
However, righteous behavior indeed does proceed from the new covenant. Righteousness and holiness are revealed in the behavior and teaching of the Apostles of the Lamb.
The eternal purpose of God is the creation of both righteous conduct and praise to Himself in the earth. The covenant that best accomplishes these two goals is the superior covenant.
For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11)
The nucleus of the present theological confusion probably has to do with the goal of the covenants. The goal of both the old and new covenants is people who behave justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. However, present-day theology perceives the goal of the new covenant to be that of gaining entrance to Heaven when we die.
No covenant of God ever had going to Heaven when we die as its aim. This incorrect goal well may be the main reason for our difficulty in understanding the Apostle Paul. The goal of the old covenant was to create righteous individuals. The goal of the new covenant is to create righteous individuals, not to attain residence in the spirit realm. The goal of current theology is unscriptural.
Current theology maintains we are saved by grace, not by righteous behavior, so we can go to Heaven when we die. However, if the goal of the new covenant is not to go to Heaven but righteous behavior (which it assuredly is!), then to teach that God is saving us by grace apart from our works is to maintain that God is saving us apart from saving us.
The view of eternal residence in Heaven as the goal of the Divine redemption may have originated in the Catholic churches and undoubtedly was due to the influence of Gnosticism, which teaches that matter is inherently evil and spirit is inherently good. In any case, there is no basis whatever in the Old Testament or the New Testament for the doctrine that life in Heaven is the goal of redemption. The goal is righteous behavior with a view toward resurrection to eternal life and a place in God’s Kingdom on the new earth.
- Is the new covenant God’s apology for our sinning?
- Is Christ the minister of sin?
- Is it true that when we commit adultery God sees Christ and not us?
- Is Christ actually the covering for our wicked actions so God does not and cannot judge them?
Do you believe this?
For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness [immorality, lust] and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4)
What does “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness [immorality]” mean? It means, according to the context, coming into the Christian assembling as a member, as a fellow saint supposedly, and practicing wicked behavior. When a person who seeks to have fellowship with God’s people practices immorality he is turning the grace of God into lust.
But if Christ is a covering for our wickedness, and God sees us only through the righteous Jesus, how can such grace be turned into immorality if grace covers our behavior?
Well, one may say, the wicked to whom Jude refers never had received Christ but only had made a superficial profession. How do we know this?
By their behavior, of course. If they had actually received Christ they would not be bound by adultery.
Is this our argument?
Then what we are maintaining is that a true saint can be recognized only by his or her conduct, which is the truth of the Scripture. We have come to agree with Pastor James that faith apart from works is dead.
Faith can live only in works of righteousness. In fact, the grace of God saves us so we can practice righteous works, not so we can flee from the earth and go to live in the realm of bodiless spirits.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
not of works, lest anyone should boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Does the above passage teach us we are saved by grace through faith so we may be created to good works, to good works! If it does, contemporary Christian theology is in error.
Have we not been woefully deceived?
Many godly saints were produced under the old covenant, such as the parents of John the Baptist.
And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. (Luke 1:6)
“Walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”
If Zacharias and Elizabeth (and we easily could name many other saints of the Scriptures) were examples of what could be produced by the old covenant, are we to believe the new covenant produces people who are less righteous?
Beyond all dispute, God’s purpose is to create people who live according to His standards. Would God call a covenant “better” that is less able to produce godliness in human beings? If we believe so, then we view the new covenant only in terms of our own convenience, not in terms of God’s pleasure or His eternal purposes in Christ.
The truth is, the new covenant is vastly more able to create godly behavior than was true of the old covenant. This is why we have the new covenant. Therefore being saved by grace does not mean that godly behavior no longer is required of God’s chosen people, His elect.
Paul was aware that his teaching in the third, fourth, and fifth chapters of Romans could be interpreted to mean that grace is God’s license for ungodly behavior. “Let us do evil that God’s grace may be revealed more clearly,” some were saying.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Romans 6:1,2)
No Christian who understands the new covenant would claim we can ease our way into God’s favor by observing the Law of Moses or by performing good works under any moral code. We come into the favor of God by believing and receiving that which He has performed through Christ. To attempt to satisfy God by our own works of righteousness is to make the atonement God accomplished on the cross of Calvary have no effect.
This is what Paul was maintaining. We must receive the atonement made by Christ on the cross. In so doing there is no need for us to go back and pick up the Law of Moses because the Law of Moses was the Divine means of bringing us to Christ, of causing us to recognize our need of the Redeemer.
Now we come to the issue being presented in the sixth chapter of Romans: After we have been introduced (Romans 5:2) by faith into grace, how are we to live?
What master are we to obey?
We understand from the major portion of the writings of the New Testament that being “saved by grace” does not mean we will be received by the Lord God of Heaven as saints while we are continuing to practice wickedness. This is the assumption being made today but it is not what Paul meant by being saved by grace.
Being saved by grace means we are to come to the cross of Calvary and receive what God is offering there, meanwhile vigorously and thoroughly repenting of our past behavior. Having done this we are to make certain we are following the Lord Jesus each day, that we are abiding in Him at all times. We are to live, move, and have our being in the Holy Spirit of God (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18).
The Christian who lives “in the flesh” rather than in prayerful obedience to the Holy Spirit is placing his salvation in jeopardy (Romans 8:5-13). God is looking for fruit. The fruit God is looking for is Christ in us. God has planted Christ in the believers and He expects to reap Christ in the believers.
By reaping Christ we are referring to the righteous, holy and obedient behavior that shows forth in us as Christ is being formed in us.
If any individual is abiding in Christ and Christ in him, a new creature who practices righteousness is being revealed. What can we say of the “believer” if, after a period of time, no new creation is in evidence?
If Christ is not being brought forth in our personality, as evidenced by a transformation of character and behavior in line with God’s Word, then God’s grace, God’s salvation, is not working in us.
The fruit of godly behavior is the evidence we are being saved, that the Redeemer is fulfilling the moral law within us. The Christian is known by his fruit.
If no godly behavior is coming forth in our life then Christ is not growing in us. If Christ is not growing in us, God’s grace is not growing in us. Christ is the grace of God to us (I Corinthians 1:30).
Being saved by grace does not mean God receives us so we can continue in our sinful, rebellious patterns of behavior. Grace is not God’s substitute for righteous, holy, and obedient behavior, for without holiness no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
The new covenant is Christ (Isaiah 42:6). The grace of God is Christ. Eternal life is Christ. The resurrection from among the dead is Christ. The way, the truth, and the life are Christ. Christ Himself is our Salvation (Isaiah 12:2).
If Christ is being formed in us the new covenant is being formed in us; the grace of God is being formed in us; eternal life is being formed in us; the resurrection from the dead is being formed in us; the way, the truth, and the life are being formed in us; salvation is being formed in us.
But if we are living “in the flesh,” if we are choosing to emphasize our animal characteristics of eating, playing, working, sleeping, and reproducing, all affected by the uncleanness of sin, and are paying minimal attention to the Spirit of God, then Christ is withering in us; eternal life is withering in us; the resurrection from the dead is withering in us; the way, the truth, and the life are withering in us; salvation is withering in us; the new covenant is withering in us; grace is withering in us (Luke 8:13,14).
As we stated previously, one of the principal hindrances to our ability to grasp the principles of the new covenant is we understand the goal of salvation to be that of going to Heaven when we die.
Going to Heaven when we die is our joyous hope but it is not the goal of salvation. We are looking for Paradise but God is looking for righteous people. It is difficult to understand the new covenant when one views Heaven as being the goal of salvation because the new covenant is not addressed to our going to Heaven but to our transformation into the likeness of the moral character of Christ.
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Hebrews 8:10)
We pass into the Presence of God when we die physically if we die in Christ. We believe this to be the case although there is a scarcity of Scripture on the subject of what happens to us after we die. In any event, going to Heaven is not the goal toward which the numerous graces and gifts of God under the new covenant are directed. The last two chapters of the Book of Revelation find us on the earth, not in Heaven.
The gifts and graces of the new covenant have to do with the forming of Christ in us. The forming of Christ in us is the new covenant. The new covenant will have been fulfilled in us when Christ has been formed in us, and it is through means of the transformation of our personality that the purposes of God will be fulfilled.
The new covenant is not fulfilled by the fact of our dying and going to Heaven.
The new covenant is fulfilled when Christ is formed in us and we are in the moral image of Christ. It is to this transformation we have been predestined and it is the transformation of our personality that fulfills the purpose of God in calling us out of the world (Romans 8:28,29).
The old covenant is a set of observances that enables a human being to conduct himself or herself in a manner that God will accept under those terms of limited understanding. When the person fails to conduct himself properly, provision for reconciliation to God has been provided through animal sacrifice.
The new covenant has little to do with the terms of the old covenant, and this is why Paul did not want the believers to attempt to mix the two.
The new covenant is Christ: as our blood atonement, as our Divine Substance whose body and blood we eat and drink, as our Lord whom we serve at all times, as our good Shepherd, as our Baptizer with the Holy Spirit of God, as our Healer, as our Example in all things, as our Redeemer who will return to receive us, as our resurrection Life who will transform our mortal body, as our Hope, our Wisdom, our Sanctification, and as our heavenly Bridegroom who will come for us so we may be with Him where He is forever.
Some of these aspects of Divine grace were included in the old covenant; others were not present at all.
Under the new covenant Christ is with us and in us and we are with Him and in Him. Christ is All in all to us. He Himself is the New Covenant. He is being formed in us until we have been created an eternally inseparable part of Him, the fullness of His Being, the revelation of His supreme Glory. This is the Kingdom of God.
The old covenant produced righteous, holy, and obedient behavior, by commanding the people of the Lord to do in faith what the Lord had written to them by the hand of Moses and the Prophets.
The new covenant produces righteous, holy, and obedient behavior by filling us with the Holy Spirit of God and creating Christ in us.
Both covenants require righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God. The new covenant requires more righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God than the old covenant because Christ, the Author of all true righteousness, holiness, and obedience, has been given to us as Savior and Lord and is being formed in us.
Much more grace to do God’s will is available under the new covenant.
To view the new covenant as a plan for removing the requirement of righteous and holy living as an integral and necessary part of the Divine salvation is to misunderstand completely what God is accomplishing in people through Christ.
The writings of Paul can be wrested to mean our continuing sinful conduct is a further opportunity for God’s grace and mercy to be revealed. But to accept such a conclusion is to make Christ an excuse for our rebellion and sin.
The believer who views the new covenant as a plan whereby an individual is released from conscience and law so he can live as he pleases, and then attain eternal residence in Paradise, is misunderstanding both the process and the goal of the salvation made possible through Christ.
Such a believer will be able to comprehend neither the Old Testament Prophets nor the New Testament Apostles. The meaning of major passages of the Scriptures will be hidden from him because he does not perceive correctly the plan or the purpose of God.
The doctrine that the Jews were obligated to behave in a morally correct manner, and the Christian is not obligated to behave in a morally correct manner because the Christian is “saved by grace,” is totally in error.
The Christian who does not, after a reasonable period of time, begin to bear the fruit of Christ likeness, will be removed from the Vine by the Father (John 15:2). If we truly are in Christ, a new creation is coming into view. Our former character and behavior are passing away for eternity. A new creation is being revealed and every part of the new creation is of God (II Corinthians 5:17,18).
If we will study the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans we may notice that Paul does not conclude, from his teaching in the preceding chapters of Romans, that because of the grace of the new covenant, righteous and holy behavior need not follow as an essential part of our salvation in Christ.
In fact, Paul’s conclusion is quite the contrary.
In the last few verses of Chapter Six of Romans we can observe that the grace of God leads from slavery to sin to slavery to God. The person who commits sin is the slave of sin. Slavery to God results in our being set apart to God as holy people: holy in standing before God; holy in character; holy in behavior (Romans 6:22).
Divine grace in Christ enables us to break the yoke of sin. Breaking the yoke of sin results in our sanctification—our separation to God as His special people (II Corinthians 6:17).
It is separation to God in righteousness, holiness and obedience that finally brings about our possession of eternal life (Romans 6:22).
Paul warns the believer in Christ: “If you serve sin you will be paid your due wages. Your wages are eternal death!” (Romans 6:23).
God is offering to us freely the gift of eternal life. We receive eternal life as we believe in Christ, receiving Him into our personality and serving Him with all diligence.
Then, through His grace (the virtue, wisdom, and power He gives to us) we learn to serve righteousness. It is our walking in righteousness that enables us to keep the eternal life given to us, and to add to it until we are filled with eternal life—spirit, soul, and (at His appearing) body.
What is Paul’s response to the fact that his explanation of the new covenant is leading some to conclude that we can and should continue in our sinful conduct?
How shall we, who are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
A correct interpretation of Romans, Chapter Six depends on our understanding of the expression “we, who are dead to sin.”
Paul explains that our baptism in water signifies that our former personality has been united with Christ in His death on the cross and we now are free to participate with Christ in eternal, incorruptible resurrection life.
Being “dead to sin” means we left our first personality in the waters of baptism. We died with Christ.
How do we adjust our thinking to this truth?
First of all, does being dead to sin mean we no longer experience any urge to sin or to follow our self-will?
Indeed not! The experienced saint understands he always must be on his guard against the lusts of his flesh and spirit.
Second, does being dead to sin mean no matter what we do our actions cannot be judged as sinful by the Lord God of Heaven?
If such were the case the numerous admonitions of the New Testament writings would be meaningless.
Why would Paul be so concerned about the believer in Corinth who was committing incest with his stepmother if a believer’s conduct cannot be judged as sinful under the terms and conditions of the new covenant?
If being “dead to sin” does not mean we no longer have a desire to sin, or that if we practice sin we are not accountable because we have “died,” then precisely what does the expression signify?
Our death to sin, as represented by baptism in water, means God views our first personality as a creation that is passing away. God has taken it upon Himself to forgive all the sins of our first personality, the first creation, through the offering of Christ. God henceforth is expecting to behold the evidence of resurrection, the Divine Life of His Son, Christ, springing up as a new personality within us.
With this in mind, our continuing in the works of malice and lust of our former personality would be contrary to all that we, by faith, are testifying is taking place in us. It would be illogical, unreasonable, unthinkable to continue as a slave of sin. “May it never be!”
How are we to view our death to sin?
We view being dead to sin as the correct way to regard our first personality. We are not to live as a typical flesh and blood human being, occupied with survival, idolatry, and the building of our own kingdom. Rather we are to be directing our attention to the things of Christ: prayer, His Word, assembling with the saints, serving the Lord, seeking first the Kingdom of God.
Our first personality died with Christ. Our new personality, which is Christ formed in us, is in the process of growing to maturity as we learn to walk in the Spirit of God. Sin and rebellion against God belong to our former personality, not to our new born-again personality.
Our new personality shall overcome the world; it does not sin (I John 3:9; 5:4).
What can we say concerning the program of change from our former personality to our new born-again personality?
We must recognize that this change is an actual, tangible, observable transformation of our personality. It is not accomplished by our human efforts but by the Divine Virtue, wisdom, and energy of the Lord God of Heaven.
Our transformation into righteous, holy and obedient behavior does not take place instantly. We must be patient as the Lord works with us. But transformation does take place. The teaching that states we cannot, through the Lord Jesus, overcome sin and self-will in this world is unscriptural. Such teaching is defeating, destructive, and disastrous as far as the new covenant is concerned.
First, we must regard ourselves as crucified to the world, to sin, to our former personality, and them as crucified to us.
Second, we must follow the Holy Spirit as He leads us to confess, repent of, and resist the desires that direct us into ungodly behavior, thus putting them to death. We are to put sin to death through the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13).
Third, we must allow the Lord Jesus to work with us until our self-will has been brought low and we have learned to find our peace and joy in the will of Christ. We are to set aside our own life and receive His Life and His will. We are to take up our cross and follow Him each day.
These three attitudes and actions are essential to the new covenant. If one of the three is missing we cannot lead the life of victory in Christ.
Being “dead to sin” means we have been crucified with Christ, that we judge the manifestations of sin in us as being unfit for the Kingdom of God and proceed to drive them out through the Holy Spirit, and that we have chosen to offer ourselves as bondslaves to Christ in order that His will may be performed in our daily life.
If any person be in Christ there is a new creation. We cannot continue in our former sinful ways. This is not what it means to live by faith. This is not the grace of God under the new covenant. Continuing in our rebellious and sinful ways reveals we have not repented and come under the new covenant with the Lord.
The Apostle Paul did not preach “unconditional grace”—the Christian message of our day.
Notice, in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Acts, Felix, the Governor of Caesarea, sent for Paul to hear him discuss faith in Christ (verse 24). Paul talked to Felix and Drusilla, not only about a free gift of righteousness but about righteous conduct, self-control, and the coming judgment. Felix was frightened, not elated, by Paul’s words.
If Paul had spoken of free grace and a pre-tribulation “rapture” there would have been no need for Felix to be afraid. But Paul spoke of righteous behavior, of self-control, and of the wrath of Christ upon all those who do not live righteously and employ self-control. Such preaching is found throughout Paul’s Epistles.
But righteousness, self-control, and judgment are not always found in the corruption of Paul’s doctrine being advanced today. The current preaching of unconditional grace (entrance into Paradise no matter how we behave) is a destructive error. It is a blackening of the name of God and His Christ to state that by a confession of theology we are excused from righteous behavior and self-control.
What is true of each of us who has been baptized into Christ? We were baptized into His death.
Why were we buried with Him by baptism into death? So we too, along with the Lord Jesus, may walk in newness of life through the glory of the Father that raised Christ from the dead
In what two aspects have we become united with Christ? In the likeness of His death; in the likeness of his resurrection.
What is it that was crucified with Christ? Our old nature, our old self, our adamic nature, our first personality.
It was not just the sinful part of our personality that was crucified with Christ, it was our entire first personality—that which was born of our human parents.
There is an important concept here. Many believers who are willing to allow the Holy Spirit to destroy the bondages of sin in them are not as willing to allow the Lord to put to death their self-exaltation and self-will.
We would like to put away the bad and cling to what we think is good. Our self-exaltation, self-love, self-seeking, stubbornness, unteachableness, and self-will are not always seen by us to be evil. They are not demonic but are of our own personality, and so we may perceive them to be proper behavior on our part. The truth is, such self-centeredness is a greater problem in the Kingdom than the lusts of demons.
We often see such adamic traits well advanced in older Christians. This is because they have not lived a crucified life in the Lord Jesus.
The Lord does not allow us to keep any part of our original personality. All of it—even our sense of honor, friendliness, willingness to help others—must go to the cross. That which is accepted of God is then filled with the resurrection life of Christ and restored to us.
If any person is in Christ a new creation is coming forth, and all elements of the new creation are of God. Every part of the old must pass away, as in the whole burnt offering (Leviticus 1:9).
Why must the whole be consumed? It is because no part of our own righteousness is acceptable to God. Every aspect of our personality must become an eternal source of the flowing out of the resurrection life of Christ. Any part we attempt to retain will come into conflict with the glory of the Lord Jesus.
We must keep in mind that the adamic personality is temporary. If we do not sow to the Holy Spirit we will not reap the new personality, which is eternal. Therefore in the day of resurrection we will lose our personality, we will reap corruption and spiritual nakedness.
The good aspects of the adamic personality, such as truthfulness, integrity, honesty, humility, are “wood.” They will hold up during ordinary pressures. But when exposed to fiery testing they will not survive. However, the gold of the Divine Nature will survive all fires.
Adam must have integrity if he is to make a success of the Kingdom of God. He must receive the Word into an honest and good heart if he is to bring forth lasting fruit. The adamic integrity is needed in order to keep our body on the altar of God as a living sacrifice.
Adamic integrity is necessary to ensure that Christ keeps on increasing and Adam himself keeps on decreasing. If we do not have a measure of integrity in our first personality we may find it difficult, or even impossible, to crucify our old nature and patiently bring forth the new personality.
Our adamic nature may be a friendly person but under enough pressure he will become hostile. Adam may pride himself on his love for people, but when he is subjected to the perversity and evil of demons he will become bitter and hateful. But the Divine love of God is powerful enough to overcome all evil.
The adamic shall pass away. That which is of Christ shall never pass away.
All of us have ideas concerning our own worth: our loyalty to our friends, our intelligence, our talents—even our ability to work in the Kingdom of God.
But all that is gain to us is loss for Christ. Only He is the Kingdom of God. We must decrease and He must increase. We are to live by the power of His resurrection. We are to share in His sufferings. In all things and in all ways we are being made Him—an eternally inseparable part of Him.
What is true of the person who has died? He has been freed from sin.
It is true in criminal law that once the accused is deceased the judge cannot sentence him to any punishment. If he is dead he is dead. The maximum penalty has been paid.
The Law of Moses does not judge and convict a person who has died. Once we die we no longer are under the Law of Moses. If we reckon ourselves dead in water baptism then the Law of Moses no longer has jurisdiction over us.
Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? (Romans 7:1)
Many Christians are confused today over the role the Law of Moses, the Torah, should play in their walk with God. The answer is, the moral principles embodied in the Torah are eternal. They preceded the Law, found expression in the Law, and are written in the heart of the Christian as Christ is formed in him. But the written Torah itself has no jurisdiction over the individual who has died in Christ. This is true of the Sabbath day, circumcision, and all other ceremonial practices.
What results from putting to death our adamic personality? We are set free from slavery to sin and therefore are eligible to become the servant of another.
What an awesome, far-reaching concept is presented in Romans 6:6,7!
In order to appreciate what God has provided here we have to consider the condition of mankind upon the earth.
Each person born on the earth has been convicted of sin already and is awaiting the sentencing of the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Every individual was born with two counts against him or her. The first problem is, we are guilty of disobedience to God’s will because of the disobedience of our father, Adam, and because of our own behavior. The second problem is, we have inherited in our flesh a disposition toward sin and rebellion against God.
We were born convicted of sin and full of sinful, rebellious tendencies. We did not have a chance to be a righteous person in God’s sight. We were born in a thoroughly unrighteous condition.
More than that, we were born to await the Day of Judgment, the day of sentencing. The maximum sentence handed down from the Judgment Seat of Christ is eternal banishment from the Presence of our Creator in an area of tormenting fire.
The Day of God’s vengeance has not come as yet. However, the date of sentencing was set when the angels of Heaven fell in pride and disobedience.
And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, you Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29)
“Before the time”! The time appears to have been set.
The moment Adam and Eve were infected with the evil virus of spiritual wickedness they too, along with the rebellious angels, were convicted of sin against God. They were cut off from His Presence as they had known it in the garden and now must await the day of sentencing.
Adam and Eve became the slaves of sin, for whoever sins is the slave of that sin. No human being ever can become the master of sin. He is the slave of the sin he commits.
Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. (John 8:34)
- Has the God of Heaven actually stated we are sinners from the moment of birth?
- Were we born guilty?
- Are we compelled to behave unrighteously?
- Are we all sinners by virtue of being human beings?
Yes, it is true. Because our ancestors, Adam and Eve, consented to join the ranks of the spirits in rebellion against God, they and every one of their descendants were convicted of iniquity and brought under slavery to the compulsion of sin.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— (Romans 5:12)
(We are not of those who teach that babies are cast into the fire when they die because they were born in sin. Jesus saves whomever He chooses to save, apart from our formulas.)
If a human being is to be restored to favor with God, two aspects of sin must be dealt with: (1) the guilt must be removed; and (2) the bondage of slavery must be removed.
Most Christians probably understand quite well the extraordinary lengths to which God went upon Calvary in order to remove our guilt.
We have stated we were born convicted of lawlessness and we all are awaiting the day of sentencing, the Day of Judgment. This is true.
But when we believe in Christ, placing our trust in Him for salvation, the Judge hands down the sentence: “Not guilty!”
We are not guilty now. We shall be found not guilty in the Day of Judgment. Such is the love of God toward us. God found a way to remove condemnation from us. He suffered the penalty Himself.
What has not been as clearly understood by most Christians, it appears, is the provision God has made for the second problem, that is, the bondage of slavery to sin—the compelling power in our flesh that urges us to keep on repeating the disobedience of Adam and Eve.
The Lord God requires righteousness of us, not only the righteousness He has imputed (ascribed) to us but also righteous behavior—for the Kingdom of God is in righteous behavior, not in ascribed righteousness.
We find an actual “law,” as Paul describes it, dwelling in our body, striving to dictate to us that we, whether or not we approve, must keep on breaking God’s laws. We inherited this law, this compulsion. It is resident in our flesh. The law of sin in our flesh hates God and resists righteous behavior at every opportunity.
We may not consent to the dwelling of the law of sin in our flesh or agree with the deeds it invites us to do. But the sinful tendencies often find expression in spite of our desire to be righteous. We are in slavery to an alien force that took dominion over us through means of the disobedience of Adam and Eve.
Therefore we cry out with Paul:
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24)
We have said we are not guilty now (Romans 8:1) and we shall be found not guilty in the Day of Judgment (John 5:29) provided we walk each day in the light of God’s will.
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another [with God], and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (I John 1:7)
The guilt of Adam’s sin and of our own sinning has been removed from us through the atonement made for us by Christ on the cross (II Corinthians 5:19).
But now we come to a different issue. What provision has God made for the corrupting appetites in our flesh, the alien force, the law of sin that keeps our mortal body in a condition of rebellion and death?
How do we gain release from slavery to sin so we can serve the Lord Jesus in righteous behavior?
Let us speak first of the grace available to us in this life, and then of the liberation, the redemption, the salvation coming to us with the return of Christ from Heaven.
We Christians are in the pursuit of eternal, incorruptible life, meaning we are in the pursuit of righteous behavior. Eternal life and righteous behavior always go together. But how can we obtain righteous behavior in our present life?
In order to achieve righteous, holy, and obedient behavior we must, first of all, cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He slays the sinful tendencies in us. Second, we must follow the Spirit as He creates Christ in us. Righteous behavior on our part comes from the Person and Life of Christ abiding in every part of our personality.
All righteousness, including both the removal of condemnation and the release into righteous behavior, proceeds from Christ. The only righteousness God ultimately accepts is that which comes from Himself through the Lord Jesus Christ.
How do we cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He slays the sinful tendencies in us?
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)
Although the Holy Spirit uses a variety of techniques, including suffering, to free the believer from the works of the flesh, we have found the following five steps of faith to be helpful in gaining release from sinful imaginations, motives, speech, and actions.
- Confess the thoughts, words, or deeds as sin (I John 1:9).
- Resolve never to practice it or them again (I Corinthians 15:34).
- Receive wholeheartedly God’s forgiveness and cleansing (I John 1:9).
- Draw near to God in order to gain His Presence and help (James 4:8).
- Resist the devil the next time you are tempted by that which has been confessed (James 4:7).
Confess your sinful word or deed to the Lord and on some occasions to an experienced saint of the same gender as yourself or to your husband or wife. Confession and sincere repentance lead directly into release from slavery to the particular sin, whether it be adultery, fornication, filthy speaking, murderous rage, gluttony, sorcery, gossiping, harsh criticism, impatience, lack of self-control, or any other sin.
As in all areas of the Christian life, wisdom must be used in the practice of confession. In many instances it is sufficient to name the sin before God. On other occasions it is helpful—sometimes necessary—to get help from members of the Body of Christ. Do not confess your sin to someone who is spiritually immature or of the opposite gender or who will stumble or who will repeat to someone else what you have confessed. Do not confess immorality to your wife or husband unless absolutely necessary because your confession may place a terrible and unnecessary load on your partner.
Often the results of these five steps are dramatic. Sometimes, however, we do not obtain relief immediately because the Spirit is working on other aspects of our personality or on circumstances having to do with the behaviors under scrutiny. But deliverance shall come. Sin shall not have dominion over us because the grace of God in Christ is sufficient to deliver us (Romans 6:14).
Some sins can be overcome merely by ceasing to practice them, as in the following admonition:
Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. (I Corinthians 15:34)
Other sins are removed from us by chastening and suffering:
Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,
that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (I Peter 4:1,2)
The Divine Life of Christ comes to us through the Holy Spirit, subduing and replacing by superior virtue, wisdom, and force the sinful tendencies of our body. Freedom from condemnation and release from the slavery imposed by sin restore us to the state of innocence in which Adam and Eve began.
Now we are ready for a strong, conquering love of righteous behavior and a strong, conquering hatred of sin and disobedience to be developed in us—for Christ loves righteousness and hates wickedness.
Where can we obtain a strong love of righteousness and a strong hatred of sin?
Only from the Divine Virtue of Christ Himself. We must eat of Him and drink of Him and live by Him if we are to develop the kind of character the Father in Heaven regards as righteous.
“As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. (John 6:57)
As Christ is formed in us and dwells in us His righteous Nature begins to affect every part of our personality: our speech, our actions, our motives, our imaginations, our emotions, our reasonings, our physical health, our ability to distinguish between good and evil and to choose the good, our understanding, our attitudes—in short, all we are, do, say, and perceive.
True righteousness is Christ in us. Christ is our life, our wisdom, our sanctification, our release into freedom from sin and disobedience. Christ is All in all to us and we are being created the fullness of Him, the shining forth of His Divine glory.
Our righteousness shall exceed by far the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees because our righteousness is Christ Himself: first in removal of condemnation; then in an indwelling power to love righteousness and hate iniquity. The Holy Spirit is bringing us to the condition of total righteousness of personality and behavior. This is the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
Such is the grace available to us in this life. Let us turn now to the redemption, the liberation, the salvation that will be brought to us with the return of Christ from Heaven.
so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. (Hebrews 9:28)
We believe in and stress the release and blessings Christ brings to us today—right now! Nevertheless the writings of the Apostles point clearly toward the salvation, the redemption, the release that will be brought to a climax with the filling of our mortal body with resurrection life.
There are many such forward-looking passages, including Hebrews 9:28 (quoted above).
For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. (Galatians 5:5)
“Wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” Can you see in this verse the future aspect of righteousness, the righteousness that is to come?
The future righteousness is not only an ascribed righteousness for we have that already. Rather it is a righteousness of behavior, a white robe symbolizing the desire and ability to serve God in holiness.
The Apostle Paul looked at righteousness as being the marvelous reward Christ will bring with Him when He appears “the second time without sin to salvation.”
There are at least three aspects of the salvation, the liberation, the redemption, the righteousness that Christ will bring to us when He returns from Heaven:
- The sentence of “not guilty” in the Day of Judgment.
- The resurrection of our mortal body, the removal of the remaining sinful tendencies from us, and the filling of us with His Presence so we love righteousness and hate iniquity.
- The authority and power of righteousness so we can rule the world in righteousness, enforcing the laws of the Kingdom of God.
The sentence of “not guilty” in the Day of Judgment. The blood of the Lamb of God makes possible an expunging of our record so it is as though we never have sinned.
Much more then, having now been justified [declared righteous] by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Romans 5:9)
The resurrection of our mortal body, the removal of the remaining sinful tendencies from us, and the filling of us with His Presence so we love righteousness and hate iniquity. The Scripture makes reference to the “white robe” of the saint. The white robe is a symbolic portrayal of the removal of sinful tendencies and the possession of the righteous Nature of Christ.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
We must be found “worthy” of the white robe (Luke 21:36; Revelation 3:4). The white robe of righteous conduct will not be given to the lukewarm believer.
Notice the description of the firstfruits of the Wife of the Lamb at the appearing of Christ:
And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Revelation 19:8)
The Greek term translated “righteousness” in the above verse does not refer to ascribed righteousness but to righteous behavior, and it should be translated righteousnesses or righteous deeds.
Revelation 19:8 means every righteous behavior accomplished in the saint on earth, as Christ lives in and through him, is woven into a garment with which the saint will be clothed at the return of the Lord.
Here is the righteousness of God: we are clothed in our own Christ-prepared righteous behavior. It is true that we reap what we have sown.
If Christ is being formed in us and is dwelling in us, honest, upright character appears; kindness and mercy are demonstrated; our walk begins to be one of faithful, humble dependence on the Lord.
When the Lord appears we shall be clothed with the upright character we have exercised on the earth, the compassion and kindness we have shown, and the faithfulness to God’s will that has been true of us—all of which have proceeded from Christ’ own Character and Virtue.
We have done what we could, with His help. Now Jesus will finish the work by removing all remaining traces of sin and rebellion and clothing us with a spiritual body free from sin and ready to serve God.
Are you satisfied with the thought of being clothed with your own behavior? It is the overcomer, the conqueror, who receives the white robe of righteous behavior.
Think about the following words directed toward the believers in Sardis:
“You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4)
Can you see in the above verse that if we defile our garments (walk in unrighteousness) today we will not be granted the white robe of righteous behavior in the Day of Christ?
If we desire to receive righteousness in the Day of the Lord we must walk in righteousness today. We must demonstrate our worthiness by walking with Him today, washing our robes and making them white in the blood of the Lamb.
There is a very important scriptural concept that seldom is mentioned in Christian circles. It is that salvation comes at the end of our discipleship, not only or even primarily at the beginning. The Christian message stresses we are saved the moment we receive the Lord Jesus. This is true to a certain extent. However, much more is stated in the Scripture about salvation in the Day of the Lord than about our initial step of coming to God through Christ.
Consider the following:
“And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22)
“He who endures to the end will be saved.” What does this mean?
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11)
For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, (Hebrews 3:14)
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition [destruction], but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39)
who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (I Peter 1:5)
Now “If the righteous one is scarcely [with difficulty] saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (I Peter 4:18)
If we would think of salvation as a process, a program that has a specific beginning, a specific plan for change, and a specific conclusion, an alpha and an omega, we would be closer to the Scriptures in our understanding.
It is possible to begin the program of salvation and then to fail the course.
But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. (Jude 1:5)
Because of man’s love for himself the modern stress is, “once you are saved you cannot be lost.” Not only is this doctrine totally unscriptural but it may be leading countless believers to destruction.”
The Scripture, Old and New Testament, speak clearly that yesterday’s righteousness does not cover today’s wickedness. Salvation is a program, a process. We can begin and then back out any time we choose. But only those who persevere to the end of the course will be saved.
The five steps of death to sin we mentioned previously help us wash our robes in the blood of the Lamb.
Washing our robes involves more than a passive acceptance of “Christ’s righteousness.” It includes thorough repentance and a laying hold on God until we overcome, through His grace, the problems with which we are (or should be) wrestling. The promises are to “him that overcomes.”
We are not suggesting that the believer should be losing his or her peace by wrestling vainly against sin. The Lord’s victorious saints learn when to press the battle and when to rest in the Presence of the Lord.
The following verse reveals the sublime rejoicing of the saint at the moment of his or her resurrection to righteousness:
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10)
for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)
The Lord Jesus will rule the creation in righteousness and we, as His coheirs, will govern with Him.
Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice. (Isaiah 32:1)
The scepter of Christ’s throne is that of righteousness.
But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your Kingdom. (Hebrews 1:8)
The issue of righteousness, of performing God’s will in the earth, is a question of power.
The authority of Satan was destroyed on the cross of Calvary. Satan no longer can make any lawful claim on the creation.
But Satan’s power (the amount of power Christ allows Satan to exercise, because all authority and power in Heaven and on the earth is held by Christ) prevents us and the nations of the earth from practicing righteousness. We are in a spiritual warfare.
But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. (Romans 7:23)
We Christians do not behave righteously at all times and cannot command the nations of the earth to act righteously because we do not possess enough power to enforce our will over our own body or over the governments of the world.
But to those who are willing to receive the fullness of Christ, God will issue the crown—the authority and power—of righteousness in the Day of the Lord.
Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (II Timothy 4:8)
In the Day to come when Paul or some other saint issues a righteous law to a nation of the earth, obedience to that law will be enforced by the powerful angels who do God’s will.
The saints will rule the world in righteousness. The moral law of God will be enforced by the government located in the city of Jerusalem. If you are a believer in Jesus, prepare yourself today to rule, or else to be ruled, in righteousness.
Under the new covenant, the Lord God brings us all the way from miserable servitude to sin to glorious royal authority in righteousness. We proceed to this righteousness by the crucifixion of our old nature and the creation of the righteous nature of the Lord Jesus in us.
knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (Romans 6:6)
When we die with Christ on the cross we become legally dead from God’s standpoint. The purpose of our death to the Law of Moses is that we may be free to marry (come into perfect union with) the Lord Jesus. It is our union with Jesus that brings forth the fruit of righteousness in our personality.
Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. (Romans 7:4)
Because we are dead with Christ we are released from the guilt imposed by the Law.
Because we affirm and live as though every part of our former personality has died with Christ, every part of our personality is now eligible and available to receive the fullness of the Divine Virtue of Christ. The fullness of Christ produces in us the fullness of righteous behavior—now and at His glorious appearing.
If Christ the Lord is dwelling in us, and we are an eternally inseparable revelation of His Being and Life, God Almighty will entrust to us in that Day the fullness of authority and power, causing us to shine in righteousness as the stars of the heavens (Daniel 12:3).
Our God is a God of righteousness. There is no sin whatever in Him. We are being created in His image as Christ is being formed in us through the various workings of the Holy Spirit of God.
“That henceforth we should not serve sin.” This has been God’s objective from the beginning.
What is true of the person who is “dead with Christ”? He no longer is under condemnation because “the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives” (Romans 7:1).
What will be true of us if we have died with Christ? We will live with Him. The life of Christ always comes from death because it is resurrection life. The more completely we are willing to be fashioned according to His death the more completely we will be fashioned according to His life.
What is true of Christ, now that He has been raised from the dead? Death no longer has the power to rule Him.
How many times did Christ die to sin? Once.
In what manner does Christ live now? He lives as the total Revelation of the Glory of God Almighty.
In what way are we dead? We are dead to sin and sin is dead to us. This is true because we have grown into union with Christ in His death on the cross.
In what way are we alive? We are the continuation, the extension, the increase of the Revelation of the Glory of God that is Christ.
Because we see ourselves as united with Christ in His death on the cross, and eternally alive with Christ as an inseparable part of His Divine Glory that flows from the Throne of God in Heaven, what action are we to take regarding sin?
We are to refuse to allow sin to rule in our mortal body. We are to refuse to obey the desires of our mortal body when such desires are not in harmony with God’s Word and will. Our refusal is in answer to the question raised in the first verse: “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”
What are we not to be doing? We are not to be yielding the members of our body as slaves to sin, as instruments, tools, of unrighteousness.
What are we to be doing? We are to be yielding ourselves to God as someone who has been resurrected with Jesus from the dead and the members of our body as instruments of righteousness. We are to declare ourselves God’s slave and act accordingly.
What is true of our relationship to sin? Sin does not have the power to rule us because we are not under the Law but under grace. Sin no longer possesses authority over us because we now are part of Christ’s death. Sin is the transgression of the Law, and the Law governs our former personality—that which has been grafted into union with Christ in His death on the cross.
The Law cannot exercise authority over our new man, our new personality that has been grafted into union with the resurrection of Christ. We are part of the resurrection Glory of Christ.
Sin cannot exert legal authority over us because legally we are dead. Sin cannot exert compelling power over us because we are part of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Although there may be areas of our personality that continually strive to lead us away from the path of righteousness and that attempt to resist our efforts to overcome them, as we press forward in Christ we finally will gain the upper hand over every one of them and drive them out of our “land.”
The Spirit of God is ready to assist us, if we choose to avail ourselves of His help.
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)
Paul stated, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law but under grace.” What Paul means by this must be interpreted by his statements throughout the Book of Romans.
When we are under the Law, sin has dominion over us because the Law points out our guilt but does not deliver us from the bondage of sin.
When we are under grace the Law has no authority over us. However, the urge to sin is present. We have been forgiven completely through the blood of Jesus but the law of sin is present in our members.
The manner in which we address ourselves to these facts, the understanding of them that we have, may determine whether or not we make a success of the program of salvation.
Sin shall not have dominion over us for three reasons: (1) the Law no longer has the authority to condemn us; (2) we are without the guilt of sin because of the atoning blood of Jesus; (3) God has given us grace through the body and blood of the Lord, the birth of the Divine Seed in us, the indwelling Presence of the Spirit of God, and the testimony of the Apostles so that through these we may possess enough virtue, wisdom, and strength to overcome the world, Satan, and the lusts and self-will that dwell in our personality—particularly in our flesh.
As long as we are abiding in the Lord Jesus, as long as we are pressing forward each day in the work of transformation, the blood of Jesus is maintaining our guiltlessness before the Father.
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another [with God], and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (I John 1:7)
The current Christian position interprets Paul to mean that because we are under grace we cannot be guilty of sin; that salvation is unconditional and based on a verbal profession; that God sees the disciple only through the righteousness of Jesus. None of this is true.
When the believer yields to lust or ceases to seek the Lord or disobeys what he feels in his heart is God’s will, condemnation is at hand. Salvation no longer is operating in him as it should. God sends judgment on him so he will not be condemned with the world.
The Christian position that the blessing of God is not conditional but holds true eternally once a verbal profession has been made, independently of a life of discipleship, is not true. It is a wresting of Paul’s doctrine. It will lead the teacher and the student to certain destruction. There is no scriptural support for such a distortion of God’s program. We ought to know better than this!
What question does Paul ask the second time and what is his answer?
Shall we continue to sin because we are not under the Law of Moses but under grace? Absolutely not!
What principle of moral servitude does Paul give us? We make the choice as to whom we will serve. We can choose to serve sin. If we saints serve sin our wages will be death. We can choose to obey righteousness. If we obey righteousness our wages will be eternal life.
As we have stated, God will regard us as righteous if we continue to serve Him through Christ. There is more to righteousness by grace through faith than an initial statement of belief in the atonement made by the Lord Jesus.
The unsaved individual possesses neither the authority nor the power to make such a moral choice. He or she remains under the guilt of Adam’s sin as well as the guilt of his own sin. He has no wisdom or power, other than what comes from his own flesh and blood, with which to resist the moral wickedness and filth continually flowing from his own personality, as well as from the rulers of the spiritual darkness of the world.
It is only the born-again Christian who possesses freedom from condemnation, the wisdom and energy of the Spirit of God, and the indwelling Presence of Christ. Through these he has been given the opportunity to choose to obey God, to enter the crucifixion of his own personality and the resurrection of a new personality, thus attaining righteousness and the resulting eternal life. The Christian’s alternative is to choose to obey sin, thus entering spiritual death.
What is true of a person before he receives Christ as his personal Lord and Savior? He is the slave of sin.
What must be true of each person who becomes a Christian? He must commit himself to obey from his heart the teachings of the Apostles of Christ.
Today there are numerous people who “get saved,” according to the current formula, but who do not repent. They are attempting to receive Christ as their personal Savior without accepting Him as their personal Lord. They have no intention of changing their course of life and allowing Christ to exercise rulership over their conduct.
They have mentally assented to the facts of redemption but have not embraced the teachings of the Apostles.
Their water baptism does not indicate they have been grafted into union with the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ. Their water baptism is a religious rite by means of which they have (so they hope) completed the ceremony that guarantees their entrance into Heaven when they die.
In many churches the mental assent that is apart from a genuine repentance is associated with the so-called “rapture” of the “Gentile Church.” Those who have expressed belief in Jesus hope to escape the troubles of the world by becoming invisible and being caught up to Heaven to live in a mansion.
Such thinking has no apparent relationship to the sixth chapter of Romans or with the passages of Scripture that describe the coming of the Lord and the first resurrection from the dead.
The first resurrection from the dead is the promised salvation, the salvation that is to be revealed to the Lord’s faithful disciples when He returns to earth. First there must be an inner spiritual resurrection—that which is presented in the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans and the third chapter of Philippians. Then there will be a physical resurrection based on the inner spiritual resurrection. The physical resurrection is described in the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians.
The coming of the Lord and the first resurrection from the dead will not be an unscriptural secret “rapture” in which the believers become invisible but rather a worldwide manifestation of the Glory of Christ.
Apart from an inner spiritual resurrection there can be no physical resurrection. The first resurrection from the dead will be an open manifestation of the inner spiritual resurrection the Church has attained in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 3:2; Philippians 3:11; Revelation 20:4-6).
Therefore we say to God’s faithful saints, in the name of our Lord Jesus, the emphasis of the Holy Spirit today is on our coming to know the power of the resurrection of Jesus and on sharing His sufferings. It is time for the Bride to awaken and enter union with the Bridegroom.
If we will allow Him to do so the Lord Jesus shall press us into His death and His resurrection.
Christ cannot return until the firstfruits of His Bride have been pressed into His death and into His resurrection.
Why is this? It is because He is going to return both in and with us. His coming is not merely an external event as far as the members of His Body are concerned. His coming is bound together with our spiritual development.
For the LORD shall build up Zion; He shall appear in His glory. (Psalms 102:16)
The return of the Lord Jesus from Heaven is that of an individual who today is seated at the right hand of God Almighty. But at the same time Christ is being formed in us and is dwelling in us.
The Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead nearly two thousand years ago. Every act of righteousness flowing from Christ’s Life within a believer is part of that one resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is continuing in us. It is one vast resurrection spread over two thousand years.
We are an eternally inseparable part of the one resurrection. When the Lord Jesus returns, the same resurrection will enter our body.
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power [authority], but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
The first resurrection from the dead is not a departure to Heaven. It is the open demonstration to the world of that which began in the cave of Joseph of Arimathea. The radiant Life that Is Christ is the only righteousness available to mankind.
The coming of Christ cannot be separated spiritually from His development in us. He will appear in the clouds and we shall appear with Him as an inseparable, integral part of His Presence.
When the Light from Heaven returns and illumines the darkness of the world, all the lesser lights also will shine—those who return with Him and those who yet remain alive on the earth. His coming will be as the lightning appearing from the east (the morning of the Day of the Lord) and shining to the west (to every place where there is a member of the Body of Christ). The Divine Glory will be revealed wherever there is a member of the Body.
Like the torches held high during the ancient feast of Tabernacles, the great Light and the lesser lights will overcome all the darkness oppressing the world.
Physical resurrection will take place instantly. The inner spiritual resurrection cannot take place instantly. Inner resurrection can take place only as the Holy Spirit brings us into circumstances that cleanse and crucify a part of our personality, and then raises the slain part into newness of life in Christ.
We cooperate in the program of death and resurrection by choosing to present the parts of our body as instruments of righteousness. We choose to obey God rather than to obey sin. Meanwhile sin keeps on seeking our worship.
Given the fact we are being created an integral part of the resurrection and revelation of Christ, it is unthinkable we should choose to yield to the demands of sin.
We are to obey the writings of the Apostles. They gave us many commandments. There is a teaching today that states there is nothing we can do to obey the commandments of the New Testament. Rather, we are to wait until Christ obeys the commandments in us and through us.
While there are a few passages that could be construed to mean we are to do nothing but wait until Jesus obeys the Word in us, there are an abundance of passages that command us to take action.
And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;
neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. (Ephesians 5:2-4)
- Walk in love.
- Do not fornicate or practice unclean or covetous behavior.
- Do not say filthy or foolish words. Do not jest.
- Give thanks to God.
There are numerous such commandments from Matthew through to Revelation.
How do we keep the commandments of the Lord? We keep them by doing what the Word says to do. If we cannot refrain from fornication, or covetousness, or uncleanness, or foolish talking, then we are bound by Satan. We need in this instance to go to the church and ask for help from the elders.
If we will pray, read our Bible, gather with fervent saints, obey the Lord when He tells us to do something, serve, give of our money, we then will find that by making an effort we can achieve the changes in our conduct that are commanded by the Apostles of Christ.
To forgive our enemies is difficult, but if we will come boldly before the throne of God we can obtain enough Divine grace to enable us to forgive someone who has harmed us.
If we wait for the Lord to move us to righteousness we will be treated as a disobedient child. We must do what the Scriptures command. If we do not, if we continue to practice sin, we will die spiritually. We will slay the eternal Life that was given to us when we accepted the atonement made by Christ.
Any teaching contrary to this will result only in moral chaos.
From what has Christ released us? From the condemnation of sin and the compelling power of sin.
To what has Christ bound us? To the state of righteousness in the sight of God and to the principles of righteous behavior in our speech, our thinking, and our actions.
Why does Paul refer to slaves and masters? Because this illustration could be understood readily by the saints in Rome, who either were served by slaves captured in war or were themselves slaves.
How had the saints in Rome behaved before they had become Christians? They had yielded their bodies as slaves to impurity and lawlessness.
What did Paul tell them to do now, because they were Christians? To yield their bodies to righteous behavior, which would result in their being set apart as holy in the Presence of God.
The Christian’s acceptability to God depends not only on the blood of Christ sprinkled on the Mercy Seat in Heaven but also on his Christ-inspired behavior (compare II Corinthians 6:17).
What is true of the person who is the slave of sin? He is not the slave of righteousness.
What does Paul invite the saints in Rome to consider? The results, the fruit, of the behaviors they had practiced as unsaved people.
It seems likely that the believers in Rome, and in other countries as well, were having the same problems we see today. The saints did not understand fully that forgiveness is only one-half of the atonement, the Divine reconciliation.
The other half of the atonement is the release from the power of sin, the transformation of behavior that takes place in us as each day we are brought further into the death of Christ and further into His eternal, incorruptible resurrection life—life that expresses itself in stern obedience to the Father. Divine Life cannot possibly express itself in slavery to sin and Satan.
Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (I John 3:15)
What was the fruit of their former unrighteous behavior? The bondage of sin, corruption of character and behavior, destroyed relationships, separation from God, physical sickness, and premature physical death.
What is the fruit of their Christ-empowered righteous behavior? They are set apart as holy in the Presence of God.
What is produced as an inseparable aspect of holiness in the Presence of God? Eternal life
Eternal life is not a “reward” handed us upon voicing our assent to the facts of salvation. Eternal life is the spiritual life that accompanies our acceptance by God and our union with God through Christ, just as warmth and light accompany the rising of the sun.
Eternal life is much more than perpetual existence. Eternal life is a kind of life as biologic life is a kind of life. All spirits—clean and unclean—have perpetual existence. Eternal life is Christ. He is the Tree of eternal Life.
As we are pressed into Christ’s crucifixion, choosing to yield ourselves as the servants of righteousness, eternal life in the form of the resurrection of Jesus rises in every element of our personality. We receive eternal life into our spirit, into our soul, and—at the return from Heaven of the Lord—into our body.
What are the wages of sin? What is produced as an inseparable aspect of sin and rebellion against the Lord God of Heaven?
Death! Death in our spirit! Death in our soul! Death in our body!
Death is the absence of the eternal resurrection life that can come only from Christ and is Christ. He Himself is the Resurrection and the Life. When we possess Him we possess resurrection life.
But the spirit, soul, and body that are without Christ are without eternal life.
Salvation consists of much more than a vocal expression of belief in the facts of Christ’s atoning death and triumphant resurrection. The devils are assured of these facts and tremble in terror. Yet they possess no redemption.
Salvation includes the actual possession of the Life that is in Christ. The proof we actually have received such life is found in our speech, in our deeds, and in our imaginations and motives.
If our behavior is not, over a period of time, obviously being transformed into what is pleasing to God, then it is not possible that Christ is in truth dwelling in us; for what is born of Christ does not commit sin (I John 3:8-10).
It is not our intention, in so saying, to discourage some sincere disciple who is not growing as fast as he thinks he should. Spiritual growth is slow but certain. Many times the Lord’s ways are difficult to understand and it appears no progress is being made in our transformation. But if we are praying, reading the Scriptures, gathering together with the saints when possible, giving, serving, and doing all else we know to do, God’s Spirit will cause us to grow in Christ.
Rather it is our intention to point out the error of Christian teaching that maintains no growth is necessary, that we are saved by unconditional grace such that it is not critically important whether or not we serve the Lord. Those who teach the error of unconditional grace are leading multitudes astray in our day.
What is the gift of God? Eternal life in Christ our Lord.
God has freely given us eternal resurrection life. Such life is based on acquittal from the condemnation of sin and the development of righteousness and holiness in personality and behavior. The Spirit of God implants in us the Virtue, wisdom, and energy of Christ—His love of righteousness and hatred of lawlessness.
Christ covers the one who places his faith and trust in Him with His own robe of righteousness. The Father in Heaven accepts this ascribed righteousness. Then the Lord Jesus gently and skillfully begins to direct His new servant into paths of righteousness.
Jesus leads each of His sheep in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. How wonderful is the love of the good Shepherd for His little ones!
Romans 6:23 often is preached to the unsaved. In context it is directed toward the Christian. It applies also to the unsaved individual because he already is spiritually dead and his continuing unrighteous behavior is proof of his spiritual death.
Every human being on the earth is eligible to receive eternal life through Christ because Christ has died for the sins of the whole world. By virtue of being human we are eligible to receive total, complete reconciliation to the Lord God of Heaven (I John 2:2).
Let us keep in mind, however, that Paul, in Romans 6:23, is not addressing the unsaved. He is reacting against “Christians” who might interpret his teaching of the grace of God to mean our conduct upon the earth is not directly related to our salvation; we can continue to sin and Divine grace will increase, or at least not be diminished in any manner.
Paul asks the Christians of our own day: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound”?
Paul’s answer shows that such a conclusion is unthinkable. If we choose to yield to the demands of our sinful body after having been baptized into union with the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be paid in death. Our wages will be death.
When we receive Christ we are given a choice. For the first time in our life we are free to choose between behaving righteously and behaving sinfully. The spiritually dead, those who have not as yet received Jesus, have no such choice.
If we choose to continue to obey sin we will die spiritually as a natural consequence—Christian or not. We, not God, have broken the terms of the new covenant.
We can choose to receive the Life of Jesus such that our behavior is transformed into righteous conduct. The result of righteous conduct is eternal life in the Presence of God. This is the true grace of God wherein we are to stand.
(“Choose This Day!”, 3752-1)