ROMANS, CHAPTER EIGHT
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Perhaps the Book of Romans has proven to be the most influential of the Epistles of the New Testament. Two primary themes of Romans are the transition from the Law of Moses to the new covenant; and the corollary, the nature of new-covenant grace. It may be true that the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans is worth studying again, for we may not have understood correctly what Paul is saying concerning the change from covenant to covenant and the nature of grace.
ROMANS, CHAPTER EIGHT
Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (II Peter 3:15,16)
Introduction. We have a problem today. The problem is both theological and experiential. We are viewing the Christian salvation as being primarily the forgiveness of our sins. Once we make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ it is as though God no longer can see our behavior. Apparently this forgiveness will endure forever.
Some go so far as to say once this forgiveness is initiated it never can be undone.
The idea seems to be that when we say we believe in Christ, God makes a sovereign determination that we are forever righteous. Our righteousness has nothing to do with our behavior; our perpetual forgiveness proceeds from God’s mercy. It is God’s way of acknowledging that we are helpless sinners and cannot possibly perform His will or obey His laws.
This either is a correct interpretation of the Apostle Paul or it is the most sinister, destructive interpretation it would be possible to conceive. If God’s intention under the new covenant is to produce people who obey Him and keep his laws, then the current interpretation of Paul has thwarted God’s plan.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:26,27)
The above is an Old Testament description of the new covenant, the Christian covenant.
- I will give you a new heart.
- I will put a new spirit in you.
- I wil remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
- I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
- Move you to follow my decrees.
- Move you to be careful to keep my laws.
If Ezekiel is telling us about the Christian covenant of salvation, then our current interpretation is incorrect. We certainly do not agree that the Christian salvation has to do with following God’s decrees and being careful to keep God’s laws. We say that we have been forgiven by a sovereign act of God. We do not include the idea of being careful to keep His laws.
In fact, if someone today emphasizes that we must keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles, he is scorned as advocating “works,” or being “legalistic,” or being a “Pharisee.” We are saved “by faith alone,” it is declared.
It then becomes obvious the question is: Is the above quotation from Ezekiel referring to the Christian new covenant or is it not. If it is, we have been woefully deceived.
Let us present another passage that appears to speak of the Christian new covenant, and see if it agrees with Ezekiel (above).
“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.” This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
The passage from Jeremiah (above) is quoted in the Book of Hebrews as being the Christian covenant of salvation. Let us see if it says the same thing as the passage in Ezekiel.
- I will give you a new heart.
- I will put a new spirit in you.
- I wil remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
- I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
- Move you to follow my decrees.
- Move you to be careful to keep my laws.
I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.
Now, if the main part of the Christian covenant is the putting of God’s law in our minds and writing God’s law on our hearts, isn’t that the same as putting “my Spirit in you and moving you to follow my decrees and being careful to keep my laws”?
Would it be reasonable to insist that when God says He will write His law on our hearts and put His law in our minds, that this means He is going to give us a covenant of perpetual forgiveness that is not related to our behavior? Doesn’t it mean, rather, that He is putting His Word in us so we will do His will?
The Book of Hebrews states that under the new covenant, God puts His laws in our minds and write His law on our hearts because the Israelites did not obey His commandments. Wouldn’t we suppose, then, that the purpose of God putting His laws in our personality would be so we would obey them?
For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Hebrews 8:7-10)
Some might object that the above covenant applies only to Jewish people. I don’t believe most Christian scholars would agree the Book of Hebrews is written only to Jewish people. From my point of view, the Book of Hebrews is second in importance only to the Book of Romans, as far as Christian theology is concerned.
The truth is, there is no such thing as a Gentile Church. There is only the one Olive Tree, the Lord Jesus Christ. God began with Israel after the flesh and will conclude with Israel after the flesh. We Gentiles partake of a salvation that has to do with the whole house of Israel. Only the Lord Jesus Christ, and those who are an integral part of Jesus Christ, are the one Seed of Abraham. There is only the one new Man, and that is Jesus Christ and all who are part of Him.
The Book of Hebrews is one of the best descriptions we have of the Lord Jesus Christ and the new covenant. Hebrews agrees with Jeremiah and Ezekiel that while the new covenant most assuredly includes forgiveness, its main dimension is not forgiveness. Its main dimension is the giving of a new inward nature to people so they will always obey God and keep His eternal moral law, of which the Ten Commandments are an abridged, covenantal version.
There is no part of the New Testament that agrees with the present teaching that salvation is a perpetual forgiveness, unrelated to the behavior of the individual. There are verses here and there that when removed from their contexts and patched together appear to support the present destructive teaching of “faith alone.” But the context of the entire New Testament supports the concept that the Christian salvation is one of forgiveness with a view to the development of a new moral creation, a creation that obeys God from the heart in a manner impossible to those under the Law of Moses.
To view the new covenant as one of forgiveness alone is to depart from the Scripture. And without doubt, this departure has resulted in spiritual babies who are not living by the Life of Jesus Christ but are living in the sinful nature and waiting to be carried up to Heaven in an unscriptural “rapture.”
The new covenant releases us from obedience to the Law of Moses. It assigns to the believer the righteousness that would have been his had he kept the Law of Moses perfectly; but it does so on the condition that the believer is following the Holy Spirit and not his sinful nature. Imputed righteousness assuredly is not unconditional.
The new covenant gives the Divine grace necessary to deal successfully with the sinful nature. There was no provision under the Law of Moses to put to death the sinful nature. It was up to the worshiper to obey God and refuse to obey his sinful nature. The ability to destroy the sinful nature is one of the principal differences between the two covenants.
The new covenant leads to the redemption of the physical body, that is, the filling of it with the Spirit of God in the Day of Resurrection. As far as I can see, there was no clear promise of such redemption in the Old Testament, although the resurrection of the dead was referred to.
The term “salvation” in the Old Testament seems to refer to preservation from trouble, in particular, from one’s enemies.
Salvation currently is defined as eternal residence in Heaven after we die. I would venture that this is not a New Testament concept.
I would say that under the new covenant, “salvation” is deliverance from the kingdom of Satan and entrance into the Kingdom of God. The only valid evidence that salvation is taking place is a change of personality such that the moral image of Christ is being revealed. The purpose of salvation has nothing to do with eternal residence in Heaven, but is directed toward fellowship with God, and also toward participation in the many roles and tasks of the Kingdom of God.
To be saved is to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, both inwardly and—at His coming—outwardly; and also to enter untroubled rest in Christ in the center of God’s Person and will. Then we are qualified and competent to serve as the Temple of God, as the Bride of the Lamb, as members of the royal priesthood, and in all the other roles and tasks of the Kingdom of God.
I believe the Apostle Paul would think in these terms rather than according to our conventional notion of what it means to be “saved.”
As we look at the verses in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, let us consider whether or not what is being preached today actually proceeds from Paul’s statements and concepts.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, (Romans 8:1)
I believe we can better understand Chapter Eight of Romans if we study carefully and think about Chapters Six and Seven, the two preceding chapters. In Chapter Six, Paul said people who had been baptized in water had a choice. They could choose to be the slave of righteousness or the slave of sin. If they chose righteousness they would live. If they chose sin, the wages are spiritual death.
In Chapter Seven, Paul remarked that if we have died with Christ on the cross we no longer are under the authority of the Law of Moses.
Then Paul began to speak of the problem of seeking righteousness under the Law of Moses. He said the Law brought sin to life, causing Paul to “die,” in the sense of becoming guilty. Paul wanted to obey the Law, but his sinful nature prevented this. Paul yearned to be set free from the sinful nature dwelling in his body.
Now Paul, in Chapter Eight, is ready to show his readers, particularly Jews, how the new covenant operates, the covenant that finally will set the believer free from a body in which the sinful nature is dwelling.
But the first question the Jew has, before leaving the Law of Moses, is: “What about righteousness? Won’t I come under condemnation if I do not keep the Law of Moses?
This is why Paul’s opening comment is: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
This verse is used today to assure whoever makes a profession of belief in Christ that he may forget about being guilty in the eyes of God. No matter how much he yields to his sinful nature, he is without condemnation.
This is true for the individual who really has come to Christ for salvation, but in order for freedom from condemnation to continue he must continue to live in Christ. Freedom from condemnation is not a matter of doctrinal belief but of abiding in Christ. This means every day we are walking with Jesus, bringing Him into every aspect of our daily life.
Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)
In order to understand verse two we must be clear as to the meaning of “the law of the Spirit of life,” and “the law of sin and death.”
The law of sin and death is referring to Paul’s statements in the preceding chapter, Chapter Seven. It is the interaction between the sinful nature and the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses emphasizes the actions of the sinful nature, which in turn causes the believer to live in a state of guilt. He cannot obey the Law of Moses because of the law of sin that dwells in his body.
The law of the Spirit of life is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit also emphasizes the actions of our sinful nature. But because of the blood atonement made on the cross, the believer has no guilt. The Spirit then shows the believer how to put to death the behavior that has been pointed out. The believer is to confess the behavior as sin; denounce it as evil; renounce it, turning away from it with diligence and determination.
The law of the Spirit of life sets us free from the law of sin and death by reminding us that an atonement has been made for our sins. Our conscience is clear. We have been completely forgiven.
Then the law of the Spirit of life begins to point out a part of our behavior that is sinful.
- We are to confess the behavior as sin.
- We are to judge that the specific behavior is not worthy to be in the Kingdom of God.
- We are to utterly repudiate and renounce the specific behavior, declaring we want no part of it for eternity.
- We then are to praise the Lord for forgiving us and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. The forgiveness is instantaneous. The cleansing may take a period of time, but it shall occur. God’s Word cannot be broken.
Why do we have to ask forgiveness for a specific sinful act when we already have been forgiven under the atonement?
The reason is, we have been forgiven for the sins of the past. But how are we to behave from this point forward?
Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; For the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:24-26—NASB)
“Passed over the sins previously committed.
What we are dealing with now are our present sinful acts.
Once we make a profession of faith in Christ, and are baptized in water, turning from the world that we might enter the Kingdom of God, all our past sins are forgiven.
Now the question is, what about the sins we commit from now on?
In order for our freedom from condemnation to continue, we have to do as I have outlined above. We have to confess our sins as the Holy Spirit points them out. We have to denounce them as evil, and then renounce them thoroughly, turning away from them determinedly.
If we do not put our sins to death in this manner, we come under Divine judgment.
The atonement has been made. Our conscience is clear. We have been forgiven totally. In order to continue in the blessing of the atonement we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He helps us deal effectively with our sinful nature.
A Christian never is to continue in known sin. To do so is to be guilty of willful sinning. There is no provision under the old covenant or the new covenant for willful, presumptuous sin.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, (Hebrews 10:26)
No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (I John 3:6)
Sin is a force, an urge, that dwells in our flesh. The old covenant did not make provision for the destruction of the sinful nature—probably because the perfect atonement had not been made.
Now that the perfect atonement has made, the Holy Spirit can begin the work of removing sin from the creation. The removal has begun with the saints who are seeking the Lord diligently. From there the removal will continue throughout the Church; and finally, through the Church, the removal will spread to the entire creation. God has determined to make an end of sin in His creation.
There were four horns on the Altar of Burnt Offering suggesting that the authority and power of the blood of the Lord Jesus will reach out to the four points of the compass, finally putting an end to sin throughout the creation.
The Law of Moses could not, as Paul pointed out, deal successfully with our sinful nature. The law of the Spirit of life, on the other hand, uses every Divine resource to combat and overthrow the sinful nature. It sets us free from the law of sin and death.
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, (Romans 8:3—NASB)
The weakness of the Law of Moses occurred because it could do nothing about our sinful nature. It could only forgive a single incident of sin.
God overcame the weakness of the Law of Moses by sending Christ, who was in the form of sinful man but who was without sin personally. God had Him crucified as a sin offering. God placed the burden of the guilt of our sin on the Lamb, and through His sufferings God was able to exercise His judgment on sin.
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)
The Lord Jesus Christ kept the Law of Moses perfectly. Then God put on Him the guilt of our sins, and the Lord Jesus suffered the consequences of our sins. This left Christ’s righteous behavior unrewarded. So God has decreed that whoever will choose to become part of the Life of Christ will receive the righteousness which he would have gained had he been the one to keep the Law of Moses perfectly.
If any person beside Christ had been able to keep the Law perfectly all his life, he would not have needed to partake of the righteousness of Christ. But since we all have inherited a sinful nature, no one has been able to live a life free from sin. This is what Paul meant when he said we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
There is a strong condition attached to the receiving of the righteousness that Christ purchased. It is that we do not live according to our sinful nature but according to the Spirit of God. This condition is not always preached today.
We are considered as righteous, free from condemnation, provided that we do not live according to our sinful nature but according to the Spirit of God. This means we are diligently following the Spirit and cooperating with Him as He points out our sins and helps us put them to death. The Spirit gives us wisdom and strength as we confess our sins, denounce them as evil, turn away from them, and continue to walk in the light of God’s will.
The teaching of today is that we can profess belief in Christ and then we are considered to be without condemnation forever, no matter how we behave. Such doctrine is totally destructive of God’s intention under the new covenant. The result is spiritual babies who never have learned to walk with the Lord. They may attend church all their life, but they will not grow in Christ because they are not participating in the program of redemption, of deliverance from the sinful nature.
God has been thwarted. He was not able to produce righteous behavior under the Law of Moses. He is not able to produce righteous behavior under the new covenant.
So what is next? I am not certain. But I do know God does not remain thwarted for very long. Therefore, the next few years should be interesting.
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:5)
This is so true in life, isn’t it? As we go through the day we either are thinking about the appetites and desires of our sinful nature, or else we are listening for the will of the Spirit.
After well over a half-century of experience with Christian people, I would venture that not many American believers have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. There may be one or two in the average church that are walking in close fellowship with the Lord.
It must be true that, generally speaking, there are two categories of people in the ranks of Christendom. All believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that He died for our sins. But of this total assemblage, there is only one here or there who is adhering to the standard presented by the Apostle Paul—and, in fact, by the Lord Jesus Himself.
For example, the Lord Jesus told us we could not be His disciple unless we denied ourselves, took up our cross, and followed Him each day.
The Apostle Paul exhorted us to present our body a living sacrifice that we might determine the will of God for our life.
Now, of all the Christian people you know, how many have denied themselves and are carrying their cross as they follow the Lord? How many have presented their body a living sacrifice in order to prove the will of God?
So we have a credibility gap here. We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we read it, we hear it preached in church, but many of us are not doing what it says?
What do we conclude from this?
We conclude that the final victories are going to be won by a Gideon’s army, a small minority of God’s people.
How many victorious saints are there—those who are overcoming sin in their daily life? Do you know? I don’t. But I do know from the Bible that God’s witness was not borne by the Israelites but by a handful of prophets. We are much too impressed with numbers. We suppose whatever the majority of believers are doing must be God’s will. But the Bible does not support this viewpoint.
So we must insist that those who follow the Spirit of God are the true Christians. As for the majority who still are living in their sinful nature, I don’t know what to say. I am hoping in the near future God will take some dramatic steps to rectify the present situation.
Many believers today have a sense that revival is at hand. I am part of this group. But I am not certain if we are picturing what God has in mind. We may be looking for great joy to come upon us and numerous people to be added to the churches. God grant that such may happen.
But suppose the revival happens to one believers at a time as he or she confesses and turns away from his or her sins and begins to live the victorious life. In this case the revival might pass by many of us without our realizing it.
For myself, I cannot see the benefit of having a great outpouring of the Spirit (which I certainly hope we will have) if the Christians of our day do not come up to the Bible standard. What good would it do to add ten million people to the churches if they then do not press on each day in the Spirit?
I am afraid we often settle for doubling or tripling the size of our congregation, even if there is no appreciable move forward in consecration.
The Bible standard is the maturity as measured by “the stature of the fullness of Christ.” If we do not grow up to this standard, are we truly pleasing God? Are we really Christians? If we are not following the exhortations of the New Testament, how is God viewing us?
So Paul says we are to live each day in the Spirit of God and not in our sinful nature, not in the ordinary adamic life. I wonder how many believers are actually obeying Paul in this matter.
The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; (Romans 8:6)
By “the mind set on the flesh” we are not speaking of someone who is practicing rape, murder, and child molestation. Rather we are referring to the ordinary life of the adamic soul: eating, drinking, marrying, giving in marriage, working, sleeping, playing, planting, reaping, and so forth. These are the pursuits that blinded people in the days of the flood of Noah, and also at the time of the destruction of Sodom. People who emphasize such behavior often find little strength and time for prayer and Bible reading.
The average churchgoer is occupied with making a living, and often is guilty of “minor” sins such as gossip, slander, criticism, and unforgiveness. Christians may view these as being understandable and somewhat acceptable behavior.
Perhaps most of us are aware fornication, murder, and child abuse are sufficient to keep us out of the Kingdom of God (out of Heaven, as we would say). But we do not realize that just living an ordinary life can result in spiritual death.
The true Christian disciple lives an extraordinary life. He spends time each day in prayer and Bible reading. He attends church regularly with fervent believers. But where he is extraordinary is in his continual fellowship with the Lord Jesus. He always is inviting the Lord Jesus to share his decisions and everything he thinks, says, and does. Like the Apostle Paul he counts everything as loss that was not wrought in Christ.
He always is pressing forward into resurrection life. He is sharing Christ’s sufferings. He always has a guard posted. By this I mean, no matter where he is, not matter what he is doing, he is watching in prayer.
What I am describing is the ordinary life of the victorious saint. He always is hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches. He is not trying to find out what questionable behavior he can practice and still be saved; rather he is endeavoring discover how he can more fully gain Christ, more completely enter the Life of Christ.
This kind of total consecration is not as common as one could wish. Yet, it is the Bible standard.
The rewards to the overcomers, listed in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, are the benefits we associate with being a Christian: eating from the tree of life; wearing the crown of life; governing the nations with the Lord.
These rewards are steps in attaining to the first resurrection from the dead, the resurrection of the members of the royal priesthood. They are the possession of the victorious saints, not of the average churchgoer in America in the year 2003. Perhaps it is true that the Spirit of God is hovering over the Christian churches. He is speaking of what the Lord expects at this time. Some have ears to hear. Many do not, apparently.
But the Lord would have as many as possible march forward with Him to the full attainment to the resurrection from the dead. We can march with Jesus by continually thinking about the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans and patterning our life accordingly.
The mind set on the flesh is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. (Romans 8:7)
We may notice that it is difficult to discipline our personality, including our mind, to attend to the things of the Spirit of God. Our body and soul make many demands on us. If we let them have their way, we will spend very little time in prayer or Bible reading. These are not activities our body and soul enjoy.
As Paul says, we have to beat down our body and keep it under control if we are to remain qualified for the role in the Kingdom of God to which we have been appointed.
The true Christian life is one of active involvement with the Lord Jesus. This is difficult in America because of the number of competing opportunities. I do not know if people of less advantaged cultures have the same problem focusing on the Lord Jesus.
Paul says we are to pray without ceasing. Our fleshly nature would far rather plan and reason than it would look to the Lord for direction.
I think sometimes Christians suppose Christ is going to carry out our discipleship for us. It is not so. If we are to enter the Kingdom of God we have to apply ourselves with utmost diligence. Being a true disciples of Jesus requires every ounce of integrity and faithfulness we can bring to the battle.
Don’t forget, we have not only our own body and soul to contend with, but the world, Satan, and sometimes our friends or the members of our family. We have to press through everyone and every circumstance if we are to gain the crown of life and righteousness.
We just can’t keep our mind on the world and on the Lord at the same time. One or the other must win out. In America our biggest idol may be money. It is considered wise and proper to amass as much money as possible. But the Lord Jesus told us we have to choose between money and God, because they both demand worship.
We must recognize that our natural mind is hostile to God. It is unable to submit to God’s laws. This is why we must live in the Spirit as much as possible. When we do we are able to resist the urges and demands of our fleshly nature.
Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Romans 8:8)
Paul is still speaking of the law of the Spirit of life setting us free from the law of sin and death. We are without condemnation provided we are not being controlled by our sinful nature but by the Spirit of God.
I think this concept presents a kind of salvation different from what often is preached. The preaching of today emphasizes belief in Christ and His crucifixion. The idea seems to be that once we take this stand, the rest of what God wants of us will fall into line.
The Pentecostal branch of Christendom emphasizes two works of redemption: belief in Christ as our Lord and Savior; and the baptism with the Holy Spirit, validated by speaking in tongues.
But what Paul is presenting goes far, far beyond a initial belief in Christ and speaking in tongues. Paul is speaking of a life lived in the Presence of the Spirit of God rather than in the usual manner of conducting our life according to our own understanding and will.
Paul is speaking of total immersion in the Spirit. I myself speak in tongues a great deal, often praying in tongues as I go about the house. People who do not speak in tongues do not realize the fluency possible in prayer and worship when we can give utterance to our feelings in tongues.
However, I believe there are Christians who are far more spiritual, who live in the Holy Spirit to a greater extent, than many believers who speak in tongues. So by living in the Spirit I do not mean the person who at one time or another has spoken in tongues, or who still speaks in tongues occasionally.
As valuable a gift as speaking in tongues is, the fruit of the Spirit is not that of speaking in tongues. The godly character that is the fruit of the Spirit of God grows as we walk in continual communion with the Lord. This is the true Christian life. This is the victorious life.
And this is the life Paul is emphasizing as he tells us about the law of the Spirit of life and how it competes against the ordinary life of worldly concerns.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9)
All true Christians have the Spirit of God living in their personality. Paul is not exhorting us to get the Spirit of God. He is exhorting us to yield to the Spirit in our daily behavior rather than to our sinful nature.
Each day we sow to the Spirit or we sow to our sinful nature. It is true that the Spirit is in us if we really have received the Lord Jesus. Now we have to sow to the Spirit. We have to lay hold on eternal life.
Paul tells us if we sow to our sinful nature we will reap destruction. Paul does not clarify what he means by reaping destruction, but that is what he wrote.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7,8)
I believe it is important to keep in mind that Paul did not write the above to the unsaved, but to the saints in Galatia who had been saved, as we use the term, and who had been filled with the Spirit at one time.
“A man reaps what he sows.” So it is not true, as some are maintaining, that a Christian, because of his faith in Christ, will not reap what he has sown.
We indeed shall reap what we are sowing. This is what Paul is saying in the eighth chapter of Romans, isn’t it? If we live so as to please our sinful nature, we will die spiritually. If we live so as to please the Spirit of God, we will reap eternal life.
Notice carefully that the destruction proceeds from the sinful nature and the eternal life proceeds from the Spirit of God. It is not that we are punished for living according to our sinful nature, it is that we receive that which we have nourished. If we nourish our sinful nature we will reap destruction from that which we have nourished.
We are so accustomed to leaning on mercy, grace, and unconditional love, that we do not realize these are not the issue. The issue is what we have nourished. We cannot nourish our natural, adamic life and receive eternal life. Neither can we nourish the Life of the Spirit of God that is in us and reap destruction. There are Kingdom laws of cause and effect that are not affected by mercy and grace.
And it is a good thing that they are not so affected. If a person who is self-seeking, always bent on his own good, who spends his life gratifying the desires and appetites of his flesh and soul, were to be forgiven by the Lord and brought into the company of those who have lived the crucified life with the Lord Jesus, what do you think the result would be? The self-seeking person, who made so many people miserable while alive on the earth, would continue to make people miserable. Why is this? It is because he has never suffered because of his selfishness, and therefore would continue his way of behaving.
We certainly want people to be saved. But we don’t want them to bring their self-seeking ways among us. If they were permitted to do so we would have no new world of peace and joy to look forward to.
Now, what does it mean if a believer chooses to live in his sinful nature he will reap destruction from his sinful nature?
Sometimes the reaping takes place in the present world. We all may know of someone who persisted in rebellion and disobedience and ended up sick, or in the hospital, or dead. There own behavior brought destruction upon them.
For an example of destruction after we die we have the rich man, who was in Hell because of his selfishness toward Lazarus. However in this case we do not see the rich man’s punishment proceeding from his acts of selfishness. Rather, the Lord put him in Hell because of his wickedness in not sharing the good things of life with the Lazarus.
Perhaps Hell is what Paul meant by reaping destruction. However, I think there is more to it than this.
We all are moving toward the Day of Resurrection, the time when our body is raised from its place of interment. I think it may be at this point that we will see the full operation of sowing and reaping.
After our body is raised we will be given a robe, a house from Heaven, that will clothe our resurrected flesh and bones. That house is formed by the decisions we make on earth.
If we have been faithful, there shall be faithfulness in the house we receive.
If we have been truthful, there shall be truthfulness in the house we receive. In other words, we reap what we have sown. It is not God’s love, or mercy, or unconditional love that places faithfulness and truthfulness in our house from Heaven, the faithfulness and truthfulness are the products of decisions we have made on the earth as we have yielded to the Spirit of God.
Now let us say that we have been treacherous. Perhaps we have left our wife and children because we became enamored with another woman. What then?
We shall receive treachery in the house we receive. Those who look at us will be able to see the treachery.
What if we have been a liar and have never repented of this behavior? In the Day of Resurrection, after our flesh and bones have been raised, we shall be clothed with lying. The lying has been nourished by our continuing to practice it. Our outward appearance will be that of lying. We have sown to lying and we have reaped lying.
If you stop and think about it, receiving, in the Day of Resurrection, what we have done, is absolutely fair and righteous. We have nourished faithfulness and so we are clothed with faithfulness. We have nourished treachery and so we have been clothed with treachery.
How would you feel if someone had repeatedly betrayed you was clothed with faithfulness in the Day of Christ? His outer form portrayed faithfulness. But you knew in his heart he is treacherous.
But won’t Christ make the treacherous person faithful so he can be clothed with faithfulness?
If such is going to take place, I have not found an account of it in the Scriptures. How could a man sow treachery and reap faithfulness? What we put into the ground comes up, doesn’t it?
How could a man sow lying and reap truthfulness?
Let’s stop and think. There was a man who buried the talent given to him. What did the Lord do when he returned? Did He clothe the man with industry and wisdom? Or did the Lord rebuke the man for his wickedness and laziness, remove his talent, and throw the servant into the outer darkness?
So we see the grace, mercy, and unconditional love being promoted today do not have solid biblical support. Rather it is an evidence of the ear-tickling, man-pleasing preaching that Paul said would characterize the closing days of the Church Age.
We have the Spirit of God in us. Now we must choose to be controlled by the Spirit of God and not by our sinful nature.
But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)
Our physical body is spiritually dead because of the sinful nature that dwells in it. Our spirit, our inward nature, is alive because the righteousness of Christ has been ascribed to it. In the Scriptures, life follows righteousness and death follows wickedness. Because we have received by faith the righteousness of Christ, our inward nature is alive with the Life of God.
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8:11)
Here is the goal Paul is moving toward. Do you remember that in the seventh chapter Paul spoke of his desire to be delivered from the body of sin and death? Paul was seeking the redemption of his body so he would be free from the sinful nature.
We have a real problem today in Christian thinking. We have made our objective eternal residence in Heaven. Eternal residence in Heaven is what one normally would hope for. Our present life in a flesh and blood body is fraught with pain, worries, dreads of all sorts. This is why people take drugs.
I think many religions have a paradise after death that they point to. Who wouldn’t want to wake up and find one’s self in a wonderful paradise where there were no more fears; no more responsibilities; no more aches or pain. Sound pretty good, doesn’t it. So it is no surprise that Christians have gravitated to this concept.
Paul did speak in another place of wanting to be at home with the Lord. But he did not look forward to any sort of fantasy world, as nearly as I can tell. Paul said he did not want to be unclothed but clothed upon with his house from Heaven.
In the eighth chapter Paul is referring to the redemption of his body, the removal of the sinful nature. Actually Paul was seeking righteousness. The idea of righteousness as a goal is not commonly expressed among us, is it? Did you ever hear a Christian say that he wanted to be with the Lord so he would be righteous? Or go to Heaven so he would be righteous? Or to be caught up in a “rapture” so he would be righteous?
If we are to understand Paul, we must throw out much of our current understanding and soak for a while in Paul’s epistles.
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you.” So far in our study, Paul has been emphasizing the Holy Spirit who is dwelling in us, hasn’t he? Paul is telling us that our primary task as a Christian is to cultivate the Presence of the Spirit in us. We are to defer to the Spirit instead of living according to our fleshly nature.
It is not easy to learn how to be led by the Spirit. We may make many mistakes along the way, because Satan is able to counterfeit the voice of the Spirit. The purpose of elders in the local assembly is to guide the less mature Christians until they are able to follow the Spirit correctly.
“He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies.” Our inward nature has been redeemed if Christ is living in us. Now Paul is telling us that our moral body shall be redeemed. This was Paul’s stated goal.
Do you remember, in the third chapter of the Book of Philippians, that Paul was striving to attain to the resurrection from the dead?
The doctrine of the resurrection has largely been lost to us. In its place has been an unscriptural “rapture,” a catching up of the believers to Heaven without making any demands on their growth in Christ. Of course, this would have a strong appeal to Americans, who always are looking for the easiest way of getting what they want. “If saying I believe in Christ is a ticket to paradise, let’s go!”
When Paul spoke of the catching up into the air of the resurrected believers, he was speaking of the Day of Fellowship, the time when the living saints are to be joined together with those who have gone on before. He was not at that point emphasizing the redemption of our body so we can be free from the sinful nature.
When the Lord returns, our body will be raised from its place of interment and filled with the Holy Spirit. The majority of those who are to be raised from the dead will return with the Lord. The very small minority of believers on the earth at that time will change from flesh and blood life to Holy Spirit life. All will be made immortal.
“Through his Spirit, who lives in you.” It is the Spirit who lives in us, the exact same Spirit, who will make our body eternally alive in the Day of Christ.
Can you see here the principle of sowing and reaping? If we sow to the Spirit, out from that same Spirit will come the Life that makes us immortal. This is why Paul urged Timothy to lay hold on eternal life. Today we are determining by our behavior the nature of our resurrection.
If we remain filled with the Spirit of God, in the Day of Christ we will become immortal.
But what if we don’t remain filled with the Spirit of God? What will happen to us when the Lord returns? What kind of destruction will we reap?
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. (Romans 8:12)
To what, then, are we obligated? I would say, from the verses thus far, that we are obligated to live in the Spirit of God. Would you agree with that?
A common saying among Christians is that as long as we are alive in this world we have to sin. Have you ever heard that?
The verse above is one of the passages that refutes the idea as long as we are in the world we have to sin.
According to the Apostle Paul, we are not obligated to sin. We owe our sinful nature nothing, in this world or in any other world.
Our physical body tends to promote this idea, doesn’t it? “You have to be reasonable! You have to attend to my desires! You are not perfect! Remember, you are in this world!” and so forth ad nauseam.
The Word of God says we owe our sinful nature nothing that we should live according to its lusts and demands. I choose to believe the Word. How about you? Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Romans 8:12 should give us enough faith to declare total war on our deceitful sinful nature—liar that it is!
There is no sin in our personality that we cannot overcome through the Lord Jesus Christ. Step by step, city by city, urge by urge, we can put the enemy to flight. The Holy Spirit leads us in this war. The Spirit redeems us from the hand of the enemy.
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13)
The above is a verse I use a great deal. It is clear and practical.
I would like to note that it refutes the commonly held idea that “once we are saved we cannot be lost.” That concept is nothing more than the ancient “You shall not surely die.” It appeals to pleasure-loving American believers who want to be assured that no matter what they do they still will go to the paradise in the sky.
Paul says if we choose to live according our sinful nature we will die. Paul means, die spiritually. The wages of sin is spiritual death. We lose the life that was given us. We lose the possibility of our mortal body being filled with the Life of God. We have been unfaithful in the least, and so the greater shall not be given to us.
As I am writing these words it is as though the Lord Jesus is standing by me. We have hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of Christians in the United States who are ignorant of the facts of spiritual life. They have been told that as long as they believe in Jesus it is not critical how they behave. Also, any moment now they are going to be caught up to Heaven to live forever in luxury.
It does not matter if they are living in the sinful nature. It does not matter if they have unforgiveness and bitterness in their heart. It does not matter if they lie, steal, gossip, backbite, cause division in the church.
How do you think the Lord Jesus feels about this situation in America? He cannot go against the Word of the Father. Those who live according to their sinful nature will die.
This was not written to the Roman soldiers, it was written to the saints in Rome. It is written to the believers in America. “If you live in your sinful nature you will die spiritually. You will not be raised to eternal life when the Lord appears. Therefore you will not be caught up to meet Jesus in the air.”
Many may scoff at my words, but I am only repeating what Paul has stated. It is the Word of God. It shall come to pass.
Perhaps back in our mind is the idea that the great majority of believers in America cannot be incorrect in their thinking. If you have read your Bible, particularly the Old Testament, can you think of a time when the majority of Israelites were correct in their thinking? I can point out several instances where the majority were deluded.
The Jews were deceived up until the time they were carried into Assyria and Babylon. Their palace prophets, the nobles, sometimes the kings, were assuring them that they were in no trouble. Refusing to listen to their prophets led them to destruction.
When we do not listen to the Apostle Paul we are heading toward destruction no matter how we feel! No matter what the majority are saying!
If we, as a Christian, continue to follow the urges and appetites of our sinful nature, we will die spiritually. We will not be raised from the dead when the Lord comes. We will not be caught up when the Lord comes. This is what the Bible maintains.
“If by the Spirit we put to death the actions of our sinful nature we will live.” In the immediate context this means our mortal body will be made immortal by the Spirit of God when the Lord returns.
Generally, the idea is that each day both the Spirit of God and our sinful nature struggle for control of our behavior. We are the one who decides which power wins.
In order for us to overcome the urges of our sinful nature and yield to the Spirit of God we have to pray much, meditate in the Scriptures, gather as often as we can with fervent Christians, serve in every way the Lord opens to us, give of our material wealth, and look to the Lord for every word we speak; every thought we think; every action we take.
Being a Christian is a full-time business.
It is possible to be a full-time Christian even in a frantic culture, such as in the United States. But it requires a real dedication to the Lord to do so.
Eternal life is a kind of life. It is the Life of God that is in Jesus Christ. Unlike biologic life, which is restless and often frantic, eternal life is full of love, joy, and peace. It is not subject to corruption. Eternal life loves God, love righteousness, and has a passion for holiness.
There are degrees of eternal life that one may have. As we put to death the actions of our sinful nature, eternal life increases. We can lay hold on eternal life and keep adding it to our personality until we attain to the resurrection from the dead, as Paul commented. This means when the Lord comes we will be ready for the transformation into glory and immortality.
It appears to me, from some of the types and comments of the Bible, that—generally speaking—there are three levels of eternal life. There is a fullness. These are God’s saints who have achieved victory over sin in the present world.
There is a lesser level. According to my understanding, the members of the lesser level are still part of the Church, the new Jerusalem, but will not have the same rank in the Kingdom.
There is the lowest level. These are the citizens who live on the new earth but are not part of the royal priesthood, the Church.
The student will recognize in these three levels the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle of the Congregation; the Holy Place; and the Courtyard. This separation into three levels appears in several places in the Scripture, such as the three levels of Noah’s Ark; the three separations of Israel at the time of Gideon; the three on the Mount of Transfiguration, the remaining nine disciples; and the people of Israel; the hundredfold, sixtyfold, and thirtyfold. There are the greatest in the Kingdom and the least in the Kingdom.
There are those who eat from the Tree of Life. Then there are those who are crowned with eternal life.
God loves all people. It is not that God loves the hundredfold more than the thirtyfold, or those in the Most Holy Place more than the people at the Courtyard level. Rather the degree of eternal life has to do with rank in the Kingdom of God. The saints govern by the power of indestructible, incorruptible resurrection life.
So the result of yielding to the desires of our sinful nature is the loss of the power by which the saints govern. The diligent, continual putting to death of the deeds of the sinful nature results in increasing authority and power of rulership. And this is sensible, because if we are not able to govern our own personality, how would we then be able to govern God’s creatures?
Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
Have you noticed to this point the emphasis on the Spirit of God, on the law of the Spirit of life? Truly, the new covenant is operated by God’s Spirit.
What does the Spirit lead us to do? First of all, the Spirit leads us to put to death the actions of our sinful nature. Second, the Spirit forms Christ in us. Third, the Spirit assigns to us gifts and ministries according to His own will. Fourth, the Spirit leads and empowers us in ministry. Christ is in Heaven at the right hand of the Father. The Holy Spirit is in us and with us, preparing a spotless Bride for the Lamb of God.
Paul tells us in Galatians to live by the Spirit and we shall not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. In other words, the key to victorious Christian living is to keep filled with the Spirit of God.
The parable of the wise and foolish virgins tells us that only those believers who remain filled with the Spirit will be ready when the Bridegroom comes.
Paul directs us to be filled with the Spirit.
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)
God gives His Spirit to those who obey Him; also to those who repeatedly ask for the Holy Spirit. All of us need, and should ask for, repeated anointing with the Holy Spirit so we may serve God acceptably with grace, wisdom, and power.
The new covenant is not one of the letter but of the Spirit. This means it is only by the Spirit of God that we are able to correctly apply the commandments found in the New Testament, and have the power to do so.
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “abba “ Father.” (Romans 8:15)
There always is an emphasis on the Lord Jesus, and rightly so. There should be more of an emphasis on the Holy Spirit—not just in gifts but in the conduct of our life.
I think now we may be becoming more conscious of the Father.
The Lord Jesus came to bring us to the Father. Jesus is the Way to the Father; the Truth of the Father; and the Life of the Father. No one comes to the Father except through the Lord Jesus.
The Lord Jesus told us no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and the person to whom the Son reveals Him.
The Father sent the Son so we might be reconciled to the Father and the Father to us.
The Father is going to bring all creatures in Heaven and earth into subjection to the Son. As soon as this takes place, the Son shall be in subjection to the Father that God might be all in all.
The supreme emphasis when we come to the Son is the blood of the Lamb.
The supreme emphasis when we come to the Spirit is power to overcome sin and power to bear witness of the atoning death and triumphant resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
The supreme emphasis when we come to the Father is obedience.
We have been forgiven through the blood. We have been empowered by the Spirit. Now we are to learn total obedience to the Father. Jesus Christ learned obedience to the Father while He was on the earth.
Just as Christ learned obedience through suffering, so are we to learn obedience through suffering; through the various prisons in which we are placed.
Every human being is formed with a throne room in his or her personality. In fact it is the throne room, the will, that is the focal point of the uniqueness of the person.
If we are to pass from Pentecost into the feast of Tabernacles, so to speak, into the fullness of God, we must permit the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to reign supreme in our throne room. Until we do this we cannot move past the state of anointed flesh. It is only as God is enthroned in us that the water of eternal life can flow out to others.
We can receive Christ and pass from death to life. We can obey God in all we do, and pray for and receive more of the Holy Spirit and enjoy fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
However, only God can bring us into the fullness of obedience to Himself. He does this by giving us a cross to carry. We are denied that which we desire fervently. We are required to continue in situations that are not enjoyable. Obedience is learned in the school of suffering and denial.
I have taught for years that the Charismatic movement will be divided on the basis of suffering. The majority of the believers will not accept suffering. They want to enjoy “fun in the Son,” as they put it. When they are presented with some form of denial they will turn away from it. They simply cannot believe that God would permit them to suffer.
A Gideon’s minority of the believers will bring all of their gifts to Christ and lay them at His feet to use as He will. They then may be brought into desolate places—sometimes for many years. They scarcely can remember what it was like to rejoice in the Lord when their future was full of bright events.
Now there is this darkness! The big question is, will we remain steadily, faithfully under the hand of God, or will be break out of the prison and lay our hands on that which we desire. If we stay in our confinement until God brings us forth we shall receive the crown of life. If we break out of our prison and seize what we desire, our future will be one of weakness, confusion, and loss of our authority in Christ—on some occasions, the weakness, confusion, and loss of authority persist after we confess our sins and turn away from them.
The Lord’s “mighty men” are characterized by their never quitting no matter how much denial they experience. They have placed their hopes beyond the grave. They are willing to fall into the ground and die, as Jesus said. They are ready to lose their life, to do the Lord’s will to the point of death.
This is the way. Walk in it! There is no way around your cross, no escape.
Until you have accepted the fact that your life is finished, and only the Life of Christ remains, you cannot move past the Pentecost experience of anointed flesh.
God has many needs. There are many roles and tasks in the Kingdom of God that must be filled and performed. Until an individual has removed himself from the throne of his personality and invited God to govern his life, no matter what this entails, he cannot serve God as a ruler in the Kingdom. Rulership comes only through suffering, because it is through suffering that our will is transformed into God’s will.
It is not that we become an “empty vessel.” Rather we get up every morning and go about our business, but in the meanwhile committing our way to the Lord until His will is done. To view ourselves as an “empty vessel” is to invite passivity and the presence of demons.
We do not lose our will; rather, we submit our will each day to God. When God is satisfied that we always shall do His will no matter what the cost to ourselves, then we will be permitted back on the throne with God so we can have perfect fellowship with God.
We are not slaves to the Law of Moses. We are sons of the Father, His children. We do not serve Him out of fear but out of love. Yet we are wise enough to fear God, knowing He has the power to throw us into the fire.
We seem to have lost the fear of God in America, and this is not good. I think some of the loss of fear is due to silly preaching that leaves the people with the feeling Jesus Christ is their servant, ready to attend to their every whim. Also, the incorrect teaching that no one who has made a profession of Christ need have any fear of the Judgment Seat of Christ.
As one who has been held in the hand of God, I join with Paul who, knowing the terror of the Lord, persuaded men to work out their own salvation with meekness and fear.
It is the fool who says there is no God. It is the deceived believer who goes his merry way while proclaiming he has nothing to fear from the Judgment Seat of Christ.
If we are wise we will love God and fear God. If we serve God long enough the day may come when we will be so full of the love of God that there will no longer be a reason to fear the hour of judgment.
The Lord Jesus Christ came from Heaven to bring us to the Father. May Christ make the Father real to each one of us so we can have fellowship with Christ and the Father.
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (I John 1:3)
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:16)
I think in the above verse that the Apostle Paul was reflecting on his life as an observant Jew. Never having been an observant Jew I am not certain I am correct in this. But I would imagine that when Paul was seeking to master the Law of Moses and obey its precepts he did not experience the Holy Spirit as the Representative of God bearing witness to Paul that he was God’s child.
This is the principal difference between the two covenants. The Law of Moses is a covenant of the letter. Do this, and don’t do that, and God’s blessing will be on you. The new covenant is one of the Spirit of God. We keep looking to the Spirit for wisdom and power that we might correctly perform all the commandments of Christ and His Apostles.
As a pastor, I sometimes am faced with a couple who want to be married, but have been divorced previously. I know some ministers of the Gospel, obeying the teaching of the Lord Jesus, view marrying after there has been a divorce as adultery. They do not consider the circumstances nor do they ask God for His opinion. They go by the letter of the New Testament. In my opinion, they are acting as though the New Testament were the Law of Moses.
I myself am not “soft” on the marriage vows. I have been married to Audrey for 54 years. But I know man was not made to keep the laws of marriage and divorce; the laws of marriage and divorce were made for man in order to prevent immoral behavior.
Many times people are divorced for no good reason other than they are not “happy.” God will not accept this and will hold them accountable.
There are occasions when a marriage, for one reason or another, has become completely destructive. One or the other of the partners has become abusive or physically violent; or perhaps is molesting the children. When I am approached with these kinds of situations I go to the Lord. I ask Audrey what she thinks I may ask the elders of the church. Knowing that God takes our marriage vows very seriously, I do not rush to a decision.
After considering whatever children may be involved, and giving much prayer and thought to the matter, I may or may not recommend divorce. I do not view divorce as an impossible alternative.
The same is true with marrying someone who has been divorced. I give the matter much prayer, sometimes asking others for their opinion, and giving consideration to the welfare of any children involved. I do not regard a divorced person remarrying as an impossible alternative.
I believe this is the way the new covenant is to operate. We have to be guided by the Holy Spirit. It is a covenant of the Spirit.
But let me say again that God regards the marriage vows with extreme gravity. For a man or woman to leave his or her family in order to marry someone else is absolutely forbidden. Anyone who does such a thing may never be permitted to enter the Kingdom of God. It is just this serious? If someone does leave his or her family, and then repents and turns back to God, he or she will be forgiven; but I cannot say for certain to what extent the individual will be admitted into the Kingdom.
The issue is not as simple as going to Heaven or going to Hell. There are all kinds of places in the Kingdom of God. To be saved as by fire, for example, may prove to be a period of suffering beyond our imagination to conceive. And after that we may never be permitted past the lowest area of the Kingdom of God.
Marriage is to be viewed with the utmost seriousness. This is why I do not approve of “dating.” Young people should always have fellowship in groups until they are fairly certain God is impressing them to marry someone. Then they should be betrothed with a view to marriage.
But I see no place for “dating”; and it is this practice, I believe, that leads to marriages that end in confusion.
If we are careful to live in the Spirit of God, watching for His guidance, many of our questions will be answered and our problems solved.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17)
Now here is a remarkable statement. We are heirs of God and coheirs with Christ.
Paul speaks of our inheriting the Kingdom of God. John says he who overcomes will inherit all things.
I find the use of the term “inherit” surprising. Do you?
We are heirs because we are children. Is this why the Word says we will inherit all things rather than we will be given all things? Probably so.
But here is another problem. Ordinarily one doesn’t inherit something until the benefactor dies. Is God going to die that we might inherit the works of His hand?
I don’t believe that. I think the meaning is God has decided to entrust His creation to Jesus Christ, and to those who are part of Christ as coheirs.
For example: the Father no longer judges anyone. He has given all judgment to His beloved Son. Now the Son is sharing the authority of judgment, by tell His disciples they would judge the tribes of Israel; by telling His disciples that they would have power to forgive or retain sin. Paul spoke of the saints judging the world and also angels.
Notice the following:
I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. (Psalms 2:7,8)
If we are coheirs with Jesus Christ, then we shall inherit the nations and the ends of the earth.
There literally is no end to the inheritance of the Lord Jesus. All the Father is and possesses now belongs to Him, and therefore to us as coheirs.
But notice that there is a condition attached to our inheritance. We must share in the sufferings of Jesus Christ if we are to share in His glory.
Humiliation, rejection, deferral of desire, physical suffering—these are the pains Christ suffered during His brief lifetime on the earth. Paul said we are to share these. Paul indicated we are to fill up that which behind of the sufferings of Christ. There are some sufferings yet to be suffered, and we must be prepared to accept these if we are to share in His resurrection Life.
Suffering is good for us. It causes us to cease from sin. We enter the Kingdom of God through much tribulation. We are severely chastened that we might learn the peaceful ways of righteousness. Sometimes there are fiery trials—surprising in their intensity.
All these we must accept if we intend to share in the glory of Jesus Christ.
We understand from the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews the suffering endured by God’s elect. I hope we in America will be proven worthy to have fellowship with the heroes of faith. We are not being persecuted yet, but we may be in the future.
Even though we may not experience the blazing fires of torture and martyrdom, God is able to bring us through suffering in our daily life. God has His ways; and only the experienced saints know the years of patient deferral of desire that characterize the saint who is approaching the rulership of the nations.
No cross, no crown. The truth is, it is our patient enduring of suffering that forms a body of glory in Heaven that one day will clothe our resurrected flesh and bones.
The believer who runs from trouble, who refuses to accept the prison God has permitted, will never rule with Jesus Christ. He is a modern American churchgoer. He has not been taught the necessity for patient, cross-carrying obedience if one is to gain the glory of Christ. He is occupied primarily with making a living, with his vacations, with his retirement. He does not have ears to hear the invitation to glory being given by the Holy Spirit in our day.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
The Lord Jesus endured His cross by the joy that was set before Him. It is a good idea for each one of us to ask the Lord to set joy before us so we may be able to carry our personal cross patiently and successfully.
I have lived for 78 years. That seems like a long time, doesn’t it. I remember when I was nine years old thinking it would take me forever to arrive at the grand old age of eighteen.
So life goes on, day after day, month after month, year after year. Life on earth is hard. You can compare the face of a child with the face of an elderly person and see what damage life can do. I suppose if we consider all the nations of the earth, not many people live much longer than sixty years.
And then we think about eternity. We really can’t think clearly about eternity, our minds are capable only of finite thinking. Such terms as eternity, or infinity, or the thought that God had no beginning, are not readily comprehended by us. We are forced to think of a beginning and an end.
We can’t imagine being tormented forever in the Lake of Fire. Perhaps we can grasp a little more clearly the thought of endless joy in the Kingdom of God.
Maybe our life on earth has included much pain and suffering. But when we compare our lifetime on earth with eternity, we understand the important thing to do is to prepare for eternity no matter what self-denial is necessary in the present hour. We are deciding our future today, including what we will experience in the Day of Resurrection.
I believe if we have been a decent person we can expect to experience rest and peace after we die. But the Day of Resurrection is another matter. This is the point at which we will be judged and receive from the hand of Christ the good and the bad we have done.
In any event, it is far better to suffer now that we may gain a better resurrection. It is better to mourn now, for we will be comforted later. Remember the story of Lazarus and the rich man.
Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so they might gain a better resurrection. (Hebrews 11:35)
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. (Romans 8:19)
I understand small groups of fervent believers have taken the above verse to mean we can experience an unusual spiritual experience at the present time. Perhaps we can, and I would not discourage anyone who wants more of God.
However, the Apostle Paul is speaking here of the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ with His saints. Divine Glory shall be revealed in the sons of God at that time.
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
On the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. (II Thessalonians 1:10)
The nations have no idea that they are waiting for the sons of God to appear so they may be released from the power of the curse that has been placed on the earth, but they are. Nature itself is spiritually dead. The storms, trees, and fish obeyed the voice of Jesus. But all must wait for Jesus to come so nature may spring to life as was true in the beginning.
What a wonderful living environment the Garden of Eden provided for man, but it soon was lost because of disobedience. As soon as man has learned obedience, Paradise will be restored to the earth.
The Lord Jesus could have established His Kingdom of love and joy two thousand years ago. The warrior angels waited for Him to give the word that would remove sin and disobedience from the earth. But the Father has in mind to bring many sons to glory, many brothers of the Lord Jesus, so Jesus can have fellowship with those who are coheir with Him.
We notice that when Christ comes and sets up the Kingdom of God He will appear with a Body—with those to whom the Father has given birth and formed into the image of the Firstborn.
What a day the creation is coming to! The prisoners wait in their cells supposing they are in a normal world. One day in the not too distant future the trumpet of God shall sound. Then the ancient doors of their prison will slowly begin to open. A ray of light will show through so they can see the straw on the floor. The window high above them will give light and the singing of birds will be heard.
Suddenly the doors will be opened wide and before them will stand white-robed people shining like the sun. These who have come from another world will enter their cells and lead them out by the hand.
Then the peoples of the earth will realize they have not been alive; neither have they been in a normal world. It will be a while before their eyes have become accustomed to the splendor and beauty all around them.
The whole creation groans in travail. The Kingdom of God is being born. Everything is moving toward the light, toward definition. The Lord and His brothers, the members of His Body, will bring Divine Glory with them, and all sin shall be driven from the earth.
Verses twenty, twenty-one.
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:20,21)
God, by placing a curse on the ground, on our food supply, subjected the creation to frustration. Also our life span has been shortened from what it was in the beginning. We experience every kind of pain, sickness, tiredness, and finally death. God put this curse on us, not because He does not love us but because we were unable to maintain Paradise. We had permitted Satan to enter Paradise, and now we have a sinful, rebellious nature.
God envisioned the development of sons, including the greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. These sons would learn total obedience and would love righteousness and hate wickedness. As soon as these sons had been prepared, God would be able to release His imprisoned creation into the love, joy, and peace God always desires for His creatures.
Through the sons of God (actually it is God in the Son in the sons), the entire physical creation shall be released from every form of corruption and brought into the freedom of the children of God. This means people will be able to live in the freedom of the Holy Spirit rather than in the bondage of flesh and blood. This is God’s hope.
We know the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:22)
The whole earth is in slavery to corruption and death. We may think we are living a normal life and that this is how God expects man to live. It is not. We are in prison. The Book of Ecclesiastes explains the futility of life. It was this book that first drew me to the Bible, because I saw the truth in it.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
God looks down to see how we behave in our prison. Some give of themselves so others may be helped. God see these kinds of people and loves them. He has prepared a Kingdom for them.
Others are determined to benefit themselves. They seize whatever they can get without consideration for the welfare of others. They murder those who stand in their way. They are selfish, inconsiderate, ready to rob widows and orphans if necessary to obtain what they desire.
They will lie, cheat, use force, rob, seizing all the material wealth possible no matter whom they harm or disappoint along the way. They are treacherous, ready to betray those who trust them if they think they will find more pleasure that way.
Sometimes the righteous wonder how long it will be before God judges such wicked people. They may go on for years, hurting many people, flaunting their prosperity. But we are never to fret. One day the hand of God will remove them. They have served their purpose on the earth, and now will be treated just as they have treated others.
Thus the earth is one great arena of testing. The wise person will understand this and will live in a manner that pleases God. He knows that one day he will be given what he has given others. He will be treated as he has treated others. If he has been kind, he will be treated kindly. If he has been cruel, showing no mercy, then he shall be treated cruelly and no mercy will be shown to him.
The sighing, crying, groaning of the prisoners of the earth ascends to God every day. God urges us to be patient, for soon the kingdom God is preparing will appear from Heaven. This is the Gospel, the good news of the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)
We who are living by the Life of Christ have the firstfruits of the Spirit. This means one day all of saved mankind will live, move, and have their being in the Holy Spirit. There are only two ways in which a human being can live. One way is in the life of flesh and blood. The other way is in the Spirit of God. It is God’s will that all human beings live in the Spirit of God. Life in the Spirit is one of love, joy, and peace; and every healthy human being needs and desires love, joy, and peace.
One reason we Gentiles have a difficult time correctly interpreting the Apostle Paul is that we believe the goal of salvation is to bring us to another place (Heaven) where all will be lovely and we will have no problems. Paul never pointed to eternal residence in a charming fairyland as the goal of salvation.
Paul was a righteous Jew. He was troubled because of his sinful nature. He wanted to be released from his sinful body.
Paul was looking for the redemption of his body so he could serve God in righteousness. I wonder how long it will take before the Christian church wakes up to the fact that going to a charming fairyland will not bring love, joy, and peace to us. The only manner in which we are going to get what we truly desire is when we have been released from the sinful nature and everyone is practicing righteous behavior, loves mercy, and is walking humbly hand in hand with God.
No Paradise will ever satisfy us until the inhabitants are righteous. We can be happy just about anywhere as long as people love God and are serving Him in righteousness. But there is no charming, enchanting area anywhere in the universe that will bring joy to us if the people are unrighteous and self-seeking.
So our goal is deliverance from the sinful nature, and this is what true salvation accomplishes.
Notice that the Apostle Paul refers to the redemption, the immortalizing, of our body as our adoption as a son of God. Our inward nature is born of God. But our body will be adopted.
Let me emphasize once again that our goal is not residence in a fairyland. It is the destruction of our sinful nature and the forming of Christ in us so we can have fellowship with God.
It is nothing at all to God to create a Paradise. But it required Christ’s death on the cross plus the issuing of all the grace of God in order to develop sons of God and brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Once we have been formed in the image of Christ, and have entered untroubled rest in the center of God’s Person and will, we then are qualified and competent to serve God anywhere in His creation. God Himself is the inheritance of the members of the royal priesthood.
Verses twenty-four, twenty-five.
For in this hope we were saved. But hope is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:24,25)
We are saved by hope. We set joy before us, the joy that one day we will be set free from the sinful body and have a body that is incorruptibly alive. In addition, we shall go throughout the earth, setting saved mankind free from all that causes pain and sorrow.
This is a tremendous hope. It reaches past death so we have no fear of dying. We know as long as we are living in Christ at the right hand of God we will never die in the sense of losing our awareness of the Lord. We are alive for eternity in Christ.
But we must have patience. There are so many areas of our life that God wants to fill with Himself. We have so much to learn. Our faith needs to be strengthened until it is a bridge on which we can pass over every problem and difficulty.
We are learning to trust and serve God now. These lessons will serve us well in the new world of righteousness that is on the horizon.
There may be a few more difficult hours while we are chained to this sinful body of ours, this prison of our spirit. But God will not leave us in this imprisonment any longer than is absolutely necessary. So let us take advantage of every moment, learning our lessons; bearing the fruit of the moral image of Christ in ourselves and in those whom we influence. We will be taken by the Lord soon enough, and so we want to make the best possible use of the time remains to us.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.(Romans 8:26)
Notice how Paul emphasizes the Holy Spirit in the verses we have examined thus far. The Spirit helps us in our weakness, and we certainly need this assistance.
The idea that we don’t know what to pray for, but the Spirit helps by interceding for us, may or may not have to do with speaking in tongues. I am not certain. I have been speaking in tongues for about 55 years, so I cannot remember what it was like to not be able to pray in tongues.
I am not one to claim if people do not speak in tongues they do not have the Holy Spirit. But I am at a loss to understand how the Spirit could intercede with groans if we are not able to express our prayer in tongues.
I have heard intercessors cry out under the burden of prayer, and not necessarily in tongues. But they were Pentecostal people. I wonder if non-Pentecostal people have seasons of prayer when they are burdened to the point that they can only groan. My guess would be that such intercession does indeed happen among non-Pentecostal people. I think also that any Christian who is not able to pray in tongues might consider asking God for this ability. I cannot imagine myself being without it.
Indeed, there are times when the burden is so deep within us all we can do is groan.
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. (Romans 8:27)
Who is He who searches our hearts? It must be the Lord Jesus. We know Jesus as our High Priest is continually interceding for us before the Throne of God. Perhaps the above verse means Jesus hears what the Spirit is petitioning and brings the petition before the Father.
Notice that the Spirit intercedes according to the will of God. When we become a Christian and set ourselves to prayer, it may not be the most interesting occupation. We get down on our knees and pray the requests we think are necessary. We have a difficult time keeping our mind on the Lord, especially if we are worried about a problem or are planning something exciting. After it seems like an hour has gone by we look at our watch and it only has been ten minutes.
If, however, we discipline ourselves to spend time in prayer each day, we begin to learn how to pray according to the will of God. Instead of dutifully announcing our needs we enter into the burden of the Spirit. Then when we think ten minutes has gone by, we look at our watch and it has been an hour.
We get carried away in prayer. As we continue to pray every day we begin to look forward to our time with the Lord as the most enjoyable period of the day. This is because we are not just saying prayers, we are interacting with the Lord Jesus.
Every once in a while He shows us the most marvelous things. Before I became a pastor I used to teach Sunday school in a large Assembly of God church. Instead of showing up ten minutes before the class, I used to get to the church while it still was dark so I had two or three hours to pray before the class began. Such a marvelous, enjoyable time!
On one occasion I had a sort of vision of the coming of the Lord. I saw the graves open, and finally, after a time of fellowship, the great congregation of people rose into the air, slowly and grandly.
At another time the Lord explained to me the eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation, that the two witnesses were Christ and His Body. The dead bodies lying in the street are the Christian institutions without the Spirit of God.
In a third instance I asked the Lord what it means in Second Thessalonians when it speaks of something being taken out of the way so Antichrist could be revealed. The Lord showed me just as clear as day that the reference was to the preceding verses that spoke about the great falling away. When the great rebellion against authority takes place, then that which is hindering Antichrist will have been removed and the man of sin will be revealed.
You can tell from the above that I look forward to my daily time of prayer. I never know what marvel I am going to be shown. Of course, there are many times that I just pray faithfully. But there always is that sense of the Lord’s approval and guidance.
And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28,29)
Here is one of the major statements of the New Testament. I suppose almost every Christian knows Romans 8:28—all things work together for good to those who love God. This is a nice, positive promise to read just before we take our meal.
But sometimes the idea that God has a purpose in mind for those for whom events are working for good is not always stressed.
It really is the next verse that explains Romans 8:28. God’s purpose is to change people whom God foreknew into the likeness of Jesus Christ, that Christ might be the Firstborn among many brothers.
I don’t know how many times I have heard about how all things are working for good. But I don’t believe I have heard as much as one reference to the fact that the good is that we might be changed into the moral image of Jesus Christ in order that we may be His brothers.
God is creating brothers for His Firstborn, the Lord Jesus Christ. God has permitted the unimaginable evil of world history to continue in order that Christ may have brothers. Think of it!
God knew each of these brothers from the beginning of the world. God predestined each one to be changed—not to be saved, to be changed into the inner, and finally outer, image of Christ.
Does this mean no matter how we behave we will be changed and become the brothers of Christ? No, it does not mean this. We have to always be on our guard that our crown is not taken from us. We have to add virtue to our personality in order to make our calling and election certain. In fact, we have to fight the good fight of faith, keeping our body under control at all times, lest we disqualify ourselves.
Just because you have been given a talent does not indicate you cannot lose it.
Sometimes people speak of our being predestined to be saved. I don’t believe the Scripture teaches this. God is willing that all people repent and be saved.
But we are not discussing basic salvation at this point. We are speaking of change, or moral transformation. We are referring to the members of the royal priesthood. The royal priests are chosen from the beginning of the world that they might serve God in righteousness and holiness, governing saved mankind and ensuring there are no more rebellions against the Father.
God uses many elements to change us into the image of Christ, including the body and blood of Christ; the Holy Spirit; the gifts and ministries of the Body of Christ; the written Word; and the circumstances through which the Spirit leads us.
We are changed line upon line, command upon command, a little here and a little there until our natural man stumbles, falls backward, and we are captured by the Spirit of God.
The change occurs as we enter water to the ankles, water to the knees, water to the waist, and finally water to swim in. The Kingdom of God is as the smallest of seeds but it grows into a huge tree.
Perhaps the most important of all the works of redemption at the present time is the changing of God’s saints into the image of Christ. For until we have been transformed in our inward nature, our sinful nature being destroyed, Christ having been formed in us, we cannot appear with Christ. We cannot appear with Christ until He has become our Life.
Until the sons of God appear with Christ mankind will languish in the chains of corruption. There can be no correcting of the evil in the world until Christ appears; and Christ cannot appear until those who have been chosen to appear with Him have been made ready.
I think today there is a general feeling among Christians that God is about to do something dramatic. I would not be surprised if soon a mighty outpouring of the Spirit of God falls upon us, with multitudes being saved, healed, and filled with the Spirit. May God grant such a gracious visitation.
But you know, there is something even more important than that. It is that God raise up teachers who can lead his people through moral transformation until they attain to the stature of the fullness of Christ. Can you see the reason for this?
Revivals come and revivals go. There have been some wonderful outpourings of the Holy Spirit during the past 100 years. But today there is a great deal of immaturity and sinful behavior in the churches.
So an outpouring of God’s Spirit, as much as this is needed, will not accomplish what must be accomplished if Christ is to return. We must have people whom God sends forth to bring the believers to maturity in Christ.
I understand the work of evangelism is always needed. But we must keep in mind that spiritual babies are no threat to the kingdom of Satan. Until the babies are brought up to maturity in Christ we will wait in vain for the Lord. Or if He does return, the babies will be of no use in the work of installing the Kingdom of God on the earth. In this case, they will not be transformed when the Lord comes nor will they be caught up to meet Him in the air.
We don’t want this to happen, so we need to pray that the Lord will send workers into the harvest—workers who can bring the wheat to maturity in righteousness and in the knowledge of the Lord.
And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:30)
Remember, this verse is referring to the previous. We are not speaking about people being predestined to be saved, but people being predestined to be changed into the image of Christ and become His brothers.
Predestination, calling, justification, and glorification are sovereign works of God. They apply to each member of the royal priesthood. However, there are passages in the New Testament that reveal clearly the critical role our behavior plays in the sovereign actions of God.
Paul, addressing the members of the royal priesthood, states that those who yield to the sinful nature shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. He said also that they shall reap destruction.
Jesus warned that if we put our hand to the plow and look back we are not worthy of the Kingdom of God.
Peter speaks of the need to make our calling and election certain.
Revelation alerts us to the need to guard our crown.
Jesus announced that it is those who endure to the end who are saved.
The Book of Hebrews contains several warnings to those whom God has called. The thesis of Hebrews is that if we do not press forward into the rest of God, in untroubled rest in the center of God’s Person and will, we shall die in the wilderness.
Jude reminds us that some of those whom the Lord led out of Egypt, a type of the removal of the priesthood from the world, were destroyed by the Lord because of their unbelief.
The current apathetic, somewhat fatalistic attitude of numerous believers in America, the idea that somehow, somewhere, everything will turn out fine, is not supported by the Scriptures. Unless God takes extraordinary measures, countless thousands if not millions of Christian believer in America are going to be disappointed when they die—and especially in the Day of Resurrection.
Or else the Bible is not God’s inerrant Word!
Yes we have been predestined. Yes we have been called. Yes we have been justified. But whether we finally are glorified depends on how we run the race; how we fight the good fight. Paul told of his concern about finally being disqualified.
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
The above is one of numerous passages throughout the Bible that assure us if we place our trust in the Lord we shall succeed; we shall be kept from all real harm and brought forward to the new world of righteousness. No evil person or spirit can possibly harm us if we are a follower of that which is good.
The problem today is not that we have been given too many verses of assurance; it is that we have not been given enough of the verses that warn us of carelessness in the things of God. The entire Book of Hebrews is a warning to experienced saints of the danger of not continuing to press forward in Christ to the end of their life.
Why do so many American preachers rush forward to assure the believers that they are fine, even though many of them are not meeting the standards outline by Christ and His Apostles? In fact, I read one commentator who noted that the thesis of the Book of First John was one of assurance for the believer. First John! I guess the commentator never read the epistle—the statements that if we continue to sin we are of the devil.
Also we have those who are toying with the Greek language in order to prove the warnings of the Book of Hebrews are directed toward those who never were true Christians.
It is the way of the American advertiser to oversell a product, making claims for his item that do not hold up under actual use. The same is true of many American evangelists, the writers of Christian books, and sometimes pastors. If we will only do what they say we will be prosperous on the earth and warmly received among the saints in glory when we die. “How to get to Heaven without really trying.” How to accomplish what one desires without making much of an effort appeals to the American mind.
It is a fact that the Lord always will take care of those who trust Him. We can be assured of the keeping power of God. But the Bible is filled with accounts of how necessary it is that we do our part. Today’s spirit of apathy, of lukewarmness, is the very thing Christ and the Apostles warned us against.
In fact, the current Christian teaching in America, in numerous instances, is far, far below the standard of discipleship required by the New Testament. A false witness of God is being borne. God is not the great Santa Claus in the sky. God is not a human being. He is a Spirit who requires blood in order to be appeased. The Spirit of God is not sentimental, not sympathetic. He demands that we cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. The Spirit of God is not impressed with “how hard it is.” He is ready to help, but He is not impressed with our whining and shrinking back from that which does not immediately bring us fun.
We Christians in America need to wake up and ask God for a report card. It reminds one of the time the Book of the Law was found among the rubbish in the Temple. The Israelites from the king downward had no idea of the wrath that was at hand. Even though the king repented it was too late. Israel was invaded and led away captive. Yet prior to the finding of the Book of the Law, the Israelites were going about under the impression God was pleased with them.
It is this way today. Millions of American Christians are going about under the impression God is pleased with them. This is because we are teaching our traditions rather than the Word of God. There are many warnings in the New Testament concerning our need to press forward in Christ; of the consequences for not bearing our cross patiently after Christ.
It is time for us, as I said, to ask God for a report card. Perhaps Divine judgment is about to fall on our beloved country.
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
There is a verse I like that tells how all things belong to those who are part of Christ.
So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, And you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. (I Corinthians 3:21-23)
The reason God deals so severely with the members of the royal priesthood is that we are apt to put ourselves under subjection to idols. We should not do this, you know. Christ is under God and we are under Christ and everything else is under us. When we permit other things, circumstances, or relationships to become too important to us we bring ourselves into bondage.
We can be in bondage to a boyfriend, or girlfriend, or wife, or husband, or children. We have to keep asking ourselves: “Which is the more important to me, this individual or the Lord Jesus.”
Are we tormented with the thought that God might ask us to give up this person, as in the case of Abraham and Isaac? What would our response be if God took the individual? If we would be in abject despair, or even angry with God, we know we are worshiping an individual.
Suppose we have a artistic talent or gymnastic skill that requires us to practice several hours a day. What if God told us to stop developing this ability? Would this cause us great consternation and grief? It probably is an idol.
Many Americans worship money. Suppose, as in the case of the rich young ruler of the New Testament, the Lord told you to give your money to the poor and to trust Him for you material needs. Could you obey, or would you turn away from the Lord as did the young man?
Let us say you were one year from qualifying for your retirement income and the Lord told you to leave your job and serve Him full-time? Could you do it, or would you insist on finishing out your retirement obligations so you would have an income and would not have to trust the Lord for your needs while you were ministering the Gospel?
Suppose the Lord told you to sell your house and all your furniture and move to an impoverished country to establish a work of God there. Would your heart rejoice over the opportunity to serve the Lord and gather fruit for His table, or would you weep and complain over leaving your grandchildren and your new hutch with all the chinaware has been handed down for three generations?
“Oh, but God would never require that of me!”
Your ability to respond to the Lord when He appears will depend on your prior willingness to put everything in God’s hands. Suppose you were downtown and your children were home with a babysitter, and the Lord appeared suddenly and you could feel yourself passing from mortality to immortality. Could you press through to total resurrection victory, or would your concern for your home and children rob you of the faith required for translation?
Remember Lot’s wife!
If any of what I have just written causes you concern rather than to rejoice, you probably have an idol or two. You will be wise if you ask the Lord right now to deliver you from this bondage.
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. (Romans 8:33)
We understand from the Book of Revelation that Satan continually is accusing us before the Throne of God. We know also from the Book of Hebrews that Christ always lives to intercede for us.
So it is not that the saints are never accused. They are—continually. But when they are trusting in the blood of the Lamb, the testimony of their life and ministry is in line with the Bible, and they have set aside their own life that they might live by the Life of Christ, then God justifies us.
As long as we are doing God’s will to the best of our knowledge, God justifies us and no charge brought against us will stand.
But if Satan can deceive us into sinning willfully, then God has to punish us in order to keep us from being condemned along with the world.
Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)
Christ Jesus is the Judge of the world. The Father has given all authority of judgment to Him.
He who is the Judge is alive and at the right hand of God. He is praying to the Father on our behalf. Christ knows from the Spirit what God’s will for us is and prays accordingly.
This does not mean, as is taught commonly in America, that when we sin God does not see our sin because He sees us through Christ. God knows when we sin and when we make righteous choices.
Christ does not ask God to bless us while we sin. Rather on the basis of the blood He shed on the cross for us, Christ asks the Father to be patient with us and forgive us. Then Christ sets about to teach us what we are doing that is against God’s Nature and how to better please God.
It reminds us of the worker who asked the owner of the orchard to give him time to work with a tree that has not been bearing fruit.
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9)
God the Father is the owner of the fig tree. Jesus Christ is the Man who took care of the orchard. We are the fig tree.
Christ intercedes for us that He might have more time to help us bear the fruit of His image in ourselves and in others.
But notice—if after all the Lord’s work with us we still are bearing the fruit of the sinful nature instead of the fruit of Christ’s Nature, then God’s command is to cut it down.
This is an example of the kind of warning found throughout the New Testament. These warnings are not being emphasized in our day, as I see it.
I asked the Lord years ago to explain to me the current stress on “positive preaching.” The Lord said, “Whoever preaches only what is negative is emotionally ill. Whoever preaches only what is positive is seeking his own glory.”
Then the Lord showed me instances in the Bible in which both the positive and the negative are emphasized, such as the blessings on Mount Gerizim and the curses on Mount Ebal.
Verses thirty-five, thirty-six.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Romans 8:35,36)
Again we have the assurance that when we are trusting Christ there is no power in the spirit realm or on the earth that can separate us from Him. Christ always sits as King of the flood. No matter what tumult we are facing, Christ has the power to keep us from harm. This is an absolute protection.
Sometimes Christian people are superstitious. They talk about houses that have evil spirits in them; or people with owls or frogs on their towels. They peep and mutter like so many wizards.
Do you remember what took place when the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the temple of Dagon? It was Dagon that was in trouble, not the Ark.
On one occasion a lady in the church told me that a spirit appeared to her in the middle of the night and threatened: “You have been listening to rock music!” Since she never had listened to rock music in her life, she realized the demon had entered the wrong house. I thought that was funny.
So we have no reason to fear the forces of darkness as long as we are living by the Life of Christ.
The Apostle Paul had experienced trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and the sword. Actually, such is the normal Christian life, as we see from a study of Christian history. Even today in some parts of the world Christian believers are experiencing these pains and problems.
Satan’s tactic in the United States has been to overcome the believers with friendliness. This tactic seems to be more successful than the trouble, hardship, or persecution. Hardship and danger often drive the believers closer to God. But when they are comfortable they become spiritually lazy.
There has been so much unscriptural teaching about how we all are to be prosperous, how God is going to “rapture” us out of trouble, that we have an incorrect perception of the true Christian discipleship.
Right now in America our problem is the abundance of sin and material wealth. In the future the problem may be trouble, hardship, persecution, famines, nakedness, and the sword. Will we be able to stand.
Those who are teaching that God loves us so much that He will not permit us to suffer (as have the Christians of every age) are false prophets. They are leaving the believers unprepared for the age of physical and moral horrors we are approaching.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)
Someone who is more than a conqueror is able to defeat the enemy handily.
I know God is going to make a final end of sin. This means we will be able to not only defeat the enemy but to crush him until he no longer is able to harm us.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. (Romans 16:20)
We do not have to cower or tremble for fear of what Satan can do. The angel of the Lord camps around those who fear God and delivers them. Satan knows this, and so he seeks to deceive us into stepping outside of the Lord’s protection. When we are not walking in the Light of God’s perfect will we are vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks.
Our problem is not with Satan, or the Great Tribulation, or the Antichrist, or the False Prophet. Our problem is with the Lord. He is the One with the power.
If we please Jesus Christ, then there is no power in the heavens, on the earth, or in the dark regions under the earth’s surface, that can in any manner harm us. Let us cease worrying about how we need to escape Antichrist and the Great Tribulation.
When the Lord Jesus appears He is going to raise the dead saints and immortalize the living saints. Since this is scriptural, it is foolishness to speak of how we need to be raptured away so we cannot be harmed by Antichrist or the Great Tribulation. The truth is, once we have been raised from the dead, or immortalized if we still are living at the time, Antichrist has far more to fear from us than we do from him. And how can the Great Tribulation harm a saint who has been resurrected or immortalized?
We always are more than conquerors when we are abiding in Christ, though we are living where the seat of Satan is. In Christ we have the power over darkness. Our problem is not the darkness, it is that of remaining in Christ without being distracted by Satan’s efforts.
Verses thirty-eight, thirty-nine.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38,39)
Not death or life.
Not angels or demons.
Not the present or the future.
Not any powers.
Not height or depth.
Nor anything else in all of God’s creation.
That pretty well covers all possible enemies and dangers, doesn’t it?
Jesus told us no one can remove us from God’s hand.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:28,29)
God gave us to the Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever would seek our destruction finds that we are in God’s hand. There is no power as great as God. There is no angel or other lord of the spirit realm who is as great as the Father. Therefore nothing can harm us as long as we are walking in the Light of God’s Presence and will.
We have seen, then, in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, Paul’s explanation of what is included when we take leave of the Law of Moses and come under the law of the Spirit of life in Christ.
It seems to me that the common understanding of the transition from the Law of Moses to the grace that comes through Jesus Christ is that whereas before people had to keep the commandments that were given through Moses, if they were to have God’s approval, now when we say we believe in Christ all our sins are forgiven; and when we die we will go to Heaven to live forever in peace and joy.
The commandments and exhortations by the Lord and His Apostles are viewed as God’s way of showing us we cannot possibly please Him and must be saved (go to Heaven) by his mercy and grace alone. We ought to try to do good, but whether we do or not, we will be saved by mercy and grace.
Am I correct? Is this fairly close to what is taught? If it is, what we are being taught is not scriptural. It will not result in holy people who glorify God by their behavior.
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (I Peter 2:11,12)
If we have been taught that the only purpose of the New Testament commandments and exhortations is to show us our need of a Savior, and we are not expected to obey them, then we have been terribly deceived. This deception has come from Satan who understands that God will not approve of us when His commandments are not being kept.
The difference between the Law of Moses and the new covenant is not that the commandments are different. Unless I am mistaken, every one of the Ten Commandments can be found in the New Testament, although the Sabbath injunction has been expanded to include our whole life. We always are to be pleasing God and seeking His will throughout each day and each night, instead of just on Saturday.
The difference between the Law of Moses and the new covenant is not that now we do not have to do what is written. What Christ said and what the Apostles wrote are to be obeyed.
The principal differences between the Law of Moses and the new covenant are twofold. First, under the new covenant our sin-offering is the Son of God Himself rather than an animal. Second, under the new covenant the Spirit of God writes the eternal moral law of God on our mind and heart, rather than inspiring a man to write an abbreviated form of the moral law of God on tables of stone.
As we have seen, while examining the thirty-nine verses of Chapter Eight of the Book of Romans, the emphasis is on the Spirit of God. It is the Spirit of God whom we are to obey. It is the Spirit of God who is to fill our mind. It is the Spirit of God who is the Life, Wisdom, and Power of the new covenant.
It is the Spirit of God who enables us to put to death the actions of our sinful nature. It is the Spirit of God who will redeem our mortal body by filling it with incorruptible resurrection life.
It is the Spirit of God who will accompany Christ and those who appear with Him, installing the Kingdom of God on the earth and setting free the prisoners of the earth by filling them with Himself.
We no longer are to look to the scroll of the Law to find righteousness. Once we place our trust in Jesus Christ we are without condemnation.
From this point forward we are to look to the Lord at all times, obeying Him that we might be filled with the Spirit of God. Now we begin to realize that God is entering a relationship with us as our Father, rather than as the dread Sovereign who sent thunder and lightning, sounded the trumpet, and shook the mountain, covering it with fire and smoke.
When we walk in the Spirit of God we have nothing to fear. There is no power anywhere that can harm us. We are more than conquerors through Christ.
Before the Holy Spirit has concluded His work there shall be a new world of righteousness. All sin will be gone, the very memory of the wicked spirits having been banished from the earth.
Let each one of us be careful obey the law of the Spirit of life so we will be able to participate in the work of bringing the will and Presence of God to all people everywhere.
(“Romans, Chapter Eight”, 4025-1)