Forgiveness and Liberty

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I WOULD, for a few moments, draw the attention of brethren in Christ to a point, as to which I think there has been a good deal of misapprehension in practice, and which, while the joy of known forgiveness seemed to make all plain for a time, has left souls subsequently in distress and difficulty, even when not doubting of their acceptance, though it has sometimes come to that. Forgiveness is not deliverance, and they have been a good deal confounded. It is a very common experience, when a person has found peace through the blood of Christ, that the pardoned and justified soul, filled with joy and gladness to find its sins gone, the conscience purged, the sense of divine goodness filling it, thinks that it has done with sin because it is at the time full of joy, and the Lord's goodness and favor; but this is not deliverance.
It is deliverance from the burden of sin upon the conscience, but ere long the soul is surprised to find sin still there; yet this deliverance from the sense of guilt, received forgiveness, has very often been taken for the setting free the soul, as in a new position before God. This it is not. It is freedom, compared with the bondage of uncertainty of acceptance in which souls are attempted to be kept. The question of sin in the flesh is yet unsolved. I do not speak of perfection, so-called, which has missed all sound discernment as to the state and hope of the Christian, and invariably lowers the Christian standard of holiness and the judgment of sin, tending to harden the conscience, and lower the state of soul before God. There is no perfection, no goal, for the Christian, but being like Christ glorified Himself. But pardon, in its fullest sense is rarely known by the soul that is happy in the way that I have just spoken of, which only knows the deliverance of the conscience from the burden of sins actually lying on it, and thinks of none else: but even in its fullest conception, that of not imputing sin, forgiveness applies to the sins of which the flesh, the old man, is the source, clears the conscience, but the fruit of Adam life is all that is contemplated by it. It deals with what man has done, as a fallen child of Adam. It leads to the knowledge of divine favor, and, I may add, the hope of glory as revealed in Christ. But, while thus knowing God in His ways of grace, and so far completing my sense of grace, self-knowledge, and the consciousness of a new position in Christ before God, are not yet acquired. That we have sinned, and are guilty, and deserve condemnation, is in such a case fully acknowledged. What we are in the flesh, and what we are in Christ is not yet experimentally known. Hence the soul does not stand in its new position before God, is not delivered, is not freed from confounding the old man and my place before God, nor from the power of sin.
Deliverance has a double character; perfect freedom with God in love in my place before Him; and freedom from the power of sin in myself. We are in Christ for the former; Christ is in us for the latter. We are no longer in the position of the first Adam. Though outwardly in the world, and the flesh unchanged, we say, " When we were in the flesh." Then the motions of sins which were by the law wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. This new position, and the consciousness of it, flows from the Holy Ghost dwelling in us, while he refers us to Christ's work as the ground of it. I do not now say simply, He bore my sins, and cleared me forever from them, but, I am in Christ before God, accepted in the Beloved, not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. I am not in the condition of a child of Adam, responsible before God, and thinking of my condition in His sight in connection with my conscious state; I have died to that as wholly and hopelessly evil, and know by the Holy Ghost that I am in a new standing altogether, in Christ, accepted in the Beloved. I am not in the flesh but in the Spirit. Christ has died to sin, and I have died in Him, and He is my life; I am alive to God in this new life in Christ before Him, and reckon myself so by the Holy Ghost. My place is in the second Adam, not in the first. Not only my sins are forgiven me, but I have died out of the place and nature in which I was guilty by its deeds before God, and the second Adam is become my life; I am alive in Him to God. Of this the Holy Ghost gives me the consciousness. There is no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus. You must condemn Christ glorified, before you can condemn me.
Let us see how this is. I may have learned forgiveness clearly, or I may not. But if I trust in the work of Christ for my forgiveness, as well as in His Person-for it is a present, effectual, and finished work-I am thereupon sealed with the Holy Ghost. After having believed the gospel of my salvation, I am sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Here is a new position altogether: " He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit." I have the place of son by faith in Christ Jesus, who is risen; and because I am one, God has given me the Spirit of His Son in my heart, crying, Abba, Father. I know my relationship, and live in it, not in Adam's. But, further (John 14), " I know that I am in Christ, and Christ in me "; I have changed my place before God altogether, and am in a new one-Christ's who has died, and is risen again. I reckon myself dead to sin; the old man has been crucified with Christ, that I should not serve it. And I am free-" Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty," not elsewhere. I am not in the flesh, but in the Spirit-not if I am converted, but, if the Spirit of God dwells in me. I know I am in Christ, and Christ is past sin, the judgment of it, death, Satan's power. That is my standing and place before God. Death is gain, if it comes, for the body is not, as to power, redeemed-we wait for it. But I reckon myself dead to sin, my old man crucified with Christ. I am before God in Him who is glorified-in Christ. This is the doctrine presented by the apostle.
We have owned in our very profession of Christ that we were away from God in the flesh, but have taken our part in Christ's death as a Savior, in order to be with God; and as He died to sin once, so we thus reckon ourselves dead to sin, and alive to God, in Him who is our life, in the power of the Spirit. The result is in Rom. 8, where we enjoy the life in liberty, according to the power in which He lives, and as dead to the sin which was condemned in His death on the cross. We are in Him now. The manner of it is that the sin which held me captive, and distressed me, as a renewed person, was condemned in Him on the cross (v. 3), so that there is no condemnation by reason of it for me. But this was in His death, and it is as though I had been there, as He was there made sin for me, and thus the condemnation is past and finished. But then, as to the flesh, sin in the flesh, I died; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. Thus for faith I am delivered from sin in the flesh, as having died in Christ, in that Christ has, who is my life. It is not resurrection with Him-that carries us further-but death in Him on the cross as to the old man and state, and He now at the right hand of God, my life. Such is the doctrine and effect. Christ, who died, my life, and I in Him, in the power of the Holy Ghost, and through that dead to sin altogether, He having thus died, and the sin in my flesh condemned there, but for faith I died to it, for I died in Him. The condemnation He took, but it was in death, so that I reckon myself dead to sin in His death, and He is now my life, Christ in me, the only thing I own, and that by the Holy Ghost, as consciousness and power.
I am no longer in the flesh. My Adam place is no longer my place and standing before God. The flesh is there, but I am not in it, but in Christ, or not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, because the Spirit of God dwells in me. My place is thus summed up in Rom. 8 " There is therefore now no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus: for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death; for what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." The sin in my flesh has been condemned, fully dealt with, in the cross. And afterward, " But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you "; but " if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his; and if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, and the Spirit is life because of righteousness."
But when I speak of Christ my life, and Christ being in me, the body dead because of sin, its only fruit if alive in its own life, I do not speak of a work done wholly outside me, finished, and accepted of God, so that sin can be no more imputed; but of one which, though really and effectually done for me on one side, or it would be legal efforts, and the spirit of bondage again to fear, as it is in so many, is at the same time realized in me, so as to be experimental. If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin. I reckon myself dead. In a word, experience comes in. Hence, while chapters 6 and 8 give me the ground of faith in what Christ has done, teaching me to reckon myself dead, and alive to God in Christ, because Christ has died, and has been raised from the dead, between this, so far as developed in chapter 6, and the enjoyed effect in chapter 8, we find introduced the painful experience of that from which we have to be delivered.
The delivering work was done on the cross, so that our state, by faith in Christ, is dead to sin, and morally, as to the life this side the cross, in which He, sinless, had to be made it, wholly closed, and alive now wholly beyond it all, with nothing but God to live to; and this, not by our efforts, but by faith through grace; yet, as conviction of guilt goes before known forgiveness, so the experimental knowledge of self before deliverance. No effort clears the guilt; no effort effects the deliverance; but there is the knowledge of self, and that we cannot get free by improvement or victory, as there is the knowledge of the guilt which is pardoned; only here it is self-knowledge and present experience.
Of this the law is ever the instrument; if we have learned forgiveness already, the form is modified, takes the shape of hoping we have not deceived ourselves, and the like; but it is always a comparison of our state, and what God requires, and that is law; very useful for the discovery of our state, but bondage. I repeat, as it is important, wherever we reason from our state to what God's acceptance of us may be, that is, in principle, law just as the prodigal son between his conversion and meeting his father. It calls itself holiness, will insist that without holiness no man shall see the Lord, which is necessarily and eternally true, but mixes it with God's acceptance of us, connecting this and our state, so that it is really righteousness, not holiness, that the mind is occupied with: for in holiness we hate evil because it is unholy, not because we are out of divine favor by it; but, whatever shape it takes, it is always really law, a question of evil that makes us unacceptable to God.
Now the doctrine is that we have died in Christ. The law supposes living, responsible men, as, of course, as children of Adam we are. The law has power over a man as long as he lives. Dead, it cannot deal with him as a present responsible person. I cannot accuse a dead man, as a present thing, of evil lusts and self-will. The apostle puts the case of the marriage relationship; death dissolves it, and leaves the person free; we have died under law, but so are dead to law, and now are married to another, a risen Christ, who is, as man, put in a wholly new place, after the question of sin is settled, and then gives the experience of the soul under the first husband, the law, not now as to guilt, but as to the power of sin dwelling in us. Here I learn that in me (it is not what I have done) dwells no good thing; the flesh is simply and always bad. Secondly; it is not myself, being born of God, for I hate it, it is not therefore I. This is often a great relief, though it be not deliverance; but thirdly, though it be not I, it is too strong for me: I am captive to it. All my efforts only prove this to me. As effort and conflict, I give it up as hopeless, and look for another to come in and deliver me. I have learned that I have no strength (not that I am guilty), and that is what I had to learn, the lesson God was teaching me; and when brought there I find it is all done. I am not in the flesh at all, the condemnation of the flesh which tormented me was accomplished on the cross, and I am in Him who is risen and is on high after all was done; and founded on this, I have life, and power, and liberty by the Holy Ghost, by which I am in Him who is risen and know it. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death, and the sin in my flesh has been condemned in the cross, on which I died with Christ. I am not in the flesh; that, be it what it may, is not my standing before God, but in the Spirit, accepted in, and as Christ is, boldness for the day of judgment, because as He is, so are we in this world.
The effects of this are of all importance in many ways. First, the soul is happy, has the Spirit of adoption, liberty in love before God. Secondly, the staff and strength of self is broken. There may be the truest purpose of heart and yet unsuspected and unbroken self, as when Moses killed the Egyptian. And an experienced Christian will soon see the difference. Many do mischief in the church through this. With self we have ever to contend, ever to judge it, but self confidence is another thing, there is not then the waiting upon God which characterizes the exercised soul which knows itself. Only I would add, we may find self-judgment, when not delivered, and only on the way to it, but then confidence in God will be wanting.
Further, the whole character of worship is affected. Where mere forgiveness is known, the ground of it is only deliverance from guilt and ruin; true, but a witness that our conversation is not in heaven, what we were as guilty sinners, rests still on the spirit. Now I believe that the wonders of the grace that redeemed us, and the value of Christ's precious blood, will be more felt in heaven than here, but we shall enjoy what is actually there, not be thinking habitually of where we were. But our conversation is in heaven now, our living relationships for the new man; we belong to it, are in Christ; our affections are to be set upon things above, developed in connection with what is there; the Holy Ghost gives us to know the things freely given to us of God.
And this will affect every part of the Christian's inward life, and his more outward life and service. Hundreds will be found who have found peace in forgiveness, but not deliverance as taught in the word. I add, as it is sometimes a difficulty, that the two parts of Romans must be read not as in necessary sequence, as to their contents. The first, chapters 1-5: 11, treats of personal guilt, and grace that meets it. The second, chap. 5: 12 to chap. 8: 39, our state through Adam's sin, and the remedy for that.
I would add, as a further help, that if there is heart indifference, or even sloth, it is not surprising that we do not find deliverance, or if there is a walk contrary to the mind of the Spirit, or what a Christian should seek, deliverance by the power of the Spirit is hardly to be looked for. But further, if a person who has found deliverance is so walking, though the soul may not get back into uncertainty as to its standing, or return into a state of Rom. 7, yet the Spirit which is the power of this new state, being ever grieved, and so communion with the Father and the Son lost, though not the knowledge of the relationship, the affections not being filled with what belongs to this new position-all is confusion and obscurity in the soul. One is a child, but where is my father? I belong to heaven, but where for me is the heaven I belong to? What I know of both serves but to make me sensible of my actual loss of them. Hence, though it is not subjectively a question whether I am a son, it is objectively a failure of what a son enjoys, so that darkness is on the spirit. I hardly know whether I can call myself so, though I do not doubt it. For this the only remedy is humiliation, and drawing near to the Lord, and giving up the hindering idol.
In dealing with the souls of others, the first point is to discern whether the soul is really delivered, or if it be negligence when it has understood its position in Christ before God. This is a matter of spiritual discernment. Where there is a legal and self-judging temperament, it is not always so easy. And we must remember that there are many true souls who do cry, Abba Father, with God, but through bad teaching are afraid to take their place in acceptance; these we must seek to make clear by the word.