Liberty in Christ

Romans 6  •  19 min. read  •  grade level: 5
Romans 6
The principle of the chapter has been on my mind a good deal latterly, and the Lord in it, I believe. I do not think, beloved brethren, that we always get thoroughly hold of the place of liberty in which Christ has set us, and that as being brought to God. It is said, Yield your members slaves to righteousness, yet that into which the apostle soon turns the expression is, slaves not to righteousness but to God. Because if I speak of walking righteously, I speak really of walking with God. What is said of Christ is this, "In that he liveth he liveth unto God." He had no other life. So with the Christian. I am alive to God. The life that I have got cannot be anything else. It is not living to righteousness, and looking to God as something to come to, after righteousness is attained. There is something legal in the spirit when that is the form of our thoughts. If I yield my members they are merely instruments: my life goes to God, and my members are instruments of righteousness to do whatever He pleases. There is no other righteousness than doing everything to God and as obedient to Him. If I did always what was in itself right, I should still never do that which was right, because it is not enough to do what is right. I must not only do what is right; I must be obedient; I must own God. This is not a mere question of words; it is a question of being with God or without God. Because the principle of what I do then is His will. The life to God will be one of righteousness. Why? Because the spring is in God. This says a great deal for our condition. He died the just for the unjust to bring us to God, not merely to righteousness. There is an immense difference in the effect. Instead of legality there will be lowliness of heart, and delightful and blessed affections.
The effect of being brought to God is that my home is in God's presence. I am born in the house and belong to the house. As a child of Adam I am in this world it is true, but this life is that eternal life that was manifested unto us. I am crucified with Christ, and now it is Christ who liveth in me. He did not get His life from this world. The first Adam belonged to this world, but Christ says, "I am not of this world," and "they are not of this world as I am not." The moment I have divine life and understand where it is-in Christ-I see it is not of this world. Christ did not get His life from this world. He was born in it as a man, but His life was not from it. So we are connected with Him, having the life from where He is. We are not of the world, even as He is not of the world. We belong to another place as our home, because we have got our life from it. We began with something else, it is true; "for that which is born of the flesh is flesh," and the flesh lusteth against the Spirit; but then there is the thing to lust against.
This sets us in perfect liberty before God, so that we can begin from God, and act for Him in the world. And what a difference there is between saving to work my way to God, and being born of God. Being born of God, we go out into the world, and act in the world as belonging to His family. Our starting point is from Him. Our home, as Christians, is with God, and we are sent into the world. As natural men, we are not sent into the world, but as Christians we are sent into it, even as Christ was sent into it. When Christ was sent into the world we all understand He belonged to another place, and came here to be a witness of it. Well, that is what a Christian is. He is sent into the world to bear the name and character of His family in the world and before it. The difficulty with us is, that we do not begin there. We begin with flesh, and the being born of God does not for our minds take us out of it in faith. There is the hitch, practically, with many. Because when I am simply born of God, (I speak of it now as a work distinct from the full knowledge of Christ,) when I am quickened, the thought is, I will arise and go to my Father. When the prodigal said that, he had no best robe yet. He could not talk of a home there. He did not know if he had one yet. He speaks of being a hired servant. There was no known and established relationship with God-no sense of belonging to the house at that time, and yet he was quickened, and set out on his journey. When quickened, the soul gets the sense of the holiness of God. It sees that God has some love so that hope is awakened in it. But it also sees that God is righteous, and that we must be righteous. He is holy, and we must be like Him to be with Him. These truths are brought home to the soul in virtue of being quickened. Well, but I have not got these things; I am not got into God's house in these rags, and yet I have nothing else. The rags are our sins, and sins do not suit God's house. That person does not yet know his Father's house as a home. God did, it is true, for him, but as regards his knowledge and real state, his soul has not got the condition in which he could enter the house as a hired servant, even though he had the nature that put him on the road. Though the nature belongs to the house, yet it leaves us under the sense that we are responsible-that we must be something-which is quite true: but we are not what we feel we must be. Until we know the fullness of the gospel, we compare our condition with our responsibilities, (which are a real thing,) and cannot have peace; and so long as I am looking at them, the fact of being born again enables me to judge better of what is required, but really leaves me, as to righteousness for God, where I was. The, soul that is in that condition is really under law. It is in the flesh. It is standing before God, and thinking of its responsibilities as a child of Adam, and how it can meet these before God. And the effect of being born again is to give a sense of being in flesh, and that is dreadful, whereas before there was no thought about it at all. Now I am looking with the eyes of the new man at my responsibilities in the old man. There is where Christians get distracted and perplexed. It is very useful to convict of sin, and make us feel our need.
What is not realized in this state is death. I have got the new life, but I have not got to death. I have not got to Christ's work for me, which is another thing than being born again. I cannot say flesh is dead and gone. Where do I find this blessing? In Connection with Christ. Death in Christ? Yes. God visits the sinner in Christ in the place in which he is. The Shepherd goes out to seek the lost sheep, and the woman her lost money it is grace. Love is manifested, the love of God in it, the heart cheered, and when it thinks of nothing else, perhaps joyful. But when conscience is awakened, we need more than that. When the soul is at peace, nothing indeed has such power on the heart as the graciousness of Christ. What unwearied love! Going through all the contradiction of sinners against Himself. Nothing, so engages the affections of the believer as the life of Christ, but it does not heal his conscience. If he sees it before he has peace, he says, It is the very thing that makes me miserable. He says, My heart is not worthy of all that love; I find no answer in my heart to such perfect and gracious love. And he is right, for when Christ was in all that love in the world, they killed Him. Even with these new affections and desires, you are perfectly right in so judging; for if you look at Christ, your heart does not answer to Him. In truth, the complaint of not loving Christ is the proof of loving Him. If I say I do not love my Father enough, it is a proof of my sense of the claim my Father's love has on me. But this does not heal the conscience.
The truth is as regards man, no goodness as to God found an answer from him. If grace had closed with Christ's coming into the world, it would have been the absolute condemnation of everybody. For His love He had hatred. " Wherefore when I came was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer?" And again, " No man receiveth His testimony." There is the real condition of man. It is not merely that he is guilty by nature and guilty under law, but he has rejected the mercy that has come to him in his guilt. Looked at as under probation, it is a told tale. The whole tale is told in Christ's rejection. Therefore Christ said, " Now is the judgment of this world." "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone." As much as to say, that any connection with Christ as a man on the earth was impossible. The hour is come; I am going to have the heathen; but if so, I must die. It is the death of Christ that wrote the judgment of God on the condition of every human being. If any had received Him, something would have been found in man's heart. Therefore He says, "Now is the judgment of this world;" that is, the life of man in the flesh, the death of Christ has entirely condemned.
Death and judgment have passed upon it. But when we look at what grace was doing in it, I say that is the very thing I want. This flesh I am heartily glad to be rid of. It is entirely judged. The body is dead because of sin; that is, its only fruit is sin, but I now hold it for dead, because that is so. Then I find Christ coming into this death in which I am. He takes the charge and responsibility of this sin, proving what man was, but going there Himself in grace and obedience, it is true, while it was sin that brought us there. It was by the grace of God that He tasted death for every man. Notwithstanding. Christ's graciousness, He is alone until death comes. I cannot get a place with God until He is dead. And here, I remark, that it is this that answers the objection in the beginning of the chapter; that if it is grace abounding over sin, sin is no matter. Ah! but stop a minute. How does grace abound over sin? By abounding over the nature of sin and setting it aside. Christ charges Himself with the whole responsibilities of the condition that I am in as a natural man, and that I am so distressed about. say, I cannot get rid of it, and have done with it altogether, and leave it out of the question, for I find its power in myself. No, for it is in the question,. for you are in your soul in the flesh. But it is just for all this that Christ died, and He is risen, and it is in resurrection that we know Him now. So Paul says, " Henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more." I know Him no more after the flesh.
I have come to know that flesh is an entirely, utterly condemned thing: but what I want to know besides this is, that God has dealt with the whole thing on the cross, or Christ is dead in vain. It is closed. I get my place as a sinner there. I meet Him there; that is, I am dead to sin, being in Christ, who, in that he died, died unto sin. "What shall we say then? shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?" This is not a state of feeling, but our place before God; "we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." Our old man is crucified with Him. That is true of all Christians; "For he that is dead is freed from sin." It is not said, ought to be or must be dead, or crucified, but that is dead. The Apostle never speaks of Christ as alive in the world at all in this chapter. He is dead before we are in Him at all. It is that truth that I get hold of for freeing my soul from bondage, that the whole thing that I find out as being renewed in the spirit of my mind, is all put away before I found it out at all. That is the place we are brought into as being in Christ.
The Apostle will not own that Christians are in the flesh at all. Thousands are there, alas I in their minds. But the Apostle does not admit this to be the Christian condition. He says, "When we were in the flesh." Where was he, then, when he says, "when we were in the flesh?" Not in the flesh, of course, at all. Christ has died. I never knew Him at all till He was dead; and dying, He has put away everything that I was chargeable with before God. "He that is dead is free from sin," he is quite clear from it. He has not got the life that is chargeable to death. Christ takes a life-charges it with sin, (at least God does,) and lays it down for us, and it is all done with. He had to say to sin up to His death-He was tempted and tested in every way-but was sinless, and was then made sin. But the moment he was dead it was all done with. He was tempted, but the only effect was to bring out His love to His Father. But He died to sin once. He has settled once for all the question of sin and its responsibilities, and now He has no connection with it at all. "In that He liveth, he liveth unto God." That is what faith gets hold of. There is no question of anything reaching Him. Now you reckon yourselves that you are dead, because Christ is dead. He does not say "feel," but "reckon." I begin with Christ in death, and put myself there, sinner as I am. His death is what exactly meets my state in it vicariously. In my will and moral condition, I was the sin which He was bearing. That was I, but it is all gone. "In that he died, he died unto sin once," and where He went, I have gone in Him. Take a person in prison for a crime, and he dies in prison. What is to be done with him? All is done. The life in which he sinned is gone, and to which the punishment would have attached. You cannot find a dead Christ or a living Christ in this world. "In that he died, he died unto sin once." Now that is for us. "Reckon ye yourselves also to be dead indeed unto sin." Therefore, I say, "when I was in the flesh," that is, your standing with God is not in the first Adam at all but in Christ, because He is dead for us. He does not speak of a man's serving God until he is already set free from sin. But the life I get from God ever goes to God again, offered up to Him a living and joyful sacrifice. (See Eph. 5)
Let me add, as to that, that the conflict which we shall have in the world is now a different thing from conflict under law. You have got the knowledge of good and evil. The state of the sinner must be settled in respect of it, for we have the evil. I have a dread of the evil. I feel the difference of good and evil as desiring one and living under the power of the other. My thoughts of God only increase my distress, because I cannot come to Him. That is truth, but not the Christian's state. As redeemed and knowing Christ, I have got the good, the good, God and my soul, through grace, delights in, and from that point I judge the evil. I am the righteousness of God in Him. Well, in the possession of this good I judge the evil instead of being afraid that God will judge me on account of it. Having the living possession of the good, a life that loves the good, it is not now uncertainty before God, but I am not content with anything that does not suit my position before Him. I am in an entirely new condition. When the prodigal was perishing afar of he said, "Make me as one of thy hired servants," do you think that he would say that in his father's house? The Christian's manner of judging the condition he was in is different because he is out of that condition. To be under the power of evil with a distressed conscience, though hating the evil that overcomes us, is different from abhorring evil when delivered from it and in the presence of God. This last is holiness, the other, though with a new nature, legal misery. It is never necessary to allow the flesh, to act. When we have to do with flesh and are in communion with God about it, it has not any power. When we deal with God about it we have judged the sin in its root and it does not hinder. It does not work in me, for I have been spiritually exercised with God about it, and Christ's strength is made perfect in my weakness. In that sense we are never slaves to it. The place I am in is not in flesh; we are in Christ and He who died to sin once is alive unto God. We meet a Christ who has done for the whole thing and we are alive unto God. Blessed enjoyment to possess and delight in Him; we have the joy of the very blessedness that God Himself delights in. Brought into the house in the acceptance of Christ, righteous in Him and that in a better way than any innocence. The best robe belonged to the treasures of the house which the prodigal never had a title to by inheritance. It formed no part of what fell to his share. Innocence is not the ground of our standing before God at all. The whole old man is put away in the death and we are alive again in the resurrection of Christ. The death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus has come in between our responsibility as of the first Adam and God. IF NOT, I AM LOST. We never get that clear in reality in our souls until we are brought into the presence of God and flesh is seen to be neither more nor less than a condemned thing. Once in His presence, the result of all is this" I have sinned."
No person ever got into this and got back. I do not believe that ever a soul got free in Christ and ever got back into bondage again. A soul may have had joy and yet be always slipping back, but it never had the heart emptied out before God. When that is the case, there is no danger of going back to law. When once we have been brought in the power of God to that kind of consciousness of flesh being a condemned thing in His presence, and the heart has come to know that its only standing is in Christ, all questioning is at an end. If I have got the best robe on rue in the house, I shall not be thinking whether I am going fast or slow to get to the house. I do not believe a person that ever got out of law ever got- in again. The Galatians were in a delusion of mind, so that the Apostle stood in doubt of them as to whether they were Christians at all, because they were adding law as a perfecting of the matter, when they were free. That was not a case of souls getting into bondage through not knowing deliverance. When once this deliverance is known, the soul does not give it up. The shield of faith may be down, and the fiery darts of the enemy may reach the soul, leading it in all but despair to doubt if it ever received it. This may come in a way of judgment, as delivering to Satan, that the spirit may be saved, &c. But this is a rare case, and it is not the soul getting under law.