Man's Condition; and What Is the Remedy? Part 4

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Man being utterly ruined in himself, we have seen that all blessing must come through another. God, moreover, has been revealed as a Seeker, a Savior, a Lifegiver. It is all in Christ. The cross of Christ is the foundation of all blessing now. In it God has been glorified in His whole nature and character in the putting away of sin; and man as in the flesh has been set aside altogether, and a new man brought in in resurrection, the man Christ Jesus. In this second Man, risen and glorified, all blessing is final.
This brings in faith as the principle of blessing and of relationship with God — faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. No matter whether it be the salvation of the soul, or whether it be the Christian walk, it is by faith. We are justified by faith, saved by faith, have eternal life by faith; and we live by faith, and walk by faith. This is the principle of our whole relationship with God, in marked contrast with the principle of works under the law.
Now there are two ways by which the enemy has sought to corrupt this truth, or annul it altogether. One is by the principle of antinomianism; the other, legalism. The former says: “If you are saved by grace, through faith, and without works, then you can do as you please — give loose rein to the flesh with all its lusts and passions, provided only you believe.” The latter says: “You must be made perfect by the flesh, under the law.” It may admit and hold that you are justified by faith, but also insist on your being at least under the law as a rule of life.
Both of these systems are antagonistic to the gospel. Both give the flesh a place, an allowed standing. The one would give the flesh full liberty, and thus turn the grace of God into lasciviousness; the other would regulate the flesh by putting it under a system of commands and restraints, forgetting that the mind of the flesh is enmity against God, and not subject to the law of God, nor can be. See Romans 8:77Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Romans 8:7).
To one who has known true liberty — the liberty which the gospel gives — both of these systems are utterly repulsive. The horrible wickedness of the former must be felt by every one who has ever in truth had to do with God about sin. The latter is more subtle, but not less dangerous, and is what the Apostle Paul in Galatians calls “another gospel,” or “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:66I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: (Galatians 1:6)).
It may be said that no one could soberly hold such a doctrine as that the flesh is to be allowed full liberty. Perhaps not. But it matters little whether soberly, or otherwise, if it be held at all. No man could hold such a doctrine in the presence of God. But when man gets away from God in his soul, or has never known Him, and is given up to the foolish wanderings of his own depraved mind, who can tell what the end will be? One has heard in connection with the holiness doctrines of the present day, such a thing as that the believer may be in the enjoyment of the most blessed communion with God in the new nature, while indulging the old nature in the grossest sins. The godly soul recoils with horror from such a thought. Yet how much of this thing there has been! Who has not heard of the doctrine of Indulgences promulgated before and at the time of the Reformation, according to which, indulgence in the grossest sins was granted for so much money? It may be said, We do not live in such times. This may be true in a sense; but let it not be forgotten that the heart of man is just the same now as then, and that under the cover of a fair outward profession every kind of wickedness may go on. 2 Timothy 3:1313But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:13) is positive proof of this. And it is there added, “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”
The reader may say, “But this is not among Christians.” Very likely they are not true Christians, but at any rate they bear the Christian name. They have the form of godliness, but deny the power thereof.
And do you think the true Christian is not capable of falling into such evils? “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:1212Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)). You tell me you are a child of God, and you could not do such things; but let me ask you a plain question: Did you never yield to some sin — some temptation — with the secret feeling in your heart, “Well, I am saved anyway, and I cannot be lost,” while, if you had felt that your eternal destiny depended on that act, you would have recoiled from it with horror? Tell me now, is not this the same thing? Is not this abusing the grace of God? It may be some little thing, but it shows the principle, and shows, too, the lightness of our wretched hearts in the presence of what it cost God to put away sin. Let the sin be little or great, as man estimates it, it required the untold agonies of Jesus, the Son of God on the cross, to put it away. Oh! what grace on the part of the blessed God to give His Son to be lifted up on that cross. And how light and frivolous our poor hearts often are in the presence of such grace! We would, perhaps, turn away with horror from some great sin which would bring us into public disgrace, while going on complacently enough with other things condemned of God, but allowed of men, just because they minister to “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.” Alas! where is Christ in all this? Have the sorrows of His cross passed from our minds? Or has that cross ceased to express to us God’s thoughts of sin?
I am persuaded that antinomian principles often operate in the hearts of Christians when, perhaps, they are little aware. If the flesh is allowed at all, it is sin. If its lusts are allowed on the plea of being under grace, it is what Jude calls, “turning the grace of our. God into lasciviousness” (Jude 44For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)) and probably the same thing as the Nicolaitanism mentioned in Revelation 2, God’s hatred of which is declared in the plainest terms.
But what is the remedy? THE CROSS. God has condemned sin in the flesh in the sacrifice of His Son, so that now it has no recognized place before Him. He has done with it forever; and we are to own His judgment of the flesh which is in us, so that with us, as with Him, it may have no recognized standing whatever. We are, in virtue of the cross, entitled to account ourselves dead to sin, and alive to God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, because His death was for us, and sets us free, so that we may refuse our old master. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:12-1412Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:12‑14)).
But we have to learn what we are, and what is in our poor wretched hearts. We have to prove the wretchedness of being in bondage, before we can know the joy of liberty. And even when we are free, we still have within us the flesh which lusts against the Spirit; and it is only as we walk in the Spirit, with exercised hearts, and in humble, prayerful dependence on God, that we have practical power against the flesh. The flesh never changes; it is always evil. And painful though the lesson be, we have to learn that there is nothing for it but death. And even when we have learned this, there is constant need for watchfulness and prayer, lest we be betrayed by the deceitfulness of our own hearts. Our only safety is in an abiding nearness to Christ.