The Spirit of God: Part 5

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In Gal. 5:1717For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Galatians 5:17), correctly translated, we read “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would.” Our version runs, “So that ye cannot do the things that ye would"; but this is quite wrong. What the word of God, properly rendered, says is good and true, “That ye do not the things that ye would.” The Holy Ghost is given to the believer, and the action of the Spirit is directly contrary to the flesh, as the flesh is contrary to the Spirit. “Lo, I come,” said Christ—who indeed was the only one that could say it unwaveringly— “Lo, I come to do thy will, Ο God “; but we are responsible, being set apart for the purpose—sanctified unto obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. This does not mean that we are merely to obey and that the blood of Christ repairs our disobedience. The meaning is that we are sanctified to the same kind of obedience as Christ, whose blood gives us confidence that our sins are by grace forgiven.
The allusion in 1 Peter 1:22Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. (1 Peter 1:2) is to what took place at mount Sinai, when blood was sprinkled on the people, and they said, “All that the Lord hath said will we do.” But they did not. They were disobedient; and the blood witnessed that they must die the death because of their disobedience. We start with the precious blood of Christ, while at the same time we are called to obey as Christ did; and what comes in to meet our delinquencies is confession of our sins, or the washing of water by the word. This is the meaning of the washing of the disciples' feet by the Lord Jesus before He went to heaven. It was to show His own here the work He is gone to heaven to do for them. Peter at first refused to let his feet he washed; and then, when corrected, asked that his whole body should be washed; but he was wrong in both respects. He did not know, if one be already washed with the washing of regeneration, that no more is wanted for the removal of subsequent faults than to have his feet washed. In other words, the particular evil that may be contracted in walking through the world requires to be removed. “He that is washed (bathed) needeth not save to wash his feet.” If at first wholly washed, as every believer is, he needs only partial cleansing, in other words the washing of his feet, when he subsequently does wrong. Peter did not lose the benefit of being born of water and the Spirit when he afterward sinned grievously. If not a true saint he would have gone and hanged himself, like Judas. Therefore the very thing the Lord prayed for was that his faith should not fail. Judas, in the despair of his heart, went and perished miserably. Peter did not, although he committed a great sin, because the Lord prayed for him, and afterward indeed took particular notice of him— “Tell the disciples and Peter” — the only one mentioned, and why? Because he was the one that most needed it. How gracious is the Lord! How full of tender mercy! He is the spring, the unfailing giver of all grace. Once in Him all your sins are gone, and yourself brought nigh as alive to God. This is the true place of every believer. “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; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.”
You observe two reasons are given why there is no condemnation. The first is, that Christ gives a life which God cannot condemn; whilst the second is, that God has already condemned (not merely the sins, but) the sin that gave them birth. The whole of our evil is already condemned in the cross of Christ—the wondrous Christ of God. These are the two grounds why there is no condemnation. And the effect is that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us. Not in any Jew, but in every Christian; for every Christian loves God and loves his neighbor, and these are the two great moral aims of the law. How can a Christian not love God, who first loved him? And does not the Christian love his neighbor? Does he not go forth every day of his life to serve not only his neighbor and friend, but even his enemy? This is what the Christian is called to; and this is what every real Christian does, although not so fully as he ought, “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Just so far as a Christian walks in the Spirit is the righteousness of the law fulfilled in him. It is a remarkable fact that the people who were under the law never kept it, and that those who are not under the law are the only people that do keep it, and this because of the delivering power that God has brought in through Christ.
Let me here recall to your notice the constant danger of a soul that has been awakened, to mix up the work of the Spirit with that of Christ. It is always on the look out for fruits. As you are, you had better say nothing about fruits yet. If you seek to find fruits before you enter into peace with God, you never can find peace. No man ever found peace with God by looking within himself; and God never meant any to find peace save by turning to Christ. Do you not hear Him saying, “Having made peace by the blood of His cross?” This is not within but without you. It is something wrought for you by Christ, and Christ alone: and the quickening of the Spirit is not to furnish ground for peace within you, but to prove that you are nothing but a poor guilty sinner, thus forcing you out of yourself to rest on the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The tendency of the anxious soul is to look within, for confirmatory marks of the Spirit. But so long as he does not rest on the work of Christ, he never can have peace.
For saints there is another danger. When you have peace, beware of separating, as is too often done, the Spirit from Christ. Men say you need the Spirit of God to sanctify you. Rather you need the Spirit of God constantly to direct your eyes toward Christ. There are these two dangers then: one for a man who is just awakened; the other for him who has found peace with God. The saint cannot go in safety unless he has the Spirit of God fixing the eyes of his heart on the Lord Jesus. This is the point the apostle refers to at the close of chap. 3 in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians.
But I would say a few words on a preceding verse. “Now the Lord is that spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty"; and I will show you how difficult it is—not in reality, but in appearance—either to understand the Scriptures, or to give them even a right outward form. People often think that if you have “spirit,” or any other word in a verse more than once, it must always bear the same meaning. Here this is not the case. “The Lord is that spirit.” How should “spirit” be printed? I answer unhesitatingly, with a small “s.” “Now the Lord is that spirit.” The “Spirit” would be downright heterodoxy. Who would tolerate such a notion as that the Lord Jesus is the Holy Ghost? One can understand how in the “Shepherd of Hermas” (a most offensive little treatise, and really heretical, which in the second or third century used to be read in public worship) there occurs a confusion and worse between the Lord Jesus and the Holy Ghost; but this no where is or can be in Scripture.
The fact is, that the meaning of the verse is connected with what was quoted before. The apostle was contrasting the old covenant with the new, and he says, “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” Christ, under the letter of the old, quickens; the letter of the old without Christ does not. “Now,” says he, “the Lord is the spirit,” i.e., of the old. The letter cannot quicken, but the spirit does. It is the Lord that is meant by the Passover, Red Sea, Manna, etc., as also by the burnt, meat, peace, and sin offerings; and so one might go through all the letter of the law. “The Lord is the spirit “; and this is the reason why I should print “spirit” with a small letter, though it is not so in my book. It may be different in your Bibles. But if not, you must remember the copyists were not inspired, any more than the printers, translators, or critical editors. The question is the bearing of the truth of God; and I affirm that the doctrine which confounds the Lord Jesus with the Spirit is not true. Is it not impossible, therefore, to print “spirit” in that verse with a capital “S” consistently with truth? For this would identify the second person of the Trinity with the third, which is wholly untrue.
But the moment you come to the next clause, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is,” you must have a capital “S,” because the Holy Ghost is meant. The Lord has gone on high, but the Holy Ghost is sent down below; and He it is who now seals the believer, bringing him into liberty in Christ. Thus what the apostle first lays down as a principle is that the spirit of the old forms of the law always pointed to the Lord Jesus. “The Lord is the spirit.” Then besides this, the Spirit of the Lord is now come down from heaven to anoint the believer, and seal him in virtue of redemption.
Not a few passages might be quoted bearing on the same point. I might go through almost the whole of the epistle with the same result, each having its own special bearing, and all perfectly-harmonious; but this is scarce necessary.
What I want is to lay before your souls the truth of God as to this the great Christian privilege. Have you not only Christ for your life, but the consciousness that your body is the temple of God? I know there are many who would think this a most extraordinary thing to claim. Let me tell you that— “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his"; he does not belong to the Lord as a Christian unless he be sealed. He may be quickened, born of God, and converted. But the proper power, the true distinctive mark, of a Christian is that he is sealed with the Spirit; and the sealing of the Spirit comes in answer to the redemption of Christ Jesus.
Wake up then, wake up, beloved children of God, to your great privileges! Those who are ignorant of the gospel may call you presumptuous. In truth you can never worship or serve God as you ought, if you do not enjoy your proper privileges. You need to do so in order to be at home with God, to gain confidence in His love, and glorify Him. The spring of all power to perform duty depends on the simplicity with which your soul enters into your relationship with Christ. Even in common life relationship affects as it should govern all our actions. The duty of a servant is quite different from that of a master; and a similar rule holds good in all our social relationships. There is a walk, and a worship too, belonging to the children of God, and to none else. You cannot mix men of the world with those that are of God without dishonoring Him. Indeed the effect of such a union is ruin practically to the souls of both; because, as the child of God cannot raise up the worldly to his own level, he must come down to the level more or less of the worldly man; and this is why in many of the liturgies they mingle both in an offensive alliance that suits neither, with language of a wholly inconsistent kind. A Christian is not getting forward with God who tries to please both world and church; if he follows God's way, all will go well with him. We are members of the family of God—heirs of God with Jesus Christ. Even on earth the family life is the highest type of bliss for man. And God has a family, in whose well-being He takes special delight. Suppose a person were to go into a household, and, pretending himself a friend of the children, should put it into their heads that possibly the chief of the house was not their father, you would say, “What a villain he is, to try and spoil all the peace of that family!” And if this would be bad in your families, to play a like part is a great deal worse in God's family. It is as insulting to God as it is injurious to His children; and though people may do what they like with God for a while, the day is coming when they will have to own their folly and sin.
I beseech you, therefore, to be faithful to the Lord. Let me urge on you, in the name of the Lord Jesus to search and see whether these things are so. If you are not children of God, the door is open, the way is clear, the Savior is waiting. If you simply come as poor sinners, the Lord will in no wise cast you out. But come as sinners in the sense of your sheer need, in the confidence of His grace. Do not come as if there were a doubt that had to be cleared whether you could succeed or not; and the Savior will meet and serve you at once. When the Syro-Phoenician woman came, she spoke as a Jew. She cried, “Son of David.” What right had she to say, “Son of David, have mercy on me"? No more right than a Frenchman has to repair to an English consul and ask his assistance; let him go to the French consul. The Son of David was for Jews. When the two blind men so appealed in Matt. 9, had they to wait for an answer of peace, when they confessed their faith? When two more at the end made the same call near Jericho, did the gracious One rebuke, or reply in grace? The woman of Canaan was wrong—somewhat as worldly people when they say, “Our Father, who art in heaven"; for He is not their Father at all, but will judge them by the Lord Jesus. But if a person comes and says, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” will He then say them nay? The Lord would not at first answer the woman's prayer, because she went on mistaken ground. And when the disciples would have done with the case, ashamed of her crying after them, He had to correct their impatience with His maintenance of God's order: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she said, “Lord, help me!” When she dropt to this, the Lord answered her, “It is not meet to take the children's bread and to cast it to dogs. The moment she hears it, the truth flashes on her soul that she was not of the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but a dog. She sinks to the lowest place, and says, “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” She took the place of truth, and got the blessing of grace. The lack of this keeps many souls from obtaining the blessing. They are unconsciously in a false position. They assume to be worshippers when they should not. If they confessed themselves poor sinners needing to be saved, they would find the Savior at once. If you can and do say, Abba, Father, he assured you have the Holy Ghost; and if not progressing in the Christian race, see and judge what hinders you, and if you are not grieving the Holy Ghost; search the word of God, and follow Christ! Amen.
W. K.
(Concluded from page 103)
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