LAW AND GRACE
The most obvious and striking division of the Word of truth is that between law and grace. Indeed, these contrasting principles characterize the two most important dispensations: the Jewish and Christian. "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).
It is not, of course, meant that there was no law before Moses, any more than that there was no grace and truth before Jesus Christ. The forbidding to Adam of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17) was law, and surely grace was most sweetly manifested in the Lord God seeking His sinning creatures and in His clothing them with coats of skins (Gen. 3:21)-a beautiful type of Christ who "is made unto us . . . righteousness" (1 Cor. 1:30). Law, in the sense of some revelation of God's will, and grace, in the sense of some revelation of God's goodness, have always existed, and to this Scripture abundantly testifies. But "the law" most frequently mentioned in Scripture was given by Moses, and from Sinai to Calvary, dominates, characterizes, the time; just as grace dominates or gives its peculiar character to the dispensation which begins at Calvary and has its predicted termination in the rapture of the church.
It is, however, of the most vital moment to observe that Scripture never, in any dispensation, mingles these two principles. Law always has a place and work distinct and wholly diverse from that of grace. Law is God prohibiting and requiring; grace is God beseeching and bestowing. Law is a ministry of condemnation; grace, of forgiveness. Law curses; grace redeems from that curse. Law kills; grace makes alive. Law shuts every mouth before God; grace opens every mouth to praise Him. Law puts a great and guilty distance between man and God; grace makes guilty man nigh to God. Law says, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth"; grace says, "Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." Law says, "Hate thine enemy"; grace says, "Love your enemies, bless them that despitefully use you." Law says, do and live; grace says, believe and live. Law never had a missionary; grace is to be preached to every creature. Law utterly condemns the best man; grace freely justifies the worst (Luke 23:43; Rom. 5:8; 1 Tim 1:15; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Law is a system of probation; grace, of favor. Law stones an adulteress; grace says, "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." Under law the sheep dies for the shepherd: under grace the Shepherd dies for the sheep.
Everywhere the Scriptures present law and grace in sharply contrasted spheres. The mingling of them in much of the current teaching of the day spoils both, for law is robbed of its terror, and grace of its freeness.
The student should observe that "law" in the New Testament Scriptures, means the law given by Moses (Rom. 7:23 is an exception). Sometimes the entire law (the moral, or the Ten Commandments and the ceremonial) is meant; sometimes the commandments only; sometimes the ceremonial only. Among passages of the first type, Romans 6:14; Galatians 2:16, and 3:2 are examples. Of the second type, Romans 3:19 and 7:7-12 are examples. Of the third type, Colossians 2:14-17 is an example.
It should be remembered also that in the ceremonial law are enshrined those marvelous types-the beautiful foreshadowings of the person and work of the Lord Jesus as priest and sacrifice, as in the tabernacle (Exod. 25-30) and levitical offerings (Lev. 1-7), which must ever be the wonder and delight of the spiritually minded.
Expressions in the Psalms too, which would be inexplicable if understood only of the "ministration of death, written and engraven in stones" (2 Cor. 3:7), are made clear when seen to refer to Christ or to the redeemed. "But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night" (Ps. 1:2). "0 how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day" (Ps. 119:97).
Three errors have troubled the church concerning the right relation of law to grace:
1. Antinomianism- the denial of all rule over the lives of believers; the affirmation that men are not required to live holy lives because they are saved by God's free grace, "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate" (Titus 1: 16).
"For 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 verse 4).
2. Ceremonialism- the demand that believers should observe the levitical ordinances. The modern form of this error is the teaching that Christian ordinances are essential to salvation.
"And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1).
3. Galatianism- the mingling of law and grace; the teaching that justification is partly by grace, partly by law, or, that grace is given to enable an otherwise helpless sinner to keep the law. Against this error, the most wide-spread of all, the solemn warnings, the. unanswerable logic, the emphatic declarations of the Epistle to the Galatians are God's conclusive answer.
"This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:2- 3).
"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another [there could not be another gospel]; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:6-8).
The following may be helpful as an outline of Scripture teaching on this important subject. The moral law only is referred to in the passages cited.
WHAT THE LAW IS
"Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (Rom. 7:12),
"For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin" (Rom. 7:14).
"For I delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Rom. 7:22).
"But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully" (I Tim. 1:8).
"And the law is not of faith" (Gal. 3:12).
THE LAWFUL USE OF THE LAW
"What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet" (Rom. 7:7; see also verse 13).
"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20).
"Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because Of transgressions" (Gal. 3:19).
"Now we know, that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Rom. 3:19). Law has but one language: "what things soever." It speaks only to condemn.
"For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal. 3: 10).
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10).
"The ministration of death, written and engraven in stones" (2 Cor. 3:7).
"The ministration of condemnation" (2 Cor. 3:9).
"For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died" (Rom. 7:9).
"The strength of sin is the law" (1 Cor. 15:56).
"It is evident, then, that God's purpose in giving the law, after the race had existed twenty-five hundred years without it (John 1: 17; Gal. 3:17), was to bring to guilty man the knowledge of his sin first, and then of his utter helplessness in view of God's just requirements. It is purely and only a ministration of condemnation and death.
WHAT THE LAW CANNOT DO
"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20).
"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Gal. 2:16).
"I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain" (Gal. 2:21).
"But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, the just shall live by faith" (Gal. 3: 11).
"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" (Rom. 8:3).
"And by him, all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:39).
"For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God" (Heb. 7:19).
THE BELIEVER IS NOT UNDER THE LAW
Romans 6, after declaring the doctrine of the believer's identification with Christ in His death, of which baptism is the symbol (verses 1-10), begins, with verse 11, the declarations of the principles which should govern the walk of the believer-his rule of life. This is the subject of the remaining twelve verses. Verse 14 gives the great principle of his deliverance, not from the guilt of sin that is met by Christ's blood, but from the dominion of sin-his bondage* under it. "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace."
Lest this should lead to the monstrous Antinomianism of saying that therefore a godly life was not important, the Spirit immediately adds: "What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid" (Rom. 6:15). Surely every renewed heart answers 'Amen" to this.
Then Romans 7 introduces another principle of deliverance from law. "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should he married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter" (Rom. 7:4-6). (This does not refer to the ceremonial law; see verse 7.)
"For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God" (Gal. 2:19).
"But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up, unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (Gal. 3:23-25).
"But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man" (I Tim. 1:8-9).
WHAT IS THE BELIEVER'S RULE OF LIFE?
"He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked" (I John 2:6).
"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (I John 3:16).
"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (I Pet. 2:11; see also verses 12-23).
"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love" (Eph. 4:1-2).
"Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us" (Eph. 5:1-2).
"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light" (Eph. 5:8).
"See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Eph. 5:15-16).
"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16).
"For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have, done to you" (John 13:15).
"If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love" (John 15: 10).
"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you" (John 15:12).
"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me" (John 14:21).
'And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment" (I John 3:22-23).
"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them" (Heb. 10: 16).
A beautiful illustration of this principle is seen in a mother's love for her child. The law requires parents to care for their offspring and pronounces penalties for the willful neglect of them; but the land is full of happy mothers who tenderly care for their children in perfect ignorance of the existence of such a statute. The law is in their hearts.
It is instructive, in this connection, to remember that God's appointed place for the tables of the law was within the ark of the testimony. With them were "the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded" (types: the one of Christ our wilderness bread, the other of resurrection, and both speaking of grace), while they were covered from sight by the golden mercy seat upon which was sprinkled the blood of atonement. The eye of God could see His broken law only through the blood that completely vindicated His justice and propitiated His wrath (Heb. 9:4-5).
It was reserved to modernists to wrench these holy and just but deathful tables from underneath the mercy seat and the atoning blood and erect them in Christian churches as the rule of Christian life.
WHAT IS GRACE?
"But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared . . . according to his mercy he saved us" (Titus 3:4-5). "That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:7).
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).
WHAT IS GOD'S PURPOSE IN GRACE?
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).
"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world: looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:11-13).
"That, being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:7).
"Being justified freely by his grace; through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24).
"By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand" (Rom. 5:2).
"And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified" (Acts 20:32).
"To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved: in whom we have redemption through f. his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Eph. 1:6-7).
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need"(Heb. 4:16).
"How complete, how all-inclusive! Grace saves, justifies, builds up, makes accepted, redeems, forgives, bestows an inheritance, gives standing before God, provides a throne of grace to which we may come boldly for mercy and help; it teaches us how to live and gives us a blessed hope! It remains to note that these diverse principles cannot be intermingled.
"And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work" (Rom. 11:6).
"Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Rom. 4:4-5; see also Gal. 3:16-18; 4:21-31).
"So then, brethren, we are not children of the bond-woman, but of the free" (Gal. 4:31).
"For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words: which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more (for they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall he stoned, or thrust through with a dart: and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake). But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel" (Heb. 12:18-24).
It is not, then a question of dividing what God spoke from Sinai into moral law and ceremonial law-the believer does not come to that mount at all.
As sound old Bunyan said: "The believer is now, by faith in the Lord Jesus, shrouded under so perfect and blessed a righteousness, that this thundering law of Mount Sinai cannot find the least fault or diminution therein. This is called the righteousness of God without the law."
Should this meet the eye of an unbeliever, he is affectionately exhorted to accept the true sentence of that holy and just law which he has violated: "For there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:22-23). In Christ such will find a perfect and eternal salvation, as it is written: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Rom. 10:9); for Christ is "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:4).
THE BELIEVER'S TWO NATURES
The Scriptures teach that every regenerate person is the possessor of two natures: one, received by natural birth, which is wholly and hopelessly bad; and a new nature, received through the new birth, which is the nature of God Himself, and therefore wholly good.
The following Scriptures will sufficiently manifest what God thinks of the old, or Adam nature: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5).
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9)
"There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Rom. 3:10-12).
God does not say that none of the unregenerate are refined, or cultured, or able, or sweet-tempered, or generous, or charitable, or even religious. But He does say that none are righteous, none understand God, or seek after Him.
It is one of the sorest of faith's trials to accept the divine estimate of human nature, to realize that our genial and moral friends, who, not infrequently, are scrupulous in the discharge of every duty, filled with sympathy for the woes and the aspirations of humanity, and strenuous in the assertion of human rights, are yet utter despisers of God's rights and untouched by the sacrifice of His Son, whose divinity they with unspeakable insolence deny and whose word they contemptuously reject. A refined and gentle lady who would shrink with horror from the coarseness of giving a fellow creature the lie, will yet make God a liar every day! (See I John 1:10; 5:10). And this difficulty is vastly increased for thousands by the current praise of humanity from the pulpit.
How startling the contrast between appearances and realities in the time before the flood. "There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown" (Gen. 6:4).
And so it appeared that the world was growing better, in men's eyes; a continual improvement they probably would trace, and the apparent result of the unholy intermarriage of the godly with the worldly was the lifting up of human nature to still grander heights.
But "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5).
"For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile man" (Mark 7:21-23).
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Cor. 2:14).
"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:7-8).
"Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3).
By these it appears that the unconverted man has a three-fold incapacity. He may be gifted, or cultured, or amiable, or generous, or religious. He may pay his honest debts, be truthful, industrious, a good husband and father-or all these together-but he can neither obey God, please God, nor understand God.
The believer, on the contrary, while still having his old nature, unchanged and unchangeable, has received a new nature which "after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." The following Scriptures will show the origin and character of the new man.
It will be seen that regeneration is a creation, not a mere transformation-the bringing in a new thing, not the change of an old. As we received human nature by natural generation, so do we receive the divine nature by regeneration.
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee [Nicodemus, a moral, religious man], Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).
"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13).
"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26).
It will be observed what bearing these Scriptures have upon that specious and plausible, but utterly unscriptural phrase so popular in our day, "the universal fatherhood of God, and the universal brotherhood of man -- an expression all the more dangerous for the half-truth of the last clause. Not all who are born, but all who are born again are the children of God. The Scripture tells us indeed that Adam was the son of God, but it is also careful to state that Seth was the son of Adam (Luke 3:38).
"And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4:24).
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [literally, a new creation]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17).
And this "new man" is linked with Christ. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not 1, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
"To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27).
"For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:3-4).
"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4).
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness" (Rom. 8: 10).
"And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life: and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (I John 5:11-12).
"But this new, divine nature, which is Christ's own, subsists in the believer together with the old nature. It is the same Paul who could say, "Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," who also says, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7: 18); and, "I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me (Rom. 7:21). It was Job, the perfect and upright man," who said, "I abhor myself." It was Daniel, eminently a man of God, who said, "My comeliness was turned in me into corruption," when he saw the glorified ancient of days.
Between these two natures there is conflict. Study carefully the battle between the two "I's": the old Saul and the new Paul in Romans 7:14-25. It is an experience like this which so discourages and perplexes young converts. The first joy of conversion has subsided, his glowing expectations become chilled, and the convert is dismayed to find the flesh with its old habits and desires within himself as before his conversion, and he is led to doubt his acceptance with God. This is a time of discouragement and danger. Paul in this crisis, cries out for deliverance, calling his old nature a "body of death." The law only intensifies his agony (though a converted man), and he finds deliverance from "the flesh," no through effort, nor through striving to keep the law, but "through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 7:24-25).
The presence of the flesh is not, however, an excuse for walking in it. We are taught that "our old man is crucified with Christ"; that, in that sense, we "are dead," and we are called upon to make this a constant experience by mortifying ("making dead") our members which are upon the earth.
The power for this is that of the Holy Spirit who dwells in every believer (I Cor. 6:19) and whose blessed office is to subdue the flesh. "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For 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." (Gal. 5:16-17).
"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Rom. 8:13). Therefore, instead of meeting the solicitations of the old nature by force of will, or by good resolutions, turn the conflict over to the indwelling Spirit of God.
Romans 7 is a record of the conflict of regenerate man with his old self, and is, therefore, intensely personal. "I would," "I do not," "I would not," "I do," is the sad confession of defeat which finds an echo in so many Christian hearts. In chapter 8 the conflict still goes on, but how blessedly impersonal! There is no agony, for Paul is out of it; the conflict is now between "flesh"Saul of Tarsus-and the Holy Spirit. Paul is at peace and victorious. (It will be understood that this refers to victory over the flesh, such inward solicitations to evil as lust, pride, anger, etc.; temptations from without are met by recourse to Christ our high priest).
Consider attentively the following passages: "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed [annulled, rendered powerless] that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Rom. 6:6).
"For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3).
"For ye are dead [have died-in Christ], and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3).
"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6: 11).
"But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof' (Rom. 13:14).
"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh" (Rom. 8:12).
THE BELIEVER'S STANDING AND STATE
A distinction of vast importance to the right understanding of the Scriptures, especially of the Epistles, is that which concerns the standing or position of the believer, and his state, or walk. The first is the result of the work of Christ and is perfect and entire from the very moment that Christ is received by faith. Nothing in the afterlife of the believer adds in the smallest degree to his title of favor with God, nor to his perfect security. Through faith alone this standing before God is conferred, and before Him the weakest person, if he be but a true believer on the Lord Jesus Christ, has precisely the same title as the most illustrious saint.
What that title or standing is, may be briefly seen from the following Scriptures: "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12).
"Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (I John 5:1).
"And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17).
"To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" 0 Pet. 1:4-5).
"In whom also we have obtained an inheritance" (Eph. 1: 11).
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not ye appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear,
we shall be like him" (I John 3:2).
"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation" (I Pet. 2:9).
"Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father" (Rev. 1:5-6).
"And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power" (Col. 2: 10).
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:1-2).
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
"These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life" (I John 5:13).
"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus" (Heb. 10: 19).
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all- spiritual blessings" (Eph. 1:3).
"To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:6).
"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:4-6).
"But now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometime were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Chfist" (Eph. 2:13).
"In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph. 1: 13).
"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body" (I Cor. 12:13).
"For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones" (Eph. 5:30).
"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?" (I Cor. 6:19).
Every one of these marvelous things is true of every believer on the Lord Jesus Christ. Not one item in this glorious inventory is said to be gained by prayer, or diligence in service, or churchgoing, or alms- giving, or self-denial, or holiness of life, or by any other description of good works. All are gifts of God through Christ and therefore belong equally to all believers. When the jailor of Philippi believed on the Lord Jesus Christ he became at once a child of God, a joint heir with Christ, a king and priest, and had the title to the incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading inheritance. In the instant that he believed with his heart and confessed with his mouth that Jesus was his Lord, he was justified from all things, had peace with God, a standing in His grace, and a sure hope of glory. He received the gift of eternal life, was made accepted in the full measure of Christ's own acceptance, was indwelt by, and sealed with the Holy Spirit, by whom also he was baptized into the mystical body of Christ- the church of God. Instantly he was clothed with the righteousness of God (Rom. 3:22), quickened with Christ, raised with Him, and in Him seated in the heavenlies.
What his actual state may have been is quite another mattercertainly it was far, far below his exalted standing in the sight of God. It was not all at once that he became as royal, priestly, and heavenly in walk as he was at once in standing. The following passages will indicate the way one's standing and one's state are constantly discriminated in the Scriptures.
"Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus . . . I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ that in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 1:2-9).
"But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (I Cor. 6:11).
"Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?" (I Cor. 6:15).
"And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 16:17).
"Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1: 12-13).
"For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you" (I Cor. 1:11).
"And 1, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal . . . For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?" (I Cor. 3:1-3).
"Now some are puffed up" (I Cor. 4:18).
"And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you" (I Cor. 5:2).
"Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another" (I Cor. 6:7).
"Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot?" (I Cor. 6:15).
"But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan; for thou art an offence unto me; for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men" (Matt. 16:23).
"But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds" (Col. 3:8-9).
The student cannot fail to notice that the divine order, under grace, is first to give the highest possible standing and then to exhort the believer to maintain a state in accordance therewith. The beggar is lifted up from the dung-hill and set among princes (I Sam. 2:8), and then exhorted to be princely. As examples, see the following verses.
"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed" (Rom. 6:6).
"Ye are the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14).
"Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (2 Tim. 1:9).
"And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6).
"When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:4).
"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord" (Eph. 5:8).
"Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness" (I Thess. 5:5).
"For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him" (I Thess. 5:9-10).
"By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10).
"But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us . . . sanctification" (I Cor. 1:30).
"For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14).
"Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded" (Phil. 3:15).
"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world" (I John 4:17).
"Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?" (Col. 2:20).
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).
"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). (Let it be observed, in reading this much-abused text, that the salvation spoken of here is not that of the soul, but salvation out of the snares which would hinder the Christian from doing the will of God.)
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" (Col. 3: 1).
"Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth" (Col. 3:5).
"Walk as children of light" (Eph. 5:8).
"Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober" (I Thess. 5:6).
"Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do" (I Thess. 5:11).
"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth" (John 17:17).
"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly" (I Thess. 5:23).
"Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect" (Phil. 3:12).
"Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection" (Heb. 6: 1).
"He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked" (I John 2:6).
The student will be able to add largely to this list of comparative passages showing that the Scripture makes a clear distinction between the standing and state of the believer. It will be seen that he is not under probation to see if he is worthy of an inconceivably exalted position, but, beginning with the confession of his utter unworthiness, receives the position wholly as the result of Christ's work. Positionally he is "perfected forever" (Heb. 10: 14), but looking within, at his state, he must say, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect" (Phil. 3:12).
It may be said that all the afterwork of God in his behalf, the application of the Word to his walk and conscience (John 17:17; Eph. 5:26), the chastisements of the Father's hand (Heb. 12:10; 1 Cor. 11:32), the ministry of the Spirit (Eph. 4:11-12), all the difficulties and trials of the wilderness way (I Pet. 4:12-14), and the final transformation when He shall appear (I John 3:2), all are intended simply to bring the believer's character into perfect conformity to the position which is his in the instant of his conversion. He grows in grace, indeed, but not into grace.
A prince, while he is a little child, is presumably as willful and as ignorant as other little children. Sometimes he may be very obedient and teachable and affectionate, and then he is happy and approved; at other times he may be unruly, self-willed, and disobedient, and then he is unhappy and perhaps is chastised. But he is just as much a prince on the one day as on the other. It may be hoped that, as time goes on, he will learn to bring himself into willing and affectionate subjection to every right way, and then he will be more princely, but not more really a prince. He was born a prince.
In the case of every true son of the King of kings, and Lord of lords, this growth into kingliness is assured. In the end, standing and state, character and position, will be equal. But the position is not the reward of the perfected character-the character is developed from the position.