The Two Natures in the Child of God
E.W. BULLINGER, D.D.
All Roman numerals were converted to easier to read English numbering, thus, vii:3 becomes 7:3.
This article and work of Dr. Bullinger is duplicated in full. It is pristine in its message about these two natures, the one of flesh and the one of spirit, the one received at our physical birth and the other at our selection and calling by God (the Father) when we respond to His beckon.
The experience of the child of God is described, in Galatians 5:17, the following words: "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."
In everything but this the mere professor can imitate the true child of God: and it is this which distinguishes the merely religious person from the real Christian. Every true child of God always has an abiding experience of conflict within, as described in Galatians 5:17. But not every child of God understands the doctrine concerning it. To have the experience without knowing the doctrine is the fruitful source of confusion, disquietude, and discouragement. To know the doctrine and not to have the experience is fatal, and means eternal disaster. The only remedy for this is to learn, direct from the Word of God, all that is there taught concerning the nature inherited through generation by Adam, and the nature bestowed through re-generation by God. This alone can give the believer the true knowledge concerning "God’s workmanship"; and the key to his experiences which are otherwise inexplicable to him. When the doctrine of the two natures is clearly understood, then, that which before was the cause of doubt is not only removed, but it becomes the ground of assurance; and is, indeed, the best assurance that one can ever have that he is God’s workmanship, and that God has actually begun in him that good work which He Himself will perfect and complete (Phil. 1:6).
The object of the following pages is to give the knowledge of this doctrine, so that the experience, which produces doubt and fear, may become the source of peace and joy.
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh; And that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." John 3:6.
We hear much in the present day about what is called "the teaching of Jesus"; and an attempt is made to set it above and against the teaching of Paul, overlooking the fact that both Gospels and Epistles are given by the Inspiration of the same Holy Spirit. Men talk thus, not because they desire to know or to obey the teaching of the Lord Jesus, but because they wish to lower the authority of the teaching of God by Paul, and to get rid of what they call Pauline Theology. Bring them face to face with the actual teaching of the Lord Jesus, and they will have none of it. They will turn back, and walk no more with Him (John 6:66); or they will be "filled with wrath", and seek to do away with Him (Luke 4:28, 29). In John 3:6, we have the teaching of the Lord Jesus on a fundamental doctrine. It states an eternal truth. But it is the one truth which the natural man will not have. It declares that, by nature, we are descended from fallen Adam; are begotten in his likeness (Gen. 5:3); and are partakers of his fallen nature. Born of the flesh, we possess the nature of the begetter, and are flesh. This flesh, "the teaching of Jesus" declares, "profiteth nothing" (John 6.63); and in it "dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:18). But, as we have said, this is the teaching which man will not receive. Pulpit, platform, and press, with one voice proclaim the opposite; and declare that there is some good thing in man, and that all we have to do is to discover and improve it.
It is against this lie of the devil that the axe of Divine truth is laid when the Lord Jesus declares that "That which is born of the flesh is flesh" that "The flesh profiteth nothing"; and that in it dwelleth "No good thing". If any good thing is to be found in man, it must be first put in by God. It must be "born of the Spirit": and, when that "good thing" is thus born and found in a man, then it is seen to partake of the nature of the begetter. It is spirit. It is Divine. Now these two natures are so opposite in their origin: nature; and character, that they each have several names; and each name reveals some fresh trait and some additional truth. Let us first look at the names by which man, by nature, is spoken of.
1.) The Flesh; as we have it in John 3:6. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." It comes by birth as generated by a fallen begetter. Concerning this Flesh, we are told: it "cannot please God." (Rom. 8:8); it "profiteth nothing :" (John 6:63); there is in it "no good thing:" (Rom. 7:18).
Now this is vital and fundamental truth. The question is: Do we believe it? Do we believe God or Man? If we believe God, we shall see that the great bulk of what goes by the name of "public worship" is vanity. True worship must be wholly that of the spirit, or the new nature. We must be able to say with Mary: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour."
It is only as saved ones that we can truly worship. If the flesh of itself "profiteth nothing", then it is clear that we cannot worship God with any of the senses (which all pertain to the flesh). We cannot worship with our eyes by gazing at a sacrament. We cannot worship with our noses by the smelling of incense. We cannot worship with our ears by listening to music; no, nor can we worship with our throats by singing. All that comes from the flesh "profiteth nothing". God has "no respect to it", and it is labour in vain. Protestant Christians will agree with us in what we say about gazing on sacraments, or the smelling of incense; but what about the other senses of the flesh? What about the ears and the throats? The churches all seem to be "music mad"; and, what with choirs "1,000 strong", and "string bands", "solos", and "choruses", and "anthems", and the new "Gospel of Song", we have come upon a time when the "flesh" seems to hold universal sway in what still retains the name of worship.
But alas for it all! it "profiteth nothing". This flood is advancing side by side with another, of which the cry is "Be filled with the Spirit." But the "Word of truth" is wrongly divided. For a full stop is put after the word Spirit: and thus it is not noticed that, if we are filled by the Spirit, it will be seen in the effect: viz., "Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts (not in your throats merely: and this, not to any audience or congregation, but) to the Lord." It is not an "ear for music" that is wanted, but a heart for music. From this title of the old nature we learn that "the flesh profiteth nothing". This solemn truth is fundamental to Christianity’: while the opposite is fundamental to religion. Religion has to do with the flesh: Christianity has to do with Christ and the new nature (which is pneuma-Christou or Christ-spirit). But we shall have more to say on this later. This old nature is further called
2.) "The Natural Man." And we are told that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he get to know them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor.2:14).
In the structure of this portion of 1 Corinthians, verse 14 stands in correspondence with verse 8; which tells us that "none of the princes of this world knew the wisdom of God", i.e., the great Secret—the Mystery—for it was "hidden" in God (Eph. 3:9), and no eye had ever seen it, or ear heard it. And even when now it is "revealed" (1 Cor. 2:10), the natural man cannot get to know it, because it is only discerned by the spirit, or the new nature within us, created and enlightened by the Holy Ghost. This is conclusive as to the character, power, inclination and condition of "the natural man"; which means man by nature, as he is born into the world. Then further, he is called
3.) "The Old Man." And what about him? He, we are told "is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts" (Eph. 4:22). The old man is full of desires or lusts. These lusts are deceitful and deceiving. They are in all things contrary to God, contrary to His Spirit, and His Word; and to the new nature, the spirit, when it is once implanted within us. In this connection, it is called
4.) "The Outward Man"; as being that which is seen, and that which actually perishes (2 Cor. 4:16), and this is "day by day". This tells us that as long as we are in the flesh, we must suffer this "burden": and that no ordinance connected with that which perishes, can be of any avail in that domain where all is, and must be spiritual; i.e., of the Spirit.
5.) "The Heart" i.e., the natural heart, which is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jer. 17:9), so deceitful that it constantly deceives and betrays us: so deceitful that none but God can really know it. The Lord Jesus has some "teaching about the heart" of the natural man in Matthew 15:19. "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies."
The churches may talk about "a change of heart"; but, it is never changed. A "new heart" must be given. They may talk about improving man’s heart (or nature): but the old heart cannot be improved; and the new heart needs no improvement. Spiritists and Theosophists may talk about "the divine in man"; and show how this "old thought of the East, the cradle of all philosophy, is permeating the religions of the West". This is too true, as a fact: but it is Satan’s lie, against which we oppose God’s truth. Even man at times is compelled to confess it; and to own that all his efforts to improve "the heart" of man end in failure. Another name given to the old nature in the Word of God is
6.) "The Carnal Mind." This aspect of the old nature is even more serious than the others. They relate rather to acts, and conditions, and character; but this relates to thoughts; to the mental activities, and reasonings and imaginations of the natural man (Rom. 8:7). That these are the opposite of God’s thoughts was manifested of old. "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5). And God has declared, even of this mind of the flesh, that "My thoughts are, not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways (Isa 55:8). "The carnal mind" means, as is shown in the margin Romans 8:7, "the mind of the flesh" (phronema sarkas), as it is called in the ninth Article of the Church of England, which declares that "Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk); but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in the Greek phranema sarkas which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection; some the desire, of the flesh, is not subject to the Law of God . . . The Article thus agrees with the categorical declarations of the Word of God, which declares (Rom. 8:7, 8) that this "mind of the flesh" is "Enmity against God." "Not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." And "cannot please God."
The "mind" is the source of the thoughts: and thoughts are the source of actions. "The mind of the flesh", therefore, is that part of the flesh which thinks—and its thoughts are always contrary to God, and have, as the concluding words of the Article (quoted above) declare, "the nature of sin".
7.) This brings us to the last of the names given to the old nature in Scripture, "Sin". We must distinguish between "sin", and "sins". "Sin" is the root; "sins" are the fruit. In Romans, from 1:16 to chapter 5:11, it is "sins", considered as the outcome of the old nature, which are dealt with; and we are shown how they are put away, and how God can be just, and yet be Justifer of the sinner who is saved on faith-principle instead of law-principle. From Romans 5:12 to 8:39, it is "Sin" that is dealt with: the old nature. For, though the sinner is justified in Christ, he still feeds the working of the old nature and experiences the conflict between that, and the new nature. The object of this section is to teach us that though we still see the fruits, we are to regard the old tree as though it had died, and to reckon that we died in Christ’s death. No change has taken place. The root still remains. The change is in our standing before God. We now stand on a different plane: "we walk by faith"; and by faith we reckon that, though the flesh is in us, we are "not in the flesh"; and, in spite of the fruits which we see from time to time, we believe God when He tells us that the tree, in His sight, is condemned. A new graft has been put in; which can only produce "fruit unto God"; while all that is produced from the old stock (below the graft) is worthless, and is cut away as such by the great Gardener’s hand. We are His "husbandry". He grafts in us the new nature; and we believe Him when He tells us of all the wonders of the work which He hath wrought.
Having considered the various names given to the old nature in Scripture, we come now to see what is said about the nature itself, and its end. The first thing we learn is :
1.) It Cannot Be Changed. "That which is born (or, begotten) of the flesh is flesh", and remains flesh. No know power can turn it into spirit. Men talk about a change of nature; but it is only talk. It does not alter the fact. Men are never weary in their efforts to improve it; but they are constantly receiving bitter disappointments: they are continually exhibiting the fact that neither education nor religion can alter the old nature, or impart a new one. The flesh can be highly cultivated. There are the refined "desires of the mind", as well as the coarse "lusts of the flesh" (Eph. 2:3): but they are equally "far off" (5:13) from God; and alike under His "wrath" (5:3). The flesh can be made very religious. Indeed, these two go well together: for religion consists of ordinances, rites and ceremonies. It stands in meats and drinks. It thrives on vows, and pledges, and badges. All these are outward, and are for the flesh. All these are within the powers of the flesh. It can observe days, and feasts, and fasts (Col 2: 16, 20, 21; Rom. 14:5, 6). It revels in "Rules for daily living". It delights in "ordinances". All these minister to the flesh: and, religious flesh "takes to" these, just as irreligious flesh "takes to" vice. Hence the danger of any so-called religious service in which there is anything that ministers to the flesh, or where provision is made for it. Ravishing music, heart-breaking anecdotes, fervent appeals, all these can make what may be called "converts": but cannot keep them when made. This is why such deep concern is manifested as to how many of such "converts" may "stand". They may stand for weeks, or months, or years; but they will never stand for eternity.
All these outward things "perish with the using" (Col. 2:22). They are born of the flesh. Only "that which is born (or, begotten) of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). "Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever" (Eccl. 3:14); and: "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up" (Matt. 15:13). These words were spoken by the Lord to those whose religion was of the flesh, and consisted in washings and making long prayers; to those who honoured God with their lips, and supposed that man was defiled by "that which goeth into the mouth" (5:11). They were spoken concerning the "Scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem", the place of religious observances (5:1): and they are spoken today to all who "teach for doctrines the commandments of men" (5:9): who make men religious by working on the feedings of the flesh: and seek to make them holy by saying "Touch not, taste not, handle not" (Col. 2:21): and who make of more account "that which goeth into the mouth" (Matt. 15:11), than "that which cometh out of the heart"; as though the one possessed a supernatural power which could influence the other. No! the nature of the old man cannot be changed. "It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." This for ever settles the matter for all who are subject to the Word of God in Romans 8:7.
When once this fact is realized, it becomes impossible for us to pray "Make clean our hearts within us"; for, the question naturally arises, which "heart"? The old one, or the new one? If the old, it cannot be cleansed. If the new, it needs no cleansing. David could say, "Create in me a clean heart, 0 God": but that is a very different thing. A newly created heart is the very opposite of making the old heart clean. This simple fact and truth of God’s Word is an axe laid at the root of all the modern "clean heart" teaching of those who, though justified by grace, are seeking to be sanctified by works. All such come under the reproof of Galatians 3:3, "Are ye so senseless (i.e., unintelligent)? having begun in spirit (or the new nature!, are ye being made perfect (or, perfecting yourselves) in [the] flesh? It is the great doctrine of the two natures in the child of God which corrects all this teaching of the present day, which leads so many into soul-trouble. Instead of seeing, in the conflict they mourn over, the very ground of all assurance, they are seeking to get rid of it altogether by attempting to accomplish that which is absolutely impossible, by cleansing and improving the old nature. Over all such teaching, and all such efforts, the death knell tolls out the solemn sentence
"NEITHER INDEED CAN BE."
The second thing we learn is that it has only one end:
2.) Its End Is Death. The flesh, and all that pertains to it, its religion and its ungodliness, its virtue and its vice, all end in death. All is for time, and not for eternity. "In Adam all die" (1 Cor. 15:22). "The mind of the flesh is death" (Rom. 8:6). Being connected with the body, it is called "this body of (or appointed for) death" (Rom. 7:24). Nothing but death can be the end of all that is of the flesh. It is born of the flesh. The "first Adam" was made of the dust of the earth, and to dust all his descendants "return" (Gen. 3:19).
3.) The third fact flows from the second: "He That Soweth To His Flesh Shall Of The Flesh Reap Corruption" (Gal. 6:8). All efforts to improve the flesh, all provision made for the flesh, all ordinances connected with the flesh, all end in corruption and death: all "perish with the using" (Col. 2:22). But our subject has a happier and more blessed side. There is such a thing as the new nature, as we shall see in our next chapter.
It is a great and blessed fact that there is something Divine as well as human; something begotten by God as well as by man. There is "spirit" as well as "flesh". "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). This new nature has, like the old, several names. These stand in contrast and opposition the one to the other.
1.) It is called "Spirit". This is in contrast with, and opposition to, the "flesh", as the title of the old nature: and it is so called because it is born or begotten of the Holy Spirit (John 3:6). As "flesh" partakes of the nature of Adam, as being descended from him, spirit partakes of the nature of the Holy Spirit: as born ek tou pneumatos.
2.) Hence this new nature, being divine in its origin, is called theia phusis, Divine Nature (2 Pet. 1:4). This is why it is said to be "perfect", and unable to commit sin. I John 3:9, "Every one that has been begottenof God does not produce sin [as his fruit], because His seed [the new nature] abideth in him: and he [the new man] cannot sin because of God he (or, it) has been begotten." I John 18, 19, "We know that everyone that has been begotten1 of God does not sin; but he (i.e. the new man) that was begottenof God8 keepeth him, and the evil one toucheth him not. We know [as a matter of fact] that we are, of God;9 and, the whole world lieth in [the power of] the evil one. The new nature is personified and spoken of in the masculine gender. It cannot refer to the believer as a whole; for; if we say that "we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (I John 1:10): and our sins are provided for in I John 2:1, 2. But the new nature is born of God and does not sin, and does not lie in [the power of] the evil one. The new nature, therefore, being "spirit", and being begotten or produced in the believer by the power of the Holy Spirit, is Divine. Hence it is called
3.) The New Man (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). This is in contrast with "the old man", which, as we have seen, is one of the titles of the old nature. This, being entirely new, is called "a new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). And is said to be "according to the image of him that created him" (Col. 3:10). Nothing short of this avails in God's sight. However men may "make a fair show in the flesh", "it profiteth nothing" [John 4:63); "for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" (Gal. 4:15; Co1. 3:10, 11). In this connection the new nature is called
4.) "The Inward Man" (Rom. 7:22; 2 Cor. 4:16; Eph. 3:16). This is contrast with "the outward man" which perishes day by day, while this "inward man is renewed day by day". In Ephesians 3:16, it is rendered "the inner man", but the Greek, and the meaning are the same. Instead of perishing, it is constantly being nourished and replenished day by day with grace and strength by the Holy Spirit; so that Christ thus dwells in the heart by faith [Eph. 3:16); and we get to know something of His love which passeth knowledge, and are filled with all the fulness of God (5:19). This explains Ephesians 1:23; and shows how the church, which is the body of Christ, is "the fulness of Him that filleth all [the members of His body] with all [needed spiritual grace and strength]". The inward man delights in the law of God (Rom. 7:22). The other "is not subject to the law of God" (Rom 8:7). Hence, the conflict between them, which must go on till death ends the struggle. This is what caused the Apostle Paul (and all who have like precious faith) to cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death", or, as in the margin this body of death. The genitive, "of death", is probably the genitive of relation, as in Romans 8:36, where the Greek "sheep of slaughter" means, and is rendered "sheep for the (i.e., appointed for) slaughter". So here, "the body of death" is the "body appointed to death" (Rom. 5:12; Heb. 9:27): and the cry is, "who shall deliver me from this?" and the triumphant answer is, "I thank God [He will deliver me] through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 7:24). The next verse furnishes us with another title.
5.) The Mind (Rom. 7:23, 25). The word here used for "the mind" is nous and denotes the new nature, as it does also in chapter 7:23, 25. It is used in contrast with "flesh" (as "spirit" is), because it denotes that which is inward and invisible. This "mind" serves the law of God (Rom. 7:25) and delights in it (5:22). Hence, "the law of the mind" is put for "the law of God" in verse 23.
6.) Another title is pneuma-Christou Christ's spirit, or Christ-spirit (Rom. 8:9). There is no article in the Greek. This is not another name for the Holy Spirit. Neither is it a separate spirit distinct from the Holy Spirit, for the "spirit of Christ", as man, was psychological; and was, as such, commended to the Father at his death (Luke 23:46). There is no other spirit of Christ. But this pneuma-Christou is the new nature which makes us "sons of God" as He is "the Son of God". In Galatians we have further instruction concerning Romans teaching; and in Galatians 4:6 we have the explanation of Romans 8: "because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the pneuma of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, i.e., my Father". Pneuma-Christou is therefore another name for the "son-ship spirit" which we have in Romans 8:15: not "the spirit of adoption", as in A.V., but "a sonship-spirit", pneuma whyothesias. Thus, the new creation within us is called pneuma-Christou, because "the Holy Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit (or new nature) that we are children of God; and, if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16, 17). Hence it can be truly said: "Now if any man have not pneurna-Christou (or the new nature) he is none of his" (Rom. 8:9). For Christ the Son of God, and all the sons of God possess the precious gift or a "sonship spirit". That is why it is called pneuma-Christou, or Christ-Spirit. Being sons of God: with Christ, we are then "heirs also; not only God's heirs, but Christ's joint-heirs; if so be that we suffer together, that we may be glorified together also" (Rom. 8:17). This is the precious truth conveyed by this name which is given to the new nature. It is called pneuma-Christou; because it is the sign and token that it is Christ-spirit, and therefore a sonship-spirit; because "whom he foreknew he predestinated also [to be] conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be Firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29). Oh! what a blessed portion is ours as "sons of God". Do we realize that pneuma-Christou (or the new nature) marks our right to this high title? That we are not merely servants, but sons? not merely the people of God, but the "sons of God"? Sharing in all the blessings of His beloved Son? Yes, Sharers in His sonship (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1-3). His perfect righteousness (Phil. 3:9). His holiness (1 Cor. 1:30). His peace (Phil. 4:7). His Father's secret purposes (Eph. 1:9). His Father's love (1 John 3:1). His glorious resurrection body [Phil. 3:21). His coming glory (Rom. 8:17; Col. 3:4; 1 John 3:2). Himself (1 Thess. 4:17).
"So dear, so very dear to God, Dearer we cannot be; For in the Person of His Son We are as dear as He."
And all this because God has created within us a new nature, which He calls pneuma-Christou. But, meanwhile, here on earth, it is our privilege to share His rejection. "The world knoweth us not because it knew Him not" (1 John 3:1). Let us not repine or be downcast about this. Let us rather rejoice that we are counted worthy of so high a portion. It is exactly in connection with this very fact that the reckoning of faith and hope and love come in. "For I reckon that not worthy are the sufferings of this present time [to be compared with] the glory about-to-be-revealed unto us" (Rom. 8:18). This order of the Greek words shows us where the emphasis is to be placed, though the English of the A.V. reads more smoothly. The fact of our rejection by a religious world, and by a worldly church, must be to us the blessed token that we are God's sons, and therefore partakers of the Christ-spirit, or the new nature, which is God's gift.
It is in this same verse (Rom. 8:9), and in connection with this name for the new nature, that another name is given to it. It is called:
7.) Pneuma-Theou, or Divine spirit (Rom. 8:9, 14). The Greek is literally "spirit of God". Not "the Spirit" (for there is no article), but "God's spirit"; or, as we may render it, Divine spirit. The two occurrences of this expression in this chapter tell us all we can know about this aspect of the new nature. It is so called because, the thought thus connected with it is that, it comes from God. God is the Creator and Giver of the new nature.
It is "new" in contrast with the old. It is "spirit" because it is in opposition to the "flesh". It is "inward" in contrast with the "outward". It is "mind" in contrast with the body. It is pneuma-Christou or sonship-spirit, in opposition to a bondage spirit. And it is pneuma Theou or Divine spirit, because it is from above, from God; and is begotten "not of blood" nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13).
Those, who are so begotten, are, and have the right to be called, "sons of God". The two verses in Romans 8, in which this title of the new nature is used (9 and 14), tell us all that we can learn of this aspect of it: Verse 9, "Ye are not in flesh, but in pneuma, if indeed, pneuma Theou dwells in you." Verse 14, "As many as are led by pneuma Theou, they are sons of God" (as in John 1:12, 13). This completes the titles of the new nature; and from them we learn the precious truths revealed in them. Each title has its own aspect, and brings out some special teaching connected with it. As we first gave the titles and characteristics of the old man, and then its character and end; so we have now given the titles and characteristics of the new nature, and reserve our remarks on its character and end for our next chapter.
We are now in a position to consider what we are taught as to the new nature itself. We have looked at its various tides and characteristics; and now we wish to learn what is said about its character and end.
1.) It Cannot be Changed. In this respect it is like the old nature: "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit", and remains spirit (John 3:6). No known power can ever change it into flesh; or alter its character. It is divine in its origin, and perfect in its nature (I John 3:9, 18). Its origin is the Spirit of God (John 6:63). Its instrument is the Word of God (1 Pet. 1:22, 23; John 6:63). It is not altered or affected by any of the frailties, infirmities, or sins of the flesh. By it we are made the sons of God; and it is the token to us that God is our Father. The gift of this new nature, or spirit, is called our "sealing", which is ours on believing (Eph. 1:13). Once we really learn and believe this blessed fact it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for us to pray: "take not" Thy Holy Spirit from us." No! God will never take away from His children that new spirit which He has put within them: for "the gifts and calling of God are without change of mind", (Rom. 11:29). If Israel, though cast off (not cast away) for a season, is "beloved for the fathers' sakes" (Rom. 11:28), the sons of God are beloved for His own sake. For, as it is written in Romans 8:30 "Whom He did predestinate [to be conformed to the image of His Son, 5:29] them He called also: and whom He called, them He justified also: and whom He justified, them He glorified also." Grace ensures glory: for "the Lord will give grace and glory" (Ps. 84:11). If He gives the grace it is the pledge that He will give the glory. It must be so. He will not make us "perfect in Christ Jesus" (Col. 1:28) and then adjudge us imperfect. He will not make Christ to be our righteousness and holiness (1 Cor. 1:30) and then unmake His own work.
If we are once "complete" in Christ (Co1. 2:10) we cannot become incomplete. He will not deny or forsake the work of His own hands (Ps. 138:8). This mystery or secret was "ordained by God before the world": and this is specially declared to have been "with a view to our glory" (1 Cor.2:7). We may be perfectly sure therefore that His purpose cannot and will not fail; and that it will end in "our glory". The new nature, given by the pure grace of God, will necessarily end in the eternal glory of God. It came from God, and must return to God. This new nature cannot be forfeited—No, not even by sin: for even this contingency is provided for in I John 2:1, 2, "If any man sin we have an Advocate with the Father Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is [and remains] the propitiation for our sins." It is this connection, with sinning, that we are reminded that God is still our "Father" and that we are still His children: that our relationship has not been broken. "If any man sin"; What then? In that contingency we are not told what we are, but what Christ is. We are not reminded of what we have done, but what He has done. We are not turned upon ourselves and our confession, but we are directed upward to Christ and His position. Our thoughts are not occupied with our humiliation, but with Christ's "propitiation": that is always before the Father; for Christ is there, and we are there in Him. Our confession was made once for all when we, by grace, took the place of the lost sinner (1 John 1:9); and when we laid our hand, by faith, on Christ as the sin-offering, and there owned ourselves as lost sinners. Then we were "sealed" (on this believing); and our position and standing before God was secured and assured by the gift of the new nature. So secure is our standing in Christ that two Advocates, or Comforters, are provided. The word is Parakletos and means, one called to one's side for help, comfort, advocacy or for whatever one may need. It occurs only in John's writings, and is translated "Comforter" in his Gospel, and "Advocate" in his Epistle.
But the fact remains that Christ tells us in the Gospel that we have one Advocate (the Holy Spirit) with us, that we may not sin: and the Holy Spirit tells us in the Epistle that we have another Advocate (Jesus Christ the righteous One) with the Father, if we do sin. So that all is foreknown, foreseen, and provided for; and nothing can forfeit this wondrous gift of God. Nor will God ever recall His gift, or take from us that spirit, or new nature, which He implanted in us, His sons, when He thus sealed us as His children.
2.) The new nature is "Life and Peace" (Rom. 8:6). The body is dead (i.e., reckoned as having died on account of sin, but the spirit (or new nature) is life on account of righteousness. The gift of the new nature, to those who, having died with Christ, are henceforth righteous in His righteousness, is "eternal life". This is the very reason why the Lord Jesus says, "they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (John 10:28). This is said because of their having received the gift of eternal Life. As the end of the old nature is "death", so the end of the new nature is "life",—"eternal life" that has no end. Hence, it is written, "he that soweth unto his own flesh (the old nature), from the flesh he shall reap corruption: but he that soweth unto the pneuma (or new nature), from the pneuma he shall reap life everlasting" (Gal. 6:8). It is this that involves a third truth, and fact, as to the end of the new nature, which will be to the greatest and most blessed result of possessing this priceless gift, viz.:
3.) The issue and end of the new nature will be Rapture and Resurrection (Rom. 8:11). For, the pneuma (i.e., the gift of the spirit, or new nature) of Him that raised up Jesus from among [the] dead dwelleth in you, He that raised up Christ from among [the] dead shall make alive again your mortal bodies also on account of His pneuma (or spirit: i.e., the new nature) that dwells in you."
Note that, twice over in this one verse, the resurrection of the Lord is mentioned: first, the fact of His own resurrection, as "Jesus" (the lowly one, humbled in death); then, the doctrine that He was raised as "Christ" the glorified One, the Head of the Body (1 Cor. 12:12); thus necessitating the resurrection of all the members of that Body. It is because these members possess "Divine spirit", or pneuma-Christou (Rom. 8:9), that they are reckoned as having risen, when He, the Head of the body, rose. This is knowing "the power of His resurrection" (Phil. 3:10). This is very different from knowing that which is taught by tradition in the present day. The possession of this new nature, if we only understand it aright, is the sure and certain pledge that we shall be actually made alive again; and that these mortal bodies of our humiliation shall be made like the glorious body of that risen Christ (Phil. 3:21). No wonder that those who do not understand the doctrine of the two natures, do not understand the doctrine of the resurrection. No wonder that they are misled by false hopes, both as to this life and the next. In this life they are possessed by the false hope of improving that which can never be improved: and as to the next life they possess the false hope of glory apart from resurrection, which can never be realized. The one is a fruitless task; and the other a groundless hope. Together, they make void the sure and certain words of Scripture: for, it is when we are "clothed upon with our house (or spiritual body) which is from heaven, that mortality shall be swallowed up of life" (2 Cor. 5:2-4). And, it is in resurrection, not till then, and therefore not at death, that "this corruptible [body] shall put on incorruption, and this mortal [body] shall put on immortality" (1 Cor. 15:54).
Traditionalists subvert this precious truth; and assure us that all this takes place at death. They thus deprive the doctrine concerning the new nature of its glorious crown, which is the blessed hope that He who raised up Christ from the dead shall make alive again our mortal bodies also on account of His Divine nature which dwells in us (Rom. 8:11). It is thus that the blessed hope both of rapture and resurrection is done away with by practically saying "that the resurrection is past already" (2 Tim. 2:18). Instead of Scripture language being sufficient for the purposes of modern teachers, recourse is had to the language of pagans and spiritualists. Their terminology is adopted instead of the sure and certain words of God.
Thus, man's word "passing" is put for the Scripture "falling asleep". "No death" is put instead of God's word "death". And a present "transition" is put for future "translation".
"There is no death, What seems so is transition."
These false expressions are borrowed from spiritualism, and the quotation is made from the Unitarian platonic poet; and both are in flat contradiction to the language of the Word of God. It is what Scripture calls "handling the Word of God deceitfully" (2 Cor. 4:2). The text is used "he was not, for God took him". But, these words are used in Scripture of Enoch, who never died at all, and therefore could never need a resurrection. Enoch was "translated that he should not see death" (Heb. 9:5); and this (in Gen. 5:24) is put in other words "he was not, for God took him". But these words are used, today, of one who actually died. What is this but to say that the deceased obtained by death what Enoch obtained only by translation? What is this but to deny the resurrection altogether? and practically to say that (for the deceased at least) "the resurrection is past already?" (2 Tim. 2:18). What is this but the teaching of those whose "word doth eat as doth a canker . . . who concerning the truth have erred . . . and overthrow the faith", not of some, but of many ?
An eminent American physiologist once made a statement as to the "article of death"—a brief criticism in a religious weekly of it ended thus: "A soul awake to itself must find in death either the moment for reckoning with a judge, or the moment for speeding to a Saviour. This may be old-fashioned, but it is a true doctrine." Yes, this is "old": as old as Genesis 3:4; but it is not "true". It may be "doctrine", and it may be "theology", but it is not "Scripture". Scripture assures us (of one of these two classes at any rate) that "we which are alive and remain [to the coming of the Lord] shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep" (1 Thess. 4:15 RV). But, according to the above "old-fashioned doctrine", we shall precede them; for that, without resurrection, and without rapture, we shall "speed to a Saviour"; but according to this teaching, it will be by dying, and not by being alive and remaining till the coming of the Lord. According to the above "doctrine", 1 Thessalonians 4:15 ought to have been written: "we who are alive and remain . . . shall follow them which have preceded us".
But, it is not so written. And those who are content with the words of God will continue to hold fast "that blessed hope" and to "wait for God's Son from heaven" (1 Thess. 1:10). We will not exchange "that blessed hope", which God has given us in His Word, for this false and groundless hope; which was conceived by the great enemy of that truth; born in Babylon; nursed in tradition; and held by religionists of all kinds. A false hope which is common to the Heathen, to Spiritists, and to every great false system of Religion: but which is unknown to the sure Word of God. Well did the Saviour say of this very doctrine of Resurrection, "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God" (Matt. 22:29). No! we, like the Apostle Paul, would not be "unclothed" in death (2 Cor. 5:4), but would wait for our Rapture, when "the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven". If we are called to fall asleep, we shall do so in the sure and certain hope of resurrection, "earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house (or body) which is from heaven (5:2), that mortality might be swallowed up of life" (2 Cor. 5:4): and we, in our resurrection bodies made like the Lord's own glorious body (Phil. 3:21), shall be for ever "present (or at home) with the Lord".
This is the conclusion, in 2 Corinthians 5:1-9 (which commences with the word "for"), of the statement which commenced in 2 Corinthians 4:14 with the words: "Knowing that He Who raised up the Lord Jesus, will raise up us also with Jesus and will present us with you."
This is the glorious end of the new nature. As the old nature ends in death and corruption, so the new nature will end in rapture or resurrection. For "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 4:23). The one is God's judgment; the other is God's grace. The one is sins "wages"; the other is grace's "gift". This gift is possessed, and will be enjoyed, only by those to whom it is "given". The Lord Jesus in His last prayer declared that the Father had given Him power "that He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him" (John 17:2, 6, 9, 11, 24). Therefore it is written: "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" (1 John 5:11, 12). These words state a Divine universal truth; and they are true not only of the Church, but of all to whom this "gift" shall be "given". Specially true, therefore, are they of those who are, "in Christ", sons of God, heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ.
Having learnt so much, separately, about the characteristics of the two natures, from Romans 6—8, we have now to learn the experience and the doctrine about them as existing together in the one personality. This doctrine is taught chiefly in Romans 7. Every child of God has the experience, but not every such child knows the doctrine. This means nothing but trouble, confusion, doubt and anxiety. No rest can be known, no peace can be enjoyed unless we learn for ourselves from the Word of God, what His own explanation is concerning the conflict between the two natures. The experience of that conflict is trouble and unrest; and nothing but the knowledge of the true doctrine concerning it can remove that trouble; and, not only does it remove it, but at the same time it provides us with the greatest assurance we can possibly have on earth that we are the children of God. The experience of this conflict is the one thing in which the true child of God differs from the mere religious professor. The latter knows nothing of or of the abiding sense of inward corruption which this experience always creates. The very fact, therefore, of this experience of the conflict, is the best, and indeed, the only real assurance we can have that we are "born of God" (I John 3:9); that we are "His workmanship" (Eph 2:10); and that He has begun in us that good work which He will carry on, carry out, complete, and perfect concerning us (Phil. 1:6). The right understanding of the doctrine concerning this experience can bring only peace and comfort to us: and without it all must be trouble, unrest, and confusion.
It is this which forms the subject of Romans 8. Let us note how it stands in the general structure of the Epistle. It forms part of a larger member which begins at chapter 5:12, and goes on to the end of the eighth chapter (8:39). The subject is sin (or, the old sinful nature).
THE STRUCTURE OF ROMANS 5:12, 8:39.
A| 5:12-21. Condemnation to death of many, through the disobedience
of one: but life and righteousness through the obedience
B| 6:1, 7:6 We not in sin, having died in Christ.
B| 7:7--25. Sin in us, though we risen with Christ.
A| 8:1-39. Condemnation of sin in the flesh: but no condemnation to them which have life and righteousness in Christ Jesus.
From the structure of this passage we see that the conflict arises through sin (i.e., the old sinful nature) being in us, though we are risen with Christ. This is the subject of chapter 7 from the seventh verse: (not of the whole chapter). The first six verses of chapter 7 belong to chapter 6; and the object in the member B (ch. 6:1 - 7:6), is to show how we are not in, or no longer reckoned as being under, the condemnation of sin, inasmuch as we died in Christ.
The object of chapter 7:1-6 is to show how the Lordship of the Law can be exercised only during life (5:1). Death releases us from its claim against us (5:2). This is illustrated by the case of a married woman who may lawfully marry again if her husband be dead (5:3). The conclusion is that we who have died with Christ (5:4) are therefore free from the law and can be united to Christ in a new sphere, or plane, altogether—in resurrection life (5:4); and, having died with Christ, are altogether free from the authority, and power, and claims of the law.
This last paragraph may be set out to the eye in the following structure: Romans 7:1-6.
C| 7:1. The Lordship of the Law during life.
D a| 2. Death releases the wife from its claims.
b| 3. Result--Union with another husband.
D a| 4. Our death in Christ releases us from its claims.
b| 4. Result--Union with Christ.
C| 5, 6. Deliverance from Lordship of the Law by death.
The way is now clear for the teaching that, though we are no longer in our sins, sin is in us; and, from that moment that the new nature in implanted in us it reveals the presence of the old nature; and the conflict between them begins. "These are contrary the one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that ye would" (Gal. 5:17). The two natures thus dwell side by side in one personality. Like the graft of a rose on a briar, or an apple on a crab-apple, it is one tree; but all that is brought forth above the graft is a new kind fruit, while all that is brought forth from the old stem, below the graft, is of the nature of the old tree, and is carefully and continually cut off with the pruning-knife. The experience is so interlaced that it is difficult for man's word to describe it, or explain it. Only "the Word of God" can do that, nothing else. "It is able to divide what is of [the] soul" (i.e., soulical or natural, the old nature), and what is "of [the] spirit" (i.e., the new nature); and is able to judge [yes, and to condemn the] thoughts and intents of the heart (i.e., the old nature) (Heb. 4:12).
It is out of the heart (or, old nature) that all evil thoughts come forth (Matt. 15:18-20). The Word of God is "able to judge" these "thoughts and intents" and enables us to judge and condemn them; yea, and enables us to discern and divide between what belongs to the old, and what belongs to the new nature.
As the two natures are in the one person, so the "I" in Romans 5 relates sometimes to one and sometimes to the other. Hence we read (5:18) "For I know (as a matter of fact from God's Word) that there dwells not in me, that is, in my flesh (my old nature) any good thing. For the will [to do good] is present with me, but the working out of [that] good [will] I find not. (19) For the good [thing] which I will [to do] I do not practice; but the evil which I do not will, this I do. (20) But if, what I do not will, I practice, it is no longer I who work it out, but sin which [is] dwelling within me. (21) I find then this law in me who will to practice the good, that the evil is present with me. (22) For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man (the new nature): (23) but, I see a different law in my members, carrying on war against the law of my mind (or new nature), and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Here we have the very explicit declaration that the new nature (called the "inward man" and the "mind") delights in God's law; while there is, at the same time, the old nature (called "the flesh") which delights in obeying its own law, and carries on a constant war against the new nature. The result of this unceasing warfare is the wretchedness which leads the ego in the next verse to cry out, in broken gasps: "O wretched—I—man!" which is translated, "O wretched man [that] I [am] who shall deliver me out of this body [appointed to] death ? I thank God, [He shall deliver me] through Jesus Christ our Lord." Yes, He will deliver all who have this conflict, in the only possible way; either by Death, Rapture, or Resurrection. Only in Rapture or Resurrection will death be "swallowed up in victory". Then shall we cry, no longer, "O wretched man". But "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" That will be the end of this warfare. Well may such an one cry "I thank God [He will deliver me] through Jesus Christ". This is our present cry of patience and of faith. But the moment is coming when we shall actually cry, "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:54-57).
In view of this blessed hope, well may this revelation end with the exhortation: "Be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." Be not moved by the varying episodes and experiences of the conflict. Rejoice in the present assurance of grace as to our perfection in Christ Jesus; Rejoice in the promise of future victory, when we shall be made like His own body in glory. So shall we be free to engage in the work of the Lord, yea, to "abound" in it. No longer striving to exterminate the enemy, or to have any temporary victory which we may gain over it; but looking forward to that great final victory which He has promised to "give".
A certain class of modern holiness teaching in this sphere of truth robs it of all its beauty and its power. It realizes the fact of the conflict within us, but would have us engage in the hopeless task of improving or eradicating the old nature. It would thus, at the best, occupy us with ourselves, and would have us ignore the emphatic assurances from God's Word that the old nature, or the flesh, can never be changed into spirit. And, supposing it could be eradicated, where is it to go? What is to become of it? It is "flesh"; and nothing can end the burden of the "flesh" but death and resurrection, or rapture. No amount of surrendering, or believing, can get rid of "the flesh". It is born of the flesh, and is flesh. It is so many stones in weight. How can this be eradicated? And eradicated from what? It is confusion like this that we get into, the moment we use non-Scriptural terms; but, in this case, the term "eradication" is not only non-Scriptural, but is un-Scriptural. The Scripture word is "deliverance" and "victory", and this, not victory over "sins" as such, but over "sin" itself, over this death-appointed body. This "deliverance" will be experienced only in rapture or resurrection. We are delivered from our "sins" here, and now. Our salvation by, and in. Christ assures us of this. It is for these He was delivered (Rom. 6:25). These God has remitted (Rom. 3:25). These are all forgiven and covered (Rom. 4:7.; Col. 2:13). We are not any longer in our trespasses and sins. We were once in them, as it is written in Ephesians 2:1—3: "and you [did He quicken] when ye were dead in [your] trespasses and sins, wherein in times past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the authority of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience (or, unbelief); among whom we also, all, once had our conversation (or, lived our life) in the lusts of our flesh (or, the old nature), practicing the things willed by the flesh and the thoughts [of our heart, or, old nature] and were by nature, children [destined to wratheven as the rest" (Eph. 2:2, 3): "for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience (marg. unbelief)" (Eph. 5:6). But from all these "sins" we have been delivered; and from all that "far off" distance we have been "made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:13). It is not now a question of "sins" but of "sin".
We Are Not In Our Sins; But "Sin" Is In Us. This is the great subject of Romans 7 and we feel the motions and leadings of "sin", yea, we feel them most when we would do good. Sad indeed is this experience. Yea, the old nature seems all the more malignant because of the presence of the new. The new nature seems to stir up the old, and to make its opposition all the more bitter. It is as though the old tenant resents the incoming of the new tenant. Until the new tenant sheds its blessed light abroad within, we do not see or realize the depths and powers of the old one. There are those who have been astounded to discover in themselves tendencies and desires which they never knew the existence of before. They simply carried those desires out "in times past", being "dead" to all sense of their real nature, and awful character. But now, there is a new will directing the members. The members were once under the entire domination of the old will: but they have now been absolved from their allegiance. The old will has no longer dominion over them (Rom. 6:14). The old will is in us, and does all it can to influence our members; but, it no longer has the control.
The conflict between the two natures may be compared to a ship, on which a new Captain has been put on board by the owners. The old Captain has so long held command, and his enmity to the owners is so great, that he has practically treated the vessel as his own; and kept the crew in perfect bondage. The crew have submitted to it, never having known any other authority; or understood what real liberty of service was. From time to time they have heard of it; they have passed other vessels which they saw at once were very different from their own. But, now that the new Captain is in authority they begin to find out what the difference is. The new Captain, henceforth always has control of the helm and the charge of the ship. The ship is the same, the crew is the same. Even the old Captain remains on board. The book of instructions which the new Captain has brought on board tells that the old Captain has been judged and condemned: but the sentence cannot be executed except by the proper judicial authorities, when they reach port. They cannot put him ashore, or throw him everboard. But, he no longer "holds the helm or guides the ship". He tries from time to time to get hold of the wheel, but in vain. He succeeds sometimes in putting forth his old influence by creating disaffection in some members of the crew; for he knows them and their weaknesses well from his former complete control of them. He occasionally bribes or deceives some of them into acts of insubordination which they afterwards deeply regret. But the old Captain cannot get at the "ship's papers". They are now put quite out of his reach, where he cannot touch them. He cannot succeed in altering the ship's course; or change the port for which she is now making. He does not read the book of instructions; and if he looks at it, he does not understand it (1 Cor. 214). The ship's company were once his executive, and carried out only his will: but there is now no obligation for any of them to obey his orders, or to recognize his authority. They are released from it; and henceforth they are under the orders of the new Commander. They are to "reckon" the old Captain as already condemned; and the sentence as only waiting to be carried out. As to his power over them, they are to reckon themselves "as good as dead" so far as he is concerned.
This is the argument of Romans 6:17-19. "But thanks be to God that [though R.V. whereas] ye were the servants (or bond-servants) of sin, yet ye have obeyed from the heart that line of teaching unto which ye were delivered. (18) And being set free from [the dominion of] sin, ye became servants of righteousness. (19) I speak as a man, on account of the weakness of your flesh): for as ye [once] yielded your members in bondage to [work] uncleanness and to iniquity to [work] iniquity; even so now ye present your members in bondage to righteousness to [work] holiness."
We therefore have not only been delivered from our sins, but have been delivered unto this line, or kind of teaching, if we have "so learned Christ" (Eph. 4:20).
But the question is, have we "so learned Christ"? and have we gotten to know the wondrous deliverance which we have obtained in and through Him? This is the application of the Apostle makes of this "line of teaching" given in Romans 6. After speaking of how "other Gentiles walk", who know not this deliverance, he turns to these Ephesian saints and says (Eph. 4:20): "but ye did not thus learn Christ, if indeed ye heard Him, and were taught by Him (according as [the] truth is in Jesus) to have put away from you [all that was] according to your former course of life, the old man, which is corrupt according to its deceitful lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit, that is to say your mind (or new nature), and to have put on the new man, which, according to God, was created in righteousness, and true holiness. Wherefore, having put off "falsehood, speak ye, each one, truth with his neighbour; for we are members one of another" (Eph. 4:20-25).
This passage speaks of what they had done in consequence of having received the new nature. It does not tell them what they were to do. They were not told to put off the old man. That had been done. They are being reminded of what they had "learned" from, or concerning Christ, and of the blessed position the believer in relation to the conflict between the two natures. This is the "truth" which the members of the one body were to speak of to each other (4:25). We are to remind each other that the old man has been deposed from his dominion, and that we have been put under the dominion of the new man. The moods and tenses in this passage must be carefully noted. For unless we know the doctrine of the two natures, we miss the whole scope of the passage. And if we do not discern the scope. we cannot understand the moods and tenses. They are all past infinitives, and not present imperatives. They are not commands for us to do what has already been done. These Ephesian saints were not here told "to put off" or "to put on" anything; but, all having been done for them and for us by God, the one command is to "speak" of, and talk about, this precious "truth" with the other members of the one body. And if we have "so learned the Christ" (i.e., Christ spiritual or mystical) and "heard Him," and have been "taught by Him," this is what we shall do. We shall not do this if we have listened to man, and been taught by man. Man will teach us and tell us that we have got to spend our life in trying "to put off the old man", and labouring "to put on the new man". He will put us under these hopeless tasks and thus bring us into a new kind of bondage: all the more deceitful and dangerous because it seems such a good work. But it is bondage all the same. It is not the "truth" which we learn of Christ. It is not "the line of teaching" unto which we have been delivered. We were not delivered from one bondage in order to come under another; however plausible it may seem.
Man's teaching either ignores the doctrine of the two natures altogether, and is devoted to rules and regulations for controlling the old nature (the only one he knows of): or, where the doctrine is known, it is vitiated by not knowing all that is "taught by Him" concerning our present deliverance from the dominion of the old man now, by the reckoning of faith (Rom. 6:11); and the future" and perfect deliverance from it in resurrection (Rom. 7:24; 1 Cor. 15:57). Hence, man's teaching perverts the blessed doctrine by promising us that, if we follow his prescriptions we can get rid of the old nature now by our own acts of "surrender"; and thus he paves the way for ignoring altogether, and doing without the only deliverance which God has promised by means of rapture or resurrection "through our Lord Jesus Christ"; by substituting death as our hope. This is why "that blessed hope" of the Lord's coming has been so long lost to the great majority of believers. This is why "the hope of Resurrection" has been superseded by the Babylonian tradition of death and an "intermediate state" which is so universally substituted for the Word of God.
There are responsibilities, under which the doctrine concerning the two natures puts us; and there are practical precepts connected with both: but these are all in full harmony with the great lessons which we learn in the school of grace, where grace itself is at once our Saviour and our Teacher (Titus 2:11-13).
We have seen that, though the two natures dwell side by side in the same personality, it is clear that we have certain responsibilities with regard to each of them, quite apart from precepts, rules, regulations, and "commandments of men".
1.) Our first responsibility is to accept God's estimate of it. The Word of God does not reveal the doctrine to us without giving us the needed instruction. Holy Scripture is "profitable for both" (2 Tim.3:16); so that, with the "instruction" we may know how to use the "doctrine"; and how we are to know our responsibilities, and fulfill them for our profit and our peace. If then we recognize this as our first responsibility, then we shall reckon that our old nature "died with Christ" (Rom. 5:11). We are not left in doubt as to what this means. The verse begins "So likewise ye:" Like what?
The preceding verses tell us:
"He that died has been [and is] justified from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall live [again] also with Him: knowing that Christ having been raised up from among [the] dead dieth no more; death no more hath dominion over Him. For He who died, died unto sin once for all; but He who liveth, liveth unto God. Even so ye also reckon yourselves indeed [to be] dead ones as to sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus" (Rom, 6:8-11). Observe, it does not say we are to feel ourselves as dead; or that we are to realize it; but to "reckon" it as being really so in God's sight, as though it were an accomplished fact. These four verses (Rom. 6:8-11) are added as an explanation and illustration of the statement of the fact in the previous verse (5:6). "This knowing, that our old man was crucified with [Christ]." We have the same fact in Romans 7:6: "But now we were cleared [or, discharged] from [the claims of] the law, having died to that in which we were held" (so A.V. margin and R.V. text). We have the same testimony in Galations 2:20, where the Apostle emphasizes an important, independent and dogmatic statement by using the Figure, Epanadiplosos, which commences and closes the sentence (in the Greek) with the same word "Christ"; thus emphasizing and marking off the statement; setting it forth distinctly and attracting our attention to it, and fixing it upon it. "Christ I was crucified with; yet I live, [and yet] no longer I, but He liveth in me, Christ." This is how the Apostle "reckoned" that he died to the law. This is why he says he would actually be a transgressor if he sought now "to be justified by Christ" (5:17); because, if he died with Christ he is freed from the law. His seeking, therefore, after that, for justification even by Christ would be a practical denial of that great revealed fact which had been already accomplished. Even so, it is our first bounden duty to reckon that we are (as regards the law and all its claims on us) as though we were dead persons.
This is not a matter of feeling, but of faith. If we are guided by our feelings we shall never enjoy it. It is for us to "believe God". "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17). God has declared this great fact in His Word (or we could have never known it); we hear that Word; faith believes it and rejoices in what it hears; and believes God, quite apart from the question of feeling. So that our first responsibility as to the old nature is to accept God's estimate of it, and to reckon it (as He does) as having died with Christ when He was crucified.
2.) Our next responsibility is that we are to reckon it as being dead for what is good, as well as for what is bad. When we say "good" we mean, of course, good for God; good in God's sight; good for eternity; good in God's estimate, good as what He looks for and can accept. In His sight there is in the old nature (as we have already learnt) "no good thing". So that when we say we are not to cultivate the good in it, we do not mean what man would call "good", but what God reckons as "good". We are to reckon the old nature as dead in all its goodness as well as in all its badness: and to have done with all expectation of producing anything for God from it, as we are of one who is actually dead and God says it is dead, He expects us to believe it is dead, because He says it is. He looks for us to own it as buried. In the natural man there may be found natural religious and amiable characteristics: and he may cultivate these. But the child of God need not, and is not, to cultivate these. For, by walking according to the new nature, and led by that, what need will there be for cultivating the flesh? Led by that, we have Christ in the place of "religion"; and, we have "the mind of Christ". This infinitely exceeds anything that we could ever produce by any attempted cultivation of the old nature. This leads to ....
3.) A third responsibility, which is to Make No Provision For The Flesh. (Rom. 13:14), but always to remember "the flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6:63). This is what man calls "the teaching of Jesus", our adorable Lord and Master. But though man so calls it he does not want it and he will not have it. At any rate, he will pick and choose what "teaching" he likes. Nevertheless, this is what the Lord taught: "the flesh (or old nature) profiteth nothing". If we believe His estimate of it we shall never seek to make it, or force it, to do anything for God, either in the way of worship or service; we shall never try to get it to do anything by way of meeting God's demand for righteousness. We shall remember that all such righteousness is "as filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). The flesh can be made very religious. Indeed, it is just this which distinguishes "religion" from Christianity. Religion has to do solely with the flesh. All its ordinances are on, or connected with, the flesh. They are all things that the flesh can perform. In Isaiah 1 we have a picture of what "religion" consists. When our Lord appeared on earth this exhibition of religion was at its height. Never was there a greater or more punctilious observance of all its ordinances and ceremonies. But, that these can never give a new nature, or change the old, is shown by the fact that it was the religious part of the nation that crucified the Lord Jesus. That is what a religion, even when given by God, culminated in, when perverted and misused by the old nature. It is to this that such passages as these refer: "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold; to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Sam. 15:22). "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows, in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the world" (Jas. 1:27). That is to say, if it is a question of religion, i.e., of outward acts and observances, then, acts of mercy and kindness are purer and better far than all outward religious acts of service and services; bowings and kneelings; crossings and counting beads; drawing near with the lips, and the observing of days, and keeping of feasts.
This is the essence of the argument in the Epistle to the Colossians, which sums up this very question; "If ye died with Christ from the religious ordinances of the world, why, as living in the world, do ye subject yourselves to ordinances ('Touch not, taste not, handle not'; which all are to perish with the using); after the commandments and doctrines of men?" (Col. 2:20-23). The flesh can understand and be subservient to these ordinances, for they all belong to "earthly things" whereas, "If ye then were raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things which are upon the earth. For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:1-3). Thus we are taught as possessors of the new nature, not to make provision for the old nature; not to feed it up nourishment which it loves ; not to seek to please or gratify it, not even in what in man's sight appears "good". The old nature is full of pride. This is why those gatherings and congregations are crowded where the teaching is what is called "practical"; and the hearers are told to "do" this or that (not that they necessarily think much afterwards about doing it); but still it gratifies the old nature of the religious man: and, the old nature, even in the child of God, loves to hear "precept upon precept, precept upon precept". But let God be honoured, and Christ glorified, His Word magnified and man abased, that is what the old nature will not have. He will have the churches and chapels deserted where this is the doctrine and where the worship is really spiritual. All this is hateful to him; and he will plainly tell you how thoroughly he dislikes it. But where provision is made for him; where there is plenty of music in the choir, and "precept upon precept" in the pulpit, and worldliness in the parish room, there he will be found, with the multitude. There is more danger for the child of God in the things that pertain to "religion" and in the refined desires of the carnal mind, than there is in the coarse and vulgar "lusts of the flesh". The child of God will not readily, or so easily, make such provision for the flesh. His real snare is when the provision is made by others for what is not openly associated with vice and irreligion, worldliness or immorality.
4.) The fifth verse adds another responsibility: "Mortify, Therefore Your Members Which Are Upon the Earth (Col.3:5). This sounds very strange at first, after being told repeatedly that we "died with Christ". It sounds practical also. But for a thing to be practical, it must be practicable. It must be something which we are able to do. The word "mortify" is nekroo, to make dead; hence, to treat as having become dead. The Scripture meaning of the word, here, may be gathered from its usage. Its other two occurrences show us, unmistakably, what this usage is:
Romans 4:19. Of Abraham it is written: "Being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now as good as dead (he being about a hundred years old); or the deadening of Sarah's womb."
Hebrews 11:12. "Wherefore also there sprang of one and that too of [one] as good as dead." It is not a question of what the word means in the Lexicon; or how it was used by the Greeks: but it is a question of how the Holy Spirit uses it. And we see from the two passages just quoted that it is used of one who was actually alive; but, "as good as dead", i.e., impotent as to producing life, and as to all practical purposes. Moreover, the word is used in Colossians not of the old nature itself, but of its "members" (as of Abraham's and Sarah's members): and the exhortation is consequent on the doctrine in the preceding verses.
It begins with "therefore", and the argument is: Seeing that ye died with Christ, occupy yourselves with heavenly things and not earthly things; set your mind on Christ and on the blessed fact that ye are "complete in Him"; and that when He appears in glory ye also shall be manifested in glory. Be not weak in faith: consider not your members which are upon the earth; but reckon them as good as dead, "ye having put off the old man with his deeds, and having put on the new, which is being renewed unto full knowledge, according to [the] image of Him that created him" (Co1. 3:1-10).
It is because of the fact that we died with Christ, and hence, have put off the old man, and have put on the new, that we are therefore on that account to "reckon" the "members" of our body "as good as dead", and to account them as being impotent, and unable to produce any "living", or "good works".
All so-called "good" works done by the old nature are "dead works". They are wrought by our members which are, in God's estimation, "as good as dead". Only those are "good works" which God Himself has "prepared for us to walk in" (Eph. 2:10); and which are done in the spiritual strength of the new nature.
Oh! that God's estimate may be ours: that, like Abraham, we may be not "weak in faith" in this important matter; but strong, believe God; and thus, set free to center our affections on the things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God; and to wait for our manifestation with Him in glory.
Our responsibilities as to the new nature are exactly the opposite to those as to the old nature. Our first responsibility as to the old nature was to reckon it as having died with Christ. So our first great responsibility as to the new nature is:
1.) To Reckon Ourselves Alive in a new species of life Rom. 6:11) This new nature is life—new life, spiritual life, divine life, eternal life (Rom. 3:6). And we are to reckon that we are now "alive", and living in this new life: i.e., living on a new plane of life, unto, and for God; and that this life is "in Christ Jesus". Not in "Jesus Christ", as in the A.V. How the A.V. should ever have said "Jesus Christ" is incomprehensible; for there is no question at all of a various reading in the Greek. It is plainly and indisputably "in Christ Jesus"; for the believer is never said to be "in Jesus". It is not in a dead Jesus, but in a risen and living "Christ" that we now stand. And we are to "reckon" now, by faith (not by feeling), that we do really stand before God in this new species of life. As long as we look at ourselves we shall never be able to "reckon" it; for we shall see no reason why He should ever have given us this wondrous "gift". We shall see no cause for it in anything that we have ever done.
If we are to carry out this reckoning we shall have to "believe God". In Ephesians 2:4-6 He has given us every encouragement so to do; for there He reminds us that it was while we were children of wrath and unable to think a good thought, or to do a good act, then it was that "God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead ones in our trespasses, made us together alive in Christ: (by grace ye are saved), and raised us up together, and seated us together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus: that He might show, in the ages to come, the surpassing riches of His grace in [His] kindness towards us in Christ Jesus: for by grace ye [have been and] are saved through faith: and this [salvation is] not of yourselves [for it is God's gift]: not of works, in order that no one should boast" (Eph. 2:4-9). If it is not by "works", then certainly it is not by feeling. It is only by the reckoning of faith that we can enter into, and enjoy, this precious declaration of an accomplished salvation. But this leads us to another responsibility, which is given in the following verse (Eph. 2:10). "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before prepared (marg.) that we should walk in them." Therefore,
2.) We are to walk in this new life (Rom. 5:4). The Greek here for "new", kainates, newness. It is from kainos, new (not as being young, or fresh, or recently made; which is neos; but, as being new-made, and different from what had been before; new, in the sense of coming in the place of what had formerly been. Kainotes occurs only in Romans 6:4, and 7:6, but in each case the word is used in a different association or connection. In Romans 6:4 it refers to our walk (and in 7:6 to our service).
1.) As to our walk, it is to be in "newness of life": i.e., as living on a new and different plane of life; no longer merely the physical life; but now, the spiritual life. No longer the life as derived from the first Adam, but the life as derived from the last Adam, even Christ. A new sphere of life altogether. The former was of the earth, earthly: the latter is heavenly in its origin, its course, and its end. Our seat of government now is in heaven, and our "walk" is to be governed by that heavenly government, and not by any authority having its origin on the earth. As we walk about in the world we are ever to think of and to remember that we are in it, but not of it; and, as all who walk are responsible to look and see where they are going, so we are to "look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20, 21): and this is to govern our walk.
2.) In Romans 7:6 this new sphere of life is used in connection with service "but now we were cleared [or discharged] from the law, having died to that in which we were held, so that we [are now privileged] to serve in newness of spirit (i.e., in the new sphere of the new nature), and not in the old sphere of [the] letter [of the law]". This tells us that our service is no longer to be governed by the "letter" of the law, but by its "spirit"; and our service is to spring from a new motive altogether; the other is old41 and antiquated and out of date. Now it is to be not from duty, but from love; not from the observance of rules and regulations, but from delight; not from vows or pledges, but in perfect freedom of action; not as being bondservants, but as sons. A totally new sphere of service is brought to us with the new nature; and our responsibility henceforth is to serve God on this line and plane of service. Unless we are most watchful we shall find ourselves constantly dropping into the bondage of the antiquated letter, and acting in a servant-spirit instead of a sonship-spirit.
3.) But there is a third walk connected with this "newness", or new sphere, into which the new nature brings us; and that is in connection with worship. It is spoken of in Galatians 5:25, and it follows on as an additional thought to living in this new spiritual sphere. It has to do with our walk and worship, as being "in Christ", and not according to the religious ordinances of the world.
"If we live [according] to [the] spirit (or new nature), [according] to [this] spirit we should walk" (Gal. 5:25). That is to say, we, who have this new nature are to walk accordingly; and the verb rendered "walk" here is a different word from that we have had in Romans 5:4 and 7:6. It is stoicheo, and it always means to walk according to religious rules and regulations; and has reference to outward religious rites, ordinances, and ceremonies. The noun stoicheiun occurs only in two of the seven Church Epistles, viz.: Galatians and Colossians, which are both corrective of doctrinal errors, arising from being ignorant of the teaching of Romans and Ephesians respectively. It occurs twice in each epistle (Gal. 4:3, 9, and Col. 2:8, 20). Three times out of the four it is associated with the word "world", cosmos, and thus refers to what is outward and material, in contrast with, and opposition to, what is inward and spiritual.
The uncertainty as to its meaning, in both the A.V. and R.V., is shown by the inconsistent renderings. In the A.V., in Galatians, it is rendered "elements" in the text, and "rudiments" in the margin; while in Colossians it is "rudiments" in the text, and "elements" in the margin. The R.V. has the latter (the Colossian rendering of the A.V.) in all four passages.
The word refers to all that is outward in religious observance; all religious acts that have to do with the flesh, or the old nature. So that the responsibility brought before us in Galatians 5:25 tells us that, as we are now living in the new sphere of life, so we are to walk according to the new spiritual nature; and not to follow, or walk in, or according to, the outward religious ceremonialism of the world: neither as to heathen institutions, or Jewish rites and meats, and drinks, and washings; days and months, and seasons, and years (Gal. 5: 10, 11; Col. 2:16, 17; Rom. 13:1-9); or according to Babylonian traditions.
Thus there are three distinct responsibilities as to our walk according to the new nature: they are Life, Service, and Worship; and relate, respectively, to what is Inward, Outward, and Upward. As to the sphere within, we are to walk according to the new sphere of life into which the new nature introduces us (Rom. 6:4). As to the sphere without, we are to serve according to the same newness of the spiritual or new nature (Rom. 7: 6). As to the sphere above, we are to "worship God in (or, according to) spirit", and not according to the religious traditions and ordinances and commandments of men (Gal. 5:25; Co1. 2:20-22). These are the same three spheres which are all summed up in Titus 2:11-13; and these are the same three lessons which grace teaches. For grace not only brings us salvation, but it teaches us "that having denied ungodliness and worldly lusts (i.e., all the products of the old nature), we should live soberly, and righteously, and godly in this present world: looking for that blessed hope, even [the] glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ"? Here we are taught how we are to live in our new sphere, or plane, of life.
1.) As to the world within. our walk is to be "soberly". The Greek sophronos, with self-control over all our desires, and a dignified constraint over all our members. This alone, and nothing short of this, is "gospel temperance". To limit this self-control to only that one of our desires which is created by thirst, is to miss the whole point of the injunction, and to leave all our other desires of the flesh, and of the mind, without restraint and without control; or, at any rate to act as though they may well so be left. But the greater includes the less. And true gospel temperance includes self-control over not only drinking, but over eating, dressing, reading, spending, saving, traveling, talking, sight-seeing, visiting, singing, etc.; and covers the whole ground of what is called "purity". It includes every department of our daily life; not only the coarse lusts of the flesh, but the refined desires of the mind; it covers not only what is unlawful, but what is lawful. It controls not only what is lawful, but what is expedient.
Man's perversion of "temperance" is the result of walking according to the flesh, and not according to the spirit. It would control only one of the lusts and leave the door open to all the others. Money not spent in drink may be spent on immorality. Money saved in drinking may be lost in gambling. And thus the mere ethical reformer is only picking off a dead leaf or rotten fruit here and there, while what is wrong lies at the root. It is not reformation that is needed, but regeneration. A "reformed character" is far from being a saved sinner. Such work is good for the world to be engaged in: but it is not the work of the Church of God to labour to make reformed characters. A minister of the Gospel cannot engage in it without neglecting the higher, and only work for which he is commissioned. No! The walk, according to the new nature, settles all such questions as these for the child of God, and includes the whole; while a walk, according to the flesh, is occupied with only a certain part of the whole. As to the world within, therefore, our walk is to be with self-control in all things.
2.) As to the world without our walk is to be dikaios, righteously. And this, not only for righteousness, but from righteousness. Not because it is required by the laws and commandments of men, but because it is the desire of the new nature. Not from a sense of duty, but from the power of love. Not as servants, but as sons. Not as compelled by pledges, or badges, or vows, but as constrained by the divine nature within to walk righteously as to the world without.
3.) As to the world above, our walk is to be "godly", (i.e., it is to have God for its one and only object. It will consist, therefore, not in the ordinances, and ceremonies of man's religious traditions, but in the activities of the new nature. In a word, it is Christ only, in place of all that goes by the name of religion. It is Christ, and not even the "Christian religion", as being one of the many other religions; but Christ, or true Christianity. Thus, and thus only shall we fulfill this responsibility as to our new nature, and be of those "who [according] to spirit (or the new nature), worship (or serve) God; and glory in Christ Jesus; and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3).
4). The third responsibility as to the new nature is To Feed And Nourish It On Its Own Proper Food. As the old nature, the flesh, is fed and nourished by that which is extraneous to it (for it cannot feed on itself), so it is with the new nature. Its food must come from without, It requires to be constantly supplied with the food provided and suited for it. That food is the Word of God. Hence we are told that, as new-born babes, we are to desire the sincere or pure milk of the Word, that we may grow thereby (1 Pet. 2:2). The Word of God is the food of the new nature. "Man shall not live by bread alone; but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God shall man live" (Deut. 8:3). There is food of all kinds in it. Milk for babes, and meat for the strong: comfort for the mourners, help for the weak. As new-born babes desire milk, so the new-born child of God needs and yearns for the milk of the Word. This is the only food of the new nature; but it must be "pure": the living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; and the written Word, "the scriptures of truth". Not one without the other. "I am the bread of life"; i.e., the bread which supports life. "The bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven" (John 6:33, 35, 48-51). And then, of the written words of God, Jeremiah could say, "Thy words were found and I did eat them, and thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart" (Jer. 15:16). If this could be said by one under the old Covenant—a fortiori,—how much more must it be so for those under the new Covenant, and for the possessors of a "divine nature". If the manna from heaven is called "angel's food", how much more can the Word be called "the bread of God"?
It is only by feeding on the Word that the new nature can be properly nourished. It cannot thrive on man's words, nor on all his "great thoughts". They are useless in the spiritual sphere. The new nature would starve on human reasoning and worldly literature. All these, at best, would make a "man of men"; but he who feeds on the God-breathed Scriptures will become a "man of God" (2 Tim. 3:17), thoroughly fitted out for every emergency; ready for every difficulty; equipped for every conflict; provided against every danger; armed against every temptation; prepared for every trial. The Son of God, when tried, fell back on the Word of God. His first ministerial words were, "It is written"; and His first ministerial utterance was in the words of Scripture (Deut. 8:3). Three times the Lord spoke on that solemn occasion, and each time it was in the words of Scripture.
In His last ministerial utterances (John17), three times did He again refer to this Word. "Thy Word is truth" (5:17). "I have given them Thy Word" (5:14). "I have given unto them the WORDS which thou gavest Me" (5:8). Here we have again the "words" and the "Word"; for the Word is made up of words; and it is impossible to have the one without the other. If words be tampered with, the Word as a whole is vitiated. No wonder that believers are so weak and powerless both in resisting the evil and in producing the good. So manifest is this weakness that special meetings, and "Missions", and "Conventions", have been introduced with the express object of "deepening the spiritual Life". These furnish the evidence as to the low standard of spiritual life, and the unsatisfactory condition of multitudes of Christians. These are the confessed grounds for the need of such special efforts being made. But the very expression is non-scriptural. We will not say un-scriptural, because what is meant is right. But it shows a forgetfulness of the Word which declares that this new nature is "perfect", and "divine", and cannot therefore be "deepened", or increased. It can be nourished, and fed, and strengthened, but this can be done only by feeding on God's Word, and not by listening to men's words. It is by the "exposition" of the Word, and not by exhortation of men, that the new nature can be strong and can be kept in good spiritual health. It is by setting the mind on the things that are above, and not by fixing the attention on anything on earth. It is by searching the Scriptures, not by the examination of self. All other and lower means that may be adopted only tend to feed and puff up the flesh; and the snare is all the more subtle and dangerous, because it seems and sounds so "good", both in matter, and manner, and motive.
Moreover, these Conventions are at considerable intervals of time; and to depend on them is as though one were to live on very low diet for a time, and then to make up for it by a great banquet. Thus, at best, it becomes a very irregular, not to say unhealthy, mode of living. There were saints of God, and a noble army of martyrs and giants in the ministry of the Word of God, and a host of true faithful witnesses long before the days of "Missions", and "Conventions", and Societies. It was such Protestants as these who gained for us our great and priceless liberties, long before the days of our modern Protestant Societies, which were invented only for the purpose of defending and preserving what others had gained for us. All these modern inventions are at once a confession and proof of the low estate into which we are fallen. The many, instead of feeding on the Word for themselves, prefer to hear the results of other people's studies of it. It is as though a person were to attend lectures on diet, and study the chemistry of food, instead of eating it, and digesting it, and gathering strength and vigour for his daily duties. To live on exciting literature, whether sacred or secular, is as though a person were to attempt to live on cakes and sweets and "made dishes" instead of on strength-producing, life-giving, wholesome food. This is why so many are unequal to the opportunities and responsibilities of the Christian life. This is why so many are powerless before temptation. They give their new nature so little food. They feed on the unwholesome food of their own experiences, or on the experiences and biographies of others. They partake of "good" books, man's books, and hymn-books, which only produce fermentation instead of digestion; because such food cannot be assimilated by the new nature. Is it any wonder that, with this kind of dietary, and the Word of God partaken of irregularly or only at rare intervals, or scarcely at all, that so many Christians do not manifest a very high conception of the sonship-spirit, of the high and wonderful privileges of the sons of God; or exhibit a real sense of their responsibility in the world in which their lot is cast?
Let us remember then, that, to realize the privilege of being sons of God, the word of Christ must "dwell within us richly in all wisdom (Co1. 3:16). The Written Word and the Living Word are the only food of the new nature, and our feeding upon them must not be irregular or at haphazard, getting a mouthful now and again. We do not treat our physical bodies thus: nor do we thus partake of our ordinary bodily food: for we all know full well that proper meals must be partaken of at regular intervals, masticated slowly, and thoroughly digested, so that it may be assimilated and become part of ourselves. Even so must it be with regard to that new spiritual life, which is ours in the gift of the new nature. When our spiritual condition is weak through neglect of our necessary food, then it is that we are tempted to resort to all sorts of remedies to get the needed strength and health. Many have recourse to quack medicines, which abound in the religious as they do in the natural world. All sorts of new-fashioned courses of "treatment" are recommended by the "profession", and all sorts of "foods" are advertised as the "best". God's "bread of life", which He has provided for us, contains within it all that is necessary for us. But we treat it as we treat God's "corn", which He has provided for our natural life. In the grinding of this corn, man has so constructed his mills that he eliminates from it, automatically, in the grinding, nearly all that God has put in it. What is left is mostly starch (to say nothing of deleterious matters which are put into it); and as this starch is out of all proportion to the diastase, which is that part of the saliva that can alone digest it, it ferments in the stomach instead of being digested: hence it remains, to become the source of many evils. Meanwhile our system is so poorly nourished that our general health is affected: we mourn over the loss of hair, or teeth; we feel that we are "out of sorts" generally; and then it is that we resort to widely advertised medicines and "foods", until many contract what is known as the "drug habit", and cannot do without such props to their natural life.
In the matter of bread (which to a large extent is practically unobtainable), man is beginning to find out his mistake, and is attempting to remedy it. But what does he do? Instead of adopting the very obvious means, and going back to what God has provided in the corn of wheat which contains everything that is needed, and this in the right proportion, he is concocting various kinds of "breads", to which he gives wonderful names. The unwary try these new fashioned breads; and, though their food costs them more, they do not find the result they hoped for. All this is a great reality going on before all our eyes; and it has its counterpart in the spiritual world. The Word of God is neglected, or dealt with, or dealt out, by man in various ways. The milk of the Word is put into a "separator", and what is not believed by this sect or the other is carefully eliminated or avoided. Man's substitutes are partaken of; and when we realize that we are weak, or out of health, then, instead of going back to the cause of all the mischief (which is neglect of feeding of the simple diet of the Word of God), we continue the very system which has produced all these sad effects, and seek to remedy them by having recourse to man's prescriptions, and by adapting man's recommendations. One party recommends some new kind of "treatment": another adopts "retreats", which are a kind of "rest cure": some take to "stimulants", and, while carefully eschewing those of the material world, will go in for the stimulants and excitement of "missions" and "meetings". Others will act as though the continued practice of the "confession" of the ills they deplore would remove them or cure them; while others, again, act as though a "convention" on these things would bring the desired relief. Meantime, it is openly confessed by the very promoters of these modern methods that Christian life is at a very low standard; while spiritual life and sturdy Protestant strength is at a low ebb. Like an ill-fed horse, which has constantly to be whipped, so these ill-fed believers lash themselves; and go and sit in crowds for others to whip them up to their duties; instead of being like a well-led horse, on which a whip has no need to be used, and which requires only guiding and holding in. But all this is not the only evil, or even the worst feature of it. For it is when, in this very low condition of spiritual strength, we engage in spiritual work for the Lord, that we are compelled to do this work in the strength of the old nature, the flesh. This naturally leads many into still greater trouble; until, finally, they "break down", and are "ordered away"; or they break up, and all comes to an end.
Oh, that we could make them see the one simple cause of all these evils, which are universally recognized, admitted, and deplored. The existence of these evils is borne witness to by the very efforts which are made on all hands to remedy them. The root of all the trouble is the neglect of the divinely appointed means, the feeding upon the Word of God. This is the instrument by means of which the new nature is implanted; and this is the only means by which it can be supported, nourished, and strengthened. This Word of God is of value, only as we feed on it for ourselves; and as we properly digest it and assimilate it. No one can do this for us. Do not think, therefore, that we can live by looking on and seeing other people eat or that we can learn by merely looking over and copying their' work. We must do our own searching’s of the Word, and "mark" our own Bibles, and make our own tables and analyses. True, we may be guided and instructed in this by others; and we may be stimulated by their labours and examples; but we must each one do it for one's self, and we must learn it for ourselves from the Word. After we may have heard it from others, we must feed on it for ourselves in order to derive strength from it. Everything that we can need for our spiritual health and strength is in the Word of God: and the Holy Spirit who inspired it there is with us, to teach us, and to inspire it in our hearts. Let all our dependence be placed on Him. Let us not slight Him by leaning upon man. Lean not on our own writings. Listen to them only so far as they glorify Christ and magnify His Word. All we can do is to act as a guide and a fingerpost, to tell you where the food is, and where the "green pastures" lie; and to point out the usefulness, the sweetness, the power, the truth, and the profitableness of this heavenly food; and tell you where you may find what is suited to your needs. We have no monopoly in this. We have only the same Word to feed on for ourselves. We can prepare the food, and carve it for you, but we cannot eat it for you: you must do this for yourselves. It is, after all, simply a question of diet, in the spiritual, as it is, so often, in the physical sphere; and the health of both may be ascertained and known by the same test, and that is "appetite". Appetite in the natural world is the sign of health. The absence of it is the opposite sign. So it is in the spiritual sphere. Our appetite or desire to feed on the Word of God is the measure of our spiritual health. By this measure we may test ourselves. This acts like the clinical thermometer in enabling us to find out and demonstrate our real spiritual condition.
All depends on our spiritual appetite for our only spiritual food, the Word of God. Only as we not only feed on that Word, but as we digest it, and assimilate it, for our own selves, only so far will it profit us. Like money, it is of value only in proportion to the enjoyment, benefit, or true happiness that we get out of it. We may have a million pounds in the bank, but if we never use our cheque-book or spend that money, the mere coins are no more to us than so many "counters", or they remain merely a row of figures in a book. God forbid that it should be so with us in relation to His Word. We have all there that is able to make us "walk in newness of Life". Here we shall find all armour for every conflict, all strength for every service, all comfort for every sorrow, all resources for every need. Oh, may this precious Word be not only our armoury, or our storehouse, but our table. Oh, that we may, by God's grace, truthfully be able to say : "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runeth over" (Ps. 23:5).
There are some remaining points with regard to our responsibility as to the two natures which come more under the head of practical conclusions, or advice, which follow logically from what has been received from Scripture. Not that we would put readers under any rules or regulations. But, after what we have learnt from the Word of God, there are certain responsibilities which are inevitable if we would enjoy the full blessing and fruits of the doctrine, in our own experience. It is not enough for us to "hold the truth" as to the two natures. The truth must hold us, if we are to know its value and its power. If the truth holds us, then:
1.) We Shall Daily Ignore The Flesh, And Deny All Its Calls And Claims. We have to remember that though we are "not in the flesh", the flesh is in us, and that we can never get rid of it till rapture, death, or resurrection. If we fail to keep this in daily remembrance we are at the mercy of every false teacher; liable to fall into any error which may spring up; and to be led astray into any of the new fashions and modern methods, the tricks and contrivances of fleshly religion. All these errors in doctrine and practice come from this one source. This source is the acknowledging of the claims and capabilities of the old nature. It is the essence and foundation of all false religions, as seen in the Church of Rome and elsewhere. We have it set forth in one sentence in a Roman Catholic book? "We are commanded by Jesus suffering and dying for us to imitate Him by the crucifixion of our flesh, and by acts of daily mortification."
Wherein does this differ from the popular holiness teaching of the present day? True, it may be put in a different way; it may be looked at from other points of view; but this is the ultimate end, aim, and. object of all who cultivate or attend to the claims of the old nature. The means employed or recommended may vary: but the result desired is one and the same, viz., to arrive at a state of sinlessness more or less. All this comes from one root, the flesh, with all its claims and calls, is not ignored as being "as good as dead".
If this practical duty be not attended to, the door stands wide open for every form of error that may choose to enter. If we can bear this responsibility in daily remembrance, it will keep us from embarking on any efforts, plans, or schemes which have for their object the cultivation or improvement of the flesh. It will preserve us also from any form of modern teaching which would excite the hope that, by following certain rules, the flesh can be eradicated. Both hopes are absolutely groundless, and can end only in grievous disappointment. Let us make no mistake as to this first fundamental fact, and then we shall not be misled by false hopes that, by suitable food and training, we can change flesh into spirit: or that, by mortifying it in any way, we can get rid of it.
2.) The Best Practical Way of Treating The Old Nature Is To Starve It, by keeping it on low diet. But this cannot be done directly by making that an aim or a "work". It can be done only indirectly by constantly attending to the claims and desires, and satisfying the ever heaven-ascending longings of the new nature. We have seen that the food of the new nature is the Word of God. While we are directly feeding upon that we are indirectly starving the old nature. For (and this is the important fact) we cannot be feeding both natures at the same time! The nourishment on which the one nature thrives will starve the other. And this fact cuts both ways. If we are feeding the old nature on man's books and man's teachings, we shall be keeping the new nature ill-fed, impoverished and weak. The old nature will thrive on general literature. But the new nature will thrive only on the Word of God. His words "are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63); and only what is spiritual can be assimilated by spirit.
Many Christians are constantly occupied with man's thoughts and man's books; and then they are surprised at the low condition of their Christian life and walk. They then rush off to adopt some new fashion (just as the old nature flies to stimulants or drugs), which promises to supply the want and the vacuum which has actually been created; whereas it is only a matter of diet. If, in our physical life, people will persist in eating or drinking what is bad for them, they must suffer the inevitable consequences. It is exactly the same in the spiritual sphere: and if the palpable effects are seen in our walk and conversation, then the one and only remedy is to remove the cause. That will prove much less expensive; give much less trouble; prove perfectly effective; and will bring with it no disappointment. Our practical conclusion, therefore, is: do not read any book, do not listen to any speaker, teacher, or preacher unless you are sure that you will know more of God's Word after so doing than you did before. It matters nothing to you what any mortal man thinks. Unless he can help you to understand more dearly what God says, he will be a hindrance to you instead of a help. You cannot thrive upon man's words. It is only "by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man Live" (Deut. 8:3). If you feed on the words that proceed out of the mouth of man you will starve. God's words are "spirit and they are life". Do not talk so much about the Scriptures. Be more ready to let them talk to you. In conversation about them, do as Ezra the scribe did. Instead of trying to remember imperfectly what the Word says, and hence, often misquoting it, "open the book" (Neh. 8:5). Let it speak for itself. Its words will be more weighty than your own, for God is with them to make them work effectually. Bind the Word about your heart. For, "When thou goest it shall lead thee: when thou sleepest it shall keep thee; when thou awakest it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life" (Prov. 6:21-23).
You will find people always ready to talk on any subject but God, and His Christ, and His Word. They will talk about man, and the news of the world. On Sundays they will vary this by talking of churches and ministers and sermons and services, but it is still man! Those who possess the new nature find that these things do not satisfy; they leave a craving for something better. Nothing will ever satisfy but God Himself, and the Living Word and the written Word. If "David's Psalm of praise" (Ps. 145.) was true of him, how much more shall it be true of us. How shall not we say, "I will extol Thee, nay God, 0 King; and I will bless Thy Name for ever and ever. Every day will I bless Thee; and I will praise Thy Name for ever and ever . . . I will speak of the glorious honour of Thy Majesty, and of Thy wondrous works. And men shall speak of the might of Thy terrible acts: and I will declare Thy greatness. They shall abundantly utter the memory of Thy great goodness, and shall sing of Thy righteousness" (Ps. 145:5-7).
This will be found to have a very different practical conclusion to talking of the eloquent words of one, or the inconsistent acts of another, or the wonderful works of another. The former is a sowing to the spirit, the latter is a sowing to the flesh.
If our new nature is to thrive, and if we are to be "fat and well-liking", we must feed upon the words of God, and thus starve the old nature (Gal. 4:8).
We must be occupied either with the flesh or with the spirit; with the old nature or with the new; and according as we sow to the one or the other we must reap. This is the plain truth and teaching given to us in Galatians 6:7, 8, commencing with the solemn warning:
"BE NOT DECEIVED,"
given to the Galatian saints, who, having begun their walk in the spirit (or the new nature) were seeking to be made perfect in the flesh (Gal. 3:3). They had "run well", but someone had come in and hindered them, so that they forgot, and did not obey this important truth and teaching (Gal. 3:7) which we are now seeking to enforce. We all desire (according to the desire of our new nature) so to walk as "not to fulfill the lusts of the flesh" (the old nature). What, then, are we to do to accomplish these our desires? Many put themselves under a yoke of bondage, and try to obey rules, and make vows and give pledges, and wear badges. But it is all in vain. All this, instead of weakening the flesh, only strengthens it by ministering to it, and occupying our minds with it. God's way is much more simple. It is--"Walk [according] to [the] spirit (or new nature), and the lust of the flesh ye shall in no wise fulfill" (Gal. 5:16). This is God's promise and God's rule. Try it! It will take you clean out of the hands of man. It will deliver you from a terrible bondage. It will bring peace and blessing into your life. It will give you refreshment and rest. Walk according to the pneuma; occupy yourselves with your new nature; minister to its needs; make provision in every way for it, and it alone; and you have God's word for it that your desire shall be attained. He assures you that "Ye shall in no wise fulfill the lusts of the flesh." This expression ou me, in no wise, is the very strongest that can be used! It is a double negative, which emphasizes and intensifies the assertion to such a degree that whenever it was used by man it was never made good. But whenever it was used by the Lord, it was surely and certainly abundantly fulfilled. When He said, "Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37), He used the expression, ou me, by no means, on no account, will He cast out.
Even so is this the ease with the Divine assurance of Galatians 5:16: "Ye shall in no wise fulfill the lust of the flesh." Let us blessedly and thankfully rest on this Divine assurance.
3.) We Must Never Put Ourselves Under Law (Rom. 7:6 marg.). This is another thing we must never do. The moment we fail to remember this, we quicken the flesh into activity. The flesh revels in law, as we have seen. The law was meant for the flesh; but only, and on purpose to prove the "weakness" of the flesh (Rom. 8:3). The law was never meant for a man "in Christ". Hence, the moment we come down from the high position in which grace has set us, and put ourselves under law, we stir up the flesh into greater activity and power.
This is what Scripture means by the expression "falling from grace". This does not mean backsliding or apostasy, as we call it; but it means walking according to the old nature instead of the new; thinking of that; cultivating and attending to that, instead of to the new nature. "Christ is become of none effect unto you whosoever [of you] are being justified by law" (Gal. 5:4). No wonder, then, that this important chapter (Gal. 5.) commences with the solemn exhortation: "For liberty Christ made us free: stand fast, therefore, and do not be entangled again in a yoke of bondage." Do not put yourselves under any vows, or take any pledges of any kind whatsoever. Do not wear any badges of any kind. They are only badges of bondage. They are the signs and tokens of "the yoke of bondage" under which you have put yourselves. They are entanglements. They imply that grace is not able to keep you, apart from some human props and devices. They practically deny the divine assurance—"My grace is sufficient for thee" (2 Cor. 12:9).
True, we may constantly feel our weakness, through the flesh being in us; but all this has been provided against by "the God of all grace"; for He has said, "My power is made perfect in [your] weakness" (2 ,Cor. 12:9). Avoid, therefore, all "rules for daily living", all "directories", or guides for living a "devout life". Shun them as you would your most deceitful enemy. They will prove fatal to your peace; they will take all the sunshine out of your life; they will turn you from a son, into a bondservant; and sap your spiritual powers at their fountain head. Cease all efforts either to improve the flesh or to get rid of it. Feed the new nature regularly with the divinely prepared food, and everything else will fall into its own proper place. Have full confidence in the grace of God and the power of God (2 Cor. 12:9). And adopt no schemes or plans that would imply that you need any help outside the Word of God.
4.) Finally, remember The Distinction Between Religion and Christianity. Religion has to do with the flesh; but only Christ will do for the new nature. The flesh knows nothing of Christ, the Son of God, as our Life. It is concerned only with what it can see and hear and comprehend. But the new nature cannot be satisfied with anything lower than Christ Himself. Not even with Christianity or the "Christian religion" apart from Him. In Philippians 3 we have this great contrast fully exhibited and illustrated in the personal experience and "pattern" of the Apostle Paul. His example will help us more than any precept. He tells us of the wonderful ground of "confidence in the flesh" which he once had as a strictly religious Jew. However much confidence in the flesh others might have, he could still say, "I more": and in seven particulars he enumerates them and sums them up (Phil. 3:5, 6). But all this time he was blind. He had as yet no new nature within to bring the old and sinful (though religious) nature to light. But when he received that priceless gift of the new nature, then he discovered that he had been all that time really "a blasphemer, a persecutor, injurious", and the "chief of sinners" (1 Tim. 1:13-16). So that, as to religion, he could say, "I more"; and as to sinners, "I chief". But when his eyes had been opened to know the Lord Jesus as his Saviour and his Lord, then he was only too thankful to cast away all his religion, which he had as a Jew, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord (Phil. 3:8). He counted all things but loss, and as garbage, compared with Christ. He did not merely change the "Jews' religion" for the "Christian religion"; but he thankfully gave up all religion for Christ.
As to his standing before God, his glory was that he was now "found in Him" (5:9). As to his new object as a Christian, it was that he might "get to know Him" (5:10). As to his hope, it was to "like Him" in resurrection glory at His coming (5:22). It was all "Him". As a Jew he had the hope of resurrection, but he gladly gave even that up for the far greater hope of having part in what he calls "the out-resurrection from among the dead" (5:11), which had become his as a member of the one spiritual Body of Christ. This does not mean that he, as a Christian, hoped that by certain efforts he might obtain some advantage over other Christians; but that, as a Christian (a man in Christ), he already had a more blessed hope than any which the "Jews' religion" could ever give him. He is not speaking of giving up his sins, but of giving up his "gains". All that he once counted religious gains he now counted as garbage, compared with the real "gain" which he had in the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord; for he had gotten to know "the power of Christ's resurrection", and what that meant for all the members of the One body: for all who had fellowship in His sufferings, and had died with Him in His death (5:10). Nothing less than this is Christianity. All short of this is religion. Christianity consists, not in articles, creeds, or confessions; not in churches, memberships or fellowships; but, in a Person. God grant that each of our readers may be enabled by grace to say of all their supposed advantages in the flesh—"What things were [counted] gain to these I have esteemed as garbage for Christ" (Phil. 3:7).
5.) But, in conclusion, Forget Not That This Is The Way Sorrow And Of Conflict; not from within, but from without. Not merely conflict arising from our own old nature, but from that of others. It remains true, and will be found to be true in our own experience, and to the end :—"As then, He who was born according to the flesh persecuted him that was born according to Spirit, thus also it is now" (Gal. 4:29). The emphasis is placed on the two words "then" and "now": one being the first word in the sentence, the other the last word. This is to assure us that we must look for no change in the old nature; no change in these circumstances. All we are exhorted to do is to be reminded that we are sons of the free-woman, not of the bond-woman; and that we are to "stand fast in this liberty" (Gal. 5:1). Blessed liberty! The word "theft' in Galatians 4:29 refers to Ishmael and Isaac, but it points backward, further still, even to Cain and Abel, and to the religious hatred which ended, and would always, if it could, end in murder still. It points also to the fact that it was the religious party among the Jews, not the rabble, but "the chief priests", who were determined on the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus? Even so it is "now". "All who will (i.e., are determined) to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12). And this persecution will come chiefly from religious flesh. Who among us will not mournfully admit that his chief troubles and trials have come to him through the working of the flesh in his fellow-Christians? Instead of the persecutions coming as of old from the world, which broke people's bones, they come now from fellow-believers and break people's hearts!
It was when Saul was carrying out his religion the more earnestly that he was engaged in the work of persecution (Phil. 3:6). It is religion that has shed the blood of the saints; it is religion which has filled the ranks of "the noble army of martyrs".
"Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called "children of God". On account of this the world does not get to know us, because it has no knowledge of Him."
It is in connection with this that we are told: "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hateth you" (1 John 3:1, 13).
"If the world hateth you, ye know that it has hated Me before [it hated] you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; and because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, on account of this, the world hateth you" (John 15:18, 19, and 17:14).
If these words were true "then", of the
Apostles to whom they were addressed, how much more true shall we find
them "now" in our own experience. Therefore, as possessors of
the new nature, let us "marvel not" either at its conflict
with the old nature within us, or at its conflict with those without us:
but let us rather rejoice that we have in this very conflict the
greatest assurance that we are "sons of God", and are
"His workmanship". This is the surest proof we can have that,
as the children of God, we have been chosen out of the world; and let us
"count it all joy" if we are privileged to suffer anything for
Him who suffered all for us—"for the joy that was set before