By Norman P. Grubb
I suppose every eager searcher after God's truth for the liberated life knows that the biblical key to opening the door lies in Paul's letter to the Romans, chapters six to eight. I have been a persistent searcher for years, and these pages of my many Bibles have been well worn! I think now, in my nineties, as never before, I have in working focus what Paul is saying. So I am writing this for those who are also diggers and hopefully finders.
I will assume that we are already born-again knowers by God's Spirit (Rom. 5:5). As confessed sinners, in our guilty and lost condition, we found "peace with God" through Christ, who was "set forth as a propitiation through faith in His blood" and "Raised again for our justification" (Rom. 3:25; 4:25; 5:1,5,10).
Now we come to the practical question of Rom. 6:1, as up to date today as when it was first posed. Is there such a sure provision for daily consistent and holy living as for having the past blotted out? "Yes, surely," says Paul. "Don't you know that it is all part of the gift of a full salvation?" So in these chapters he begins to explain himself, and we will follow along.
INTO DEEP WATERS
Paul starts by taking for granted that his readers have a deeper quality of spiritual understanding than most of us today had at our new birth. "Know ye not," he asks, "that when our Lord Jesus Christ hung on that cross, he represented us all, and therefore His dying there means you and I died there?" Water baptism -- our being immersed beneath the waters and lifted out again -- is a symbol of the fact that when He died on the cross and was buried in the tomb, by faith we died, were buried, and then were raised with Him (Rom. 6:3,4). And as the Holy Spirit entered the resurrected body of Jesus, which represented all ours, the same Spirit has entered us, delivering us from Satan, whose sin nature had entered our bodies and taken us over at the Fall (Rom. 6:5,6).
Therefore, we have died in Christ's death to the indwelling and operation of Satan's nature in us: we are "dead to sin" (Rom. 6:7-11). Sin, however, isn't dead to us as an operating power in our world, and thus we experience its pressures on us. But in our bodies we have died to its false claims to be still dwelling in us and thus expressing its self-for-self nature by us. Equally, the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is dwelling in us and living His quality of other-love by us. Thus, we are expressers of God's holy nature, just as formerly we were expressers of Satan's sin nature (1 Jn. 4:4,6).
"So," Paul says, "based on the historical fact that Christ settled the sin question once for all" (Rom. 6:9,10), "we now reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God" (Rom. 6:11). We therefore no longer yield ourselves as agents of that self-for-self sin nature, but as agents of God's other-love nature. This is strong meat, packed into a few sentences. But does it really work out in our lives?
A STARTLING STATEMENT
A much deeper problem needs to be solved in order to make workable the life of being dead to sin and alive to God through Christ. We must be dead to law, as well as to sin. But why? Is not the law a safeguard to keep us from running into loose living? "No," Paul maintains. "You have a much deeper reality to learn -- that you have no independent human self, which keeps or doesn't keep the law. You are really just a slave to the deity who owns you, and it is his law you keep."
Paul slips in a statement here which sounds startling, but which turns the key in the lock for us when we know it. "Sin shall not have dominion over you," he states, "because you are not under law, but under grace" (Rom. 6:14). But what does that mean? Many would ask, "Is not the law the standard for right living, announced by Moses in those Ten Commandments and demanded of us by God, with the penalty of judgment and wrath if we disobey it? Is not the Law the means by which God exercises His control over us and by which we endeavour to live? Obviously, we would go wildly into lives of self-gratifying license, if the conditions of the Law were removed."
But this is our vast error. We have been under the Satanic delusion of being independent selves who can and must respond to law. And while we think this, we are actually still salves to Satan, who compels us either to try and fulfill or to resist God's laws, thereby obeying his own law of sin and death. So the more we think we should obey God's Law, the more Satan is aroused to make us break it. And we shall always have this problem while we blindly think we are independent selves who can keep the law.
THE GREAT DECEPTION
The main consequence of our yielding to Satan at the Fall was that he deceived us all (Rev. 12:9) into thinking that we have a human self which can operate and manage itself, even as he lyingly thinks he can manage himself. In fact, we are only operated and managed by the deity self -- Spirit of Truth or spirit of error (1 Jn. 4:6) -- who owns us. This was symbolized in the Garden by receiving the fruit of one or the other of the two trees. So when the Law, which is meant to expose Satan's lie, comes to us in our deluded condition, Satan has the laugh on us. We obey his self-for-self sin laws, being his slaves, and cannot obey God's laws.
We who are saved admitted our sins in their outer forms and received forgiveness and justification through our Lord Jesus Christ and the new birth of the Spirit. But we were still too blind to recognize the depth of Satan's deceit in us. We thought that as saved and new creatures in Christ we could still take a share in managing ourselves.
Paul explains the full meaning of redemption through our dying in Jesus' death to Sin-Satan's indwelling and becoming alive in His resurrection to God's Spirit now indwelling us. But it is meaningless to reckon and say that we are now dead to sin and alive to God while that root deception is not yet out of us and we think we are more than a people managed only by the deity spirit in us as vessels, branches, temples, slaves, or wives.
UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
In order for us to learn this indwelling principle to its depths, Paul challenges, "Just try to keep the Law, and you'll find the very opposite occurring. You have been a slave to Satan and sin and are now a slave to Christ and His righteousness. But that change of owner and indweller doesn't truly lay ahold of you in its reality while there remains some sense of self-relying self in you as if you are not just a slave. So just try to keep the law and live the Christian life; and you will find you can't, because there never was a 'just you'."
Your trying is really the remnant of Satan's deceit on you that you are an independent self. Then you will respond to his sin controls and fall on your face in your failures to keep the law; and that failure will at last expose to you this lie that you can act and respond independently. There is no such thing. your "I can" is still Satan having his lying hold on you.
Ten at last, it can become real to you that Jesus' dying for us and as us, and His rising by God's Spirit for and as us means a change of ownership. But we never did own ourselves. Satan owner is out for keeps and Christ owner is in for keeps. Now we just need to know we are Christ-managed, never self-managed, and no longer Satan-managed. The outer Law is now meaningless. We are dead to it because our "I" is solely the expresser of God's life; and he operates His laws and nature spontaneously in us, by us, and as us. That is our answer to every false claim in this Satan-infected world that Satan has a hold on us. Christ in us is our law; and He fulfills it by us, just as Satan used to fulfill his by us. Satan is out for keeps, Christ is in for keeps and now we can actually live what we said we do live in Romans 6:11 -- dead to sin and alive to God in our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:11).
THE BASIS OF THE SOLUTION: ONLY CONTAINERS
In eternity, God begat His Son, thereby transmuting His own fire self into a light self and becoming the self of other love. We understand from Genesis that our first parents were created in God's image, to be containers of His Spirit and expressers of His nature by means of their humanity. To symbolize this planned union, the Tree of Life with its precious fruit was set in the midst of the Garden.
Satan, on the other hand, his self of fiery desires into the self-for-self nature of consuming love. And this nature of his is what he infused into us all at the Fall, as though it were ours. So man, who was designed to be united with the Spirit of self-for-others, was tricked into yielding to the Satanic spirit of self-for-self (Eph. 2:1-3; Jn 8:44).
In the present, we have learned and by faith put into practice our Lord Jesus Christ's Calvary identification with us and as us. As a result, a tremendous change of indwelling spirit has taken place in us; and that deceiver no longer indwells and controls us.
NO SEPARATE SELF
When Paul tells us that we are no longer under that former outer law of Moses, doesn't that mean that we shall be given over to a spirit of license? "God forbid," pronounces Paul. In our new life our human selves are motivated, controlled, and spontaneously express the nature of God, by His Spirit united to our spirits. Laying the foundation for this assurance in Romans 6:16-7:6, Paul there presents one strong evidence after another that there is no intermediate, "independent me" to be taken over, unless we foolishly believe it.
"First," he says, "we were always slaves; and a slave just obeys his owner." We had handed ourselves over to owner Sin-Satan, to express his sin-nature. Now, however, we have become God's willing slaves through the obedience of faith which takes Him at His word, and we express His nature of holiness.
"Put it this way," Paul explains. "We were free in our sinning, with no response to God's law. Now we are free in our right living, with no response to Satan's law. And there is no 'you,' with an in-between or independent life of your own (Rom 6:16-20)."
Next Paul introduces a second illustration: a fruit-bearing tree. he describes how we are now producing right, good fruit in our lives, whereas we were ashamed of the former fruit (Rom 6:21,22). He wants us to understand that we are only branches which have changed trees. We never produced fruit without a tree!
To sum it up, we learn through the slave and branch analogies that we never exercised any kind of in-between life as self-operators. We are slaves of either one owner or another, or branches of either one vine or the other. Therefore, the idea that we humans were self-operating selves and had a "nature" or quality of life of our own has been a vast human illusion -- there never was such a thing. We have been created to produce the way of life of our Deity Creator and Operator. Only first we had to experience and discard through Calvary that false deity operator, who produced that opposite, negative way of life.
In Romans 7:1-6 Paul uses one further powerful and convincing illustration - the law of marriage, which he speaks of here as the "law of the husband" (Rom 7:2). The wife is legally bound to her husband so long as he lives, and he is her "lord" (1 Pet 3:6); she receives his seed, conceives by it, and produces their family.
We humans were "married" at the Fall to our Sin-satan husband and became his sin family, he working in us the "motions of sins" which produced "fruit unto death" (Rom 7:5). We had to do this according to the law and demands of marriage, as any change of husbands would have been an "adultery." It looked hopeless; our husband was not going to die.
But there was One, representing the whole human family, who died as us. So the marriage was dissolved because we died "wherein we were held" (Rom 7:6). The dissolution of the first marriage and release from that husband meant that in Christ's resurrection we were immediately married to another, our risen Saviour, and are now under His law.
The law of marriage in Romans 7:1-6 is therefore a continuation by Paul of his two illustrations from Romans 6. For just as we have always been slaves to an owner and branches producing the fruit of a tree, we have always produced the fruit of a husband. We have never been widows conceiving without a husband.
A FRUSTRATING COMPLICATION
Now comes the burning question. If the new relationship has replaced the old, and given us fully-satisfying life, rich fruit, happy service, loving union and communion, and the conscious ability to be who we long to be and help others to be the same, why doesn't it happen? What is wrong? Where is this completion in Christ, loving as He loved, walking as he walked with the faith that overcomes, being more than conquerors, easily living out the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus said we would, as lights in the world? Hasn't Paul made it plain to us that we have been crucified, raised, and ascended with Jesus and inwardly confirmed by the Spirit? Then where is the snag?
This burning question has greatly disturbed and seemingly disrupted our first faith statements, by which Paul told us to "reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God." It has also caused many sincere, born again, Bible rooted believers to use a nice little cliche: our position in Christ is one thing, but our condition in its outworking is quite another. And they usually add, "Of course, our condition does not level up to our position." But this is precisely what Paul's says does level up! Our position in Christ and our condition in living this Christ-Life are one and the same.
Next Paul reaches the least understood and most misused section of his Romans letter, or of all his writings. But when understood through Paul's own explanation and experienced by the inner confirmation of the Spirit, this section gives the desperate believer the one key that turns the lock and the whole freedom he seeks. In his need, the believer must find the full and final meaning of life, for which he was created and is now redeemed by grace. This section (which we shall cover in Part II) extends from Romans 7:7 through 7:25 and then is fulfilled in Romans 7:26 right through chapter 8.