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Liberty

By J.B. Stoney


      "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." -- Galatians 2:20.

      LAST week we were speaking of Salvation ; not only what we are saved from, but what we are saved to. And what you find is, that the Spirit of God occupies us now with what we are saved to. If you are only occupied with what you. are saved from, it is relief that is before you. But if you are occupied with what you are saved to, you are abounding in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

      There are two sides to Christ's work which we often find separated. One is the sinner's benefit. Thank God, that, in a great measure, is proclaimed fully. But there is another side that is not so fully proclaimed, and that is the delight of the Father in having us in His company. Christ accomplished both ; for He had not only to bear the judgment of our sins in order that our benefit might be secured, but He had to effect that which would satisfy the Father's heart, so that we could be in His company : like the prodigal son, who was brought home to the Father's house. The subject in that parable is not the benefit of the one found, but the delight of the finder. You must connect the two sides in the gospel.

      As I pointed out last week, the parable of the great supper (Luke 14), shows God's side ; while that of the good Samaritan in Luke 10 shows our side. It sets forth how the Lord fully secured our benefit for evermore.

      Christ shares in the delight of the Father; He can share in saying, "It was meet that we should make merry and be glad." We too much lose sight of this side, even the Father's delight in having us in His house. However slow one's heart is to take it in, it remains true that He has positive delight to have us in His house.

      Now for the point that I wish specially to bring before you this evening. The thief on the cross went straight to heaven, there to be with the Lord. He was free from all encumbrance. Mark the fact, that his salvation is accomplished and enjoyed by him. But one will say, 0, but he died! Well, I admit it; and that free from all encumbrance, he went to Paradise ; but it was Christ's work, not his own death, which obtained it for him. Hence there is a greater thing now, which is illustrated by Paul being caught up into the third heaven. The Spirit in relating it, does not say Paul; He says, "a man in Christ" on one occasion was caught up into Paradise, before he died, but free from any sense of encumbrance! By the Spirit of God, he was carried up to the highest spot and meets with a most wonderful reception, for in great confidence and intimacy, he hears the counsels of God. He has not only reached the highest place, but he is received there on the most intimate terms, as "accepted in the Beloved." Verily he is there in perfect liberty, with no sense of encumbrance. And that is the point I want to bring before you this evening: that it is possible for us to enjoy, as our present portion, what Christ's work has secured for us ; to have the sense of it without encumbrance, as made "free from the law of sin and death."

      The thief died, he was divested of everything; Paul, a man in Christ, was caught up into Paradise, and was received there in the most cordial way possible; he had no sense of encumbrance. This is a sample of a greater thing.

      The Holy Spirit has come down from the glorified Christ, and leads our hearts into the enjoyment of that scene in which He is, a scene of perfect brightness which He has obtained for us; and though we are still encompassed with this body of death, yet we can really know what liberty is, liberty in Christ's life.

      This, beloved friends, is what I wish to dwell a little upon; it is a subject of all importance. Earnest souls have at all times endeavoured to reach this liberty, that is, to get rid of the encumbrance, to walk about in this world free from that which is the encum brance, that is, the old man, the flesh. Hence, you see the apostle states his own practical knowledge. It is not simply what we call knowing the truth doc trinally, but he states it is a known fact. "I am crucified with Christ ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

      Well, now, what I desire to occupy you with is how this is practically known, how you can really arrive at it. The first thing is, that the old man has, in the eye of God, been ended judicially on the cross. I am not speaking now of experience. But the first great point is, that man, the responsible man, must be judicially removed from the eye of God.

      Look at the beginning. Man was driven out from the garden of Eden; there was the flaming sword that turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. He is a responsible man under judgement; unless he fulfils what is required, he cannot get back. He cannot regain, when guilty and under the judgement of death, what he did not retain in innocence. When he failed in innocence, how could he get back when under condemnation? But we find that instead of man getting better after being driven out, he goes from bad to worse. Hence, that man must judicially terminate in the sight of God; that is, that as man cannot meet his responsibility, he must bear the judgement of God.

      Mark the fact : man did not get better ; on the contrary, after 1,500 years I read in Genesis 6:13 "And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me ; for the earth is filled with violence through them : and behold I will destroy them with the earth."

      In the Septuagint (a Greek version of the Old Testament, a version of the scripture that the apostles continually quote from, just as I might quote from the English version now)-in the Septuagint it is, "The time of all men is come." "The time," that is, a period : we get the word constantly, "time" and "times"; it is a period of existence now completed. I dwell upon this, because it shows that the wickedness of man was fully exposed; "The end of all flesh is 6 come before me."When I come to Romans (though I am not going to dwell upon it now), I get three things spoken of, which indicate what the state of man in the flesh is. We get the blood of Christ, the death of Christ, and the crucifixion of Christ. All occurred together, but they are different aspects of the same act.

      I want you to understand, not only that Christ has atoned for our sins, "He bare our sins in his own body, on the tree"; but, beloved friends, that He bare the judgment due to us, and we judicially have come to an end in God's sight; "He, who knew no sin, was made,, sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Hence, in Romans 6:6, we read, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." Here, as has been often remarked, it is "sin," not "sins" -- "that the body of sin might be destroyed."

      Man, as the responsible man, has failed ; it could not be otherwise ; and he is under the judgment of God. If he bore the judgement himself, it would be the end of him, in misery for ever.

      Well, who will bear the judgement for him? The Lord Jesus Christ has come, become a man, apart entirely from sin ; He knew no sin, or He could not be the sacrifice for it. He is the Aaron in the day of atonement : He went in with His own blood into the holiest of all, but also He suffered without the gate.

      The carcass of the sin-offering was taken outside the camp and burnt. There were two actions of the fire. There was the fire upon the altar which took up the offering as a sweet savour to God, that was the burnt-offering ; and there was the fire outside the camp, which took it away from God, that was the sin-offering.

      Mark now the importance of this ; we know what exercises souls go through. A person says, All my sins are forgiven me, but I am sinning every minute, and if I am not sinning, I have an inclination to sin. Well, that soul has not liberty, he is not "free from the law of sin and death." I am not speaking of forgiveness tonight, I am speaking of liberty. O, you say, but we are never out of the body. True ; we are never out of the body, but still the great thing is, to find liberty of, soul in freedom from the power of the flesh.

      Now the first point is, that the responsible man must undergo the judgement of death. You could not have the responsible man existing if he bore the judgement. How could he exist if he bore the judgement. And if that judgement is borne for him by another, is he to exist? It could not be! People talk of a recruit being taken in place of another man who is pressed for the army, and he dies for him, as if that were an illustration of what we are speaking of; but that is not the truth at all, that is allowing the responsible man to live, whereas the truth is, that I am free from the responsibility of the responsible man, through Christ bearing the judgement. I am not, through Christ, that man now ; that man cannot continue ; if I really believe that I have died with Him, I am in liberty in His life, for He lives.

      Man was, driven out from the garden of Eden ; what is he to do? He cannot get back! He must have a new state. The man in Christ has a new state. We have it illustrated in 2Corinthians 12. The man in Christ did not know whether he was in the body, or out of it. Paul, speaking of himself practically, says, "I am crucified with Christ." It is not a question that I am forgiven, but I am crucified with Christ; that is, I am entirely gone. The responsible man, who never acted up to the responsibility that God required-that man is gone in judgement. The man in Christ can say, " Our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be abolished."

      The word here used for 'destroyed' is the same word that is used for "He hath abolished death, and brought life and incorruptibility to light through the gospel"; the same word that is used for, "That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." But I need not go into that.

      Well, I see that man is gone from before God in judgement. That is a great step, and if you have not got that, you will not have any power or liberty.

      I take it now for granted that you concur that the old man is entirely gone from the eye of God in judgement. " Our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed." And now we come to the second step, if I might so say; I have to learn that I am really myself free from him, and that is what you get in Romans 8:2. Mark how it comes out there. "The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." He did not forgive it. He condemned it. You say, But you sin now, don't you? Yes, I regret to have to say that I do, but I ought not; still I do, and I will go into that question a little, though it is a digression, because it is a difficulty to many.

      There is no such thing now as a worshipper once purged, having any more conscience of sins. God does not impute sin to the believer, He never makes a claim on me for a sin again. Do not misunderstand me--He has no claim on me. If He had a claim on me, there must be an atonement. Do you mean He passes sin over? No; that which does the sin will pay for the sin, if you do not judge it. Mark my words ! You will find in your history that this is true-the thing that does the sin will pay for the sin, will suffer for the sin, unless you judge it. "Deliver ... to Satan for the destruction of the flesh"--that was not atone ment for him--"Deliver ... to Satan for the destruc tion of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." I say, beloved friends, if you have really judged it, you have put it as far from you as God has put it from Himself. He put it away on the cross, there is no other place for you ; that is really what liberty is. That is the reason why the red heifer comes in. The Spirit of God brings me the ashes, that is, He tells me the fire of God's judgement has been there. It is not that it is there ; if it were there it would be fire and not ashes. Ashes only indicate that it was there ; it is not there now, but it brings to me the fact that it was there, and that is the reason that it is ashes. It is not the question of an atonement, and it is not a fresh application of the blood, but it is that you judge yourself about the thing that God has set aside on the cross. Because we start with this, that in the cross God has removed it from His own eye.

      Well now, you must practically hold to the fact that is stated in this verse, "I am crucified with Christ." If you fail, you revive the flesh; I have no right to revive the flesh, and if I do revive it and do not judge it, I revive what God has judicially brought to an end in the death of His Son. It is not only that I do a wrong thing, but it is a grievous thing to revive that which God has set aside from His eye.

      Many a one enjoys gleams of unclouded light in looking up to God, who has not liberty-freedom from the law of sin and death. You look up to God, and no doubt you ore perfectly clear. But you do not know the second step; you cannot say, "Christ liveth in me." When you do, you can say, "The low of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath mode me free from the low of sin and death."

      Well now, turn to Numbers 21, and you will see how this comes out practically. In that chapter you hove the brazen serpent. I referred to that lost week, so I will only recall it to your attention now.

      There were four aspects of the death of Christ. They all happened together ; I do not say that I learn them all together, but they happened together. There was the blood upon the lintel, there was the Red Sea, there was the brazen serpent, and there was the Jordan.

      The brazen serpent was when they were leaving the wilderness. Then the real character of the flesh come out. After thirty-nine years in the wilderness, and recipients doily of the utmost core of God, they spoke against God and against Moses, and God sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people ; they ore turned back to the very first entrance of sin, of the old serpent, the devil, in the garden of Eden; the virus of sin was there.

      And now God tells Moses to make o brazen serpent that never did o bit of the wrong, but was in the like ness of the serpent ; and this serpent he was to put upon o pole, outside of man and above the earth, and it come to pass that if any one was bitten, if he hod o sense of what the bitterness of sin was, he looked and he lived ; that is, in the life he got by looking at the one who was where sin was condemned, there he hod liberty. He hod liberty because of being in o life outside himself ; and this was the result of faith.

      Now if you turn to John 3, you will see that is where John's teaching begins. He does not begin with the blood upon the lintel, nor with the Red Sea; no, he begins where they hod started upon a new journey, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man "--who is the anti-type to the serpent--"be lifted up"; and we can say that the Son of man must be lifted up-for what? To bear the judgement for me! "God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." And now, what then? I believe, I look up, and I see I shall not come into judgement, but am passed from death unto life. I have the life of the One who bore the judgement.' And that is the argument in Romans 6, which I must revert to now. Paul says, "If we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him." What gives me relief? I believe that I am dead with Him; I am not dead at all myself, for I find sin springing up, but I say, "I am dead with Christ." And I am in His life ; I have the life of the One with whom I died. It is really the simplest thing in the world, if you look at it as Scripture does, that I have the life of the One with whom I died. If you were dead yourself, you could not be alive. But you are dead with Christ, and there is nothing against you, because "he that is dead is freed from sin."

      But more, I have life now, I have life in the One with whom I died; and that is where I have it, and nowhere else. Therefore the apostle says, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." That is the second step. It is not that I am better than I was; but I have the life of Christ with whom I have died. I see now that I am dead with Christ, and that as I accept the fact that I am dead with Him, I am in His life. And hence in Numbers 21, there was also the "well of God." "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life." That is, the Holy Spirit in me gives me the enjoyment of that new life which I have now received, and have received from the One with whom I died, on the cross where the judgement was--the termination of that which was under judgement.

      Well, that is what I call the second step ; but there is another-the practical one-to which I must turn now ; but before I do so, I digress a little, to point out the different ways that people try to arrive at this liberty. I need not go into all the phases, but there are four ways I should like to bring before you, by which conscientious, earnest souls have tried to arrive at the relief which can only be had when I am alive in Christ's life. Then I am free. " The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free." It is not that I am forgiven merely, but I am free, I am at liberty.

      It would be going too far to go into it now, but the same statement is made in Colossians, "If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world "-- that is Jordan. In Colossians you are not only dead to sin ; that is Romans; but you are dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world ; you are out of it. It is by the same means as in Romans, only extended. If you are dead with Him, you are free from yourself, "Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."

      Well, now I must turn to four different ways in which people have thought to arrive at this liberty, and I think I have traversed them all myself.

      The first is that you think by a certain monastic course you will be able to control the flesh. I never thought that any self-denial I adopted would atone for my sins. But I thought I could control the flesh. I dare say you all know something of that. That is very often in connection with a state where there is not a clear apprehension of the full work of Christ ; that is, that the whole thing is gone from the eye of God, so that He does not impute sin. Unless a soul gets so far clear, he will not be safe from the snare of "bodily exercise."

      The second is what is called 'holiness by faith.' That is extremely specious. The thought is to bring oneself up to a certain standard of holiness, a holiness which does not offend against the law. Such hold that there is no sin but in transgression. That is the holiness of the law, it is not the holiness of God.

      They argue that we are dead by faith, and that if we can be without sin for one minute, why not for two? and if two, why not for four? And so they go on, adding on, and say that because you have faith you are a dead man. But you are not a dead man ; you are dead with Christ, but you are alive ; and you find out very quickly, too, that you are not dead : but you are " free from the law of sin and death " in Christ's life. It is not that you are dead, but being dead with Christ, you live in another life.

      The great mistake at the bottom of ' holiness by faith' is, that what holiness really is, is not under stood ; the presence of God in the holiest has never been known. There is no sense of separation from everything unholy, no separation from the systems of religion in Christendom ; no idea of the separate position of one called to God.

      Now I come to the third way, which is called 'death to nature.' Death to nature is the snare into which one falls who seeks liberty, when he knows that he is called to a holy separate path, that he cannot take lower ground than that he must be free from the flesh ; and therefore he is trying to get rid of it. The teaching therefore is, I am dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world; I belong to a sphere of life, and I live in it; I belong to that life now, and I am outside of this scene altogether ; I am out of death and in that new scene.

      Well now, but if you accept all this, come back into this scene in the power of Christ, and then it will be manifested that you are in His life. Death to nature is one-sided-an ideality. Death to nature assumes that I am over Jordan ; but in Jordan it is not only that the water is all gone, and a clear way over, but it is added (Joshua 3:10), "Hereby shall ye know that the living God is among you," etc., so that if I am really over, if I am in the life of Christ, outside of this scene of death, the thing that marks me is that I am in the power of Christ in this scene of death, and that I take up the duties and the responsibilities--as you get in the epistle to the Ephesians--I take them up in divine power, and carry them out to the praise and glory of God in the midst of this scene, and in spite of all its opposition.

      That is what you get in Ephesians. I face it all ;

      I never swerve, but own what is due to the Lord, overcoming evil with good, the greatest moral victory that ever can be upon this earth. But you must connect the two, and if you combine them you will be greatly blessed. I am out of death into life outside of it all, yet in it all, but above it. That is true liberty, as the apostle says, "The life that I now, live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

      The fourth, and most novel, is assuming that you can have power over sin by applying the death of Christ ; a curious perversion of being dead with Him.

      Now I must turn for a moment to what I call the practical side (Galatians 4), a subject of immense interest and very great scope. And what I find, is--you may think I am severe in making the remark, but I do not feel that I am so-I do not believe any person progresses till he has got hold of this liberty. He may be very conscientious and very devoted, too, but devotedness is not progress properly in itself. A devoted person wishes to progress, but when he is not free from the thraldom of the flesh there is a terrible block in his way.

      Now in the end of Galatians 4, you get how your practically enjoy liberty. I have already dwelt on the doctrine, and without correct doctrine you will never have correct practice. You may have a great deal of zeal, but you will never use it rightly. A person may be monastic, or try to get holiness by faith, or death to nature, but you will always find that such a one has not right doctrine.

      This chapter 4 teaches us how Ishmael, one born after the flesh, is cast out-treated as an intruder. Time would fail me now to bring before you fully what is extremely interesting in itself-even that there are three great intrusions of the flesh. I will just touch upon them. There is the Corinthian intrusion, which is self-indulgence ; one is beguiled into that, when he thinks he is wise enough to govern himself. What the apostle brings forward to meet this is, "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified." The old man is gone. If at the Lord's supper you call to mind Christ's death on your account, how could you indulge the man for whom He died?

      The Galatian intrusion is another. They sought to be made perfect by the flesh. That is legalism, and in a certain sense, the opposite to that of the Corinthians.

      The third intrusion is in Colossians. That is to make man, both by mind and body, a contributor to the Christian ; I do not mean merely an instrument, but a contributor, that is, he would be what they call a Christian man ; the truth of the mystery only would preserve from this.

      I return now to Galatians 4, to show how you practically get to the enjoyment of liberty, so that you find you are free from the thraldom of the flesh. This is a wonderful thing.

      What is brought before us in this chapter is related in Genesis 21, that Abraham, when Isaac was weaned, made a great feast, and when this feast was made, Ishmael, who was at that time fourteen years of age, mocked, no doubt ridiculed the idea that this little child, who was only about a year in the house, should be made such an object of respect.

      Isaac's place was acknowledged in Abraham's house on that day, and this drew forth the reviling of Ishmael, which the apostle calls persecution. "As then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him , that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now." But how do we enjoy this practically?

      This is an extremely important and interesting question for us. We first find how bad Ishmael is; the incompetence of the flesh as in Romans 7, but r concurrently with it, the enjoyment of what Christ is. When did persecution, as Paul calls it, when did the scoffing of Ishmael come out? When Isaac gets his place. It was a festive day, and I dare say many could look back historically to when this festive day was known to their souls. When did you get a sense in your hearts that you wanted to be so entirely free from the flesh, that you felt you would not tolerate it any longer-not merely as to doctrine, but that you could not tolerate it? When did you arrive at that day when you felt it was not to be tolerated practically? When you learned that the flesh was opposed to Christ, and at the same time that He was possessor of your whole heart, so that you felt the flesh had no right to be there ; you do not tolerate it. Therefore the apostle says, "Not I, but Christ." I call this the coronation-day, that is, when Christ is crowned King of my heart. It is not that He has the first place there; that He always had through divine grace, but He has got every place, that is, I acknowledge His sway from centre to circumference. I have found out the flesh. What then? Ishmael must go out. Well, it is not a pleasant thing to accept that I am dead, and therefore God says to Abraham, "Let it not be grievous unto thee ; cast out the bondwoman and her son." That is non-toleration; I accept what God has done with the flesh. Well, what then? I am at liberty.

      One may ask, Does the flesh never come again? It does, but you treat it now as an intruder ; and you can say to it, You are an intruder, you have no right to come here ; you are supplanted, and you have no place here. You may say, But Ishmael knows the house well ; thrust out at the door, he can come in at a window. No doubt he does ; he was fourteen years in it, and that is a long period. But then, I say, he has no right. I am crucified with Christ, that is the first thing. This would not suffice to keep him out, he knows how to master you too well. But also you? have a new power. If you turn to Galatians 5:17, you will read, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye may not do the things that ye would." I have got the Spirit of God to maintain me free from the intruder, and He only preserves me from the flesh.

      But someone will say, You will be very often dis turbed. Yes ; but what does that make me feel? It makes me feel the greatness of the Spirit resisting the flesh, which is ever intruding. But how do you keep safe? By dependence on the Spirit who is my power against the flesh. In chapter 6, the apostle says, "He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption ; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." You see how you are brought into the new order, " everlasting life." Well, you say, What is sowing to the Spirit? I am led by the Spirit. It is a wonderful thing, I speak of it timidly, but earnestly ; to think I have got such a Friend, such a Master, so to speak ; but it is not a Master really, but One who identifies Himself with me, and wants to lead me exactly according to Christ.

      I remember the time when I used to think the flesh was stronger than the Spirit, but I would not say such a thing now. Well, you say, do you never give way to the flesh? Alas ! do not ask me that question.

      But the comfort is, that the flesh is an intruder : it has no right to come, and I have got power by the Spirit of God to stand free, so that I may not do the things that I would. Well, then, how is it that you act in the flesh? Because you are not sowing to the Spirit. You may have been sowing to the flesh in touching politics, or sowing to the flesh in your business ; it is not your business that is to be blamed, because your business is properly your business, and the Lord would have you to do it well, with a heart for the Lord in doing it. It is possible that you want to make something of yourself by your business, and that is of the flesh. It is not that business is wrong, if you are doing it rightly to the Lord. The Lord could not do a thing imperfectly. What He did He did perfectly. The question is, What do you attempt? The Lord would never lead you to attempt a thing you could not do. Well, that is a long exercise, and an everyday exercise.

      You will never treat the flesh as an intruder unless you have already seen what I have called the two previous steps ; that is, that the flesh--the old man--has gone from before God, and that Christ liveth in me. Thank God! Nothing delights my heart like that. I look up, and see that it is gone before God ; I am in the life of Christ, I am free, Christ liveth in me.

      The Lord grant that each of our hearts may know practically what divine liberty is, in our walk down here, for His name's sake.

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