Monday, February 8, 2016

Two Tracks

Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of ministry on Christian living. The first will take you as far as Romans 7, the other will take you into Romans 8.

Romans 7 ministry is light on Christ, light on the Holy Spirit, and heavy on "I". Romans 8 ministry is not terribly caught up with "I", but perhaps talks about "me". That is, it's not what I am for Christ, but what Christ is for me.

I was listening to a preacher on my commute this morning who said something like, "Christ died for you, the least you could do is live for Him." What an appalling statement! Obedience out of gratitude is law. It is exactly the principle of Exodus 20:

I am Jehovah thy God, who have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. (Exodus 20:2)

Law after forgiveness is what 2 Corinthians 3:7–16 describes as "the ministry of death". Consider J. N. Darby's remarks on Exodus 34 in the light of 2 Corinthians 3:

[T]he people, though spared by grace, were put back under law; and this was the ministration of death and condemnation of which the apostle speaks. For, in fact, if atonement be not made, grace only makes transgression worse, at any rate in the revelation of God; even in partial glory, with law it must be condemnation to a sinner. Law after grace, in a word, is what the apostle teaches us is condemnation; law after atonement is worse than absurd. It is putting away the sin, and then putting under it, or making the law of no authority and no effect. But vague grace - sparing, and then law, is the state of multitudes of souls; and that is what the apostle tells us is death and condemnation in its nature, and indeed the veil is soon over the reflection of grace to the soul (that is, the perception that exists of grace is soon lost). ("Show me now thy way", Collected Writings, Volume 19, p. 181)

What the New Testament teaches is not obedience out of gratitude, but obedience out of new life. That's the teaching of John 15:1–5, Romans 6–8, and Colossians 3:1–5.


Anonymous said...

We hear a lot about the 'Reformed' view of Romans 7. But John Owen is clear that while Romans 7 is describing the experience of a Christian, it isn't describing a 'normal' Christian life.

Robert Thomson said...

I do not have the quote to hand but JND once spoke about people who make a law out of Christianity. It is all too common an experience for us to attend a meeting, hear ministry, feel challenged and then to go away and discover we have no ability, or even explanation, as to how we put the teaching into practice. That's exactly how the law made people feel!

It seems to me that the great distinction Paul makes in 2 Corinthians 3 is that while the law was a ministration of condemnation and death, the Christian is brought into a ministration of righteousness and life. The law demanded righteousness from men: the gospel offers righteousness to men. The law could only punish failure by death: the gospel brings us into the liberty of the Spirit. We see in this chapter the two fundamental truths that relate to Christian living today - looking to a Man in glory and being empowered by the Spirit.

This is also the great transition that Paul teaches in Romans 7 and 8. He became a wretched man because he was looking within himself to achieve what only Christ and the Spirit could produce in his life. 47 personal pronouns used in less than 20 verses is not a good recipe for successful living! When he asked the question, 'who shall deliver me?' it was a short step to the ministry of chapter 8 where he was led by the Spirit, helped by the Spirit and became more than a conqueror through Him who loved us. Love replaced law! I believe that the love referred to is the love of Christ at the right hand of God as an intercessor.

We live in perilous times and the flesh is always looking for avenues to promote itself and much ministry that we hear today, is just that. Performance Christianity is far removed from the Father's declaration, 'this is my beloved Son IN whom I am well pleased'. The prayer of Ephesians 3 has nothing to say about what the Father is doing by us - the big thing is to know what He is doing in us.

clumsy ox said...

I'm not sure if this is the one you were thinking about:

"Whilst we are upon this subject of the law, it ought to be remarked, before going farther, that there are some who make a law of Christ Himself. They acknowledge His love; they see in His work on the cross, how great is His love. They find in it a reason why they should love Christ perfectly, with their whole hearts; but they cannot find this love in themselves. They ought to love Christ with their whole heart, but they do not love Him thus. Now it is precisely the law which commands that we should love God with all our heart. We have found in Christ a new motive, we have perhaps given a new form to the law, but we find ourselves still under the law, though we have clothed it with the name of Christ."

From "Deliverance from under the Law, as stated in the Holy Scriptures", Collected Writings, Volume 7.

At STEM Publishing:

Robert Thomson said...

I do remember that quote too but I was thinking of this, based on 2 Corinthians 3:

"We may turn even Christ into that letter of condemnation; we may take His life, for instance, and make it our law. Nay, we may turn even the love of Christ into our law; we may say, "He has loved me, and done all this for me, and I ought to love him, and do so much for him, in return for this love," etc."

Rodger said...

This reminds me of the truth in Romans 7, brought out well by Mr. Coates:

"But, this is not to leave us unattached or lawless; it is that we may be "to another, who has been raised up from among the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God". There is still a divine bond, but it is not with the law, but with a risen Christ. What a sweet thought to the believer! I am in divine bond and relationship with a risen and living Christ! Not a code of rules, but a living Person! "Newness of spirit" seems to convey that the result of knowing thisis to give a new spirit to the believer. "Oldness of letter" is that you have a statement of what you should do or be, but it puts no spring into you. There is no breathing of life about it. What a difference when you find that you have a bond with a Person who is ever active to make you know how He loves you, and to give you His companionship and support!"

Also: "The prayer of (Ephesians) chapter 3 is relationship - the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." (JND, N&C, vol. 4, pg. 305)

Would you say the experience of Romans 7 is to bring the full realization of the life and relationship founded in the death and resurrection of Christ (vs. 4)? "I" is hardly a relationship. As you say, Robert, "Who..?" makes all the difference.

Rodger said...

Maybe not the FULL realization, but the actual realization of life and relationship, rather than just as flat doctrines,which is necessary prerequisite to a full realization. It seems that the answer to Romans 7, leading into Romans 8, contains all the germ principles necessary to ever coming into the good of epistles teaching union with Christ, and further, the writings of John. The presence of the Spirit connecting me with the ascended Christ, looking outside oneself to the Deliverer (object), dependence, life, etc.

Robert Thomson said...

I agree that, ideally, Romans is the gateway to the teaching of the epistles. However, many do not come by that pathway. When I was first saved, my big interest was in Revelation and I discovered that 'pictorial' teaching suited my mind much more than Paul's logical approach to things. I am currently trying to persuade a young brother that the time he is investing in studying Exodus should be invested in Romans but, again, he finds it hard to turn his mind to it.

Anyway, I believe that C.A.C. understood the heart of the matter in Romans 7, which relates to the Two Tracks blog. That one sentence, " What a difference when you find that you have a bond with a Person who is ever active to make you know how He loves you, and to give you His companionship and support", for me summarises the teaching of Romans 7:1-6.

There is often much discussion around the point that while it is the husband who dies in the illustration, it is not the law that dies but we who die. That certainly needs to be taught but, often, the big thing missing from the exposition is 'His companionship and support'.

We are now married to Christ, who out of love for us, will do everything He can to support and develop us in our Christian life. In fact, Paul came to see by the time that he wrote Galatians that when 'I' is recognised as crucified, Christ will not only support us, He will live in us!

Galatians 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ, and no longer live, 'I', but Christ lives in me" JND

Rodger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Could anyone recommend anything really helpful to read on Romans 7-8?

I have CAC's little commentary, so will dig that out. Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

William R. Newell's "Romans Verse By Verse"

clumsy ox said...

C A Coates' book "The Believer Established" is a great starting place on Romans 7-8. I'd also recommend Watchman Nee's "The Normal Christian Life". Both are excellent.

If you want to go a little deeper, Newell's book really is good.

Having said that, I think JN Darby's work is the best, but maybe not the clearest. His expository writing on Romans is quite good. I'll try and dig up links.

Rodger said...

One well-read brother told me that the best thing he ever read on Romans 6-8 is out of that little volume by C. Stanley:

Rodger said...

Going back to your original post, Mark, what place does appreciation of Christ's death have in the Christian life, and what part does it play in our obedience?

clumsy ox said...

I'm sure we could write books about this.

Christ's death for me proves His love for me. I know Christ loves me, because He died for me. Further, I know His Father loves me, because He sent His Son to die for me.

That is certainly motivation for me to live and obey. But that will only take me to Romans 7. It teaches me what I ought to do, but doesn't empower me to do it.

Power for the Christian life is both negative and positive. On the negative side, I am free to serve God because I have died with Christ. I am no longer a slave to sin, because my life has ended. I died with Him when Christ died.

On the positive side, it is the Holy Spirit of power who allows us to please God. I think that is really the summation of the first three verses of Romans 8.

One thing the death of the Lord Jesus teaches us, is that Adam's children cannot please God. If we could, they're would be no reason for Him to die.

Don't get me wrong: Romans 1 specifically condemns men (and women) for ingratitude. I'm not suggesting that we be ungrateful.

I am suggesting that a grateful Don of Adam is no more capable of playing Good than an ungrateful son of Adam. If the life of the tree is bad, the fruit can't be good.

Any appeal to men and women to please God, without the plain acknowledgement that it is only "in Christ" that I can please God,is just a shortcut to Romans 7.

I'm not sure if this answers the question.

clumsy ox said...

And my phone's spell check strikes again!

Rodger said...

Definitely. I just wanted you to flush it out a little so as not to be misunderstood. I'm with you all the way.

My phone always wants to replace "scripture" with "Scriptouee," whatever that is. And print my wife's name in all-caps. Two steps forward, one step back.

Robert Thomson said...

The quickest way to establish whether a commentary on Romans will be of any help to us, is to turn to the comments on chapter 5:12. If the writer does not mention that v. 12 is introducing an entirely new subject, he will be of little help. I would agree with all the recommendations above and would add CA Coates and CE Stuart on Romans and a helpful introductory outline from Hamilton Smith:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Robert. I've been buying up everything by Hamilton Smith that I can lay my hands on so will turn to this next. His little commentaries are excellent. Unfortunately I have to depend upon books !

Rodger said...

Would you say that, though a new subject is introduced at 5:12, there are definite links between 5:1-11 and 5:12 and onward? There is certain ground established in 5:1-11 that seems necessary to establish one for the searching exercises that follow. I remember a content by William Kelly where he says, in a sense 1-11 goes even further than Romans 8.

Rodger said...

"...the first half of Romans 5 brings in His love and consequently the reconciliation, which we have now received through Christ, impossible without His atoning death, but going much farther in itself.

The chapters that follow can scarcely be thought to carry the soul into a deeper blessedness. Privileges are there very fully developed, security is more elaborately affirmed of the Christian in the face of adverse circumstances and enemies, in Romans 8 above all; but I know not that any joy even there rises up to the boasting in God we find here. It is at once the occasion for the heart both of the most profound repose and of the utmost spiritual activity. Worship is its expression. The outflow of the joy of the redeemed in the rest of God is thus anticipated. We begin the new song that will never end; and as it is here and now through our Lord Jesus, is it not so much the sweeter to our God? Thus the deepest inward poison that Satan insinuated into man at the fall is not merely counteracted but triumphed over to the praise of God. He thus acquires His due place; but it is such a place of trustful delight as never could have been for the creature save as the result of Himself known as He is now by redemption — the God who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ.

From this verse to the end of Romans 8, we have not so much a distinct portion of the Epistle as a needed and most weighty appendix to that which precedes."

Robert Thomson said...

Up to 5:11 the subject is our sins - practice - which brings in the truth of justification
From 5:12 to 8 the subject is our sin - principle - which brings in the truth of deliverance.

It seems to me that 5:10 is the bridge verse. Up to v.10 we have learned that the Son of God has died for us and that through His death we are justified and all is well with regards to our past. We also learn that His death has secured our future and all who are justified by His blood are saved from wrath and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. We have received reconciliation and the question is, where do we go from there, how are we to presently live from the day of being reconciled to the day we see the glory of God?

Mark's original post points out that the most common answer to that question is: Christ has died for me, now I must live for Him.

5:10 gives us the correct answer, which is: Christ has died for me and now Christ will live for me!

This is what Paul describes as 'much more'. There is much more to the Christian life than the thought of a finished work at Calvary - there is the unfinished work in heaven. A Man 'appears in the presence of God for us' Heb 9. Our pathway in this world is therefore one of recognizing our association with Him and receiving from Him the resources that we cannot find in ourselves.

Robert Thomson said...

With apologies for making yet another comment, I have found the Christian Friend to be so encouraging. I was looking for an article tonight and came across this by J.B. Stoney: