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If Not Love, Legality

There will be found in anyone who is really in the seventh of Romans an intense separation from the world, a holy abhorrence of sin, and a vehement desire to do the will of God. That will has become the glory and goal of his heart and soul; sin is no longer any pleasure to him. Now his distress and complaint is that he finds himself to be altogether incompetent for the will of his Father, though it commands both his conscience and his heart.

But this helplessness arises from the fact the he is trying to keep the law, and therefore in conscience* he is on the ground of a man living in the flesh; for “the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives” (Rom 7:1). His is the case of one who is set for the will of God; but who is, as to his consciousness, can only cry, “O wretched man that I am*!”

The Lord Jesus not only rescues from the power and condemnation of sin, but also from the power and condemnation of the law*. In Romans six it is “dead unto sin” (v 11), and in Romans seven it is that we have “become dead to the law by the body of Christ” (v 4). “Now we are delivered from the law, having died to that in which we were held, that we should serve in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (v 6).

However, to see this is not enough to deliver us from the legality of our own souls. The power of deliverance form legality lies not in the dissolution of the old bond*, but in the apprehension of a new bond formed in divine grace between the Lord Jesus and the believer: “That you should be married to Another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (v 4). Hence this aspect of deliverance turns upon the place the Lord Jesus holds in our hearts.

Now it becomes a matter of the greatest interest to us to know how the will of God comes to us. The answer is very simple and blessed. It comes to us in the Lord Jesus. We do not acquire our knowledge of what is pleasing to our Father through the law, but by being brought under His sway—by being “married to Another, even to Him who is raised from the dead.” A heart breathing the atmosphere of divine love cannot be legal!

The legal believer has a greater sense of the divine claim that he has of divine support, and hence his life is an effort*, and he is always more or less under a cloud, because he does not find himself equal to his obligations. The spiritual believer, on the other hand, has a greater sense of divine support than he has of the divine claim upon him, for he knows what it is to be married to the Lord Jesus, he knows he can count upon the all sufficient support of the One who is his life for everything that is the will of his Father. Thus he is kept in real liberty of heart.

If we get dissociated in spirit from the Lord Jesus, the more we read the Word, and the more intelligence we get as to the will of God, the more legal we become. I do not believe that God would have us read His Word, if I may say so, apart from the Lord Jesus. He would keep the Scriptures always connected in our hearts with the One “who is our life” (Col 3:4).

- C A Coates

Posters Opinion:

*”in conscience”: Until it is understood that the believer, at rebirth is eternally severed from the guilt of sin, there will be inconsistent freedom of knowing and living apart from sin’s “dominion” in the conscience. Though there is an actual void in the soul of sin’s guilt and rule, the believer can often be in mental bondage due to misunderstanding the fullness of what Christ’s expiation has provided, which answers to 2 Peter 1:3, all of which are to progressively to be lived out of “your salvation” (i.e. “work out of your salvation” Phil 2:12), which is a matter of manifesting fruit, not producing it.

*”O wretched man that I am”: Wretched, until it is learned that the believer will “with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” The unbeliever cannot serve the law of God with the mind; nor can the believer serve the law of sin “willfully” (Heb 10:26), but rather as a “captive” (Rom 7:23) i.e. against the will and desire, unlike the unbeliever who is a willing subject—not as a captive—for it is not against the will and desire.

*”condemnation of the law”: It must be realized that Paul often spoke of the law which was in reference to the Mosaic Law because much of his usual audience were Jews. My understanding is that for the Gentile this is in reference to “the law of sin” (Rom 7:23, 25; 8:1), which was instituted by God (Gen 2:17; Eze 18:4, 20) towards all mankind; for the Jew it was this and also in reference to the Pentateuch, especially the Decalogue, “which was ordained to life, but I found it to be unto death” (Rom 7:10), because the revealing of sin incurs accountability (2Pet 2:21), which of course results in judgement and death.

*”the dissolution of the old bond”: This is the Lord’s work towards preparation for service in the new nature. Deliverance is “from” something and “to” something.

*”effort”: We often create undue stress when attempting labors which concern that of producing fruit rather than concentrating on being used by God to “bear” it. There is a tremendous weight laid aside when apprehending discernment between the Lord producing the fruit and our bearing it (John 15:8).

Daily Devotional by Miles J Stanford: None But The Hungry Heart