Romans 7, Part 4
Nov 12, 2010
Paul concludes chapter 7 of Romans by encapsulating his frustration over the inner war:
(24) Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? (25) Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my [Christ]mind am serving the Law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
In other words, those who are truly identified with Christ are those who submit to the Divine Law. Those who are yet carnal--even if they think themselves to be spiritual--are the ones who follow the law of sin (i.e., violate the Law of God). When we are fully in tune with our Christ-Identity, we will never again violate the Law.
During our interim training period in the Feast of Pentecost, we are admonished to reckon our old lawbreaking mind dead. If we follow the leading of the Spirit, we will not fulfill the will or desire of the old Adam.
In Romans 8, then, Paul focuses upon this idea of being led by the Spirit. He bases this on the fact that our New Creation Man is that which has been raised from the dead (8:11). When our body parts are submitted to Christ-in-You, they will not fulfill the flesh's desire to sin.
But first, allow me to digress in order to give balance to Paul's discussion.
Reckoning Yourself Alive to God
Even as we are to reckon our old Adamic identity as dead, so also are we to reckon our Christ identity as alive to God (Rom. 6:11). In practice, how does this alter our thinking?
First, in accordance with the definition of reckon (logizomai), it does not speak of an actual death of the old man, nor does it imply that our body parts are perfectly submitted to the Christ identity. It is a state of mind where we understand what we ought to do, and so we strive to be obedient to Christ (i.e., "led by the Spirit"). This time of Pentecost is focused upon obedience as a means of training and growing until we have transitioned into full agreement.
This transition is pictured by Israel's entry into the Promised Land through the Jordan River. It is thus the place of that final baptism, where the old man dies fully and the new man emerges fully into resurrection life.
Caleb and Joshua are biblical types of the overcomers. They were qualified by faith to enter the Promised Land long before the rest of "the church in the wilderness." Even so, they were not allowed to enter the Promise individually, but had to wait for the rest of the body at the appointed time.
Hence, it is my belief that no individual overcomer may inherit the FULL promise until the historical fulfillment has taken place. Likewise, the baptism of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost could not come to any individual until the historic appointed time in Acts 2. Nonetheless, there were men and women throughout the Old Testament who were led by the Spirit.
It is said of Samson that "the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily" (Judg. 14:6, 19; 15:14). He was a type of Pentecostal, as I showed in my book, The Wheat and Asses of Pentecost. King Saul, too, was a Pentecostal, and as such the Spirit came upon him as well in Pentecostal fashion. Thus, the Pentecostal experience was not uncommon in the Old Testament. Yet it is clear also that Pentecost was unable to do its full work in them. All of them fell short of full and perfect spiritual maturity and obedience.
Even so, these men were receiving on-the-job training. The Spirit of God had imputed righteousness to them so that they would not be weighed down by a sense of guilt and inadequacy. They were free to exercise the authority of Christ in the earth. They were called to be like Christ, do what He did, speak as He spoke, heal the sick as He healed, and even to raise the dead as He did.
Though we walk by imputed righteousness, it is as if we were as perfect as Jesus Christ Himself. In fact, we are His Body, so we are His hands and feet in the earth through whom the Kingdom is established. As we learn to speak authoritatively by the Spirit, it is indeed Him speaking through us. When we come into contact with disobedience, disease, and death, it cannot stand in the presence of Christ--nor in ours, because Christ is in us.
In practice, however, most people do not dare to exercise such authority in the earth. The classic answer is that they lack faith, but I find that answer to be largely unhelpful. The initial problem for most believers is that they lack experience. They lack a history of success in seeing disease and death flee from them. It is because they start out as children in Christ, lacking the spiritual development that can come only by experience. It takes time to develop the confidence that comes by success. Without confidence, it is difficult to exercise authority, because an authoritative command must be given with confidence, knowing that it shall be done as decreed.
Much of our lack of confidence is due to feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Ultimately, those feelings trace back to our inability to fully accept the position we are given in Christ and to appropriate the righteousness imputed to us. We focus too much on the shortcoming of the old Adamic man that seems to be alive and well in our body parts. We spend most of our time reforming the old man than in reckoning him to be dead.
We spend too much time trying not to sin, instead of being led by the Spirit. Refraining from sin is alright up to a point, but we must recognize that the old man will never be cleaned up, reformed, or saved. Being led by the Spirit matures us, and in placing our focus on this, we grow out of the childish things of the flesh. In other words, the real solution is not to strive to refrain from sin, but to mature in Christ.
Seeking self-perfection is self-centered and introspective. It is done by those who are yet unable to really accept the imputation of righteousness of Christ that comes by faith alone. Thus, they continue to bewail their sinful condition and strive for an actual perfection that is always just out of reach. Such thinking gave rise to thousands of hermits in past Church history. Such introversion isolated many good men who would have otherwise been valuable in establishing the Kingdom and witnessing of Christ to the people in the street.
But when we truly know that we have been imputed righteous, the issue is settled, and we can then focus on doing the work that God has put before us. Our focus moves from ourselves to others. We cease to strive endlessly for personal perfection and begin to establish the Kingdom in the rest of the world. Only then do we learn to use our authority as sons of God to bring order out of chaos and life out of death. Only then can all things be brought under the feet (authority) of Jesus Christ, so that God may be all in all.
This is what it means to reckon our old man dead and to reckon our Christ identity as alive to God. Accept what Christ has accomplished on the cross and in His resurrection. This is how we are "set free from the body of this death."
This is the final part of a series titled "Romans 7." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones