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The Law of the Spirit of LIFE
By David A. DePra
For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Col 3:3)
In one of the books by T. Austin-Sparks, he makes a statement that I think ties into this verse. He says, "Christ in you is totally OTHER than you." But how often do we really think about Christ in us in that way? Rather, most of us tend to think of Christ as a power that helps us obey God, or of Christ as someone who makes us better people. But what Sparks says is exactly what the Bible teaches: Christ in us is OTHER than us. We really do have CHRIST IN US!
Once we realize that Christ in us is NOT US, but OTHER than us, it explains so much. First of all, it explains freedom from sin. It is a fact that we are not free from the possibility of sin, nor the presence of sin. No. Not in this body. But we are free from the POWER of sin. Realizing that Christ in us is OTHER than us, and that we are IN HIM, explains what this really means.
Paul said it best in Romans:
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. (Rom 8:2)
Christ in us through the Spirit makes us free from sin – the sin nature -- because it is a life that is OTHER than that life of SIN that continues to be in us – and which used to govern us. In other words, we are here talking about ANOTHER LIFE. Our life DIES if we are crucified with Christ. That is the life that is in bondage to sin. But we are then raised, not back to our old life, but raised IN HIM to newness of life. This NEWNESS OF LIFE is not merely a matter of a clean slate. It really is a NEW LIFE – ANOTHER KIND of life than that with which we were born. And because it is a brand new kind of life – His life in us – we are free from sin.
Get rid of the notion that Christ sets you free ONLY from the penalty FOR sin. He does that. But He has delivered you from sin itself. And yet don’t think of this as merely something He did TO SIN. No. He introduced NEW LIFE. It is because we are IN HIM, and His life is in us, that we are freed from the power of sin. We are only dead to sin because we are alive IN HIM. God has not cancelled our death. He has brought us through our death in Christ and passed us onto newness of LIFE.
We must see that Christ in us is ANOTHER KIND of life. The life of Christ is incorruptible, resurrection, eternal life. It is life that is the result of conquering sin and death. And His life is in us. Thus, the sin that governs only the old creation cannot touch the new life in Christ. So as long as we abide in Him, and walk in Him, we are operating in a life that is not subject to the law of sin and death. Thus, Romans is able to say, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death."
Soul and Spirit
The Bible tells us that in Romans 8:9, "But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you." But despite the fact that born again Christians are not IN the flesh, we can nevertheless, "walk according to the flesh." God wants us to walk according to, and IN the Spirit.
I don’t know if we catch the Truth here. There are many people who think that because they have the Holy Spirit in them, that this automatically means that they are walking according to the Spirit, and not according to the flesh. No. You are IN the Spirit, and not IN the flesh. But you can nevertheless continue to walk according to the flesh. Every one of us is going to do that to some degree, but God does want us to learn to walk in the Spirit.
To, "walk according to the flesh," certainly includes sin, and immorality. But really, to walk according to the flesh means to walk according to SELF. It is a life with SELF at the center of the universe. It is a life governed and directed by our five senses, our understanding, and our natural thinking – but not necessary in rebellion against God. Perhaps even, we think, in fellowship with God. And make no question; this can be an upright, good, and highly religious life. Christians by the thousands walk fully according to the flesh and think that they are walking according to the Spirit.
God says He wants us to walk according to the Spirit. This does not mean LEADINGS. It means to be governed by the Spirit. It means that, yes, sometimes God might speak His mind to me. But more often, to walk in the Spirit means I have the mind of Christ. I know God, and because I know Him, I am getting more and more free to walk with Him.
One of the ways in which God accomplishes these things in us is to separate soul from spirit in us. If Christ in us is OTHER than us, then at some point we are going to be able to tell the difference. The Bible tells us that in a Christian there will eventually come a conscious separation of soul from Spirit. We will be somewhat conscious of Christ in us.
Paul was. He said, "I am crucified with Christ, but nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God." (Gal. 2:20) This is all written to show us what will come if we continue to go on with God.
Now, the operation of soul separated from Spirit doesn’t work the way we expect. You and I are so used to fighting our flesh and our soul – trying to make it behave. But this is not really reflective of the Truth. Paul said:
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Rom 8:10)
Here we see a contrast. There is the old us – the body – which is dead because of sin, and crucified with Christ. But there is also Christ in us by the Holy Spirit. This is ANOTHER life – resurrection life – the new life. So there IS, by definition, a separation – really a separation that is by death and resurrection. But – and please take note of this – this is NOT us being sliced into two parts. No. God does not take the OLD us, and separate our old soul from our old spirit. No. What happens when we are raised in Christ is that there is introduced a NEW life – ANOTHER life – a life we were not born with. The introduction of the NEW LIFE into the old immediately creates TWO dynamics, and results in a separation. On the one hand, we have the body – our soul and natural and flesh – which is dead because of sin. But then on the other hand, we have what we received through the new birth – the Holy Spirit which is the life of Christ.
I hope we see this. The separation is caused by the introduction of ANOTHER kind of life – by the receiving of HIS life. That automatically creates the dynamic, and the warfare of flesh vs. Spirit.
Freedom From Sin
Herein we see why we are free from the power of sin. Romans 6 says, "He that is dead is freed from sin." (Romans 6:7) It also says there that, "Our old man is crucified with Him, so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and that we might no longer serve sin." (Rom. 6:6) Thus, we ARE dead if we have received Christ, and we ARE raised with Him – and therefore, we ARE free from the power of sin. These are finished realities. We need do nothing to add to them. But we need to believe them, for they are wrapped up in the new life that we have received in Christ Jesus.
This ties into what we are seeing about resurrection life being ANOTHER kind of life that is in us, and the fact that Christ is us is OTHER than us. The Bible never teaches that the possibility of sin is gone, or that the presence of it is gone -- it never teaches that the sin nature is purged out of us and doesn't exist. Rather, it speaks of our freedom being based on the introduction of a new life in Christ -- the life that is hid with Christ in God. If we live in HIM, we cannot be governed by the sin nature that is still there in our flesh. The power of it has been broken because we are given something NEW that never came under it – indeed is actually the result of OVERCOMING it.
The key therefore to overcoming sin is not to fight it in the power of the flesh. You KNOW that isn’t going to work. No. We must operate from a position of FINISHED VICTORY and of resurrection life. Instead of trying to make a dead body behave, we are to reckon the dead body AS DEAD, and the sin that belongs to it as dead, and then turn and live in the LIFE that is in Christ. Galatians says, "Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts, or control, of the flesh." (Gal. 5:16)
But again, to walk according to the flesh is not merely obviously sin. It is to be governed and controlled by the natural and SELF. So this too must be addressed. It is a matter of growth in Christ.
How does God separate soul from Spirit, and make us conscious of Christ in us? How can we possibly get to the place where we realize that Christ in us is OTHER than us, and that His life in us is really another KIND of life?
Well, think about it. We are talking about experiencing the reality that, "the body is dead because of sin." And we are talking about the emergence of the reality of, "the Spirit is life because of righteousness." We already KNOW the verses and the doctrine – now we are asking about the experience. How does God do this? Well, if we are going to experience the Truth that, "the body is dead because of sin," we are going to have to experience it through the very instrument of that death: The Cross of Jesus Christ. You are dead in Christ if you are a Christian, but now God must use the reality and power of the Cross to show you that you are dead, and bring to pass that death in your actual experience. Only then can you begin to become conscious of the OTHER life that is in you: Christ.
What we see here, once again, is that God doesn’t eradicate the flesh, natural, or SELF. No. Those are DEAD as to power over you. But what God HAS done is give you ANOTHER life – the life of Christ. The work of the Holy Spirit is to cause the old to decrease, so that Christ in you might increase. The Cross puts into death what is already declared dead, and the outcome is that Christ, who is already in you, emerges and flows through you.
When you were born again, you didn’t receive some of Christ. You got all of Him. But He was sort of buried beneath all of the self and flesh. Almost like, yes, you were dead, but not yet resurrected in Him. The Holy Spirit seeks to plow out of the way all that hinders the new life in us through the Cross. Thus, the new life in us emerges and is enlarged only as we carry our Cross and die.
Note again – Christ in us is OTHER than us. WE are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God. Our body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is LIFE. The law of the Spirit of LIFE in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. We could go on and on. But in the end, it comes down to the fact that in Christ, there is victory over all sin and death.
Our body is dead because of sin. And we are never going to be free of the possibility of sin in this life. But the Bible does show that over the course of time, as we learn to believe and obey the Truth, the body will come under the power of the Holy Spirit. That is why Paul tells us to, "yield our members to God as instruments of righteousness." And yet this is not a matter of us grunting real hard and making ourselves obey God. Rather, it is a matter of, "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," getting us to the place where we can obey God – through the power of the resurrection.
The seat of our salvation is our spirit. Paul says, "He that is joined (cemented) to the Lord is one Spirit (with Him.)" (I Cor. 6:17) We are saved the moment our spirit becomes one with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. This was actually a oneness that God originally created in Adam – but which he lost. God originally created man to be one with Him in Spirit, and for that oneness in Spirit to govern man’s soul and body. But when Adam sinned, he was no longer one with God in his spirit, and so he died. One of the effects was that Adam’s soul and body were no longer governed by his oneness with God, and in fact, they came to govern him. That is why we are all born in bondage to these things – our spirit is dead and so the flesh rules. But through Christ, the order in man is restored. We are one with God in Spirit. As we learn to walk with Christ, the soul and body are slowly to be brought back to their proper place – governed by the Spirit.
Herein we see the difference between legalism and the Truth. Legalism is an attempt to make ourselves obey – and to use that obedience to make ourselves presentable to God. The Truth states that we are made righteous by faith in Christ, and that all obedience is the outcome of that faith, and the outcome of walking in the Spirit. As Paul said to the Galatians, "Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made mature by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:3)
Christ In Us
"Christ in us," is not merely a fancy way of describing US as better people. Neither is it symbolic language for being legally saved. No. CHRIST IN US really is CHRIST IN US. Christ in us is a oneness between ourselves and the living God in our spirit. And Christ is not us. He is, "other than us." His life is another kind of life. In Him, we are another kind of creature than we were when we were born.
This is the reason why Christ, and the Truth, seems so hard to understand, and to walk in. It is ANOTHER life – a life that is different, and indeed, contrary, to the only life we have ever known, that of the flesh. The nature of that life is contrary to the nature of the natural life, and consequently, suffering is going to result. It has to result. But his is a good thing. It is a sign of growth.
We are DEAD, and our life IS hid with Christ in God. This shows how totally we are to lose ourselves in Christ. But if we do, there is a sequel: When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory. (Col 3:4) Lose your self in Christ NOW, and when He appears, you will see Him – and because you see Him, you will also appear. You will have your full identity in Him.
We do not know who we are right now. Almost nothing you believe about yourself is the Truth. Did you realize that? Most of it is stuff you have created for self-protection, or out of guilt. But can be remedied if you lose your life in Christ. If you do, you will be FOUND IN HIM. And in the eternal ages, you will discover who you are IN HIM.
Christ in us is the definition of Christianity. And it is real. Christ really is in us. His life in us is the reason for everything that Paul and the other writers of the NT make the claims they make.
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