Three great truths Paul had put before his readers [in Romans 5-8]: substitution, identification, and union. The thought of substitution he unfolds in chapter 5: “Christ died for the ungodly,” “Christ died for us,” verses 6 and 8. Here, too, we have the headship of the first and second representatives, Adam and Christ, dwelt upon.
The thought of identification he brings out in chapter 6. The believer is there regarded as crucified and buried with Christ. See verses 6 and 4. And then there is the thought of union. It is in the opening portion of chapter 7 that this truth is set forth. “You also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another.” This truth is dwelt on only in the first six verses. At the seventh verse a digression begins, and the subject of union is not again taken up until the first verse of chapter 8. The progress of thought in these three great facts;
- identification, and
is indicated in the prepositions
- “with,” and
It has been said with truth, an immense amount of divinity is contained in the prepositions of the New Testament.
“Therefore now in Christ Jesus”; being brought into union with Him, not judicially alone, but experimentally also; “there is no condemnation” [Rom. 8:1].
But the Apostle assigns a reason for this blessed state of things, in these words. “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]. By this union we are brought into a condition of deliverance. We get the benefit of a liberating power. Redemption then is realized to be an emancipation from sin, not merely by virtue of an act done in the past, but by virtue of a law [as in “law of nature”, or principle] which is in force in the present; of a law which never ceases to be in force. One law is, in fact, being effectually counteracted by another law. Fellowship with Christ, union of heart and mind with Him, introduces the soul into that sphere where all the benefits of this victorious law become his. It is there, “in Christ Jesus,” but only there, that this blessed freedom can be known and realized.
What we are out of that sphere can do nothing” (John 15:5); that is, without fellowship with Me, even after you have been brought to know Me as your Lord and Saviour. “It is a poor and inadequate interpretation of the words ‘without Me’ to make them to mean ‘You can do nothing until you are in Me, and have My grace.’ It is rather, ‘After you are in Me, you can even then accomplish nothing, except you draw life and strength from Me … From first to last it is I that must work in and through you'” (Trench’s Word Studies).
If a piece of iron could speak, what could it say of itself? “I am black; I am cold; I am hard.” But put it in the furnace, and what a change takes place! It has not ceased to be iron; but the blackness is gone, and the coldness is gone, and the hardness is gone! It has entered into a new experience. The fire and the iron are still distinct, and yet how complete is the union; they are one. If the iron could speak, it could not glory in itself, but in the fire that makes and keeps it a bright and glowing mass. So must it be with the believer. Do you ask him what he is in himself? He answers, “I am carnal, sold under sin” [Rom. 7:14]. For, left to himself, this inevitably follows; he is brought into captivity to the law of sin which is in his members. But it is his privilege to enter into fellowship with Christ, and in Him to abide. And there, in Him, who is our life, our purity, and our power; in Him, whose Spirit can penetrate into every part of our being, the believer is no longer carnal, but spiritual; no longer overcome by sin and brought into captivity, but set free from the law of sin and death, and preserved in a condition of deliverance. This blessed experience of emancipation from sin’s service and the power implies a momentary and continuous act of abiding.
The believer cannot glory in himself. He cannot glory in a state of purity attained, and having an existence apart from Christ Himself. He is like the piece of iron. The moment it is withdrawn from the furnace, the coldness and hardness and blackness begin to return. It is not by a work wrought in the iron once for all, but by the momentary and continual influence of the fire on the iron that its tendency to return to its natural condition is counteracted.
Such is the law of liberty in the spiritual life. We can thus understand how there may be a continuous experience of deliverance from the law of sin, and at the same time a deepening sense of our own natural depravity; a life of triumph over evil with a spirit of the truest humility.
Evan H. Hopkins (1837 – 1918). The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life, an excerpt from chapter 2: “No Condemnation.” (CLCpublications.com)
Title, headings, bracketed content and italics added – JBW