John N Darby
There is no cloud on God’s side: what shall separate us from His love? We enjoy His favour without reserve on His part. We have the Spirit of adoption by which we cry “Abba Father!”. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus: Christ cannot be condemned.
Then in verse 3 comes the practical power: we are set free from the yoke of sin. Generally, one has more difficulty about sin in oneself than about sins; for this it needs deliverance and no longer pardon. But the power of this deliverance exists; if I am vigilant, the flesh has no right at all over me. There are these two things, sins and the flesh which produces them, and the death of Christ applies to one and the other. When sin is anticipated, it is agreeable to the flesh, when it has been comitted, it produces bitterness in the conscience.
I have offended God, I am pardoned; I was guilty, I am justified; I was defiled, I am washed. It is important that I am really conscious of that. If somebody pays my debts, I take care to point them all out, so that none of them remains. Christ has borne all my sins; He is seated up there because all is done. All my sins were yet future when Christ bore them. God knew everything, and He has laid all upon Jesus.
Two passages in this epistle speak of the blessing of believing, in the fifth chapter and in the eighth. In the fifth, it is pardon for offences; in the eighth, “There is then now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus”. It is not said, ‘no condemnation for those for whose sins Christ has died’, but for those who are in Christ. It is a new position. As I have often said, suppose a young man riddled with debts; his father delivers him from them. Then the father, who has a good business, associates himself with this son; from then on the young man says: our capital, our business, our clients, etc… when indeed he has not even contributed a cent. Thus Christ has united us to Him; what He has is ours: the believer knows that he is Christ’s. “Ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you”, John 14: 20. In going, He says: “My Father and your Father ... my God and your God”, John 20: 17. He is there at the right hand of God, and I am in Him, and He has sent His Holy Spirit so that I might know it. It is necessary to have a perfect consciousness of it for the heart to be free. God has come to seek me, when I was in my sins; He says, ‘You cannot have confidence in me? Well, here I am.’
I have part in the death of Christ; He is become my life, but as being dead and already raised. “In me … dwelleth no good thing” (Rom 7: 18 KJV): death is needed to rid me of this. This is why we have been crucified with Him. When I say: ‘It is not me who does this, but the sin that dwells in me’ (Rom 7: 20), that does not satisfy me; then I say: “I am crucified with Christ”, Gal 2: 20. Everything changes: I am united to Him; death, life, these are our ‘common capital’. I died on the cross: God says to me: ‘You are dead’: my faith grasps this thing - I am dead to sin and alive to God. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and of death.” God has condemned sin in the flesh - in the flesh. This condemnation is accomplished, and the life of Christ is the power of it in me. What the law could not do, God has done. The law cursed me, but could not condemn sin in the flesh. In Colossians 3, God says: ‘You are dead’. Faith says, ‘Yes’. Then, bearing death in my body, life is produced; the flesh does not stir and the life of Jesus is manifest in my body. I take my place in the death of the Lord Jesus; I bear in my body the “dying” of the Lord Jesus (2 Cor 4: 10), so that the only thing which is manifest should be life. This is the Christian life. The Holy Spirit says, ‘You are a son’; and from then on I no longer recognise the flesh. Our commonwealth is thereafter in the heavens.
But the Holy Spirit also takes knowledge of our infirmities; I groan according to God and the Spirit intercedes with groanings that cannot be uttered. In John 11, Christ wept on seeing the power of death act upon hearts. I do not know what to ask for as is fitting, but I know that God directs everything for my greatest good. He is for us; He will give all things with Jesus. He justifies me; who will condemn? Who will separate me from the love of Christ? He has passed through all the things enumerated in verse 35; He became Man to pass through them.
A perfect conscience is needed; it is a sin not to have it; but let us remember that the remedy which assures to us deliverance from the flesh is that we are dead with Christ. It is never said that we have to die. To put to death is not to die; it is to exercise a power. I reckon that I am dead, then I mortify, I put to death my members that are on the earth, Col 3: 5.
I repeat that there is generally, not to say always, more exercise on the subject of the flesh then on the subject of sins. I say to a Christian: ‘Your debts are all paid’: He replies, ‘What a good thing!’. But I add: ‘You are dead’, and he protests: ‘Alas! No, I got angry this morning…’. One is not delivered from oneself so long as one has not despaired of oneself. “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me … ?” It is as a child who fell in a ditch, and who is stuck there in the sludge. He says to his father who is above: ‘I have to get out of here’. His father says to him: ‘Yes’. The child makes a first effort to climb the slope, but slips back into the sludge and gets a little dirtier. He looks to his father once again saying: ‘I must get myself out of there’. The father answers: ‘Certainly’. Then the child makes prodigious efforts several times over and always falls deeper into the quagmire again. Then he despairs of himself and says to his father: ‘I can do nothing here, you must draw me out of here’; and the father answers: ‘Ah! That is what I was waiting for’; and pulls him out. “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord”, Rom 7: 25.
14th September 1871
Translated from Le Messager Evangélique