Alive To The Law

“Even so through the obedience of the One” (Rom 5:18). This was our Lord’s death, yea, the death of the Cross. He was of course obedient to His Father, but it cannot be too strongly emphasized that His life before the Cross—His “active obedience,” as it is called—is not is any sense counted to us for righteousness. “I delivered to you, says Paul, “first of all, that Christ died for our sins.”

Before His death He was “holy, guileless, undefiled, and separated from sinners.” He Himself said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Do you not see that those who claim that our Lord’s righteous life under Moses’ Law is reckoned to us for our “active” righteousness—while His death in which He put away our sins, is, as they claim, the “passive” side—are really leaving you, and the Lord too, under the authority of the Law?

“Justified in (the value or power of) His Blood,” and of that alone gives the direct lie to the claim that man must have “an active righteousness” as well as “a passive righteousness.”* The specious assertion is, that “inasmuch as we have all broken the Law (though God says that Gentiles were ‘without law’—and those in Christ are not under it) and inasmuch as man cannot by is works himself recover his righteous standing, Christ came and kept the Law in man’s place (!?). He then went to the Cross and suffered the penalty of death for man’s guilt so that the result is an active righteousness, reckoned to man, that is, Christ’s keeping the Law in man’s place. And, second, a ‘passive righteousness,’ which consists in the putting away of all guilt by the blood of Christ.”

Now, the awful thing here is the unbelief, or ignorance, concerning man’s irrevocable state before God. For not only must Christs’ Blood be shed in expiation of our guilt, but we had to die with Christ. We were connected with the old Adam in the “old man”—all we had and were in Adam must be crucified—if we were to be “joined to Another, even to Him that was raised from the dead.” Theological teaching since the Reformation has never set forth clearly our utter end in death* with Christ on the Cross.

The dangerous result of this error is to leave the Law as claimant over those in Christ: for, “Law has dominion over a man as long as he liveth” (Rom 7:1). Unless you are able to believe in your very heart that you died with Christ, that your old man was crucified with Him, and that you were buried, and that your history before God in Adam the first came to an absolute end at Calvary, you will never get free from the claims of the Law upon your conscience.* Both the Calvinist and Arminians think that the flesh is not so bad that it cannot be acted on for God by Christ using the Law, and giving it power through the Spirit.*

Our Lord said plainly that His work in this world was to die: “The Son of Man came to give His life a ransom”: and indeed, “through the eternal Spirit He offered Himself without blemish unto God.” True, He must be a spotless Lamb. But for what? For sacrifice! He did not touch our case, had no connection with us, until God laid our sins upon Him and made Him to become sin for us on the Cross. Christ was not one of our race “the sons of men”: He was the Seed of the woman, not of the man.* He was the Son of man, indeed, for God prepared for Him a body (Ps 40; Heb 10) and that, by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). But, though He moved among sinners, He was “separate from sinners,” and had no relationship with them until God made Him their sin offering on the Cross.*

Christ Himself, risen, is our righteousness. His earthly life under the Law is not our righteousness.* We have no relationship with a Christ on earth and under the Law. We are expressly told in Romans 7:1-6, that even Jewish believers who have been under law were made dead to the Law by the body of Christ, that they might be joined to Another, even to Him who was raised from the dead. One has beautifully said, “Christianity begins with the resurrection.”

It must be remembered that the Law addresses a man in the flesh:* the Lord Jesus is only known and maintained by His own Spirit. I do not disown and count dead the old man by the Law; I cultivate and restrain him;* and according as this is successful, I add to man’s self-righteousness. On the contrary, as the Lord Jesus is received and followed, man as he is in the flesh* is counted dead; and the Spirit, who controls and uses his body and mind as belonging to Christ, is alone acknowledged and depended upon. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).

Now there is a great difference between these two standards; and not only so, but the effect or demand which each has on me is vastly different. In the one case I am required to exalt man to the only true, proper elevation for a man. In the other I am required to be a dead man and accept another and higher life, and in the Spirit to manifest Him who is the fountain and source of it to me. Surely the difference is immeasurable.

The man who cultivates himself obtains commendation from men in a measure that the one who cultivates life in the Lord Jesus will never receive or elicit. The one cultivates what exalts man, and therefore what suits man; the other, that which ignores man and which rises above him. We must not forget that which is highly esteemed among men* is abomination in the sight of God.

- Wm R Newell

Poster’s Comments:

*”man must have “an active righteousness” as well as “a passive righteousness”: Yes, active righteousness derived by Christ; yes, passive righteousness, but not imputed to us as the result of His Law-keeping obedience, as though keeping the Law would produce salvation for any.

Salvation comes not “through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith” (Rom 4:13), and “the law is not of faith” (Gal 3:2). Law and faith are separate systems in that law is self-contingent and faith is God-contingent. It was and always has been due to sacrifice, and not obedience, that forgiveness is effected and those who received forgiveness showed it by living outside the disobedience of “presumptuous” sin (Num 15). The present day believer shows forgiveness by confessing sin, for forgiveness is effected by Christ’s sacrifice, and His Law-keeping confirmed His qualification for sacrifice. Thus Christ’s Law-keeping was completely to Himself and to none other, which manifested His qualification for sacrifice.

*”our utter end in death”: not death of the still indwelling of the old man, but death to its guilt and rule in us.

*”the claims of the Law upon your conscience”: In truth, all in Christ are free from the rule and guilt of the sin nature, but may still be hindered from walking in the spiritual growth of it if this is not sufficiently understood.

*”the flesh is not so bad that it cannot be acted on for God by Christ using the Law, and giving it power through the Spirit”: the object isn’t to make the old man better, for it cannot be subjected to the law of God (Rom 8:7), but to make the individual better, by the Spirit using the new man or new nature. Believers should always be seeking to discern, within what they do, which of the two natures are being acted upon, and in this the Lord’s work is manifested, due to contrasting the two.

*”He was the Seed of the woman, not of the man”: The Lord Jesus’s incarnation was “conceived of the Holy Spirit” (Mat 1:20), resulting as the “only begotten of the Father.” Mankind’s incarnation (apart from Adam and Eve who were not begotten but created) was conceived by natural birth, hence begotten of man and resulting in the transfer of inheriting the sinful nature they incurred.

*”had no relationship with them”: that is, no relationship concerning sin, i.e. no sin-relationship.

*”His earthly life under the Law is not our righteousness”: Christ keeping the Law (perfectly) manifested, and not effected His holiness, which was present prior to His show of obedience. By God’s grace—through our faith, the righteousness of Christ is “imputed” to us, not because of Christ’s law-keeping, but because of God judging sin in His sacrifice (Rom 8:3).

And remember, grace comes “through faith” (Eph 2:8), and “the Law is not of faith.” Grace does not function according to law but according to faith. Law can only condemn for disobedience, and the righteous requirement of the law is—death for disobedience. The righteous requirement of the law was absorbed by Christ, thus fulfilling the requirement of death in us (Rom 8:4).

*”the Law addresses a man in the flesh”: man ruled by the sinful nature, which all were, prior to Christ.

*”restrain him”: e.g. attempt to restrain him.

*”in the flesh”: e.g. live according to the sinful nature; which requires rebirth, a new nature and the Spirit of God to avoid. Hence those in Christ “are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit” (Rom 8:9).

*”that which is highly esteemed among men”: among unregenerate men.