The reason why my postings often involve material which concerns the Law and "the old man" is because this is the forefront of our "wrestling" (Eph 2:6), where the Holy Spirit continually causes us not to do "the things that ye would" (Gal 5:17). It is here where the Spirit restrains the sinful nature (old man) so the Father can constrain us to "will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil 2:13).
There are those who teach that the man in Romans Seven is not a child of God at all, and thereby lead people into the manifest error that a mere child of nature may “with the mind serve the law of God” (v 25), as “delighting in it” (v 22). But this is in spite of Paul’s own assurance that “the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; so, then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (8:7, 8).
The mind of the man in Romans Seven is subject to the law of God, as the mind of the flesh or of one in the flesh cannot be. Thus the man passing through this experience, with a right will, and absolute powerlessness to accomplish it, is clearly converted and is a child of God. The need of the experience of the old man in the seventh of Romans is the need of learning practically to abide in the Lord Jesus at all times, to accept Him for life as well as for position.
Romans Seven concerns the work of, and freedom from, the law. That law reveals me as evil to my heart’s core. It makes me learn this experientially, by putting me under responsibility not to be the thing I am in the flesh. It occupies me with myself and with the evil—very profitably, surely, until I have learned the extent of it. I am taught by heart-breaking experience to “know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing” (v 18). In the face of a right will, I cannot accomplish my desire. I may argue that it is not I that do the evil, it is “sin that dwelleth in me” (vs 17, 20), and still that is not deliverance. It only makes me cry the more, “Oh, wretched man that I am” (v 24)!
The Father never means me to be able, with the Pharisee (Luke 18:11), to thank Him for the goodness that I find in myself. Self-conscious humility is spoiled by the very consciousness. If I will be at it, He leaves me to find in this irreparable flesh, which cannot be mended, what I may break my heart over, but never alter. It is a quicksand which spoils all my building—a morass impractical to cultivation; and the Father uses this, in His sovereignty over evil, to wean me from self-confidence and self-complacency, and cast me over to dependence upon Him.
Peace through our own evidence—peace through our own work or effort or self-complacency—cannot be identified with “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). The Father cannot trust us with such perilous self-contemplation. The growth which He intends for His people is confounded with a self-consciousness which is the primary hindrance to that growth. Our Father has made the Lord Jesus to be our sanctification as much as our righteousness (1 Cor 1:30), and the way of it is, occupation with the Lord Jesus, and with Him alone. Only as “we all with open face” are “beholding . . . the glory of the Lord,” do we become “changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).
Sanctification, or growth, is no more acquired by self-cultivation than righteousness is. It is “faith that worketh by love” (Gal 5:6); it is faith that does all this, because it is the Holy Spirit who carries it out as the Lord Jesus is our only Object for that faith. The believer taken up with the beauty of the Lord Jesus is the one who is learning the secret of it all—“For me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21).
- FW Grant