If Not Love, Legality – C.a. Coats

There will be found in anyone who is really “in the seventh of Romans” an intense separation from the world, a holy abhorrence of sin and a vehement desire to do the will of God. That will has become the glory and goal of his heart and soul; sin is no longer any pleasure to him. Now his distress and complaint is that he finds himself perfectly incapable of carrying out that on which his heat is set. He discovers himself to be altogether incompetent for the will of his Father, though it commands both his conscience and his heart.​

But this helplessness arises from the fact that he is trying to keep the law and therefore in conscience he is on the ground of a man living in the flesh; for “the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth” (Rom 7:1). His is the case of one who is set for the will of God; but who is, as to his consciousness, dissociated from the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence there is absolute weakness, no fruit for God and the soul can only cry, “O wretched man that I am!”

The Lord Jesus not only rescues from the power and condemnation of sin, but also from the power and condemnation of the law. In Romans Six it is “dead unto sin” (v 11) and in Romans Seven it is that we have “become dead to the law by the body of Christ” (v 4). “Now we are delivered from the Law, having died to that in which we were held, that we should serve in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (v 6).

However, to see this is not enough to deliver us from the legality of our own souls. The power of deliverance from legality lies not in the dissolution of the old bond, but in the apprehension of a new bond in divine grace between the Lord Jesus and the believer: “That ye should be married to Another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (v 4). Hence this aspect of deliverance turns upon the place the Lord Jesus holds in our hearts.

Now it becomes a matter of the greatest interest to us to know how the will of God comes to us. The answer is very simple and blessed. It comes to us in the Lord Jesus. We do not acquire our knowledge of what is pleasing to our Father through the law, but by being brought under His sway—by being “married to Another, even to Him who is raised from the dead”. A heart breathing the atmosphere of divine love cannot be legal!

The legal believer has a greater sense of the divine claim than he has of divine support and hence his life is an effort and he is always more or less under a cloud, because he does not find himself equal to his obligations. The spiritual believer, on the other hand, has a greater sense of divine support than he has of the divine claim upon him, for he knows what it is to be married to the Lord Jesus, he knows he can count upon the all sufficient support of the One who is his life for everything that is the will of his Father. Thus he is kept in real liberty of heart.

If we get dissociated in spirit from the Lord Jesus, the more we read the Word and the more intelligence we get as to the will of God, the more legal we become. I do not believe that God would have us read His Word, if I may say so, apart from the Lord Jesus. He would keep the Scriptures always connected tin our hearts with the One who is our life (Col 3:4).