It is important to distinguish between deliverance from sin and healing from sickness. This paper deals with the former.
The first thing a person wants is forgiveness from sins; the second need is deliverance from sin. A person is happy when he knows that he is free from guilt, but he then finds that all is not well – there is something inside him that wants to do the wrong thing. Sins relate to what I have done; sin is the principle of lawlessness that is within every child of Adam. Self-will is sin. Up until Romans 5:11, the forgiveness of sins is the subject and a believer in Christ now having the righteousness of God. From this point, until Romans 8:39, deliverance from sin is the subject.
Before we go on in this subject, it is worth explaining some terms that may be confusing to some of us who are young in the faith - in Christ, righteousness, status, the flesh.
In Christ - Adam was the head of the human race. His sin has brought a condition of sin and a sentence of death on all of us, his descendants. Christ is the head of a new creation, a new family, those who are His by faith. As natural persons we are viewed by God as “in Adam”; when we become believers on the Lord Jesus, owning Him as Saviour and Lord, we are viewed by God as “in Christ”. Referring to death and resurrection, Paul says: “As in the Adam all die, thus also in the Christ, all shall be made alive”, 1 Corinthians 15:22.
Righteousness -This can be described simply as “doing what is right”. It can be described as “the maintenance in integrity of every divinely appointed relationship”. This means that I do what is right before God and man. In some instances it helps to think of it as “what is needed to satisfy the holy claims of God”. Cain brought the produce of his own labour to God as an offering; Abel his brother brought a sacrifice. He knew that God needed the life of another not chargeable with his offence. God accepted Abel’s offering and ignored Cain’s. He was known as “righteous Abel”. The Epistle to the Romans speaks about the righteousness of God – a new thought to the Jew who was accustomed to the idea of man’s righteousness.
Status - This has also been called “standing” or “position”. This is how we are viewed by God. A true believer has the status of a son - not just a person who has been forgiven a big debt. This status is called sonship. “Ye are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus”. I may not act like one; my actions tell of the condition of my soul, but my position or status of a son never ceases. A member of the royal family may not act royally, but he does not cease to be a member of that family.
The flesh – The meaning can vary according to the setting. Sometimes it just means the body, as distinct from the spirit. In the context that we shall use here, it often means the old, evil nature, the principle of lawlessness and self-will that is in every child of Adam. “In flesh” is a state - as opposed to being “in Spirit”. A true believer, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is said to be “in Spirit”; see Romans 8:9. True believers are not “in flesh”, but the flesh is still in us! A Christian has a new nature - the real and new “you” - but the old one still lurks there, and should be considered as an intruder, as we see later.
Deliverance has two sides to it: perfect freedom with God in love in my place before Him; and freedom from the power of sin in myself. We are in Christ in the former; Christ is in us for the latter.
In Romans we get the gospel explained for believers. We are told what we have in Christ. Paul shows that the law did not make things better for the Jews – it only proved their guilt. The Gentiles had the testimony of creation, but they left God out of their thinking and sank into idolatry. So the Jews under law and the Gentiles without law were all guilty – “so that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world be under judgment to God”- Romans 4:19. Righteousness of God is revealed – because man had none himself, see Romans 1:16-17. The righteousness of God was not a known thought then. I see my sins put away through the work of Christ, Christ is my righteousness. I am accepted in Christ.
Now comes the next question – not sins put away, but of our deliverance from the principle of sin. On the basis of what we are by faith, all our sins are put away; but then comes the power of sin - the flesh; what is in me, rather than what I have done.
At the end of Romans 5 we see that through Christ’s death we have been counted righteous and that grace has abounded over sin. Now the apostles answers the question that people ask – Do we continue in sin that grace may abound? Do we keep going in our old ways? This question is raised in Romans 6:1. He then explains that this is inconsistent with our place because not only in Christ’s death did our sins go, but we died to sin. So how can we still live in it? Our baptism is the symbol of our death with Him, just as the Lord’s supper is the symbol of His death for us. Although we are alive in our bodies, God views us as dead to sin. We are to conduct our lives with that in mind.
Deliverance is through death. Christ has not only been crucified for my sins, but I have been crucified with Him. Whilst He has become my life, His death is as available for the old man as His life is for the new man, the new “you”. Romans 6:2, “We who have died to sin, how shall we still live in it?” Romans 6:6, “knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with him that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin”.
We therefore get power through death. It is as though I have an evil monster – the flesh, that evil nature inherited from Adam - in a jail cell inside me. If I keep him locked up - in the place of death - all is well, he cannot act, I do not commit sins. Sadly, I sometimes let him out and “he” acts. “Ye have died, and your life is hid with the Christ in God”. Colossians 3:3. I am not told to “die” because I am already dead in God’s sight, but to put certain things to death – see Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, vile passions, evil lust, and unbridled desire, which is idolatry”.
Can I say that in this world that I am delivered from sin? That I am made free from sin? The word “free” has two meanings in English. One meaning is the absence of something; someone is free from debt – he has none. The other meaning is “not captive”; this is the meaning here in Romans 6:7. It means justified, or cleared, or discharged. Note that it is ‘sin’, not ‘sins’. Israelites were saved from wrath by the blood on the lintel and the doorposts, but they were not delivered from the Egyptian masters; they were still captive until they crossed the Red Sea.
In Romans 6:11 - “So also ye, reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus”. I am to consider that I am dead when temptation comes before me. We all know that a dead body does not sin. I am alive physically of course, but my status before God is that I have died. That is how He views me now as a believer. Romans 6 tells me that I am to “reckon” or count or consider myself dead - to reason that way - but also to reckon myself “alive to God”.
“I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”, Galatians 2:20. It does not mean that the old man is not there – that would not be deliverance; nor does it mean that there will be no combat. It is not the same thing if I am struggling with a man and he has me down with his knee on my chest, or I have him down with mine on his! The flesh will always be there. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body to obey its lusts”, Romans 6:12. Sin is therefore personified as being in me, but it is not to be in control, not to reign or rule me, as depicted in the illustration just given above. Paul had been to the third heaven, but he was given a thorn for the flesh, something to help him keep it in check, but it was still there to need it. We are now dead to sin but alive to God, free - that is, not captive - but what are we going to do? The answer is in verse 13: “Yield yourselves to God as alive from among the dead, and your members instruments of righteousness to God”. Verses 2-14 answer the questions in vs. 1.
Remember as we proceed in Romans 6 and beyond, that Paul is not saying that the law is dead, or that it has been weakened by grace. It is just and holy. The law is not dead, it is we that are dead to it, as we will see in Romans 7. It is not a rule of life for a Christian. The will of God is that. Go back again to chapter 6:13. The law by its restraints only provoked the flesh. [As an example, put up a sign: “Wet Paint, Do Not Touch” and see how it incites people to touch it!] The law gives neither power for holiness nor life; grace, not law, gives life, saves, strengthens. In this chapter the apostle is not speaking of our being accounted righteous in Christ, as some might teach. He is discussing the conduct of the Christian in answer to those who find fault with grace, who argue that this teaching tends to sanction loose moral ways.
In Romans 6:15, we get another question to be answered: “What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Far be the thought.” Understanding that I am now “under grace” makes me a more devoted bondman of righteousness to the God who imputes no sin to me, than the law even asked, but never obtained, with all its incentives and penalties. We are now slaves to God – “ye were bondmen of sin, but have obeyed from the heart the form of teaching into which ye were instructed”, Romans 6:17. This teaching is that of Christ and the apostles. And again, in verse 22, “But now, having got your freedom from sin, and having become bondmen to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end eternal life”. Freedom here means “not captive to” sin - not controlled by it.
In Romans 7 weakness is the subject, not guilt; the working of sin, not the pardon from sins. In the inner conflict of this chapter there was life, otherwise sin would not have been distressing; but there was not the power of the Spirit working in and with the person, otherwise there would have been liberty and not the bondage experienced. Romans 7 is not the normal Christian state, though it is the condition in which Christians find themselves until they know deliverance from their state of sin and not the forgiveness of their sins alone. The chapter begins with the fact that we are dead to the law. The law stands in all its majesty, to condemn those who live under it. But we have a new husband – Christ. The person here – Paul puts himself into the situation for the purpose of the lesson – learns the inability to do the good he delights in as much as the inability to resist the evil he hates. In Romans 8:7 I am told that “the mind of the flesh is not subject to the law of God … for neither indeed can it be”. He means that it has a will of its own; and self-will is the principle of sin. The law was “just and holy and good” and stood against sin. So the law, instead of giving me deliverance, brought me into captivity. This is just what we get in Romans 7. A person in whom the Spirit begins to work gains the knowledge of sin from the law. The law says “Thou shalt not covet [lust]” but it does not take away lust nor give any power to overcome it. There was no deliverance. The person depicted in Romans 7 learnt that he was not only guilty, but that he had an evil nature, and had no power. Only Christ can deliver from this sense of death that is experienced.
The beginning of Romans 8 is a summary and a conclusion of the previous reasoning. In verse 1, “There is then no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus”. What a statement! The verse should end there. [The best manuscripts do not include the clause “who do not walk according to flesh but according to Spirit”. The NASB omits it; the NKJV acknowledges its absence in a significant manuscript. That clause occurs in verse 4, and is consistent with the teaching at that point.] There is no condemnation because the believer is in Christ. Christ in the believer comes in later.
Paul takes up the question of law as he took up the question of righteousness. Man had not acquired righteousness with law or without it; then God gave him Christ to be his righteousness. Now, the question is, having got this, Can the law deliver us? Romans 8:2 tells me “What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh…” It is not guilt now, but the flesh – the old, evil nature.
In this verse we have been set free from “the law of sin and of death”. This is not the law of God. Some commentators tell us that it is the law, and that the “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” is the gospel. Not so. The apostle has already given us the way he uses the term “law”. He uses it for a principle acting uniformly or constantly, to a given end. In Romans 3:27, the “law of faith” in contrast with “the law of works”; later, in chapter 7, “another law in my members, warring in opposition to the law of my mind”. We refer to the “law of gravity”. We also speak of the movement in prices as being governed by “the law of supply and demand”, when we mean the constant and universal fact that prices change according to supply and demand. “The law of sin and of death” simply means the constant principle of the flesh in its character and resultant “wages”. The meaning is that the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is acting constantly to a given end. This only came about since the gospel was preached, but it does not mean the gospel. The apostle does not just use the word “life”, but “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”. Notice how the Holy Spirit is introduced once the person at the end of Romans 7 reaches Christ – only then and not before.
In verse 3, we read that God executed condemnation on sin in the flesh, not on sinners. God’s condemnation of sin was on the cross in the sacrifice of Christ for it. He who was sinless became the sin offering. God can righteously forgive sins as a result of Christ’s complete work, but He is never said to forgive sin. He condemned it at the cross. Both sins and sin have been dealt with by Him who suffered at God’s hand that we might be delivered and know our deliverance by the faith of Jesus Christ our Lord.
In verse 9, the true believer is no longer “in flesh” - as to his state before God - but the flesh is still in him! Hence we get our responsibility in verse 13 - the need by the Spirit, to put to death the [evil] deeds of the body.
There are then three parts to deliverance here. First, my guilt has been met and there is no condemnation. Second, I need more than this, I need the power of a risen life – one that has won the victory. So I have the “law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death”. Thirdly, in verse 11, deliverance finally is that of the body - the resurrection.
MM March 2008