Having learnt so much, separately, about the characteristics of the two natures, from Romans 6-8., we have now to learn the experience and the doctrine about them, as existing together in the one personality. This doctrine is taught chiefly in Romans 7. Every child of God has the experience, but not every such child knows the doctrine. This means nothing but trouble, confusion, doubt and anxiety. No rest can be known, no peace can be enjoyed unless we learn for ourselves from the Word of God, what His own explanation is concerning the conflict between the two natures. The experience of that conflict is trouble and unrest; and nothing but the knowledge of the true doctrine concerning it can remove that trouble; and, not only does it remove it, but at the same time it provides us with the greatest assurance we can possibly have on earth that we are the children of God. The experience of this conflict is the one thing in which the true child of God differs from the mere religious professor. The latter knows nothing of it; or of the abiding sense of inward corruption which this experience always creates. The very fact, therefore, of this experience of the conflict, is the best, and indeed, the only real assurance we can have that we are "born of God" (1 John 3:9); that we are "His workmanship" (Eph. 2:10); and that He has begun in us that good work which He will carry on, carry out, complete, and perfect concerning us (Phil. 1:6). The right understanding of the doctrine concerning this experience can bring only peace and comfort to us: and without it all must be trouble, unrest, and confusion.
It is this which forms the subject of Romans 7; Let us note how it stands in the general structure of the Epistle. It forms part of a larger member which begins at chapter 5:12, and goes on to the end of the eighth chapter (8:39). The subject is sin (or, the old sinful nature).
THE STRUCTURE OF ROMANS 5:12 -- 8:39.
A | 5:12--21. Condemnation to death of many, through
| the disobedience of one: but life and righteousness
| through the obedience of one -- Jesus Christ.
B | 6:l--7:6. We are not in sin, having died in Christ.
B | 7:7--25. Sin in us, though we risen with Christ.
A | 8:1--39. Condemnation of sin in the flesh:
| but no condemnation to them which have life and
| righteousness in Christ Jesus.
From the structure of this passage we see that the conflict arises through sin (i.e., the old sinful nature) being in us, though we are risen with Christ. This is the subject of chapter 7, from the seventh verse: (not of the whole chapter). The first six verses of chapter 7; belong to chapter 6; and the object in the member B (ch. 6:l--7:6), is to show how we are not in, or no longer reckoned as being under, the condemnation of sin, inasmuch as we died in Christ.
The object of chapter 7:1--6 is to show how the Lordship of the Law can be exercised only during life (5:1). Death releases us from its claim against us (5:2). This is illustrated by the case of a married woman who may lawfully marry again if her husband be dead (5:3). The conclusion is that we who have died with Christ (5:4) are therefore free from the law and can be united to Christ in a new sphere, or plane, altogether -- in resurrection life (5:4); and, having died with Christ, are altogether free from the authority, and power, and claims of the law.
This last paragraph may be set out to the eye in the following structure:
C | 7:1. The Lordship of the Law during life.
D a | 2. Death releases the wife from its claims.
b | 3. Result -- Union with another husband.
D a | 4. Our death in Christ releases us from its
b | 4. Result -- Union with Christ.
C | 5,6. Deliverance from Lordship of the Law by death.
The way is now clear for the teaching that, though we are no longer in our sins, sin is in us; and, from the moment that the new nature is implanted within us it reveals the presence of the old nature; and the conflict between them begins. "These are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (Gal. 5:17). The two natures thus dwell side by side in one personality. Like the graft of a rose on a briar, or an apple on a crab-apple, it is one tree; but all that is brought forth above the graft is a new kind of fruit, while all that is brought forth from the old stem, below the graft, is of the nature of the old tree, and is carefully and continually cut off with the pruning-knife. The experience is so interlaced that it is difficult for man's word to describe it, or explain it. Only "the Word of God" can do that, nothing else. "It is able to divide what is of [the] soul" (i.e., soulical or natural, the old nature), and what is "of [the] spirit" (i.e., the new nature); and is able to judge [yes, and to condemn] the thoughts and intents of the heart (i.e., the old nature) (Heb. 4:12).
It is out of the heart (or, old nature) that all evil thoughts come forth (Matt. 15:18-20). The Word of God is "able to judge" these "thoughts and intents" and enables us to judge and condemn them; yea, and enables us to discern and divide between what belongs to the old, and what belongs to the new nature.
As the two natures are in the one person, so the "I" in Romans 7; relates sometimes to one and sometimes to the other. Hence we read (5:18) "For I know (as a matter of fact from God's Word) that there dwells not in me, that is, in my flesh (my old nature) any good thing. For the will (16) [to do good] is present with me, but the working out of [that] good [will] I find not. (19) For the good [thing] which I will [to do] I do not practise; but the evil which I do not will, this I do. (20) But if, what I do not will, I practise, it is no longer I who work it out, but sin which [is] dwelling within me. (21) I find then this law in me who will to practise the good, that the evil is present with me. (22) For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man (the new nature): (23) but, I see a different law in my members, carrying on war against the law of my mind (or new nature), and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Here we have the very explicit declaration that the new nature (called the "inward man" and the "mind") delights in God's law; while there is, at the same time, the old nature (called "the flesh") which delights in obeying its own law, and carries on a constant war against the new nature. The result of this unceasing warfare is the wretchedness which leads the ego in the next verse to cry out, in broken gasps: "0 wretched -- I -- man!" which is translated, "0 wretched man [that] I [am] who shall deliver me out of this body [appointed to] death? (17) I thank God, (18) [He shall deliver me] through Jesus Christ our Lord." Yes, He will deliver all who have this conflict, in the only possible way; either by Death, Rapture, or Resurrection. Only in Rapture or Resurrection will death be "swallowed up in victory". Then shall we cry, no longer, "0 wretched man". But "0 death, where is thy sting? 0 grave, where is thy victory?" That will be the end That will be the end of this warfare. Well may such as one cry "I thank God [He will deliver me] through Jesus Christ". This is our present cry of patience and of faith. But the moment is coming when we shall actually cry, "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:54-57).
In view of this blessed hope, well may this revelation end with the exhortation: "Be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." Be not moved by the varying episodes and experiences of the conflict. Rejoice in the present assurance of grace as to our perfection in Christ Jesus; Rejoice in the promise of future victory, when we shall be made like His own body in glory. So shall we be free to engage in the work of the Lord, yea, to "abound" in it. No longer striving to exterminate the enemy, or to have any temporary victory which we may gain over it; but looking forward to that great final victory which He has promised to "give".
A certain class of modern holiness teaching in this sphere of truth robs it of all its beauty and its power. It realizes the fact of the conflict within us, but would have us engage in the hopeless task of improving or eradicating the old nature. It would thus, at the best, occupy us with ourselves, and would have us ignore the emphatic assurances from God's Word that the old nature, or the flesh, can never be changed into spirit. And, supposing it could be eradicated, where is it to go? What is to become of it? It is "flesh"; and nothing can end the burden of the "flesh" but death and resurrection, or rapture. No amount of surrendering, or believing, can get rid of "the flesh". It is born of the flesh, and is flesh. It is so many stones in weight. How can this be eradicated? And eradicated from what? It is confusion like this that we get into, the moment we use non-Scriptural terms; but, in this case, the term "eradication" is not only non-Scriptural, but is un-Scriptural. The Scripture word is "deliverance" and "victory", and this, not victory over "sins" as such, but over "sin" itself, over this death - appointed body. This "deliverance" will be experienced only in rapture or resurrection. We are delivered from our "sins" here, and now. Our salvation by, and in, Christ assures us of this. it is for these He was delivered (Rom. 4:25). These God has remitted (Rom. 3:25). These are all forgiven and covered (Rom. 4:7.; Col. 2:13). We are not any longer in our trespasses and sins. We were once in them, written in Ephesians 2:1--3:" and you [did He quicken] when ye were dead in [your] trespasses and sins, wherein in times past ye walked according to the course (19) of this world, according to the prince of the authority of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience (or, unbelief); among whom we also, all, once had our conversation (or, lived our life) in the lusts of our flesh (or, the old nature), practicing the things willed by the flesh and the thoughts [of our heart, or, old nature] and were by nature, children [destined to] wrath (20) even as the rest" (Eph. 2:2,3): "for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience (marg. unbelief)" (Eph. 5:6). But from all these "sins" we have been delivered; and from all that "far off" distance have been "made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:13). It is not now a question of "sins" but of "sin".
WE ARE NOT IN OUR SINS; BUT "SIN" IS IN US.
This is the great subject of Romans 7; and we feel the motions and leadings of "sin"; yea, we feel them most when we would do good. Sad indeed is this experience. Yea, the old nature seems all the more malignant because of the presence of the new. The new nature seems to stir up the old, and to make its opposition all the more bitter. It is as though the old tenant resents the incoming of the new tenant. Until the new tenant sheds its blessed light abroad within, we do not see or realize the depths and powers of the old one. There are those who have been astounded to discover in themselves tendencies and desires which they never knew the existence of before. They simply carried those desires out "in times past", being "dead" to all sense of their real nature, and awful character. But now, there is a new will directing the members. The members were once under the entire domination of the old will: but they have now been absolved from their allegiance. The old will has no longer dominion over them (Rom. 6:14). The old will is in us, and does all it can to influence our members; but, it no longer has the control. The conflict between the two natures may be compared to a ship, on which a new Captain has been put on board by the owners. The old Captain has so long held command, and his enmity to the owners is so great that he has practically treated the vessel as his own; and kept the crew in perfect bondage. The crew have submitted to it, never having known any other authority; or understood what real liberty of service was. From time to time they have heard of it; they have passed other vessels which they saw at once were very different from their own. But, now that the new Captain is in authority they begin to find out what the difference is. The new Captain, henceforth always has control of the helm and the charge of the ship. The ship is the same, the crew is the same. Even the old Captain remains on board. The book of instructions which the new Captain has brought on board tells that the old Captain has been judged and condemned: but the sentence cannot be executed except by the proper judicial authorities, when they reach port. They cannot put him ashore, or throw him overboard. But, he no longer "holds the helm or guides the ship". He tries from time to time to get hold of the wheel but in vain. He succeeds sometimes in putting forth his old influence by creating disaffection in some members of the crew; for he knows them and their weaknesses well from his former complete control of them. He occasionally bribes or deceives some of them into acts of insubordination which they afterwards deeply regret. But the old Captain cannot get at the "ship's papers". They are now put quite out of his reach, where he cannot touch them. He cannot succeed in altering the ship's course; or change the port for which she is now making. He does not read the book of instructions; and if he looks at it, he does not understand it (1 Cor. 2:14). The ship's company were once his executive, and carried out only his will: but there is now no obligation for any of them to obey his orders, or to recognize his authority. They are released from it; and henceforth they are under the orders of the new Commander. They are to "reckon" the old Captain as already condemned; and the sentence as only waiting to be carried out. As to his power over them, they are to reckon themselves "as good as dead" so far as he is concerned.
This is the argument of Romans 6:17-19. "But thanks be to God that [though] (21) R.V. whereas] ye were the servants (or bond-servants) of sin, yet (22) ye have obeyed from the heart that line (23) of teaching unto which ye were delivered (24). (18) And being set free from [the dominion of] sin, ye became servants of righteousness. (19) I speak as a man, on account of the weakness of your flesh): for as ye [once] yielded your members in bondage to [work] uncleanness and to iniquity to [work] iniquity; even so now ye present your members in bondage to righteousness to [work] holiness."
We therefore have not only been delivered from our sins, but have been delivered unto this line, or kind of teaching, if we have "so learned Christ" (Eph. 4:20).
But the question is, have we "so learned Christ"? and have we gotten to know the wondrous deliverance which we have obtained in and through Him? This is the application of the Apostle makes of this "line of teaching" given in Romans 6. After speaking of how "other Gentiles walk", who know not this deliverance, he turns to these Ephesian saints and says (Eph. 4:20): "but ye did not thus learn Christ, if indeed ye heard Him, and were taught by Him (according as [the] truth is in Jesus (25)) to have put away from (26) you [all that was] according to your former course of life, the old man, which is corrupt according to its deceitful lusts, and to be renewed (27) in the spirit, that is to says (28) your mind (or new nature), and to have put on (29) the new man, which, according to God, was created in righteousness, and true holiness. Wherefore, having put off (30) "falsehood, speak ye, each one, truth with his neighbor; for we are members one of another" (Eph. 4:20-25).
This passage speaks of what they had done in consequence of having received the new nature. It does not tell them what they were to do. They were not told to put off the old man. That had been done. They are being reminded of what they had already "learned" from, or concerning Christ, and of the blessed position of the believer in relation to the conflict between the two natures. This is the "truth" which the members of the one body were to speak of to each other (v. 25). We are to remind each other that the old man has been deposed from his dominion, and that we have been put under the dominion of the new man. The moods and tenses in this passage must be carefully noted. For unless we know the doctrine of the two natures, we miss the whole scope of the passage. And if we do not discern the scope, we cannot understand the moods and tenses. They are all past infinitives, and not present imperatives. They are not commands for us to do what has already been done. These Ephesian saints were not here told "to put off" or "to put on" anything; but, all having been done for them and for us by God, the one command is to "speak" of, and talk about, this precious "truth" with the other members of the one body. And if we have" so learned the Christ" (i.e., Christ spiritual or mystical) and "heard Him," and have been "taught by Him," this is what we shall do. We shall not do this if we have listened to man, and been taught by man. Man will teach us and tell us that we have got to spend our life in trying "to put off the old man", and laboring "to put on the new man". He will put us under these hopeless tasks and thus bring us into a new kind of bondage: all the more deceitful and dangerous because it seems such a good work. But it is bondage all the same. It is not the "truth" which we learn of Christ. It is not "the line of teaching" unto which we have been delivered. We were not delivered from one bondage in order to come under another; however plausible it may seem.
Man's teaching either ignores the doctrine of the two natures altogether, and is devoted to rules and regulations for controlling old nature (the only one he knows of): or, where the doctrine is known, it is vitiated by not knowing all that is "taught by Him"' concerning our present deliverance from the dominion of the old man now, by the reckoning of faith (Rom. 6:11); and the future and perfect deliverance from it in resurrection (Rom. 7:24, 1Cor. 15:57). Hence, man's teaching perverts the blessed doctrine by promising us that, if we follow his prescriptions we can get rid of the old nature now by our own acts of "surrender"; and thus he paves the way for ignoring altogether, and doing without the only deliverance which God has promised by means of rapture or resurrection "through our Lord Jesus Christ"; by substituting death as our hope. This is why "that blessed hope" of the Lord's coming has been so long lost to the great majority of believers. This is why "the hope of Resurrection" has been superseded by the Babylonian tradition of death and an "intermediate state" which is so universally substituted for the Word of God.
There are responsibilities, under which the doctrine concerning the two natures puts us, and there are practical precepts connected with both: but these are all in full harmony with the great lessons which we learn in the school of grace, where grace itself is at once our Saviour and our Teacher (Titus 2:11-13).