Our responsibilities as to the new nature are exactly the opposite to those as to the old nature. Our first responsibility as to the old nature was to reckon it as having died with Christ. So our first great responsibility as to the new nature is;
1. To RECKON OURSELVES ALIVE in a new species of life (Rom. 6:11).
This new nature is life - new Life, spiritual life, divine life, eternal Life (Rom. 3:6). And we are to reckon that we are now "alive", and living in this new life: i.e., living on a new plane of life, unto, and for God; and that this life is "in Christ Jesus". Not in "Jesus Christ", as in the A.V. How the A.V. should ever have said "Jesus Christ" is incomprehensible; for there is no question at all of a various reading in the Greek. It is plainly and indisputably "in Christ Jesus"; for the believer is never said to be "in Jesus". It is not in a dead Jesus, but in a risen and living "Christ" that we now stand. And we are to "reckon" now, by faith (not by feeling), that we do really stand before God in this new species of life. As long as we look at ourselves we shall never be able to "reckon" it; for we shall see no reason why He should ever have given us this wondrous "gift". We shall see no cause for it in anything that we have ever done.
If we are to carry out this reckoning we shall have to "believe God". In Ephesians 2:4-6 He has given us every encouragement so to do; for there He reminds us that it was while we were children of wrath and unable to think a good thought, or to do a good act, then it was that "God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead ones in our trespasses, made us together alive in Christ: (by grace ye are saved), and raised us up together, and seated us together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus: that He might show, in the ages to come, the surpassing riches of His grace in [His] kindness towards us in Christ Jesus: for by grace ye [have been and] are saved through faith: and this [salvation is] not of yourselves [for it is God's gift]: not of works, in order that no one should boast" (Eph. 2:4-9). If it is not by "works", then certainly it is not by feeling. It is only by the reckoning of faith that we can enter into, and enjoy, this precious declaration of an accomplished salvation. But this leads us to another responsibility, which is given in the following verse (Eph. 2:10). "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before prepared (marg.) that we should walk in them." Therefore,
2. WE ARE TO WALK IN THIS NEW LIFE (Rom 6:4)
The Greek here for "new", kainotes, newness. It is from kainos, new (not as being young, or fresh, or recently made; which is neos; but, as being new-made, and different from what had been before; new, in the sense of coming in the place of what had formerly been. Kainotes occurs only in Romans 6:4, and 7:6, but in each case the word is used in a different association or connection.
In Romans 6:4 it refers to our walk (and in 7:6 to our service).
1. As to our walk, it is to be in "newness of life": i.e., as living on a new and different plane of life; no longer merely the physical life; but now, the spiritual life. No longer the life as derived from the first Adam, but the life as derived from the last Adam, even Christ. A new sphere of life altogether. The former was of the earth, earthly: the latter is heavenly in its origin, its course, and its end. Our seat of government (39) now is in heaven, and our "walk" is to be governed by that heavenly government, and not by any authority having its origin on the earth. As we walk about in the world we are ever to think of and to remember that we are in it, but not of it; and, as all who walk are responsible to look and see where they are going, so we are to "look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20,21): and this is to govern our walk.
2. In Romans 7:6 this new sphere of life is used in connection with service - "but now we were cleared [or discharged] from the law, having died to that in which we were held, so that we [are now privileged] to serve in newness of spirit (i.e., in the new sphere of the new nature), and not in the old (40) sphere of [the] letter [of the law]". This tells us that our service is no longer to be governed by the "letter" of the law, but by its "spirit"; and our service is to spring from a new motive altogether; the other is old (40) and antiquated; and out of date. Now it is to be not from duty, but from love; not from the observance of rules and regulations, but from delight; not from vows or pledges, but in perfect freedom of action; not as being bondservants, but as sons. A totally new sphere of service is brought to us with the new nature; and our responsibility henceforth is to serve God on this line and plane of service. Unless we are most watchful we shall find ourselves constantly dropping into the bondage of the antiquated letter, and acting in a servant-spirit instead of a sonship-spirit.
(3.) But there is a third walk connected with this "newness", or new sphere, into which the new nature brings us; and that is in connection with worship. It is spoken of in Galatians 5:25, and it follows on as an additional thought to living in this new spiritual sphere. It has to do with our walk and worship, as being "in Christ", and not according to the religious ordinances of the world.
"If we live [according] to [the] spirit (or new nature), [according] to [this] spirit we should walk" (Gal. 5:25). That is to say, we, who have this new nature are to walk accordingly; and the verb rendered "walk" here is a different word from that we have had in Romans 6:4 and 7:6. It is stoicheo (41), and it always means to walk according to religious rules and regulations; and has reference to outward religious rites, ordinances, and ceremonies. The noun stoicheion occurs only in two of the seven Church Epistles, viz.: Galatians and Colossians, which are both corrective of doctrinal errors, arising from being ignorant of the teaching of Romans and Ephesians respectively. It occurs twice in each epistle (Gal. 4:3, 9, and Col. 2:8, 20). Three times out of the four it is associated with the word "world", cosmos, and thus refers to what is outward and material, in contrast with, and opposition to, what is inward and spiritual.
The uncertainty as to its meaning, in both the A.V. and R.V., is shown by the inconsistent renderings. In the A.V., in Galatians, it is rendered "elements" in the text, and "rudiments" in the margin; while in Colossians it is "rudiments" in the text, and "elements" in the margin. The R.V. has the latter (the Colossian rendering of the A.V.) in all four passages.
The word refers to all that is outward in religious observance; all religious acts that have to do with the flesh, or the old nature. So that the responsibility brought before us in Galatians 5:25 tells us that, as we are now living in the new sphere of life, so we are to walk according to the new spiritual nature; and not to follow, or walk in, or according to, the outward religious ceremonialism of the world: neither as to heathen institutions, or Jewish rites and meats, and drinks, and washings; days and months, and seasons, and years (Gal. 4:10,11; Col. 2:16,17; Rom. 13:1-9); or according to Babylonian traditions.
Thus there are three distinct responsibilities as to our walk according to the new nature: they are Life, Service, and Worship; and relate, respectively, to what is Inward, Outward, and Upward. As to the sphere within, we are to walk according to the new sphere of life into which the new nature introduces us (Rom. 6:4). As to the sphere without, we are to serve according to the same newness of the spiritual or new nature (Rom. 7:6). As to the sphere above, we are to "worship God in (or, according to) spirit", and not according to the religious traditions and ordinances and commandments of men (Gal. 5:25; Col. 2:20-22). These are the same three spheres which are all summed up in Titus 2:11-13; and these are the same three lessons which grace teaches. For grace not only brings us salvation, but it teaches us "that having denied (42) ungodliness and worldly lusts (i.e., all the products of the old nature), we should live soberly, and righteously, and godly in this present world: looking for that blessed hope, even [the] glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ". (43) Here we are taught how we are to live in our new sphere, or plane, of life.
1. As to the world within, our walk is to be "soberly". The Greek is sophronos, with self-control over all our desires, and a dignified constraint over all our members. This alone, and nothing short of this, is "gospel temperance". To limit this self-control to only that one of our desires which is created by thirst, is to miss the whole point of the injunction, and to leave all our other desires of the flesh, and of the mind, without restraint and without control; or, any rate to act as though they may well so be left. But the greater includes the less. And true gospel temperance includes self-control over not only drinking, but over eating, dressing, reading, spending, saving, traveling, talking, sight-seeing, visiting, singing, etc.; and covers the whole ground of what is called "purity". It includes every department of our daily life; not only the coarse lusts of the flesh, but the refined desires of the mind; it covers not only what is unlawful, but what is lawful. It controls not only what is lawful, but what is expedient.
Man's perversion of "temperance" is the result of walking according to the flesh, and not according to the spirit. It would control one of the lusts and leave the door open to all the others. Money not spent in drink may be spent on immorality. Money saved in drinking may be lost in gambling. And thus the mere ethical reformer is only picking off a dead leaf or rotten fruit here and there, while what is wrong lies at the root. It is not reformation that is needed, but regeneration. A "reformed character" is far from being a saved sinner. Such work is good for the world to be engaged in: but it is not the work of the Church of God to labour to make reformed characters. A minister of the Gospel cannot engage in it without neglecting the higher, and only work for which he is commissioned. No! The walk, according to the new nature, settles all such questions as these for the child of God, and includes the whole; while a walk, according to the flesh, is occupied with only a certain part of the whole. As to the world within, therefore, our walk is to be with self-control in all things.
2. As to the world without, our walk is to be dikaios, righteously. And this, not only for righteousness, but from righteousness. Not because it is required by the laws and commandments of men, but because it is the desire of the new nature. Not from a sense of duty, but from the power of love. Not as servants, but as sons. Not as compelled by pledges, or badges, or vows, but as constrained by the divine nature within to walk righteously as to the world without.
3. As to the world above, our walk is to be "godly", (i.e., it is to have God for its one and only object). It will consist, therefore, not in the ordinances, and ceremonies of man's religious traditions, but in the activities of the new nature. In a word, it is Christ only, in place of all that goes by the name of religion. It is Christ, and not even the "Christian religion", as being one of the many other religions; but Christ, or true Christianity. Thus, and thus only shall we fulfil this responsibility as to our new nature, and be of those "who [according] to spirit (or the new nature), worship (or serve) God; and glory in Christ Jesus; and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3).
3. The third responsibility as to the new nature is TO FEED AND NOURISH IT ON ITS OWN PROPER FOOD.
As the old nature the flesh, is fed and nourished by that which is extraneous to it (for it cannot feed on itself), so it is with the new nature. Its food must come from without. It requires to be constantly supplied with the food provided and suited for it. That food is the Word of God. Hence we are told that, as new-born babes, we are to desire the sincere or pure milk of the Word, that we may grow thereby (1 Pet. 2:2). The Word of God is the food of the new nature. "Man shall not live by bread alone; but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God shall man live" (Deut. 8:3). There is food of all kinds in it. Milk for babes, and meat for the strong: comfort for the mourners, help for the weak. As new-born babes desire milk, so the new-born child of God needs and yearns for the milk of the Word. This is the only food of the new nature; but it must be "pure": the living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; and the written Word, "the scriptures of truth". Not one without the other. "I am the bread of life"; i.e., the bread which supports life. "The bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven" (John 6:33,35, 48-51). And then, of the written words of God, Jeremiah could say, "Thy words were found and I did eat them, and thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart" (Jer. 15:16). If this could be said by one under the old Covenant -- a foreshore, -- how much more must it be so for those under the new covenant, and for the possessors of a "divine nature". If the manna from heaven is called "angel's food" how much more can the Word be called "the bread of God"?
It is only by feeding on the Word that the new nature can be properly nourished. It cannot thrive on man's words, nor on all his "great thoughts". They are useless in the spiritual sphere. The new nature would starve on human reasoning and worldly literature. All these, at best, would make a "man of men"; but he who feeds on the God-breathed Scriptures will become a "man of God" (2 Tim. 3:17), thoroughly fitted out (44) for every emergency; ready for every difficulty; equipped for every conflict; provided against every danger; armed against every temptation; prepared for every trial. The Son of God, when tried, fell back on the Word of God. His first ministerial words were, "It is written"; and His first ministerial utterance was in the words of Scripture (Deut. 8:3). Three times the Lord spoke on that solemn occasion, and each time it was in the words of Scripture.
In His last ministerial utterances (John 17), three times did He again refer to this Word. "THY WORD is truth" (5:17). "I have given them THY WORD" (5:14). "I have given unto them the WORDS which thou gavest Me" (5:8). Here we have again the "words" and the "Word"; for the Word is made up of words; and it is impossible to have the one without the other. If words be tampered with, the Word as a whole is violated. No wonder that believers are so weak and powerless both in resisting the evil and in producing the good. So manifest is this weakness that special meetings, and "Missions", and "Conventions", have been introduced with the express object of "deepening the spiritual life". These furnish the evidence as to the low standard of spiritual life, and the unsatisfactory condition of multitudes of Christians. These are the confessed grounds for the need of such special efforts being made. But the very expression is non-scriptural. We will not say un-scriptural because what is meant is right. But it shows a forgetfulness of the Word which declares that this new nature is "perfect", and "divine", and cannot therefore be "deepened", or increased. It can be nourished, and fed, and strengthened, but this can be done only by feeding on God's Word, and not by listening to men's words. It is by the "exposition" of the Word, and not by exhortation of men, that the new nature can be strong and can be kept in good spiritual health. It is by setting the mind on the things that are above, and not by fixing the attention on anything on earth. It is by searching the Scriptures, not by the examination of self. All other and lower means that may be adopted only tend to feed and puff up the flesh: and the snare is all the more subtle and dangerous, because it seems and sounds so "good", both in matter, and manner, and motive.
Moreover, these Conventions are at considerable intervals of time; and to depend on them is as though one were to live on very low diet for a time, and then to make up for it by a great banquet. Thus, at best, it becomes a very irregular, not to say unhealthy, mode of living. There were saints of God, and a noble army of martyrs and giants in the ministry of the Word of God, and a host of true faithful witnesses long before the days of "Missions", and "Conventions", and Societies. It was such Protestants as these who gained for us our great and priceless liberties, long before the days of our modern Protestant Societies, which were invented only for the purpose of defending and preserving what others had gained for us. All these modern inventions are at once a confession and proof of the low estate into which we are fallen. The many, instead of feeding on the Word for themselves, prefer to hear the results of other people's studies of it. It is as though a person were to attend lectures on diet, and study the chemistry of food, instead of eating it, and digesting it, and gathering strength and vigour for his daily duties. To live on exciting literature, whether sacred or secular, is as though a person were to attempt to live on cakes and sweets and "made dishes" instead of on strength-producing, life-giving, wholesome food. This is why so many are unequal to the opportunities and responsibilities of the Christian life. This is why so many are powerless before temptation. They give their new nature so little food. They feed on the unwholesome food of their own experiences, or on the experiences and biographies of others. They partake of "good" books, man's books, and hymn-books, which only produce fermentation instead of digestion; because such food cannot be assimilated by the new nature. Is it any wonder that, with this kind of dietary, and the Word of God partaken of irregularly or only at rare intervals, or scarcely at all, that so many Christians do not manifest a very high conception of the sonship-spirit, of the high and wonderful privileges of the sons of God; or exhibit a real sense of their responsibility in the world in which their lot is cast?
Let us remember then, that, to realize the privilege of being sons of God, the word of Christ must "dwell within us richly in all wisdom (Col. 3:16). The Written Word and the Living Word are the only food of the new nature, and our feeding upon them must not be irregular or at haphazard, getting a mouthful now and again. We do not treat our physical bodies thus: nor do we thus partake of our ordinary bodily food: for we all know full well that proper meals must be partaken of at regular intervals, masticated slowly, and thoroughly digested, so that it may be assimilated and become part of ourselves. Even so must it be with regard to that new spiritual life, which is ours in the gift of the new nature. When our spiritual condition is weak through neglect of our necessary food, then it is that we are tempted to resort to all sorts of remedies to get the needed strength and health. Many have recourse to quack medicines, which abound in the religious as they do in the natural world. All sorts of new-fashioned courses of "treatment" are recommended by the "profession", and all sorts of "foods" are advertised as the "best". God's "bread of life", which He has provided for us, contains within it all that is necessary for us. But we treat it as we treat God's "corn", which He has provided for our natural life. In the grinding of this corn, man has so constructed his mills that he eliminates from it, automatically, in the grinding, nearly all that God has put in it. What is left is mostly starch (to say nothing of deleterious matters which are put into it); and as this starch is out of all proportion to the diastase, which is that part of the saliva that can alone digest it, it ferments in the stomach instead of being digested: hence it remains, to become the source of many evils. Meanwhile our system is so poorly nourished that our general health is affected: we mourn over the loss of hair, or teeth; we feel that we are "out of sorts" generally; and then it is that we resort to widely advertised medicines and "foods", until many contract what is known as the "drug habit", and cannot do without such props to their natural life.
In the matter of bread (which to a large extent is practically unobtainable), man is beginning to find out his mistake, and is attempting to remedy it. But what does he do? Instead of adopting the very obvious means, and going back to what God has provided in the corn of wheat which contains everything that is needed, and this in the right proportion, he is concocting various kinds of "breads", to which he gives wonderful names. The unwary try these new-fashioned breads; and, though their food costs them more, they do not find the result they hoped for. All this is a great reality going on before all our eyes; and it has its counterpart in the spiritual world. The Word of God is neglected, or dealt with, or dealt out, by man in various ways. The milk of the Word is put into a "separator", and what is not believed by this sect or the other is carefully eliminated or avoided. Man's substitutes are partaken of; and when we realize that we are weak, or out of health, then, instead of going back to the cause of all the mischief (which is neglect of feeding of the simple diet of the Word of God), we continue the very system which has produced all these sad effects, and seek to remedy them by having recourse to man's prescriptions, and by adapting man's recommendations. One party recommends some new kind of "treatment": another adopts "retreats", which are a kind of "rest cure": some take to "stimulants", and, while carefully eschewing those of the material world, will go in for the stimulants and excitement of "missions" and "meetings". Others will act as though the continued practice of the "confession" of the ills they deplore would remove them or cure them; while others, again, act as though a "convention" on these things would bring the desired relief. Meantime, it is openly confessed by the very promoters of these modern methods that Christian life is at a very low standard; while spiritual life and sturdy Protestant strength is at a low ebb. Like an ill-fed horse, which has constantly to be whipped, so these ill-fed believers lash themselves; and go and sit in crowds for others to whip them up to their duties; instead of being like a well-fed horse, on which a whip has no need to be used, and which requires only guiding and holding in. But all this is not the only evil, or even the worst feature of it. For it is when, in this very low condition of spiritual strength, we engage in spiritual work for the Lord, that we are compelled to do this work in the strength of the old nature, the flesh. This naturally leads many into still greater trouble; until, finally, they "break down", and are "ordered away"; or they break up, and all comes to an end.
Oh, that we could make them see the one simple cause of all these evils, which are universally recognized, admitted, and deplored. The existence of these evils is borne witness to by the very efforts which are made on all hands to remedy them. The root of all the trouble is the neglect of the divinely appointed means, the feeding upon the Word of God. This is the instrument by means of which the new nature is implanted; and this is the only means by which it can be supported, nourished, and strengthened. This Word of God is of value, only as we feed on it for ourselves; and as we properly digest it and assimilate it. No one can do this for us. Do not think, therefore, that we can live by looking on and seeing other people eat or that we can learn by merely looking over and copying their work. We must do our own searchings of the Word, and "mark" our own Bibles, and make our own tables and analysis. True, we may be guided and instructed in this by others; and we may be stimulated by their labours and examples; but we must each one do it for one's self, and we must learn it for ourselves from the Word. After we may have heard it from others, we must feed on it for ourselves in order to derive strength from it. Everything that we can need for our spiritual health and strength is in the Word of God: and the Holy Spirit who inspired it there is with us, to teach us, and to inspire it in our hearts. Let all our dependence be placed on Him. Let us not slight Him by leaning upon man. Lean not on our own writings. Listen to them only so far as they glorify Christ and magnify His Word. All we can do is to act as a guide and a finger post, to tell you where the food is, and where the "green pastures" lie; and to point out the usefulness, the sweetness, the power, the truth, and the profitableness of this heavenly food; and tell you where you may find what is suited to your needs. We have no monopoly in this. We have only the same Word to feed on for ourselves. We can prepare the food, and carve it for you, but we cannot eat it for you: you must do this for yourselves. It is, after all, simply a question of diet, in the spiritual, as it is, so often, in the physical sphere; and the health of both may be ascertained and known by the same test, and that is "appetite". Appetite in the natural world is the sign of health. The absence of it is the opposite sign. So it is in the spiritual sphere. Our appetite or desire to feed on the Word of God is the measure of our spiritual health. By this measure we may test ourselves. This acts like the clinical thermometer in enabling us to find out and demonstrate our real spiritual condition.
All depends on our spiritual appetite for our only spiritual food, the Word of God. Only as we not only feed on that Word, but as we digest it, and assimilate it, for our own selves, only so far will it profit us. Like money, it is of value only in proportion to the enjoyment, benefit, or true happiness that we get out of it. We may have a million dollars in the bank, but if we never use our check book or spend that money, the mere coins are no more to us than so many "counters", or they remain merely a row of figures in a book. God forbid that it should be so with us in relation to His Word. We have all there that is able to make us "walk in newness of life". Here we shall find all armour for every conflict, all strength for every service, all comfort for every sorrow, all resources for every need. Oh, may this precious Word be not only our armoury, or our storehouse, but our table. Oh, that we may, by God's grace, truthfully be able to say:-
"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over" (Ps. 23:5)