Moral Law – an unscriptural Expression

People speak about a ‘moral law’, but they have only a vague idea of what is meant by the expression. They say, ‘Live by the ten commandments’ or, ‘Do to others what you would have them do to you’ (Matt 7:12 NIV). They quote scripture, but in so doing put themselves and others under bondage. That is not Christianity. The Christian has been delivered from the law.

There are expressions which are used by Christians, which as well as being unscriptural, convey a meaning which is also contrary to the truth as presented in scripture.   One of these is ‘moral law’.

People speak about a ‘moral law’, but they have only a vague idea of what is meant by the expression.  They say, ‘Live by the ten commandments’ or, ‘Do to others what you would have them do to you’ (Matt 7:12 NIV).  They quote scripture, but in so doing put themselves and others under bondage. That is not Christianity.  The Christian has been delivered from the law.

Christians under a so-called ‘moral law’ have set aside Paul’s teaching.  They show a semblance of piety, but are effectively seeking to be justified by works.  Even if the works were good ones, they are under a curse. (see Gal 3:10).  A Christian, being of a fallen race, finds himself ruined by the law, deceived by it to his own sorrow.  The law knows no mercy.  He is spiritually dead.

Paul found that experimentally.  Paul saw that the law condemned lust.  So, because he lusted he was self-condemned.   Lust was in his nature.  The law claimed absolute obedience to God, but he found he did not have the power to keep it.  He wanted to do what was right but couldn’t.  In short, he coveted, and thus broke the law.  What was ordained to life, he found to be to death (see Rom 7:10).

 

Christ and the Law

God gave the promise to Abraham.  The law was given later.  If the law could have given life, righteousness could have been by the law.   But the law did not give either the motive or the power to do right.  That is why in Galatians the law is treated as a schoolmaster.  The law condemns sins.  More than that, it condemns sin.

In Romans 7 Paul insisted that one cannot have two husbands at the same time.  A Christian cannot cannot be under obligation to both Christ and the law.  A Christian is ‘dead to the law by the body of Christ(Rom 7:4).   If he (or she) is dead, he is no longer under the law.  ,  ‘Sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not under the law, but under grace’ (Rom 6:14).

Somebody might say, ‘Yes; but the flesh is still there, so I need the law, not to put away sin, but that it might not have dominion.’  That is false – The Christian is to be consciously dead in Christ.  If a person is dead, he is beyond the reach of law by death.  The Christian has died with Christ and is resurrection: he is in newness of life – in Christ, not Adam.

I am ‘dead to the law by the body of Christ’ (Rom 7:4)The death that the law sentenced me to in my conscience has fallen on another — Christ.  Otherwise I would have been left in everlasting misery.  But in love Christ put Himself in my place.  Now I am justified and have a right to reckon myself dead, because Christ has died and has risen again.  I have  received Him into my heart as life: He is really my life.

Godliness is walking with a risen Christ – that is Christian life.   The measure of that walk is Christ, and nothing else.

The Divine Law

A true believer always holds difference between right and wrong, to be an immovable and fixed moral foundation.  It is revealed by God in His word.

The Lord said ‘Keep my commandments’ (John 15:10) and John wrote ‘This is love, that we keep His commandments (1 John 5:2) .   Some are afraid of the word ‘commandment’, as if it would weaken the ideas of love, grace and new creation.  But keeping the commandments and obeying one we love is the proof of our love.   Christ Himself said, ‘I love the Father, and as the Father hath given me commandment, so I do.’ (John 14:31).   His highest act of love, in dying for us on the cross, was His highest act of obedience.

The Spirit will produce fruits against which there is no law.

  • But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law’ (Gal 5:22-23.
  • Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love’ (Eph 5:1-2 Darby).
  • Put on therefore, as [the] elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any should have a complaint against any; even as the Christ has forgiven you, so also do ye. And to all these add love, which is the bond of perfectness’ (Col 3:12-14 Darby).
  • A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:34)

 

This is a summary of part of letter written by John Nelson Darby.  It is published in Collected Writings Volume 10 (Doctrinal 3) page 1.

This summary covers the first wrong term ‘moral law’.   A subsequent article, will, God willing, cover the second term ‘Christ’s righteousness’.

Sosthenes

December 2016

Being Dead to Nature

The expression ‘death to nature’ is not scriptural. ‘Death to the world’ is, and it is something that is seriously lacking amongst believers.

JohnNelsonDarbyThe expression ‘death to nature’ is not scriptural. ‘Death to the world’ is, and it is something that is seriously lacking amongst believers.

Natural relationships are of God, but it’s corruption is not. God created male and female, but Satan has spoiled normal relationships. God has given us these natural relationships to enjoy. Hence we do not neglect our bodies, which would be suggested by the thought of being dead to nature, which sets these relationships aside.

In Christ we have a relationship with Him and the Father, but we recognise that these relationships are not natural ones. We have died with Christ, and our life is hid with him. Hence we are dead to sin, and the rudiments of the world. Our old man is crucified with Christ. We are ‘dead to the law by the body of Christ’ (Romans 7:4).

Being dead to nature is quite unknown to Scripture, and falsifies the bearing of death to sin and the world. Death to nature is not devotedness: if I talk about being dead to nature, I am occupied with it. The thought of being dead to nature would It is legality and maintaining this is not of the Holy Spirit.

Christ is our life and He is not of the world. We have a new relationship with the Father, based Christ’s being in heaven.  The Spirit of God is the source of all our thoughts in or desires for Christ to be our life. We eat, we drink, and we enjoy our relationships here. At the same time, we pray and give God thanks.

Substance of a letter by JN Darby 16 August 1878. From ‘Death to Nature’ – Notes and Comments Volume 2 page 259.

Darby on Romans 6 – Dead to Sin, Alive to God

Walking in the path of obedience to Him, the soul is delivered evil – will and lust – which is not obedience. We grow in the knowledge of God and in intimacy with Him. We cannot do this in our own will. But we live more in His things, and that is holiness: that is more than obedience. But that is the gift of God. The path to it is the path of obedience and holiness, but itself is the gift of God. Death is the wages of sin; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The gift of God is nothing less than eternal life. God gives it to us.

RomeIn Romans 6 we have the practical consequence of deliverance from sin. in the first part of the epistle (Rom. 1:18; to 5:11) we read nothing as to practical conduct. The guilty sinner is cleared, but nothing is said as to our consequential conduct. The conclusion of Romans 5 is that by one Man’s obedience we have been made righteous, and that, by having part in Christ’s death, we have part in this righteousness.

But having part in death (that is, dying) is, of course, not the way to live. How shall we who are dead to sin live in it any longer?  By our profession of Christianity, we are baptised unto His death, the old man being judged and crucified. Now as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father (God’s power), so our life is to be a new resurrected one.

Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin’ (v.6). This means that sin as a whole is annulled or rendered powerless: it has closed its existence. ‘He that is dead is justified from sin’ (v.7). Here it is not here sins or guilt: a dead man may have to answer for his sins, but he cannot sin: he does not have evil lusts nor a perverse will. However for us, the power of death has been destroyed by the resurrection of Christ. He came to take our place as sinners and deal with the question of sin: He died to sin, once for all. On the cross sin was the question – He was made sin. Now He is risen; He dies no more; death does not have dominion any longer. Now He lives and lives to God, sin having been done with for ever, to the glory of God

In His life down here Jesus served God perfectly. He lived by the Father, having Him always before His mind. Before He died on the cross, He had to do with sin – though He was sinless.   Sin was all around Him: it grieved Him; He was a Man of sorrows because of it, and He had to be made sin for us. In love He manifested God; as Man come to do God’s will, when fully proved to be the sinless One Himself – who knew no sin, he hath made sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). But now He has done with it for ever. Now He is risen into a new state as Man: in thought, object, and life, He lives to God. Now everything serves God’s glory. Though the flesh is always the same, the life of Jesus is manifested in our bodies (see 2 Cor 4:10). This is what the true Christian state is.

So we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin, and alive to God through Him, our old man being crucified with Him. We are not physically dead, but have a new and free life, alive to God, not through Adam, but through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is not that we never sin or lust; but we do not let sin obey its lust: we walk in the power of a new life. Instead of being slaves to sin, we hold the reins, and yield our members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Sin does not have dominion over us any longer, because we are not under law, but under grace. Being under law leaves us under the dominion of sin. What we need is freedom from the bondage of sin; for the law forbids sins, but gives us neither the life nor power to obey it. But under grace we have the power, sin having no dominion over us. The power comes from on high, so we are set really free, and can give ourselves to God willingly and freely. Shall we sin because we are not under a law which forbids it, and which curses us if I do it? God forbid!

Now Paul returns to the Gentile condition. If we yield ourselves to sin, we are its slaves. Even without law, death and the consequent judgment of God, were the appointed wages of sin.   But now we are alive to God, and that must involve obedience. Christ was the obedient Man: His Father’s will was the motive of everything He did. He lived by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God. (See Deut 8:3). His path was practical righteousness, and He was the pattern of it. So the apostle thanks God that, whereas they had been slaves of sin, they had obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine that had been delivered to them (v.17).

It is the obedience of faith. As we receive the word of God into our hearts, we are linked with the life-giving God. It is the true life of Christ, the obedient Man. As free from sin, we yield ourselves to obey, becoming ‘slaves’ to righteousness. [Note that JND uses the word ‘slave’ here, whereas in the Darby Bible he uses the word ‘bondman’. A ‘slave’ is someone bought and owned by another. A ‘bondman’ on the other hand, is someone who was a slave, been given the opportunity for freedom, and has decided to remain for life in the service of their Master.]* Hence it is true liberty: we were fruitlessly wasting our members as slaves to uncleanness and lawlessness. Now we freely yield our members to be slaves to righteousness. The blessed result is holiness, our hearts separated to God, knowing Him, the soul brought into His image. ‘And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him’ (Col 3:10).

This is the general doctrine: Christ having died, we reckon ourselves dead as if we had died. We have died – we have been crucified with Him, and, as Christians, we do not consider the flesh to be alive any more. I speak of all that has happened to Christ as if it had happened to me, because He is become my life, and I live by Him. I am a son whose father had not only paid his debts, but made him a partner in a business. He speaks of ‘our capital, our connections,’ though the son brought nothing into the business, everything having been done and acquired beforehand. We have therefore a living association with the Lord. It is neither ascension, nor union, nor resurrection with Him, but the death of the old man, and a new life in Christ with freedom from being slaves to sin. This is the full answer to the allegation that, having righteousness in Him, we have license to sin. Instead of sin reigning in our mortal bodies, having dominion over us, we enjoy subsisting power.

Walking in the path of obedience to Him, the soul is delivered evil – will and lust – which is not obedience. We grow in the knowledge of God and in intimacy with Him. We cannot do this in our own will. But we live more in His things, and that is holiness: that is more than obedience. But that is the gift of God. The path to it is the path of obedience and holiness, but itself is the gift of God. Death is the wages of sin; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The gift of God is nothing less than eternal life. God gives it to us.

A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans

* Acknowledgments to ‘Underground Theologian’ http://theologicalmuse.christianblogsites.com/blog/post/2009/04/24/slave-or-bond-servant

A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible – Colossians

We get the double headship of Christ over creation and the body, along with His divine glory, in three particulars:

He is the image of the invisible God
All things consist by Him
All the fulness is pleased to dwell in Him

Outline of Bible coverThe Colossians seemed not to have held the Head very fast. Paul therefore brings out the Head’s personal glory, the Christian’s hope being in heaven. The saints are not seen sitting there yet. The life of the new man is brought out especially. Where we have much of the Spirit in Ephesians, He is only mentioned once in Colossians, ‘your love in the Spirit.’ (Ch.1:8)

We get the apostle’s prayer for them: to walk worthy of the Lord Himself and according to His power. Now they are viewed as meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.   We get the double headship of Christ over creation and the body, along with His divine glory. In -particular:-

  1. He is the image of the invisible God
  2. All things consist by Him
  3. All the fulness is pleased to dwell in Him

You then get the double reconciliation: the saints reconciled already and of the creation in a day to come. You also get the double ministry of Paul: the gospel to every creature under heaven, and the gospel to the church.   The hitherto hidden mystery is made good among the Gentiles by Christ, the hope of glory, dwelling in them.

In chapter 2 the Colossians are warned against philosophy and the spirit of ordinances, separating them from the Head. All the fullness of the godhead dwells in Him, and the saints are complete in Him. Hostile powers are overcome by Him: they (believers) are dead and risen, so as not to be subject to fleshly ordinances. Their liberty is founded on their being dead in Christ: the whole of Christian life is founded being risen with Christ, who is our life, as we are entirely associated with Him in this condition. Christ is all, and in all (chap. 3); and whatever we do, we are to do it in the name of the Lord Jesus.

 

Originally by JND.   Lightly edited by Sosthenes,  September 2014

– Se A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible  for the original