Our being sealed with the Spirit is too important a point to allow it to settle down into the ambiguity and mist into which it is fallen in many souls. The Scripture is plain and positive on the subject, and it constitutes, not the foundation, but what is specifically characteristic, of the Christian state. Details and experiences as to it may require detailed inquiry, and sound and enlarged spiritual experience. But the presence, and as to the individual the indwelling, of the Holy Ghost, constitute Christianity, and the Christian state of the individual.
When John the Baptist proclaimed Christ to his disciples, he announced Him under two characters: “The Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world,” and “He it is that baptiseth with the Holy Ghost,” the last being evidenced by the Holy Ghost descending and abiding upon Christ Himself. All the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Him bodily, but He as man, and He alone until redemption was accomplished, was sealed and anointed with the Holy Ghost—in His case a testimony to His own perfectness; “and John saw and bare record that he was the Son of God,” John 1:29-34; Acts 10:19; John 6:27. So He was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. By the Spirit of God He cast out demons. By the eternal Spirit He offered Himself without spot to God. He spoke the words of God, for the Spirit was not given to Him by measure. If it was by resurrection He was declared Son of God with power, it was according to the Spirit of holiness.
I refer to these passages, and many more connected with the point might be quoted, to shew the immense importance of this fact. His being sealed was the testimony to His own perfectness; in us it is the fruit and seal of redemption. But if it sealed the Person and character of Christ, and that it was by this power He wrought as man, and we are made partakers of it consequent on redemption, its importance, though not the foundation, can hardly be overrated, and the connection of our position with Him is brought into a wonderful light: he alone possessing it while He was alive here below, but competent to confer it on us when gone on high, and redemption had qualified us for receiving it. The coming or baptism of the Holy Ghost was consequent on the exaltation of Christ. Christianity, which as I have said is characterised by His presence, could not exist until Christ was glorified (John 7:39); and Christ when exalted received the Holy Ghost as to the exalted man anew in order to its being sent down; Acts 2:33. This is confirmed as to its being sent by the words of the Lord Himself. “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go away, I will send him unto you,” John 16:7.
Whither He went we know; John 14:4. The Comforter is sent by the Father in Christ’s name (John 14:26), and by Christ from the Father; chap. 15:26. But these are details. And this presence of the Holy Ghost was so real and distinctive a thing, His personal presence definitely characterising Christianity as such, that it is said in John 7, “The Holy Ghost was not yet, for Jesus was not yet glorified.” “Given” is added in italics, which is all very well for the general sense; but I give what is literally said, that the full distinct force of the words, the words of that Spirit, may be before us. Of course it is not that the Holy Ghost did not exist: no Christian would think of such a thing. And the Old Testament bears witness from creation on of the existence and operation of the Spirit in all that God did upon the earth. But as the Son of God created all things, still, as He Himself tells, did not come personally down here to dwell among us till the incarnation, so, though the Spirit of God wrought from the garnishing of the heavens, and the brooding on chaotic waters, He did not come to dwell personally down here until there was a glorified Man sitting at the right hand of God. As to the Son it could be said, “I came forth from the Father and came into the world, again I leave the world and go to the Father”; so it could be said by Christ of the Spirit, “If I go away, I will send him unto you, and when he is come,” etc. He was promised in the Old Testament. The promise was accomplished on the day of Pentecost, and Christianity exists.51
The texts we have briefly referred to have brought before us some very weighty points. The Lord Himself was anointed and sealed, and this given as a sign that He was the baptiser with the Holy Ghost, and giving occasion to John the Baptist to bear record that Christ was the Son of God.
Further, we have seen that until redemption was accomplished, and there was the man that did God’s will, sitting at God’s right hand in consequence of it, the Holy Ghost (spoken of as constituting and characterising Christianity by His presence) was not yet. So the disciples of John at Ephesus, “We have not so much as heard whether the Holy Ghost is” He was sent down the witness of Christ, as man, being at the right hand of God.
This is of all importance. The point of departure of Christianity was man’s taking a new place in righteousness on high, consequent on redemption being accomplished where sin and death and Satan’s power and God’s judgment were; that Man being Son of God withal. Accordingly Christ received as man the Holy Ghost on being exalted on high, not then for Himself as when perfect on earth, but to confer on those who believed, putting them in relation with Himself and what was heavenly on high.
Scripture is clear.as to its being only for believers. John 7, already quoted, states the fact: “the Spirit which they that believed on him should receive.”
But it is stated more strongly in John 14:16, 17, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth [abideth] with you, and shall be in you.” We have there the Spirit as the constant portion of the saints, sent consequent on Christ as man being exalted to the right hand of God, whom He received anew on high to confer on His own, and who could not be thus present down here until Christ was so exalted. The Son had been here, and was here to be received by all who knew of Him. Men would not have Him, but that is another thing; but the Spirit is not for the world. He may by God’s chosen instruments announce the gospel to it. He was known by being with us ever, and dwelling in us. Men were and are born of the Spirit, but the Holy Ghost Himself coming down is another thing. This happened on the day of Pentecost. They were not to go forth till then, but to tarry at Jerusalem till they were endued with power from on high, to wait for the promise of the Father which they had heard of Christ; Acts 1:4, 5; chap. 2. Clean through Christ’s word, who had withal already breathed on them that they might be partakers of His new risen life, as God breathed on Adam, their understanding already opened to understand the Scriptures, they were to wait for the Holy Ghost coming down upon them.
The world knew nothing of it, but in its effects. It was for those only who already believed on Him, putting them consciously in the place in which He was with God. That other Comforter, which in a certain sense took the place of Christ, though only to reveal Him more fully, and as a heavenly Christ who had accomplished their redemption, and through the efficacy of that, was the object of their hope in glory, of which He was Himself the earnest and the revealer. This was for those only who took part with a rejected Saviour, for believers. There were those who believing had received life through His name, who lived, through hearing, through grace, the voice of the Son of God. They must have been, to see and enter the kingdom; the Jews must, to enjoy hereafter the earthly promises as the Lord shewed to Nicodemus. But the Spirit was to come new when redemption had been accomplished, and Christ exalted as man to the right hand of God, to take the things of Christ and shew them to the disciples; and all that the Father had was His, and to make them know that all He had as the exalted man was theirs.
All this is something quite different from my being born again, or even that special quickening in the power of Christ in resurrection, with being born of God by His word of truth (John 20:22), save as this was necessary to a person’s receiving it, and that the same Holy Ghost operates in and by this life when He dwells in us. Of the former I shall speak. The connection of the given Holy Ghost with this life, when dwelling in our bodies, is manifest in Romans 8. That life is not separated from its divine source, when He dwells in us, though His personally dwelling in us as a divine Person is another thing, also spoken of in Romans 8 as the Spirit itself. If He was our life in Person, He would be an incarnation of the Holy Ghost in us, which is futile on the face of it. We are born of the Spirit, but what is born of the Spirit is not the Spirit, though it be spirit, that is, characterised morally by the same nature; John 3. In this sense we are made partakers of the divine nature. The Colossians treats of life and does not speak of the Holy Ghost; Ephesians does repeatedly, and we get contrast with flesh characterising the epistle, and union with Christ and sonship developed. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost which we have of God, and are bought with a price, hence to glorify God in our bodies. We have thus the gift of the Holy Ghost before us, characterising by His presence Christianity and the Christian. The difficulty which arises in people’s minds has for its origin, that the effects of His presence necessarily connect themselves with our experience. It could not be otherwise; the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us without producing certain effects on our minds. It is a present power when a believer is sealed working in us, and we are apt to judge of it by looking at it in our minds, and confusion comes in. Seeing whether we are walking up to the privilege is all right, but that is quite a different thing. It is not a finished work like Christ’s outside of us, and having absolute divine value in God’s sight, but a living power working in us, whose presence is the seal, with which we are sealed.
It is of moment to distinguish between the sealing and the operation of Him who is the seal when dwelling in us. God sets His seal on those who believe on the ground of the perfect work of Christ, and His being glorified in consequence. Of this John 7, Acts 2, and the day of Pentecost are witness. They were believers, and for a good while, and they were to wait at Jerusalem to be endued with power from on high. They believed on Christ as one dead, risen and glorified, and that faith was sealed; but the work was fully accomplished and Christ fully glorified, or the Holy Ghost would not have been there. The effect was to follow. They belonged to God according to the perfect work of Christ, and were sealed as such. So the redemption of Israel to God as a people was absolute, independently of the exercises of the wilderness and Canaan. The presence of the Holy Ghost was the immediate consequence of the perfectness of Christ’s work and glory, where faith in it was, without any question of experience or a work within, save that they believed. It was the seal of faith. As a seal it had nothing to do with experience.
Here it may be well to notice the Epistle to the Romans, confusion as to which produces confusion in the minds of saints.
As is generally acknowledged now, and certainly is the case, there are two distinct treatises in the doctrinal part of Romans. That which speaks of guilt, and grace blessedly meeting it through Christ’s death and bloodshedding, ends in chapter 5:11. In this part our actual sins are the ground of God’s dealings. All have sinned. In the second part, chapter 5:12, to the end of chapter 8, this is not the case. Our state as in the flesh is spoken of, and then as in Christ or the Spirit. “By the disobedience of one many were made sinners.” The question there is not the forgiveness of sins, but death to sin, as having died with Him. All the development of this part is experience connected with self, and practical. The first part is not, but the effect of a work done for us and outside us, and God’s love now known as the source of it. Christ was delivered for our sins, and raised again for our justification: therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God. In chapter 5 we have the conscious happiness of the believer connected with that work for us, and God known in love through it, but nothing connected with our state of experience. Here, first, the Holy Ghost is mentioned, God’s love being shed abroad in our hearts by it. The presence of the Holy Ghost in the Christian is assumed. But it is the love of God known by it, not, as in the second part, how and what it works in us, though it does surely work in us when given; but to connect the second part of Romans with the first as a continuous process is a mistake.
Guilt by our acts is a different thing from our state as children of Adam. In one we are guilty, and (unless justified) come into judgment; in the other we are lost. The effect of the work of Christ is to clear for ever all our sins away. By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified (eis to dienekes). So that, once purged, we have no more conscience of sins. Blessed is the man to whom God imputeth no sin. They are remembered no more, and as, when He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, we are, besides being purged, risen in Him in the new standing which is the effect of His redemption for man.
Now the sealing of the Holy Ghost, based on forgiveness, gives the intelligence and consciousness of this new position. The idea of God’s imputing guilt to us is impossible (unless, perhaps, in some extreme case when delivered to Satan as a chastisement). But that is not all. By the Spirit, by the gift of which we are sealed, we know we are sons, crying, Abba, Father; Gal. 4. We know we are in Christ, and Christ in us (John 14), and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts; Rom. 5; compare 1 John 4. And He is the earnest of our coming likeness to Christ in glory; 2 Cor. 5.
The Spirit may rebuke and humble us as to consistency with the place we are in. Thank God He does. But He never can give a testimony in our souls contrary to, or other than, the place where perfect redemption has placed us, that redemption which has brought Him down to dwell in us. Such a thought would be making Him give a false testimony. But the Spirit is truth.
“We have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” It is not merely the fact of a new life communicated, but the consciousness of the position in which redemption has placed those who have that life. “I go to my Father, and your Father, to my God, and your God.” It is not only that the Son has quickened us, but that Christ has finished the work given Him to do—is entered as man into a wholly new place (where Adam, innocent, was not), and, being glorified, the Spirit gives us the consciousness of the relationships into which He has brought us. And this place is the fruit of a work done outside us, though those who partake in it must also be born again, and is known through the Holy Ghost given as the seal of our faith in that work, but of nothing else. But the question of experience does come in in the word, and that connects itself with the difference of flesh and Spirit. It behoves us to consider what flesh is. What it is in its evil nature, I need not dwell on here; it is the evil nature in which we are, as born of sinful Adam; but as regards our relationship another consideration comes in.
In this sense, What is it to be in the flesh? It is to be in relationship with God on the ground of our natural responsibility as men, as children of fallen Adam. It is, as to our moral state—which in itself is true—making the disposition of God towards us to depend on what we are towards Him. Of this the law is the perfect rule. It says, if conscience is awakened, I am such and such: God will be so and so towards me. Grace is on the opposite ground: God has been, and is, through Christ such and such, and I shall be so and so, as the fruit of it. But this changes everything.
Take the parable of the prodigal son. When he came to himself, you hear much about him; he owns his sin, that he is perishing, and sets out to his father, for confidence (not peace) always accompanies divine awakening, but he says as a consequence, Make me as one of thy hired servants. Arrived, with his’ father all this disappears, and he with it, and his place is wholly what his father is to him and does for him. When converted and in the right road, he had not yet the best robe, nor his father on his neck, to make him in his own consciousness and actual place what the father’s thoughts were towards him.
Now his whole condition was changed; it was what his father was for him, and had done for him. The mind may get bewildered by false teaching, putting back under law, where its true effect is not discovered. This was the case of the Galatians; but they were therein fallen from grace, Christ became of none effect to them. It was not a state of soul. They did not, in adding circumcision, think of anything but adding, but the apostle saw plainly enough. It was not an experience, a state of soul; it was Christianity given up altogether in its very principle. They were, as to their minds, if not as to God’s, fallen from grace.
Hence, in Galatians, no kind words to begin with, no salutations at the end. It was for the apostle, not a state of their souls, but Christianity given up; he wished the doers of it cut off. If this system were true, Christ was dead in vain, they who taught it were accursed. All that has nothing to do with experiences and states of soul. It was making “Christ the minister of sin.” Through the redemption that was in Christ, the blessing of Abraham came on the Gentiles, that believers might receive the promise of the Spirit. He then goes on to shew how believers received the Spirit (they were sons by faith in Christ, and because they were sons God gave the spirit of sonship), and specially insists on the presence of the Spirit, and how they got it. There was the liberty wherewith Christ has set us free. He was, as he expresses it, travailing again in birth for them. They had got, not into a bad spiritual state as Christians, they had in their minds given up Christianity. The question was then the flesh and the law, man as he was and God’s rule for him, or Christ glorified and the Spirit putting us consciously in His place and acceptance before God and the Father by redemption. That this last was gone was not a bad state of soul, as I have said, but Christianity given up, doubtless not in will there, but in the thing itself; and this is our point now. The Holy Ghost was given, not in respect of any particular state of soul, not even of being born again, true as this was as to those to whom it was given; but simply in virtue of faith in a Saviour who had died, and was risen and glorified, as indeed there was no other; and if Paul had known Him otherwise—and as a Jew he had—he knew such no more.
The presence of the Holy Ghost was specifically and distinctively the consequence of the glorifying of Jesus, who had accomplished the work that saves us, in dying, shedding His blood for us as man, and rising again. Thus there is evidently a double part as to Christ Himself, His suffering in obedience unto death, drinking for us that dreadful cup, the thought of which made Him shed, as it were, great drops of blood, and, as a consequence of that, His being glorified. The former was the accomplishment of redemption demonstrated by His resurrection, or our faith would be vain; if He were not risen, we should be yet in our sins. He would be lying in death as another. Subjectively, man was in his new state in Christ risen. Hence we read, “He was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.” He has loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood. The latter, His being glorified, is what He is entered into and has obtained for us, but which, though happy meanwhile if we depart, we shall not possess till He comes again to receive us to Himself. It is evident from Scripture that the Holy Ghost came down when Jesus was glorified, His work being accomplished; but when we by faith have part in the accomplished salvation, but have not yet attained the glory, He is the seal of faith in the one, and the earnest of the other. For in Christ all is accomplished, and He is entered as our Forerunner; and the Holy Ghost sent down and dwelling and ministering in us gives the full consciousness of the fruit of the one in forgiveness, and of our place in Christ. He gives withal the consciousness of being sons, and if sons, then heirs. Born again we must be to have the smallest part in these things, but it is faith in Christ’s work which is sealed by the gift of the Holy Ghost.
We have redemption through Christ’s blood, the forgiveness of sins; the Holy Ghost is the earnest of our inheritance till the redemption of the purchased possession. The great general truth is that believers, and believers only, receive it. If we look into details, and build on Scripture statements, we find there must be faith in the work of Christ, as well as in His Person, in order to a person’s being sealed. Thus, when the terrible conviction was produced in the minds of the Jews that Jesus was the Christ, and that they had rejected Him, but God exalted Him, they say, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter says, “Repent, and be baptised, every one of you, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” They are to believe in the exaltation of Christ, of which the gifts were the present proof, but they were to partake in the effects of His work in order to receive the Holy Ghost. So, in Acts 10:43, it is the testimony to the remission of sins that is sealed by the Holy Ghost coming. So Ephesians 1:13, it was the “gospel of their salvation” in which they believed, so that, believing in Christ, they were sealed with the Holy Spirit as earnest of their inheritance. That a person may be born again, and not have received the Holy Ghost, is perfectly certain according to Scripture, for “whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,” and this the disciples did while Christ was on earth, but could not have the Holy Ghost, which did not come until the day of Pentecost; though they had life, and were clean through the word.
It is alleged the case was different—He was not come. Quite true, but they were born of God. I refer to the fact that we may distinguish between the two. And in Samaria, after the Holy Ghost was come, they believed and were baptised; but the Holy Ghost was fallen upon none of them, which happened afterwards by the laying on of the apostles’ hands. In the same way Paul, then called Saul, was converted by the appearing of Christ to him on the way, and three days afterwards Ananias was sent, that he might receive his sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
A Christian, then, is one in whose body the Holy Ghost dwells as in a temple, giving him consciously the place in which accomplished redemption places him; but God, having wrought him for glory with and like Christ, while the knowledge of his place in Christ is clear to his soul, this last, glory with and like Him, remains a hope laid up for him in heaven. The Jews must be born again to get the millennial blessings; John 3; Ezek. 36. But those who believe in Christ, not having seen Him, associated with Him while He is not seen, sealed with the Holy Ghost, have their part with Him where He is not seen. “He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
There are three great privileges which result from the presence of the Holy Ghost, though all in us should flow from it. First, we cry, “Abba, Father,” Gal. 4. We know we are children; Rom. 8. Next, we know we are in Christ, and Christ in us; John 14. Thirdly, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts; Rom. 5. His presence is the power of the blessing with God, with Christ, with the Father. Compare 1 John 4:12, 13.
But it is not promises, or accomplished millennial peace, blessed as that will be in its place, but, God having wrought us for an eternal weight of glory, the revelation of which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man to conceive, but which God hath revealed to them that love Him. Subjectively the new man is fitted to enjoy God Himself, but the sphere in which his affections are developed is that which is done for him, and is revealed to him, and here the work and sufferings of Christ, and the glories, and for us the heavenly glories, which shall be revealed. Between the accomplishment of the work, and our having part in the glory, the Holy Ghost has come down to seal us as redeemed and justified, and to be the earnest of the part we have not, only that “as Christ is so are we in this world,” and conscious of it in living faith.
Forgiveness, the Father’s love, our portion and place in Christ, with joy in hope of the glory of God, such is the place and portion of those whose life Christ is. Of this the Holy Ghost is the present power and revealer to the soul, when faith in Christ and in His work has been sealed for the day of redemption; or (more accurately) they, on the ground of that faith.
The new man is capable of enjoying divine and heavenly things, but cannot reveal them. If it be said, They are in the word j agreed, but they are, when there, spiritually discerned. The sealing of the believer with the Holy Ghost (on the ground of his faith in the Person and work of Christ, who has accomplished the work of redemption, and sits on the right hand of God, so that he knows the efficacy of that work, and his place before God, as a son and in Christ) is a truth as clearly stated in Scripture as can possibly be, and constitutes Christianity and the Christian as a present state of things: certainty as to guilt removed, present sonship in divine favour, and joy in hope of the glory of God. But here it is also founded on Christ’s work as delivered for our sins.
Another point now comes in, the connection of this with the state or experience of the soul. I do not now mean of guilt and imputation of sins: of that I have spoken. Our conscience is purged through the blood of Christ; but what passes in the soul? There is that which is never forgiven— sin, the principle in the nature—which God must abhor, and the new nature abhors, and which we find in us. I have already referred to the now well-know division in Romans 5:11, up to which our whole state as to guilt, and the grace that meets it, is fully gone into: propitiation, Christ delivered for our sins and raised, and peace with God, present favour, hope of glory, His love shed abroad in our hearts for the way by the Holy Ghost given to us, so that we joy in God Himself through Christ, by whom we have received this reconciliation, we are reconciled to God, and joy in Him. We have then another subject: one man, the head as to sin, One as to obedience; the many connected with him constituted sinners by the offence of one, and the many connected with the Other constituted righteous.
This was evidently a new ground and subject; personal guilt and judgment rested on what each sinner had done. Here it was a race in a state of ruin by the offence of its head. The law came in by the by so as to aggravate the sins by making them transgressions, and to detect sin, the root principle, by its requirements when the conscience was awakened.
It was not now the forgiveness of the sins of the old man, and cleansing from them by grace, and so being brought into present favour on God’s part towards us, but our being brought into a new state and standing before God in the second Man— our being in Christ Jesus. In chapter 6 we get the doctrine; in chapter 8 we get our state as the result, we are in Christ, and Christ in us, heirs of glory, and sufferers with Christ here. In chapter 7 we get the legal process by which we acquire self-knowledge, in order to our morally consenting to having Christ instead of ourselves. In this second part of the epistle it is not Christ dying for our sins, but our dying with Christ. Remark here the difference between chapters 5 and 8. In chapter 5 (where guilt had been displayed as universal, and the grace that met it in propitiation, and Christ delivered for our sins, and raised again for justification) all is divine favour and goodness, peace with God, such as He is, as regards our sins, present grace or favour, hope of glory; it is love shed abroad in the heart, and joying in Him. In chapter 8 it is our state, dead with Christ, alive in Him, we in Him before God, so that there is no condemnation, the law of the Spirit of life setting us free, the mind of the Spirit, life and peace. In chapter 5 it was God’s love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost; in chapter 8 He bears witness with our spirit that we are children, He intercedes in us. It is our state towards God as in Christ, not what God is towards us.
I have said that chapter 6 gives us the basis of this in doctrine. We are baptised, our profession of Christianity is to Christ’s death, our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin, as a whole in its concrete form, might be destroyed. There is an end of our old Adam state by the cross. Christ died (not here for our sins, but) to sin, and we are baptized to His death, are to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, not in Adam, but in Christ Jesus our Lord. All that is in the Father’s glory, what He is as displayed and surrounds Himself with according to what He is, was engaged in the resurrection of Christ; holiness, righteousness, majesty, love to the Son, recognition of what He had done, supremacy above all evil in light and love, and Christ as man rises by and into it, and that as having perfectly glorified God, where all was exactly contrary to it. And we are alive in Him, have Him risen as the life suited to it. We may have it in an earthen vessel, but it is our place with God. In this the flesh has no possible part. As man, Christ entered into it through death, closing (Himself ever sinless and apart) all connection with man as born of Adam; a true real man and Son of man, but Head, as risen of a new race and state. It is right to remark that He never united Himself to men—a common and ruinous doctrine. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone.” He alone, as we have seen, was anointed of the Holy Ghost, and sealed of God the Father, still a true man come of a woman, come under law, and in the likeness of sinful flesh, and going with the godly remnant as associating Himself with them. He was there a man amongst men, but that association was closed by death, save as Lord over them. We are united to Him in His new and glorious state as Head; Eph. 1, 2. But this is kaine ktisis3a new creation. But to return to our direct subject.
“We are crucified with him.” Here it is our “old man.” We are still in the body, but we are not on the old standing-ground with God, we have died out of it in Christ, we are crucified with Him, we reckon ourselves as dead to sin here (to the world in Colossians), and alive in Him to God; our old Adam standing before God is gone by death, and we are in Christ, alive to God in Him, to give ourselves up to God as those that are in Him alive from the dead, and free to do so in this new life. We are not looked at as risen with Christ in Romans, but justified, and Christ our life, as men living in natural life down here, only Christ our life in it, in Him before God, not in the flesh.
Now the first part of the epistle brings us from conscious guilt into divine favour and knowledge of divine love, as justified by Christ’s work; the second, into the knowledge of ourselves as having died with Christ to our old state, and being in Him before God. Our profession is not merely believing in Christ, but being brought into His death, baptised to it as our portion. But the first is complete and absolute. The doctrine of sealing is not found here; but the person is sealed, a guilty person restored to God’s favour, and enjoying His love, reconciled to Him, and delighting in Him. I repeat, the first part is complete in itself; the man is a pardoned, justified man, enjoying God’s favour, His love in his heart by the Holy Ghost given to him, and rejoicing in the hope of glory. It is judicial. Eternal life is not a present existence, but given to those who continue patiently in well-doing (indeed it is always a future thing in Romans, where not merely a general fact of grace); only God commends His love toward us.
Our state and standing out of Christ and in Christ is another and distinct point, but when in Christ the sealing of the Holy Ghost is here also assumed and developed. It is specifically taught in Ephesians and 2 Corinthians, but always as that of believers, that is, of those who have life already, and are washed in the blood of the Lamb. Christianity is not known in its real character where this is not. The starting-point of this, as to our standing, is—we have been baptised to Christ’s death, our old man is crucified with Christ, so that we should not serve sin. It is done with for faith, we are set free. But is there no remedy, no ameliorating the old man, no power in the new to walk out of and independent of it? There is no amelioration nor power in the new to go right by itself, even when one wills it. If righteousness is to be had in our fallen Adam state (in the flesh), then the law is the measure. But the flesh is not subject to the law of God, nor can be—law, no doubt, in its spiritual character, for law forbids lust, and the flesh lusts. To stand before God on this ground is therefore a hopeless matter, but the question is, in this part of Romans, our standing before Him.
But we have the two points: we are born again; but this is not enough, for the flesh is there, and what characterises the law is our obtaining righteousness by what we are. But sin is there. But if not enough, it is not all: our old man is crucified with Christ, we have died to sin in Him. Thus for faith the flesh is gone in death, and Christ is come in life. Sin in the flesh has been condemned in the cross, but death came to the old condition of man; not that Christ, of course, had any sin, but He was made it for us. He was on the cross “for sin.” So that condemnation of sin in the flesh is passed, and death, the power of Christ’s death, is come. I am now connected with a Christ risen from the dead. My first husband, the law, ruled over me as long as I lived; but I have died with Christ; by His death God condemned sin in the flesh. That condemnation Christ took, and ended in dying; so by my death I have ceased to be under law, have died out of the condition to which law applied, and am not only alive in Christ, but connected with Christ risen in this new place where sin and condemnation are entirely over and passed. My being quickened left the flesh there, though I hated its fruits and workings, and as the principle of law, and our mind under it, is that which God will feel as to us, is the effect of what we are; the holier my desires, the more miserable I was; but having part in His death, I reckon myself dead.
The deliverance, then, is by the death of Christ, that is, my being crucified with Him, and connected with Him as risen. But how can I know this? By the Holy Ghost. In Romans 8 we are in Christ, and Christ is in us (vv. 1, 10). Now the knowledge of this is by the Holy Ghost; John 14:20. We are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. No condemnation, because we are in Christ; and if Christ be in us, the body dead because of sin, its only product if alive; yet we are alive, because the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
And now mark that in the parenthetical chapter 7, which treats of the bearing of law on the question, we have two states of the soul, both when quickened, not of progress or degree, but absolutely incompatible—so incompatible, that one cannot exist if the other does, a relative position in one of which the soul is connected with law as with a husband, in the other with Christ risen from the dead. The soul has died in the first, so as to have done with it, died away out of it, only as crucified with Christ, or it would have been condemnation as well as death; 2 Cor. 3; Gal. 4. We are dead to the law by the body of Christ, that we might be married to another; we could not have two husbands at once. Then we get the experimental effect of the law, as seen and estimated by the light of Christianity. It awoke, and as an occasion provoked sin.
The experience of chapter 7 is not the cry of a man in it not knowing what it is, but the estimate of it by one who can judge of it with spiritual knowledge. We, we Christians as such, so the expression is ever used, we know that the law is spiritual. As to the fact, no one was ever in such a state, the will always perfectly right, and the doing always wrong. It is the working of the law when the will is renewed, but the man is under law, and as to the thoughts of his relationship with God he is in the flesh, loving obedience and God’s law, but judging of God’s thoughts of him from what he is himself, which is the opposite of grace.
The law is seen to be spiritual in its requirements, his conscience consents to it as- good, his heart delights in it after the inner man, but he does not succeed in keeping it. He is captive to the law of sin which is in his members. To will is present with him, but how to perform the good he finds not. Now this is experience looked at by a delivered person, but of a person clearly undelivered, a person under law, a man when he was in the flesh. He learns, thus looking at it, not guilt, but that there is no good in him, that is, in his flesh; next, that it is not himself, since he hates it; thirdly, that it is too strong for .him—he cannot succeed in his will to do right. It is a lesson of two things—that there is no good in the flesh when estimated spiritually, and next, that we have no power. To distinguish the sin from oneself is often a relief, but not deliverance. Now it is of all importance that he should know, and experimentally know, what flesh is, and so what it is to be under law; but God has no pleasure in keeping him there when he has learned it. But it is not the Christian state. There is conflict to the end when we are delivered, but then that is in the Christian: the flesh lusts against the Spirit. Here there is no question of the Spirit, nor of Christ, save in contrast, another husband, which you cannot have at the same time. As to this the chapter is positive. We cannot have two husbands at the same time. If I have learned the love of God in the gift of His Son, and my standing is there, divine acceptance does not rest on what I am for God—under law it does.
The chapter is the estimate of the working of the law by one who has the Spirit, and can say, “We know.” He does not say, therefore, we are carnal, Christians could not. If I am asked, Has he the Spirit?—Is he sealed? I answer, Decidedly not, he is captive to the law of sin, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty; and in chapter 8 he is made free, and not in the flesh. And if one is led of the Spirit, he is not under law, but that is exactly what is described in Romans 7, but described by one who, being out of it, can describe it by the Spirit. Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Though I have spoken of chapter 7 as parenthetic, and justly (for it comes in between the doctrine of chapter 6 and the practical state of chapter 8), yet, in a certain sense, chapter 6 closes the doctrine of the epistle. Sin has not dominion over them, for they are not under law, but under grace; so, yielded to God in obedience, they have their fruit unto holiness here, and the end everlasting life. The wages of sin is death; the gift of God eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Thus the two experimental states are gone into, under law, and in the power of the Spirit in Christ. The complete contrast of the two is evident, not degrees of progress, but contrast of state. The incompatibility of the two I have spoken of, implied in the two husbands, the change being introduced by nothing short of death, as an absolute cessation of the bond. But I now speak of the contrast in the state itself. In chapter 7 he is in the flesh; in chapter 8 he is not in the flesh because the Spirit of God dwells in him. The experience of chapter 7 contemplates the law only; in chapter 8 he is dead to the law by the body of Christ, and it is a question between the flesh and the Spirit. Christ is in us, and the body dead, and the Spirit life in the delivered soul. We have, then, first, in chapter 7, the two husbands contrasted—a renewed man connected with law, and the same with Christ raised from the dead, the first bond being absolutely severed by the death of the person in it. Then you have the experience of the former, the renewed man under law, estimated by the Christian intelligence of one out of it, and the flesh is judged, and the incompetency of the renewed soul to overcome it under law. It needs a deliverer, that is, God through Christ. We are alive in Him, and He in us, and have died to sin, been crucified with Him. There is therefore now no condemnation for them in Christ, for though flesh is in me, I am freed from its law through the law of the Spirit of life in Christ, and I, as to my standing before God, have nothing else than Christ as life in the power of the Spirit. What the law could not do, nor I succeed in under it, because the flesh was not subject to it, God has done; for it has judicially disappeared in the death of Christ as a sacrifice for sin, and there it and I to sin died with Him. The old man is crucified and gone in the cross: God has condemned sin in the flesh there.
But here the power of the Holy Ghost comes which dwells in us. It is a sum of our state in, already in, verse 2. But the things of the Spirit and walking after the Spirit refer directly to a divine Person and to a new nature; and to this, though not yet separating Him from life as its power, the change from the old position of Adam standing is distinctly referred. “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.” It is not subjecting flesh, which cannot be subject to law; but “if Christ be in you, the body is dead,” according to chapter 6, for alive in itself, it only produces sin; yet I am alive, “the Spirit is life” as the power and producer of righteousness. And further to complete the deliverance: “if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ [the head of his people] from the dead will quicken your mortal bodies, by reason of his Spirit which dwells in you.” It is the Spirit of God, as contrasted with flesh—of Christ, as that which we are as now livingly formed after Christ—of Him that raised up Jesus (Christ’s personal name) from the dead, as accomplishing our final deliverance. From this on the Holy Spirit is spoken of, not merely as a divine Person dwelling in us, and so working on life, but as acting distinct from us. By the Spirit we mortify the deeds of the body, we are led by the Spirit; He is the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself, it is said, bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children, with the inheritance in hope, and helps our infirmities in our patient passage till we are there; the Spirit itself, when we do not know what to pray for as we ought, making intercession for us, but in us, and that according to God: so real is this presence with us.
There is, then, a deliverance52—not being born again, not forgiveness—though both be true—but deliverance, in that we have died with Christ, our old man crucified with Him, and He our life, in the power of the Spirit of God; and, while His work is the basis, it is possessed and known, and our place in Him, by the Spirit dwelling in us, which Spirit we receive on believing in the efficacy of Christ’s work for the forgiveness of our sins. We are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in us. Scripture is as clear as possible on the point. It is equally clear that one in Romans 7 has not this deliverance; the proof of it is very simple—he is seeking to be delivered. It is not a repeated thing, but a state into which we enter: the whole of chapter 8 is a proof of it; we are in Christ, have the Spirit of adoption, the Comforter, which is not taken from us.
It is not being born again—that is a “must be”; not the revelation of grace and salvation—this is by the cross. The visitation, as prophesied of by Zechariah, was to give knowledge of salvation to the people by the forgiveness of their sins.
It was the gospel of their salvation which led to the sealing of the Gentiles. I have no doubt that He who began the good work will perfect it unto the day of Jesus Christ. But the testimony of Scripture is constant. The prodigal came to himself, was repentant, confessed his sin, and that he was perishing, and set out on the road which, in fact, led him to his father; but he had not reached his father, nor knew his mind, could not cry Abba Father, nor had he on the best robe, which made him fit to enter into the house. It is in vain to say he was not conscious of it; he had not got it. Christ was delivered for our offences; but though He has made peace by the blood of His cross, we have it not till we are justified by faith. It is alike important to see that it is completely made, and that we have it not till we believe. Indeed, to say that we have peace with God, and are not conscious of it, is nonsense. It dislocates, too, the connection of the Spirit’s presence and Christ’s work. To be free, and at liberty, liberty with God, crying, Abba, Father, and freedom from the law of sin and death, and not be conscious of it, has no sense, though we may not be able to explain how it is; but we have the joy, and know it. I attach no importance to the word ‘Christian’— probably given by the world; but his body who is such is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which he has of God.
The comparison of some passages in Romans and Galatians shews distinctly how this is a distinct state, and not a mere progress in the condition of the soul, the liberty of sons, the fruit of redemption, in contrast with bondage under law, even if born of God. In Galatians 3:23: “If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under law.” Before faith came we were under the law, a schoolmaster unto Christ, but after faith came we were so no longer. We are all sons (not children, two things not confounded by Paul) of God by faith in Christ Jesus. But the heir, so long as he is a child, differs nothing from a slave, though lord of all. But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that He might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons; and because ye are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
Chapter 5 exhorts them to stand fast in this liberty; the flesh lusted against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; but if led of the Spirit, they were not under law. Flesh was there, but their state and standing was wholly changed; they were sons, free, led of the Spirit, not under law, because Christ had redeemed them out of that state, and so the Holy Ghost was given to them, if faith had come in. The state was the consequence of God’s Son being come to redeem, and faith in that. Now look at Romans, in the delivered state— Romans 8, As many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. We have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear. And how is this? We are not under law, but under grace, reckon ourselves dead. (Compare Gal. 2:19, 20.) Christ having died, we are delivered from the law, dead with Christ to sin and the law too, married to another, Christ risen. We are in Christ: the law of the Spirit of life in Him has set us free; for what the law could not do, God has done, sending His own Son for sin. The consequence is not a law imposing human righteousness, but the things of the Spirit our portion.
Though the flesh is in us, we are not in it, not in that standing before God, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in us, not if born of God; that they were when undelivered. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit life; and then he goes to conscious sonship by the Spirit, and so, not to one being born, but to the witness by the Spirit of being born of God (children, not sons): we are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. The principles of the state in chapter 7 are the law, the flesh, sin, captivity to the law of sin, undelivered, the will right, but no power to carry it out. The first six verses give the two relationships to law, and Christ risen, death wholly closing one, being the only deliverance from it. The principles of chapter 8 are, in Christ (not merely forgiven, but in a new state), made free by the law of the Spirit of life in Him, sin in the flesh condemned in His having died a sacrifice for sin, not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, the Spirit of God dwelling in us, the body dead, the Spirit life; sons, knowing we are such, suffering with Christ, to be glorified with Him; Christ and the Spirit, not mentioned in the first; the whole subject is the second husband, in the power of the Spirit in the second. It is impossible that two standings and relationships can be more distinct. Having believed in forgiveness by Christ’s blood, the believer has received the Spirit, and knows by it where he is, as having died with Christ, and being now in Him.
Bad teaching, which puts being born again (a vital and necessary truth, and examining whether we be in the faith, a very natural thing then, but a mere and entire misinterpretation of Scripture), instead of an accomplished and known redemption by the work of Christ, having led many true hearts away from plain Scripture truth, I add here what Scripture plainly states. If a soul can in truth before God say, Abba, Father, that soul is sealed. If a person really knows that he is in Christ, and Christ in him, he is sealed. If the love of God is shed abroad in the heart, the man is sealed. (Rom. 8; Gal. 4; Rom. 13; John 14; Rom. 10.) Other proofs may be given of if, for the whole life of a man is, save particular failures, the evidence of the Spirit of God dwelling in him; but I take the simplest and most immediate evidence in a man’s soul purposely and such as are in terms stated in Scripture. Now what hinders the simple acceptance of this truth is, that the full doctrine of redemption is not believed. Forgiveness is looked at as forgiveness of so much past sins,53 of sins up to our conversion, what was really Jewish forgiveness, which is contrasted in Scripture with Christian; Heb. 9, 10. What Scripture calls eternal redemption is not believed in. As to Christians in general, what it is to have no more conscience of sins, they cannot tell you, or even of the blessedness of the man to whom the Lord imputes no sin. No, all their past sins were forgiven when they believed, but sins since? well, they must be sprinkled again, or the present priesthood of Christ on high applies to it, neither of which is in Scripture.
Ask them what it means, when it says that by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified; they cannot tell you: each sin, after its commission, has to find its forgiveness as and when it may; and people are taught that it is a very dangerous doctrine to think otherwise. Now there is an interruption of communion; there is a gracious washing of the feet with water; but when I have believed in Christ’s work there is no more imputation of sin, I am perfected as to conscience. We have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. He who bore our sins, and put them away long ago, is there. We must not confound the work of the Spirit, which makes me own my faults, and the work of Christ, finished and effectual once and for ever. He bore my sins when I had not committed one of them, and if forgiveness, in the sense of non-imputation, has to be gained now, it would be impossible; for Christ would have to suffer for them as the apostle says, “For then he must often have suffered from the foundation of the world.” Hence he who has not the sense of redemption in his soul by faith, and he who really has, are by current teaching put on the same footing, though one has the Spirit of adoption, and the other has not—one looks for mercy, not yet obtained by faith, and the other, with God, cries Abba, Father; but both are taught to suppose sin imputable alike, and to search if they are children, and the delivered man is thrown back by false teaching under law in Romans 7. If you can really cry, Abba, Father, you are surely sealed; but then no sin can be imputed to you, or Christ is dead in vain. Judaism was, as to that, better than this half Christianity. There, if a man sinned, was a sacrifice, and his sin was forgiven. Here, once, perhaps, pardoned for what was gone before, he has nothing but uncertainty for all that follows. But Christ has obtained eternal redemption, and blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no sin. And the work being complete, and he who is sanctified perfected for ever, the worshipper once purged has no more conscience of sins, and Christ is sitting down on the Father’s throne because all is finished. Of this the Holy Ghost is the witness; being born of God is not.
There is one text as to which it may be well to add a supplementary word: “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his,” Rom. 8:9. “None of his” alarms people; it is simply that he is not yet His, any more than the prodigal was in a son’s place till he reached his father.
Verse 1 puts us in Christ, this verse Christ in us, which is the Christian state, according to the promise in John 14. It is not the state of soul which is a question here, but the fact of Christ being in us, as the next verse proves, connecting it withal with chapter 6. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. This cannot be till we have that Spirit. We are not till then in the Christian state as belonging to Christ in fact, even if on the way, like the prodigal. The Christian is always looked at as born again, forgiven, and sealed. That is the Christian state—till then he is not in it. The indwelling of the Spirit is part of the Christian state, as Galatians, Romans, 2 Corinthians 5, 2 Corinthians 1, and a multitude of other passages, shew.
There is one other passage I would refer to, as sometimes cited, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” Now, first, the sealing of the Spirit is not the subject here, nor is being born again. It is assumed and referred to in chapter 3:24: only there the Spirit’s testimony to dwelling in Him, and He in us, is only applied to His dwelling in us, as even gifts of all kinds might shew. But obedience marks the Christian, keeping His commandments, and this involves dwelling in God, and God in us, the consciousness of it being by the Spirit given to us. So verse 4. So in our verse 13, but the terms varied, He hath given us of His Spirit: the terms, indeed, of the prophecy, but here of moment, as connecting us with God in His nature. John is not occupied with the administrative acts, such as sealing, by which our relationships are known. He dwells in the nature of God, and communion with it. He is light, so are we. He is love, and he who dwells in love, dwells in God, and God in him. Our koinonia is with God, and we walk in the light, as God is in the light, in love, as Christ loved us. I do not doubt it is through the Spirit, but what John is full of is our being in God, and God in us, as a present thing, not our being sealed for the day of redemption—a day not come yet; and it is of His Spirit, so that we should dwell in and have communion with Himself. This is not sealing, though it be through means of it, that is, of the gift of the Holy Ghost. Romans 5 is nearer to it, and there it is by the gift of the Holy Ghost, but an effect of it, not the thing itself. When a man is quickened, and trusts in the blood of Christ, and is sealed with the Holy Ghost, then he enters into the fulness of God, of all that is in Him, his new nature innately enjoys, is innately capable of enjoying all that He is; the Holy Ghost is the revealer of, and spiritual power to realise, what is revealed, and thus we enter into that fulness, our conscience being perfect through the blood of Christ.
Thus entering into what the Holy Ghost brings us into, we dwell in God, and God in us. And this is the position of every Christian, of whoever believes that Jesus is the Son of God. But these are looked on as sealed, as this passage itself shews. With a parenthesis to detect evil spirits, the view of the Christian state begins, 1 John 3:23 externally, verse 24 internally, chapter 4:7, and following. It is not the habit of John to treat the divine administrative process of God’s ways, but the nature of God, and the fulness that is in Him, and our connection with it in its character and power. This process the reader will find in Ephesians 3:14-19. It is the full blessing into which we are brought by the Holy Ghost with which we are sealed. Ephesians is the realisation of it. There is another point important in this passage, the force of “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God.” Here a man is openly in the place of a Christian; but it is in no way the fact of His Person, in contrast with His work. In the passage itself, the whole of what He was, has done, is now in glory, is brought into view: nor in what follows is it simply that we are quickened, but that he that hath the Son hath life. The whole mystery of godliness, as regards us, viewing Christ as a Man in glory, who once came down, and finished the work, and is gone back to the Father. Verses 9, 10 we have the Son sent to be life to us, and propitiation for us; in verse 12, God’s love is perfected in us now; in verse 17 He is viewed as the glorified Man, and as He is, so are we. It is evident that this takes in the whole history of Christ in saying Son of God. But the way in which John speaks of Christ goes further: He is truly a man “come in the flesh,” but God in His Person. We know Him that is true, and are in Him that is true, that is, in His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, He, outos “is the true God, and eternal life.”
Read the verses from chapter 2:28; chap. 3:3: is He spoken of as God, or as man? As both in one half-verse He appears; we are born of Him, so sons of God, but the world does not know us, as it did not know Him. It is one Person who is God and who is Man, according to the aspect in which He is looked at, and believing in His Person is the secret and foundation of it all; but a divine Person who came down, is God, finished the work, and is gone up, a true man who has died, but Son of God. So we enter into all the fulness of God, dwelling in Him (being in Christ), but according to all that He has displayed Himself to be in His ways with us in Christ, and blessed it is. But this is different from the administration of those ways, even the sealing with the Holy Ghost, by which we are capable indwellers.
Paul gives us this administrative and judicial dealing of God. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, by faith in Christ the Son, who has wrought redemption. We are sons, not merely children, and so the Spirit of His Son is sent forth into our hearts. John goes on to what this brings us into, in its fulness in God, as revealed in the Son. All belongs in God’s mind, the nous of Christ, to every believer, as the best robe, and tie shoes, and the ring to the prodigal; but we enter into them by being sealed with the Holy Ghost, and are able to do so, being strengthened by Him according to Ephesians 3. And now the matter stands thus: dispensation-ally it was when the Son of God had come, been crucified, accomplishing redemption and gone on high; then, and then only, the Holy Ghost came down, the public seal and testimony that He was the Son of God, the glorified Man on high. So with the individual, when he believes that the work is accomplished, in the efficacy of that work, he is sealed with the Holy Ghost, giving the assurance of our place by what Christ has done, and the earnest of what He has obtained for us, having put away our sins, and done away the whole of our old standing with God, flesh and law, and entered as our Forerunner into glory as man, in virtue of redemption.
Now when Christ is at all truly preached, even where the efficacy of His work is not clearly applied, still what has that efficacy is placed before the soul as a truth. According to ordinary evangelical ministry, people are told they must be born again—quite true—and to examine themselves if they are; and if the value of Christ’s blood is spoken of, they are carefully warned and guarded, lest they should have any false confidence, not to deceive themselves, etc. The effect is, that the mass (where the word reaches the soul) remain in the spirit of bondage, and searching their own state to see if God can accept them; the ground may be laid, but are they fit for heaven? the efficacy of the blood being a resource at the end of their career, many truths for living by, as men say, one to die by. A few, in whom the Spirit of God made it a felt need, do realise forgiveness as a present thing, and even that of attainment; consequently, being sealed, they cry to God, Abba, Father, but remain in the spirit of bondage after all, thrown back on their self-examination, and the judgment, they can form of themselves, not here fully seeking to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord, in true holiness and divine life, but turn even this into a question of fitness, that is, of righteousness, and true holiness is lost, as is divine righteousness. Acceptance, save as a thing in the air, is not known. And such is the state of the Christian world. Let watchfulness, diligence of heart, the fear of God, working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, be pressed on the redeemed and saved with all diligence, but on such as such, and when they are such. For though we have the assurance of being kept and confirmed to the end by divine power, yet if we are redeemed, and because we are, we have the wilderness to pass, where all is sifted and tried in us (John 10; 1 Cor. 1), but where the true believer relies on the faithfulness of the living God, who withdraws not His eyes from the righteous, as he does on the perfect work which redeemed and saved him (so that he is not in the flesh) and brought him into this place of testing.
In result, then, the pattern and the model of the Christian’s place is Matthew 3:16, 17. The heavens are opened to him; He is sealed and anointed with the Holy Ghost; and the Father owns Him as His beloved Son. Only Christ was in this place as man in His own excellency. For us redemption was needed; for except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit. Hence, our faith must rest, not only on His Person, but on His work, to find ourselves in that place. And this is what the truth of the matter is as to delay. It is not delay in sealing, when faith in Christ’s work is there—I see no ground for that—but delay in the heart’s believing in its efficacy, appropriating faith in Christ’s work.
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I allow myself to add a line on another subject, as misrepresentation has gone forth. I insist that when Christ’s presence is spoken of, with two or three gathered in His name, it is Christ—not the Holy Ghost. The difference is very real: the Holy Ghost was not incarnate, was not made flesh for us, did not die for us, and in this respect cannot be the object of the same affections. On this I have constantly and uniformly insisted. What gave occasion to the contrary representation was, as far as I can ascertain, a bad translation of a French tract; where evidently it was said Christ was present en esprit, spiritually (not corporeally), and this has been translated by “the Spirit.”
51 I do not doubt the Holy Ghost will be given specially in the beginning of the millennium, but that is not our subject here; as now given, it connects us with an absent, heavenly, and glorified Christ.
52 We have it here, and based on Christ’s death, and enjoyed by the Spirit. So in Galatians 5:1,” the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” So 2 Corinthians 3, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
53 Past sins in Romans 3 are the sins of Old Testament saints. It is clear that at the moment I am forgiven, I can only apply it to sins already committed; I have no other. But this does not touch the question of the extent and bearing of Christ’s death, which was before I had committed any. It is confounding the Spirit’s work and Christ’s.