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Friday, February 1, 2013

Freedom From Law Means Government by the Spirit

The Cross and the Holy Spirit

Now, if satan is thwarted along one line, he does not give up - he tries another. satan is a great master of strategy, and one of his favorite lines is that of pushing things to extremes. Among the Galatian believers, he had sought to push legalism to an extreme. But now he is thwarted along that line; Paul wins the battle - thee is no doubt about it. What is the enemy's next line of attack? 'Very well then,' he says, 'if you won't have the law, then don't have any law; disregard all law. "You are no longer under law, you are under grace" - you can do as you like! Just behave as you like; just carry on as you like; you must know no limitations, no restrictions. Any kind of restriction is law - repudiate it! Go to the other extreme - license instead of law!' I believe that, if Paul were alive today, he would be just as vehement against this as he was against the other: for here is a work of satan indeed. If satan cannot bind by the law, and change the whole nature of things in that way, he will seek to dismiss all law and make us wholly lawless!

But remember, if this Letter to the Galatians is the letter of the liberty of the Spirit, it is also the letter of the government of the Spirit. We are only free when we are governed. In George Matheson's well-known words, that we sometimes sing:

'Make me a captive, Lord,
And then I shall be free.'

A paradox - but how true. We are not free when we are giving way to license, when we take liberty that far. No: this Letter, and the Letters to the Romans and to the Hebrews, are not documents of lawlessness. Even if they do set aside the whole of the Jewish system, they do not introduce a regime of lawlessness. But they do most clearly bring in the life and government of the Holy Spirit. Remember - no child of God who is governed by the Holy Spirit, who is really living a life in the Spirit, will infringe any Divine principle. Indeed, a life governed by the Holy Spirit will be the more meticulously careful about spiritual principles.

No Change in Divine Principles

You see, the change is not in the law; that is where a great mistake has been made. Christ crucified does not alter the law; Christ Himself does not alter the law; the Holy Spirit does not alter the law. The change is not in the law - the change is in the man.  Grace does not say that, because you are not under the law, you may now murder, and get away with it; that you can steal now, you are not under law; you can commit adultery now, you are not under law; you can be covetous now, you are not under law. Grace does NOT say that; you are horrified at the suggestion.

But carry that right through to anything and everything of Divine principle - and remember that the Law of Moses is only the embodiment of Divine principles. Now the Lord Jesus took up that and said: 'Moses said, Thou shalt not kill; I say to you that if you are angry with your brother, you are not less in danger of judgment' (Matthew 5:21, 22). The Apostle John goes further, and says that if you hate your brother you are a murderer: if you hate him, without taking any step to kill him, you are already a murderer in your heart (1 John 3:15). Take the words of the Lord Jesus again: 'Moses said, Thou shalt not commit adultery; I say to you, you have only so much as to look with evil intent, and you have broken the commandment' (Matthew 5:27, 28). It is the principle of the thing, you see. This is terribly searching.

No, neither Christ, nor the Holy Spirit, nor the Cross, changes the nature of the aw, the principle of the law - it is the man who is changed. That is how the law becomes lifted from us, because we become changed people. The Spirit, Who keeps the law, has now entered into us, and if we walk by the Spirit, in the Spirit, we do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16, 25). It is a question of the changed person.

 To Walk By the Spirit Is To Keep the Law

So grace does not say: 'You are not under the law, therefore you need not observe the Sabbath.' We have to recognize that the Sabbath is the embodiment of a principle: it is not a day - it is a principle. It is a principle upon which God has constituted the creation, in every realm, that there must be a period of rest for something new. In all nature there has to be a period of rest, in order to prepare for something new. In our bodies there has to be a period of rest in order that there may be something new. In spiritual matters, in spiritual service, there have to be periods of rest, during which the Lord can speak and give us something new - that is the principle of the Sabbath. But even there, the Lord has very graciously made it possible for many to have a day a week still, in which to let other things go, to keep it sacred for the Lord, for spiritual renewal.

So, you see, it is the principle that matters, not the outward form. Nothing changes the principle. The principles of all Divine laws are abiding: they are never abrogated, never set aside, never nullified - they still hold good. Jesus went behind the code, and put His finger on the principle of every part of it; and He said: You may not now be governed and ruled by an outward system of "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not," you are to be ruled by the Holy Spirit Who observes those things. The Spirit is the Spirit of holiness: no one who lives in the Spirit, therefore, will persistently, habitually, do unholy things, be unholy. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of love: no one who lives in the Spirit, will have any other than the Spirit of love, will fail to observe the laws of love, will violate love. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth: no one who lives in and by the Spirit will be untruthful in any sense - and untruthfulness covers not only the saying of things that are not true, but everything in the life that is not absolutely true and real and genuine and honest and transparent. The man or the woman who lives in the Spirit will be a man or a woman of truth, one who is real. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of wisdom, and those who live in the Spirit will have a Divine wisdom governing their lives.

It is life in the Spirit, through the Cross, that is here in view; and it is the crucified man, the crucified woman - or the assembly or the church - who walk and live in the Spirit to whom the Arm of the Lord is revealed. Do we want to know the power of God - God with us, God for us? Then it must be like this - the Cross our ground, the Spirit our life, walking and living as sons of God.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(Next: "Re-integration of  All Things Through the Cross")

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