My Personal Discovery of Total Truth
It is only in the revelation of Romans 8:1-4 that one is able to say with inner certainty, “Yes, I am—I am all that I have ever wanted to be: free to be my real self, and to help others to find their true selves.” So I will now add my own experience of the necessary preparation for this fresh leap of faith.
I was freed, at the time of my new birth, from the law’s condemnation as a sinner; but I thought that I myself, as a redeemed human, still had an obligation to fulfill the law. It was only later that I found I had been totally deceived in this. While, in my redeemed delight in the law, I thought I should be obeying it, Satan kept lyingly claiming his control over me and causing me to fulfill his flesh will.
I had to have one final, radical exposure of the nonsense of my supposed independence. Here is the value of Romans 7:1-6. Through its great light I at last saw I had never been independent. I also saw that until I consciously knew and entered into the reality of the cutoff from my old husband and my marriage to the new, I was “in between”–in an illusory condition of independence–and thus actually under the control of my old husband. So the law completed its work by revealing this illusion to me, and grace revealed the reality of my new marriage. As I moved into that, the law ceased to exist as having an outer claim on me and was now being inwardly fulfilled in me. This is why (in 7:7-14) Paul puts such emphasis on the fulfilling through the law of God’s purposes for our freedom.
So Paul, with that God-inspired analytical mind of his, now “opens up the whole can of worms” about this delusion of the independent self. In 7:15-23, a passage of self-analysis unequaled anywhere, either in the Scriptures or in other writing, Paul shares in detail his own agonizing battle with his personal responses to indwelling sin, and his own total failure to win the battles. There we hear his cry of despair—“O wretched man that I am!” Then comes his blinding flash of revelation that, while he lived in the delusion of being an independent self, indwelling sin falsely claimed to possess him (“I am carnal, sold under sin”). Then the glory of the revelation of the falsity of this delusion, because the One who had cast out the lying usurper has now replaced him. So indwelling sin is now replaced by the indwelling Christ!
Thus we arrive at the primary purpose of this great chapter–to show us that death to sin (the theme of Romans 6) includes death to law (7:4). Now we see the boon and blessing of outer law (for Paul defends the law as spiritual, holy, just and good–vs. 12). God’s law, which looks like an enemy condemning me, is really my friend, for it is the ultimate and necessary means of revealing to me that self-relying self is an illusion. Having accomplished this, law now ceases to exist for me! “Ye are become dead to the law.” How? Why? Because law came into existence only to reveal my slave relationship to Satan and sin and to enlighten my mistaken, deluded self. So now, when at last I know by inner-knowing that in Christ I am totally cut off from sins, from sin, and from its claims on me–and realize that the indweller is Christ Himself, by the Spirit—then I also know that my inner Christ is the whole law in spontaneous operation, and I am totally out of range of the outer law. I am dead to it, and it to me. (It may, though, take some time for me, so used to giving ear to an outer law, to turn my deaf ear to it.) Now I live, instead, by the inner leadings—which are also compulsions–of Him who is love: and this is the fulfilling of the law (Rom. 13:10). I now react to any outer claims on me not by a direct response to those claims but by the confirmation of the Spirit, coupled with the Scriptures (which are always a secure undergirding for those inner confirmations). Dead to sin…dead to the law…the world crucified to me and I to the world…I have crucified the flesh in its excessive forms of infatuations and lusts. That is the perfect background to my newly liberated life in Christ.
For me this was simplified long ago in Africa—before I took the leap into Galatians 2:20—by one moment of radical and very simple revelation. Still under that old, false idea of being an independent self who could and should be improved as a servant of Christ, I had begun to seek for more love that I might identify myself with my brother Africans. I looked for more faith and power, and more deliverance from the normal pressures of the flesh and critical attitudes towards my fellow workers. The surprise I got, which put me on this right track, came when that simple word “God is love” became new to me. I did not then know that God is all in all, as I do now, and I really thought that God had love rather than is love, and He could therefore give me a share. But when the Spirit opened my eyes to the fact that God is love, then I suddenly saw that love is not some emotion which I might feel and express, but love is a person–in fact the Person, when it is God who is love. It was as if He was saying to me, “You’ve got it all wrong. Love is not something I have and can pass to you. I am that love!” That left me with a question: “Then is there none for me?” And the same query struck me concerning the power for which I was asking–for I became aware of the scripture which says “Christ, the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). So power, also, is not a thing but a person—the Person—and there is no “special kind” of power which can somehow be communicated to us. So again my question: “Well, what about me in my need?”
That conditioned me for the opposite end of this revelation. I saw it by the scripture which says “Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11). “Christ is all”—that was staggering enough. But then, “and in all.” So I saw that I, as a human, was not to “become something better.” I was not to become, but to contain. That was it! Obviously, if the one I contained was Christ, and He is all, all I needed was to know Him in me as “the all.”
That was my first flash of revelation of the Total Truth God has now so widely opened my eyes to—that we haven’t a self-nature to improve or develop. Until then I knew nothing of having been a total Satan-container in my unsaved days, and so knew nothing of now being a total God-container. This was the first revelation of the Spirit (and it has to be revealed by the Spirit) that I am just the container. It was the beginning of what has never left me since and has so greatly expanded.
The final illustration that settled me into seeing my proper place as a human was the discovery that several times in the Scriptures we are called “vessels.” A vessel is there only to contain. It does not become what it contains. The cup does not become the coffee, nor the coffee the cup. That ray of light shot into me. In other words, God was saying, “Stop fussing about your human self, where you fail and where you need improvement. Drop that whole false idea. Vessels don’t improve, they just contain. Now turn your attention away from what you are as a vessel–or think you should be. With a single eye, turn your full attention on Me, the One the vessel contains.” That was enough to move me on to my crisis leap—into the reality of Galatians 2:20, which is now my favorite verse of Scripture: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” This was my personal experience of Romans 7, leading me into Romans 8.