The Law: Stepping Stone to Man’s Exposure
This article, written by Norman Grubb in one of the first issues of The Intercessor, explores how the Law works for God’s redemptive purpose.
Paul’s great negative revelation to the church of Christ was the full meaning of the Law and its impact on our fallen human selves. He saw the total blindness we all start with from conception (Ps. 51:5). In our blindness we thought we were comfortably self-operating, self-relying selves (Rom. 7:9), when really we were operated by that lying "dark light" Jesus referred to in Matt. 6:23. This was the false light of Satan’s self-for-self nature expressed by us, in contrast to the true light which is that self-for-others nature of the Spirit of truth.
Paul then saw how God had brought into being a family (to become like the sands of the seashore) which was started through Abraham, expanded into tribes through Jacob, and given the land of Goshen under Joseph in Egypt, where the people proliferated into a great nation. And then Moses led them out toward their Promised Land.
At Sinai they were in a condition to receive the word of grace of the Living God to His Covenant people. But their answer of blind self-assurance, "All that the Lord has spoken to us we will do" (Ex. 19:5, 6), exposed the necessity of the next step in God’s perfecting purposes-the announcement of the Law with its ten comandments (though it was coupled with the means of maintaining and restoring fellowship by the Tabernacle and its sacrifices for failure to keep the Law).
That law, which Paul so fully saw and expounded to us, was intended to pronounce in plain written terms (thus graven in stone to underline its permanency) the fixed holy nature of God, and thus the necessity that His people live by it. Yet God gave them the Law, fully realizing that its effect would be the exact opposite. The Law, with its demands for holy living, would arouse the true, hidden nature of Satan-sin-Satan’s self-for-self nature in fallen man. God’s fallen, created humanity had become Satan’s slaves (Rom. 7:14), for we are created able to do nothing of ourselves, and are only capable of receiving and expressing the nature and operation of the Spirit-deity in our created human spirits (1 Cor. 6:17): we are all only slaves to an Inner Owner (Rom. 6:16), branches on the Vine we are joined to (Rom. 6:20-22), vessels containing either wrath or mercy (Rom. 9:22, 23), and wives of one of two husbands (Rom. 7:2-4). Therefore, as Paul said in Rom. 7:9, the commandment of our Living God immediately rouses into action its exact opposite, the reactions of that enemy Satan-nature of self-for-self, (since we are only able to obey our slave-owner).
Through our deceived blindness, we say we will do God’s Law, but are actually compelled to do Satan’s sin-law (Rom. 7:23). God’s Law is "weak through the flesh," as Paul says in Rom. 8:3, because our human flesh (our humanity with its soul-body faculties and appetites, perfectly created as good by God) only has power to express what it receives, and what it had received by the Fall was Satan’s selffor-self nature. There is no such thing as human self-operation; humanity is totally neutral (Rom. 7:18).
Therefore, through the long history of Israel from Moses to Christ, none could obey and fulfill that Law, except those (like David and many others) who had come into an inner relation-ship of faith (the Psalms are full of TRUST, TRUST, TRUST the Lord), and had God’s Holy Spirit (Ps. 51:11; 1 Pet. 1:11).
The Final Exposure
So we come, at last, to that final negative exposure of indwelling sin. The priests and Pharisees, the top professors of the Law, while pretending to obey it (as if they could by self-effort), actually, of course, hated and disobeyed it under the dominion of the enemy hater of the Law, Satan in them, fulfilling his lusts by them (Jn. 8:44). Therefore, they crucified the One and Only Fulfiller of that Law, who obeyed it, as a man, by the Spirit’s other-love nature indwelling Him, and they even called Him the Satan-expresser! Yet this turned out by the infinite grace-purpose of God to be the very way by which that inner enemy of the Law would be cast out of believing humanity forever. Jesus, the Son of God, dying in our place, was "made sin" in His body, since our bodies express the sin-nature. By that body-death as us, out forever went that Satan-sin-spirit, and in His resurrection as us, in came His Holy Spirit forever, and thus His nature in us, which is the delighted Fulfiller of the Law.
So then, when we have received and recognized by the "obedience of faith" who we are by grace as in Gal. 2:20, we, as He, are now finally and totally delivered from that false indweller and his lies. He, Satan-Lucifer, thinks he is self-operating, but in reality he is only the expression, as we all are, of that universal, basic fire-nature of God; which in God, by the begetting of His beloved Son, took the form of His light-nature (1 Jn. 1:5); but in Lucifer, by his free choice (Is. 14:12-15) became the expression of that selffor-self, consuming fire of God (Heb. 12:29)-that fire of hell.
Then Satan, in his own self-deception, as if he were self-operating, slipped that lie into all humanity by the Fall. He made fallen humanity (including the redeemed until fully enlightened) vainly think we were self-operating independent selves, whether we tried to do good (Rom. 7:21) or evil, when it was he as us. Thus we continually fell on our faces, because having no such thing as a self-operating human nature, we were solely under the compulsion of Satan-sin in us.
This has meant the full process, revealed by Paul in such letters as Romans and Galatians, by which the Law does its final work on us and in us. This leads to our final fixation, in which the Law is transformed into what it really is, the delight of God’s nature-now spontaneously expressed by us in place of that lying self-for-self nature of Satan.
This is done by the two-fold negative operation of the Law on us. First, by its outer commandments, the Law confronts us in our blindness with the fact and reality of sins. Sin is imputed where there is Law (the reverse of Rom. 5:13). This produces that first honest response to light (John 3:19-21), coupled with the revelation of Christ as the Lamb of God, foretold in the Tabernacle sacrifices, who has borne our sins in His own body on the Tree (1 Pet. 2:24) and by His resurrection has now established our justification (Rom. 4:45). Thus by faith we see and know ourselves to be "dead to sins" (1 Pet. 2:24), and their first condemnation and hell destiny.
The Law has thus fulfilled its first negative operation. Coupled with the justification from the presence and penalty of sins, God now begins His process of regaining His lost property. Our redeemed human selves, by the gift of the Spirit, begin to manifest His other-love nature by means of our human love-faculty, which was formerly manifesting Satan’s self-love nature (Rom. 5:5).
Now Paul moves us on to the ultimate negative purpose of the Law. As new creations in Christ by His indwelling Spirit, manifesting His other-love nature by us, we now become conscious, not of merely sins blotted out, but of sin, the principle-that Satan nature which produces the sins. But because of our continued Satan-infected delusion of being self-relying selves, we are ignorant of its operation on us. Its commands still come to us. We used to disobey them and just seek to hide from guilt until Law got us on our sins level. But now when confronted with its commands, because we still have the delusion of being self-relying selves, we respond to them by good resolutions. "No, we won’t do that "
But then the final, negative purpose of the Law operates. Not knowing that even our good self-efforts are really the lying independent self of Satan operating as sin in us, down we fall into use-less, failing resolutions and struggles to resist; and the more we resist, the more we persist (Satan as us) in the things we hate (Rom. 7:25).
Now the Law is fulfilling its final negative purpose in us. It exposes finally and totally the ruthlessness of that inner enemy sin, who in response to our deluded independent self saying, "No we won’t," rises up in us and causes us to do it, because that very independent, self-relying self is he-as us (Rom. 7:7-10). We are surely done for!
But wait! At last we come to the point of desperation. Until we come to desperation and our last clinging to self-relying self is in tatters, our full inner eyes cannot be opened. We had to come to desperation as lost sinners, before our inner eyes could be opened to see Jesus in His atoning blood for our sins. So now in deepest desperation we cry out with a totally determined Paul, "Who shall deliver me" from indwelling sin in my body?
We Finally See
And then our eyes are opened. We are at last conditioned to be glad to see that the culprit has never been us in our flesh-humanity. It was our delusion of self-relying self. The sin-pulls (in Paul’s case he said it was covetousness-lusts) were not what Paul wanted, for he "delighted in the Law of God in his inward man" (Rom. 7:22). And they certainly did not come from the Law, which was spiritual and telling him not to do it (Rom. 7:14).
Then only one source remained-"sin that dwells in me" (Rom. 7:17, 20). It is he, Satan in his sin nature who is the invader and intruder, who got into us by trickery into Adam and Eve, and slipped his own lie into us as if we were independent selves who could run our own lives. In reality we are only vessels that contain the false wine of wrath, branches of the false vine, temples for the false god, and slaves of the false owner. So those "sin" responses in us are not we, but they are he-Mr. Sin!
But Paul had had this radical cross revelation, uniquely to himself (2 Cor. 5:14, 21), that if Christ’s blood-death gloriously totally brought sins and their consequences to a final end, so His body-death equally, and all-importantly to the believer, brought the sins-producer and his operating power and presence (Satan-sin as us) into death. So we can say with Paul that we reckon ourselves "dead to sin." For when He died as "made sin" on Calvary, that sin-spirit was put out forever from that holy body representing our sin-indwelt bodies, and in his resurrection His own Spirit of holiness replaced in Him, as us, that lying spirit of error.
So I have made the great discovery that in my created human self I am not the culprit, nor am I a sin-infected per-son. The false spirit has used my good and God-created humanity to express his lusts by my natural human appetites and faculties. But that indwelling sin was cast out on Calvary, and so out of me. I, as a believer, have been deceived into thinking there was something wrong with my human self, but now am rid forever of that mistaken demand to be "dead to self."
No, indeed. My God-created self is His own beautiful creation and still is; it just had a bad misuser, that Satan-sin invader. But he was put out forever at Calvary, and now in forever is that perfect User, the Spirit of truth, the indwelling Christ.
Therefore, I simply see that reality and recognize it as the true fact about myself, and of all redeemed believers who know who they are, and I make my faith-affirmation of my faith-receiving of Gal. 2:20: "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." By the law of faith, which is the "substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen," the Spirit bears His own inner witness (as in 1 Jn. 5:10), and I am a KNOWER of my total freedom.
The Circle Completed
Now the Law has come full circle. It is itself that perfect nature of our other-loving God, expressed in me and as me, and the Law operates automatically in me as my delight (Rom. 8:4). I walk free because, with no self-relying self, my walk in the Spirit is He walking in and as me, "caused" as in Ezek. 36:27: "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes…."
That Law through Moses, thus expounded and explained in its negative preparation for grace, has had its own glory, though now overflowing by the "glory that excelleth" (2 Cor. 3:7,10). As Paul explains in Rom. 7:4, 6, we are now "dead to the Law" as well as "dead to sin." And why? Because the Law only had effect, imposing its impossible demands on us, while we were caught in a Satan-marriage. And even when free from its condemnations through grace, we still remained deluded by that false deception that we are independent self-operators. The Law then could still badger us with its demands and condemnation for our failing self-efforts against the assaults of sin and our slavery to it.
Then came this further revelation that the sin-doer is he, not we. And then, by Paul’s glorious revelation that sin is out forever by Christ’s body and replaced by His own Spirit, the Law has no more to say to us because we are not there as independent selves for it to speak to. We are now Christ-I in place of Satan-I, and our human selves are expressers of His divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). The human self which we once thought should respond to the Law is no longer a self-responding I, and that Law is now the inner nature of Him as us in spontaneity-that "righteousness of the Law fulfilled in us" (Rom. 8:4).
Opportunity for Faith
But there remains one further dangerous resurrection of the Law, when needful, while we remain on earth in this sin-infected world. We live free. We no longer have a Law-mindedness by which we anxiously watch to see if we are keeping it. The Law keeper took us over by His own choice (Jn. 15:16), and what He takes, He keeps. The heat is on Him! We "love God and do as we like" along with St. Augustine, because our likings are to express His other-love nature to all men. But we still live in this world of temptation. It gives us plenty further practice in walking as He walked-the "overcoming" way. But much more now we are there to share with others in their desperate need.
So we remain ceaselessly open to all the negative assaults of trials and temptations. James starts his practical letter, not by listing our blessings, but by our special privilege of living in a sea of trials and "counting them all joy," as opportunities for overcoming faith. Now law reappears with its usual negative and healthy effect when necessary. And when? It is when we slip back, under sudden or continued stress on our soul reasons or emotions or body appetites to that subtlety of responding, "I should not do that, think that, feel that, or respond to that."
We are nicely caught. The thing or occasion which tempts us is not the danger. The danger is being drawn quickly into the response of, "I ought or I ought not or I will not." There we are right back to that independent self-relying self! It is, of course, Satan in disguise by my responses of self-effort. Then the moment we have slipped into that, there the Law still is, awaiting around the corner to challenge the lie and illusion of my self-effort or self-response. I have been tricked into for-getting that I am not I, but Christ as me!
Rightly then the Law has a temporary grip on me, and as Paul said under such temptations in Gal. 5:16, 17, "we cannot do the things we would," because we have slipped back into responding to these pulls of Satan-lusts on our flesh by the lie of self-response. "No, we should not" is that independent self, and there is that Law telling us we should not! But independent self is Satan-self! We are caught! So we learn to answer back under every kind of temptation or trial by accepting the fact of the temptation.
We accept Satan’s right in this sin-infected world to get at us by temptation, even as he got at Christ. We do not resist him by self-effort, which would demonstrate a false faith in his drawing powers. No, we admit the bluff of his pulls. But then while giving him freedom to roar at us "like a roaring lion" as Peter wrote, we then say, "Yes, you have a right to pull, but that is only at my soul-body; my real self you are pulling at is Christ as me, and I am dead to you, and Christ expresses Himself by me."
That is the light swallowing up the dark. We do not oppose the reality of the dark, but turn on the light. And where is the dark? As Paul says in the completing word in Gal. 5:18, "if ye be led of the Spirit ye are not under the Law." It has no more to say to us because we are no longer within its reach as deluded independent selves seeking to respond to "our" trials. We are more than conquerors, and now able to help many other laboring ones to the same secret of their deliverance.
Thank God for the Law as the vital, negative stepping stone to the exposure of all those areas of blindness, both in our unsaved and then saved conditions-our guide, as Paul said, to our manhood in Christ.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 16 No 3
- The Law: Stepping Stone to Man’s Exposure
- To Think About…
- Editor’s Note
- A Look at a Book
- Summer Camp 2000, The Adults
- Tape Talk
- Bible Study: God’s Law
- A Life Transformed
- Zerubbabel Focus: Computers
- Questions & Answers
- Spontaneous Living
- The Laugh of Faith
- Youth Camp Report
- On the Web
- The Christian in the Workplace
- Leadership in Music
- "One Died for All, Therefore All Died"
- God’s Restoration of Man
- Only Men Count
- Intercession In Action
- Faith Produces Deeds…
- Words to Live By…