Here We Stand
With his uncompromising statement, Here I stand. I can do no other, so help me God, Martin Luther boldly proclaimed the truth of justification by faith to his generation. And so we stand todayboldly proclaiming the Total Truththat Luther, too, had glimpsed. This article is reprinted from The Intercessor November-December 1995.
I was recently having an evening of fellowship with members of the Emmanuel Christian Fellowship of Fort Worth, Texas. The founder and pastor is a Lutheran minister, Jim Berchert. I had had contacts with him over several years, and had long found an affinity in the Spirit with him. What I did not know was that he had spent long years of special study in the writings of Martin Luther. He told me something which greatly enlightened me and was a strong confirmation of what we boldly call the Total Truth for the church of Christ in our day.
We all know and acclaim Luther as the restorer of the fundamental basis of our Bible and Spirit faith and the revolutionary cause of our Reformationour justification by grace through faith alone. For this he stood seemingly alone in his day, with his final uncompromising statement before the emperor and all the gathered divines of that day: Here I stand. I can do no other, so help me God.
Luther had written many books, many of which are still well known today. But unknown to many, he had written another book, penetrating to the depths of insight into the relationship of our human selves with God, which he titled The Bondage of the Will. This book was his radical refutation of the compromising teaching of that other great theologian of this day, Erasmus. Erasmus sought to maintain a moderate position between the Pope, whose edict was to burn Luther, and Luthers total faith position, but still keeping a place for free will. He insisted that we humans take some share in our salvation, and not just simply depend on grace through faith. Luther vigorously and rigorously combated that in this book, leaving Erasmus no ground to stand on.
However, the total implications of his were too strong a meat for the newly enlightened believers of his day. So when Luther was dying, he told those with him to burn all his books (as he didnt want their faith to be based on his writings, but solely on Scripture), but to preserve for posterity a childrens catechism and this Bondage of the Will book.
Jim Berchert was pointing out to me that God has now called us in our day, almost like a Twentieth Century Reformation, to revive and to restore to the church of Christ what Luther put in unequivocal terms in this book. I had had a copy years before, but missed the point. So it was great illumination to me that Luther was writing the very same thing which we are now calling our Total Truth. The Spirit entrusted it to us to bring to Gods people in our generation.
We Are Slaves
It is a fact, clearly emphasized by Paul in Romans 6:16, that each human is either a slave to sin, expressing his false owner Satan in his self-for-self nature, or a slave to righteousness, expressing our Lord Jesus Christ in His self-for-others nature. In other words, there never was a middle condition in which we humans were just a human self, expressing a human nature of our own. We were always a slave to the one deity or the other. Our freedom (6:20) was the lying freedom to express Satans self-for-self bondage, or alternatively the freedom (6:22) to express Christs righteous nature of self-for-others, which the Anglican Prayerbook beautifully speaks of as In whose service is perfect freedom.
Exactly the same thought again recurs in Romans 6:21-22 under the image of a vine. We were formerly branches of a Satan vine, which caused us to produce the fruit of which we are now ashamed, but now through the grace of salvation, we are branches of The Vine which causes us to produce fruit unto holiness (wholeness). There never was some mysterious or fictitious human-nature vine, but which we as branches produced some kind of humannature products. We are exclusively all branches of one of those two vines spontaneously bearing the fruit of that vine.
The same truth is presented again in the next chapter (7:1-5), using the image of marriage. In our former marriage to Satan-sin, we brought forth fruit unto death. But there is no widowhood, no simple functioning as a mere human. If the marriage to Satan-sin is annulled by Calvary, then immediately we are in the new marriage of grace to Him who is raised from the dead to bring forth fruit unto God.
Finally, this truth is repeated describing us as temples and vessels. There is never an empty human temple. Either we are the temple of an idol or the temple of the Living God (1 Thes. 1:9; 2 Cor. 6:16). So also in 1 John 4:4 and 6, we see we are indwelt by either the spirit of error or the Spirit of Truth, with no middle area where we have only our human spirit. When we are called vessels, we are never merely empty vessels. We are always either a vessel of wrath, expressing Satan, or a vessel of mercy, expressing Christ (Rom. 9:21-24).
Therefore, as Luther underlined in his Bondage book, our created human wills were never merely selfoperating. We believers are expressing Gods will (Phil. 2:13), just as Jesus, the Son of Man, was always doing His Fathers will (John 7:17). Equally so, formerly under the fallen dominion of Satans will (2 Tim. 2:26), our human wills vigorously reproduced the underlying will of the deity spirit joined to our human spirits. And so it is that the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience once worked the will of Satan in us (Eph. 2:2); whereas the Spirit of Truth, joined with our spirit as one (1 Cor. 6:17), now expresses the will of God.
On the material level, it is precisely the same basis upon which we yield ourselves to our training or apprentice days to obtain a fixed know-how of a profession: engineering, cooking, nursing, medicine, building, or whatnot. In due course, through these training days, our profession of know-how takes us over, and we call ourselves by the name of what takes us: doctors, builders, nurses, etc. Then, with that know-how settled in us as us, we are totally free to express our wills by operating our know-how and making our living by it. There never was a human with a naturally- born know-how.
So in our born-again life in the Spirit, we have the human spirit ability to apply and develop the gifts of the Spirit, that divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), of which we are only partakers by grace (Gal. 2:20). In that sense, we become free to exercise our will in its spontaneous compulsive reproduction of the will of the One who is joined to us. Thus we are caused to walk in His ways (Ez. 36:27).
The Great Deceiver
The importance of all this is that we humans have been lyingly deceived by the Great Deceiver (Rev. 12:9) to think we are self-operating selves, because he himself is self deceived. But he is only a created being like ourselves, a product of the only Eternal Being (cf. Acts 17:28). With his freedom of choice, he became a self-for-self instead of reflecting Gods light, which was Gods purpose for him as Lucifer (Is. 14:12). Then in his self-deception, as if he were just a self-acting self, he chose to operate as a self-for-self, a form of Gods fire which remains self-consuming (Heb. 12:29).
Thus, when he entered Adam and Eve in the Garden by their deceived choice, he imparted to them his own self-deceit: that created beings are selfoperating by some nature of their own, when actually there is no such thing. No. They were operating Satans self-forself nature which Paul later pinned down as the sin that dwelleth in us (Rom. 7:17, 20). But Paul later found he had been delivered from this (Rom. 8:2). He had seen in Rom. 7:18 that humanity is neutral, his flesh (humanity) having in it no good thing. He knew that any good thing was the fruit of the Spirit of Good dwelling in him from his Damascus Road new birth. And the only evil was not in his humanity, but was sin dwelling in him (7:17)Satan in his self-for-self nature. This was his great Romans 7 discovery: that the Satan nature can be expressed by us as if it were we ourselves. Jesus had put this in true focus in John 8:44 (Satans lusts by us, not ours).
The reason this has to be emphasized and reemphasized, and will equally meet with fierce opposition, is because it has been so deeply rooted in all of us humans that we run our own lives. We do not know that so-called self-effort is actually Satans self-forself nature expressed by us, in apparently good forms, as Paul discovered in Rom. 7:21. His self-effort of would do good was really Satans self-for-self which is evil. But if the blind world cannot even know that good self-effort is Satan until the law gets to them (Rom. 5:13), so even more startlingly, bornagain believers must also be exposed by the law in order to see that all their good self-efforts are really Satans good forms of self-for-self. They only produce the frustrating fruits of vain self-effort to be good Christians (pray more, read the Bible more, make and keep more good resolutions) until at last, like Paul in Rom. 7, they are exhausted and ready to admit and recognize it. Therefore, it is the earnest born-again believers who are at first the fiercest opponents of this fact of never having had a human self-effort nature, and the fact of Satans nature masquerading as theirs. It takes a revelation!
Our Eternal Keeper
Then at last we are free: free to recognize ourselves as ever, only expressions of a deity nature and driven by that nature, which is the meaning and purpose of a nature. This is made possible solely through Christs body death, separate in its mighty effects from His blood death for sins. In His body death, as Paul said, He was made sin (2 Cor. 5:21), becoming the true Satan-sin that our bodies, which He represented, express. But then, glory to God, He died and came out from the made sin body. The sin spirit left forever, and into his dead body (as us in the tomb) came His Spirit of Truth to abide forever. The sinspirit can only shout at us, like a condemned prisoner in his death cell awaiting execution (Rom. 8:3); but the Holy Spirit is in us forever (8:9)
So now we are kept by our Eternal Keeper who chose us, not we Him (John 15:16); and the weight of responsibility of the keeping is on Him, not us (Jude 24). We are FREE, FREE, FREE to be ourselves. Our human selves are energized and operated by His divine Self in permanent union; and in that union we are caused to walk in His ways. Like St. Augustine, we love God and do as we like! Blasphemy? No, a glorious God and Bible truth.
There is never a human nature, only vast ability with vast potential of application, like a computer which must have its programmer. In that neutral ability, once naturally driven by Satans selffor- self nature, but now equally driven by Christs self-for-others nature, we function freely as though ourselves. But ever inwardly we know it is HE AS WE. This is how any professional operates his profession: as if it is himself, though it is the natural expression of the know-how which took him over and now operates him.
This truth was in Luthers vital Bondage of the Will. It was the only one of this books he said to preserve, although in his day he was not able to spread and establish its message. (Of course, only the Spirit can inwardly confirm it.) Our calling today is to bring it, at any cost of boldness, to Gods people. Though there will be cries of dangerous heresy, they will know, for the knowledge of the Lord is to cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea (Is. 11-9), and all shall know Him from the least to the greatest (Jer. 31:34).
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 21 No 1
- I Was a Fool
- Gods Great PurposeBy Us
- Here We Stand
- Moses Stage 4: The Intercessor
- Seeing Through the Lie
- NO EXCUSES FOR FAILURE
- Editors Note
- Tape Talk
- Are We Still on Target?
- Further Reflections of a 12-Year-Old Scribe
- BIBLE STUDY:The Letter to the Romans
- A Look at a Book
- Letters from Norman
- Co-Saviorhood: the Third Level