Wretched Men

Posted: November 22, 2014 in Devotionals, Shared Thoughts, Wake Up!
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There was a time when I honestly thought I was a Christian, meaning, that I was a real “follower of Christ.” But like so many others professing Christ nowadays, I was believing what so many religious teachers out there teach as the Christian’s dilemma, that we will always be stuck in doing those things we hate and many times completely unable to do those right things we want. My question was and still is, just how is that being “free indeed?”

John 8:31 – Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed ;32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. 33 They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? 34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. 36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Romans 7:19 – For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.  22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:  23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

So, how are we supposed to reconcile those words of the Apostle Paul with the words of Jesus? Are we “wretched men,” or are we “free indeed?” Like so many, I was taught that Bible states sin was in me, and therefore, evil was always going to present with me. Thus, like Paul himself supposedly admitted, I too was always going to be sinning, and that like it or not, I am therefore incapable of ever becoming the person I pray to in Christ. That if I want any real peace of mind and heart, I just needed to accept all that as fact and quit being so hard on myself’ I simply need to just accept who I was “in Christ,” otherwise I would never have any peace. To this day I am continuing meet believers who wholly accepted it as sound doctrinal fact  and therefore teach it as so. Consequently, many of these have absolutely no real motivation to be “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” To me, that is both alarming and frightening, since without holiness no man shall see God on favorable terms.

However, many of these believers assert we are “holy” only because Christ saved us and washed us in His blood, and therefore we just have to accept who we are “positionally in Christ” regardless of our “wretched man” state. The difficulty with that flawed deduction is that there are in scripture at least two types, or aspects of holiness, (1) that which is imputed to something which has been offered to the Lord and therefore it is His and holy and (2) that holiness, which as a virtue, has life and thus grows or increases to perfection within a living being.

The first kind of holy we see is the “holy” the Lord refers to when He speaks of regarding things offered unto Him, such as the censers the 250 used by the followers of Korah… right before the earth open up and swallowed Korah, Dathan and Abiram and fire came from heaven and devoured the 250 wicked individuals in Numbers 16.

Numbers 16:35  – Fire also came forth from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.  36 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  37 “Say to Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, that he shall take up the censers out of the midst of the blaze, for they are holy; and you scatter the burning coals abroad.  38 “As for the censers of these men who have sinned at the cost of their lives, let them be made into hammered sheets for a plating of the altar, since they did present them before the LORD and they are holy; and they shall be for a sign to the sons of Israel.”

All the censers that were presented unto the Lord by the 250 men were deemed holy by the Lord simply because they were offered unto Him. But be mindful that these were just inanimate objects with no life or breathe whereby they could serve and praise the Lord. Nevertheless, it is this very holiness is truly attributed to every young believer that gives their lives to the Lord; but that is not the holiness that results from Christ being formed in us, which brings us to the holiness God desires. This second kind of holy is the one we learn of in Romans 6 –

Romans 6:21 – What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.  22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

Galatians 4:19 – My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.

Ephesians 4:11 – And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

Colossians 1:27 – To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily..

The fact that this holiness is alive is evident in that it grows, just like fruit does on a tree, and like fruit it is capable of nourishing others and carries within seeds of life to be sown. This is the fruit of which Jesus spoke when He express that He is the vine and we are the branches, and that apart from Him we can do nothing, but with Him we can bring forth much fruit –

 John 15:8 – Herein is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be My disciples.

It is essential that we recognize how Jesus equates our bearing “much fruit” with our being His disciples. As a matter of fact, Jesus gave strong warning what will happen to the branches that do not have such fruit, “Every branch in Me that bears not fruit the Father takes away.” Hence, it is not enough that we “believe and confess,” we must truly be found “in” Christ our Savoir and be bearing such fruit.

 John 15:6 – If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and withers; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.  7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you.  8  Herein is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be My disciples.

 One thing that really opened my understanding concerning “abiding” in Christ was discovering that the same Greek word which was translated “abide” in the verses above was used again later, but translated both “continue” and “remain.”

John 15:9  As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue <meno> you in My love.  10) If you keep My commandments, you shall abide <meno> in My love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide <meno> in His love.  11) These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain <meno> in you, and that your joy might be full.

 If we are truly abiding in Christ then we are continuing/abiding in Him and His because we are being constant in Him by keeping His commandments, and thus His joy remains/abides in us.

But if is truly the case concerning what Jesus is telling us here, then what on earth was Paul talking about his being a wretched man? First, let’s contrast those words of Paul in Romans 7 with other words of his in scripture –

 Acts 23:1  – And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

 Acts 24:16 – And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.

II Corinthians 1:12 – For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.

II Timothy 1:3 – I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience . . .

 If Paul was indeed a wretched man then how could he possibly say the above things? How does that all agree with “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do?” After all, wasn’t that what he admitted to the believers in Rome, that he was a wretched man as a Christian? And therefore, if Paul was such a mess given to sin and failing in doing the good he wanted to do, then we shouldn’t condemn ourselves when we mess up too… right? But the problem with that conclusion exists with all the things Paul said above. So then do we reconcile all this?

First, we need to recognize to whom Paul was speaking, and why he said those things to them in Romans 7 –

 Romans 7:1  Know you not, brothers, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he lives?  2) For the woman which has a husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he lives; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.  3)So then if, while her husband lives, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.  4) Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that you should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

 Paul was speaking specifically to the Jewish brothers in Rome, not the whole church. Because they were more familiar with “the law” than clear in their understanding of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ, they were having a difficult time letting go of the all the things that were merely types and shadows, ceremonies and oblations that were prophetic actions designed to both witness and point to Christ’s coming and His sacrifice which would break the power of sin, purge the conscience and set the captives free. They were failing to recognize that since Christ had come, the ceremonial law had fulfilled its tutorial purpose of pointing to Christ and had now expired and passed away. Therefore, just as a woman who was bound to her husband as long as he lived, so were they to the law; that is, as long as that prophetic aspect of it was alive and valid.

What Paul was endeavoring to communicate to his Jewish brothers was that though the law was good and ordained for life, it was nonetheless incapable of giving life to a transgressor who had sinned, for Paul states that the strength of sin was in fact the law itself which defined sin.

1 Corinthians 15:56 – The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

Romans 7:5 – For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. 6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. 7  What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. 8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. 9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. 12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. 13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

Under the law there was not found any efficiency within the blood of bulls and goats to break the bondage of sin and therefore purge the one’s conscience from sin. So Paul, back when he was still Saul the Jewish Pharisee, sin was still ever-present with him no matter how much he desired to keep the law: he was still a wretched man ever aware of his constantly falling short and tormented by the temptations of his weak and fallen nature.

 Philippians 3:4 – Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinks that he has whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.  

 The righteousness which is of God by faith is that fruit of holiness Paul spoke of in Romans Chapter 6. Thus, Paul having been set free from sin and his wretched state, was enabled by God’s Holy Spirit and had become the bond servant of Christ and thus had the fruit of holiness; Christ being formed in him. Consequently, Paul was able to state the things he did above regarding his having lived with a pure, good conscience that was void of offense toward God, and toward men.

Hence, we can see the weakness of the law of which Paul later spoke of in Roman’s 8 after he mention there is now no condemnation to those who are “in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

 Romans 8:2 – For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

The reason the ceremonial law left Paul, (who at the time was Saul), and everyone “wretched . . . unable to do,” was because it was “weak through the flesh.” But what exactly does that mean? Was it that our “flesh was weak” that “the law could not do?” That would seem to make the law dependent on us, which would certainly render it powerless and imperfect. But then again Paul had said that the law was “ordained for life and spiritual,” could such a thing truly be dependent on us? Or was the weakness of the flesh something else entirely, something apart from us completely?

Consider these words in Hebrews –

 Hebrews 10:1 – For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.  3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

 The reason the old covenant left Paul a wretched man and couldn’t enable him to perfect holiness was that it was weak being only “a shadow of good things which were yet to come.” The sacrifice of an animal, its life for a human’s, could no way purge the conscience. It was not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin and set man free. That is why Paul witnessed to those who knew the law, all it could do is define a godly life and expose sin, but it could not set a captive man free or make a dead man live. But thank God for Jesus Christ, for what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh taking away its dominion so that the righteousness of the law might/should be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

The righteousness of the law is simply the witness of holiness. This is why Jesus told us to abide/continue/remain in Him, which is what Paul means by our walking in the spirit. But what else did Paul tell us in Romans 8?

 Romans 8:2 – For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

 Paul actually introduces us to two new laws here, (1) the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, and (2) the law of sin and death. A careful reading of Roman’s 7 will also reveal other laws-

 Romans 7:21 – I find then (a) a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22) For I delight in (b) the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see (c) another law in my members, warring against (d) the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to (e) the law of sin which is in my members.

 Why do I bring up all these laws? Because the adversary would want to confuse, dilute, and blend them, so as to hinder our understanding such that we might not rightly divide them and have the true, saving faith that comes from properly hearing God’s word. If the adversary can do that then he renders us unable to serve and please God, for as the scriptures witness “without faith [faithfulness] it is impossible to please God.” Instead, the adversary would want to set at odds that which is “good and spiritual” and grace itself. But what would one then do with these verses”

 Psalm 19:7 – The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

 Psalm 119:29 – Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me Your law graciously.  30  I have chosen the way of truth: Your judgments have I laid before me.  3 I have stuck unto Your testimonies: O LORD, put me not to shame.  32 I will run the way of Your commandments, when You have enlarged my heart.

 Sisters and brothers, do you see what is written? The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul, certainly that cannot mean that aspect of the law that was weak through the flesh of bulls and goats. Rather is means that part which is moral, leading to the fruit of holiness which comes through walking in the spirit, abiding/continuing/remaining in Him by His grace. Look again at Psalm 119:29 “Grant me Your law graciously.”

The law and grace together? Can that be? Yes if we understand which law is being addressed. It is not Moses’ ceremonial or Levitical Law, it is God’s royal law that can minister life to the believer through “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” by faith. Again, two laws; the royal law which is moral i.e. the Ten Commandments which define how to love God and our fellow-man, and the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus which sets us free from the law of sin and death.

So what is this law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus? First let’s look at something John said in his 1st epistle –

1 John 1:5 – This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.  6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:  7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

 Notice where John places the authority of what he is writing, “This then is the message which we have heard of Him.” He then puts forth a law or precept to us from Christ which is in fact the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, he does this clearly if you understand the correlation of “if” and “then.”

Whenever you have an “if” you have at least one “then.” See how it works in Isaiah –

 Isaiah 1:18 – Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19 If you be willing and obedient, [then] you will eat the good of the land: 20) But if you refuse and rebel, [then] you will be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.

 There is always a “then” wherever you see an “if,” even if the word “then” isn’t written. “If” discloses there is a principle in play, or a law. Because where there is an “if” there is always an “if not.” Look again at what John says in the first epistle –

 1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, [then] we have fellowship one with another, and [then] the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

 If we walk in the light of God’s word then we have fellowship one with another. Now do you think that is speaking about us with each other? Or is it actually speaking about “us” as you and me having fellowship with God? Remember John said, “This then is the message which we have heard of Him.” So look at the words of Jesus below –

 John 14:23 – Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, [then] he will keep My words: and [then] My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.

Now considering the above and I John 1:7, how it would be read with the “if” to the negative, i.e., not or don’t.

If a man [doesn’t] love Me, [then] he will [not] keep My words: and [then] My Father will [not] love him, and We will [not] come unto him, and make Our abode with him.

But if we [don’t] walk in the light, as He is in the light, [then] we [don’t] have fellowship one with another, and [then] the blood of Jesus Christ His Son [doesn’t] cleanses us from all sin.

There are two sides to the coin of truth, a yea and nay, light and darkness, blessing and curse. So I ask you to prayerfully consider these things, is there really any disharmony with these scriptures above regardless which way we look at them and with what God tells us in Isaiah 1:18-20? Is there any mentioned in the passages about having to perform ceremonies, or rituals, or having to be circumcised? No, because we are talking about walking with God and not performing the prophetic rituals which were designed to testify of and point to Christ. As a matter of fact, God clearly states to His people how the rituals were not what He was ultimately interested in.

Isaiah 1:13 – Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto Me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto Me; I am weary to bear them. 15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you: yea, when you make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. 16  Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

So what we see both in the old and the new testaments is how faith/faithfulness is what God has always desired of His people, those who would be called by His name. Yes, there was an admitted weakness with the old, because too often the eyes of the people got off their God and His mercies and they began to trust in their offerings. They began to leaned more to the letter of what was written instead of understanding the spirit of why it was written unto them. It was ordained for life, but without God and Christ it could only work death, leaving them dead in their trespasses and sins. The more they trusted in what they were doing, the more they found they were incapable to do it.

Romans 6:17 – But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Therefore, through these passages we can see how the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus invokes the if/then law/stipulation, that we are to be walking in harmony with the law of the spirit of life if we are to be free from the law of sin and death. Just as John says that in order to have fellowship with God, we need to walk in the light of His words; for “two” says He “cannot walk together except they be agreed.” Certainly, God has called all of us to be in agreement with Him, and not the other way around. But the good news of the Gospel is that Christ can set us free from our sins and deliver us from this present evil world; that we can be servants of righteousness and bear fruit unto holiness and continually abide in His love.

After all, that is what it is all about, God’s love for us and our gratitude and love returned unto Him. Not only has He provided an atonement for us in Christ Jesus our Lord, He has completed it by given us light whereby we can then draw near unto Him and become partakers of the divine nature and become new creatures showing forth the virtues whereby He is worthy to be praise. It’s all about righteous love.

John 15:9  – As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you: continue you in My love.  10 If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.  11 These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.  12 This is My commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you.  13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends, if you do whatsoever I command you.

So again, just what is this law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus? It is obedience, or faithfulness to His Spirit of Grace, which was given to indwell us so as to empower us to live free from sins that we might bear holy fruit and bring it forth even unto perfection; Christ formed in us.

Live for Jesus Christ the King!

Comments
  1. charlie says:

    Thanks. God bless you. May your words bring His blessing to many people.

    Like

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you William…Terry and I used this for our Bible Study this evening. Very edifying…thank you for taking the time to post it.

    Like

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