Spirit in ascendency

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Law of Spirit of Life ( 8:2) Cecil N. Wright

(a) “The law of the Spirit of life” (of the Holy Spirit) contrasts with “the law of sin and death.” The latter obviously is not the law of Moses, mentioned in v. 3 and described as “weak through the flesh,” which summarizes what is said of it in 7:7-25. “The law of sin and death” must therefore be “the law of sin” (and therefore of death) in our members, referred to in 7:23, from which the Law of Moses was helpless to deliver. Deliverance from it could be had only through Christ (7:24-25). It is “in Christ” that “the law of the Spirit of life” operates to free us from “the law of sin and death.” It is stronger than “the law of sin” in our members, whereas the Law of Moses was not.

(b) The Law of Moses was a code. Obviously, however, “the law of sin” in our members, in our “flesh” (7:18), is not. Nevertheless, like the law of gravity or the law of nature, it is an operative force; and for a person not “in Christ” it may be a controlling force. Once an individual comes under its dominion, “sold under sin” (7:14), the power of the human spirit, described in 7:22-23 as the “law” of his “mind” or “inward man,” cannot successfully resist and overcome it, even if the “inward man” has come to “delight in the law of God.” It takes “the law of the Spirit of life,” operative in this regard only “in Christ,” to free one from “the law of sin and death” in his members.

(c) If “the law of sin and death” is not a code, neither is “the law of the Spirit of life” likely to be. It is not likely to consist of the commands of the gospel. It must rather be therefore, the Holy Spirit as an operative force that changes the balance of power between “the law of the mind” (operating to bring my life into harmony with “the law of God,” 7:22,25), on one hand, and “the law of sin which is in my members” (7:23), on the other hand, so that the mind or human spirit can achieve ascendancy over the flesh.

(d) Such seems to be a striking difference between the word of God through the gospel of Christ and through the Law of Moses. In Christ we not only have the word of God to instruct and direct us, but, much as we may have the power of electricity in our homes in conjunction with and by means of wiring, so we may have the power of God’s Spirit in the inward man (cf. Ephesians. 3:16), in conjunction with and by means of his word. But under Moses it seems not to have been so — at least not to the same extent. In Christ (not under Moses), we have both (1) release from the Spirit to free us from the dominion of sin in our lives afterward, if we will but use it. If such is not the case, it seems that much of Chapters 6-8 is pointless. That is part of what is involved in the “grace” under which we are in Christ versus the implied lack of it under the Law of Moses.

(e) In conclusion, it must be said, however, that if the above reasoning is correct and technically “the law of the Spirit of life” is not the gospel, the gospel does nonetheless for all practical purposes free us from “the law of sin and death.” For we cannot be thus freed without it.

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