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Part 33

30 Sep 2021

A Point of Clarification

Over the last few weeks I have spoken a great deal about death, the death of Christ, and how that effects our death, our death to sin, and our death to the law. This emphasis on death has, to my mind, been important both in our understanding of our new position in Christ, and, as a result, our understanding of ‘the flesh’ and how to overcome it.

As far as I understand it, Paul’s view that we have been included in the death of Christ, so that His death is, in effect, credited to us so that it is as if we have died, is essential to our understanding of our relationship to ‘the flesh’ now, and is a guarantee of our eternal life with Christ in the future.

An essential linch pin in Paul’s argument throughout chapters 5-8 in Romans is built upon these deaths, the result of these deaths is our freedom from the flesh as seen in 8:9.

“You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.”

Because we are united in Christ’s death, His death being credited to us, we are born again by the Spirit, the Spirit of God giving life to that which was previously dead. Because we have died and been born again, we are now freed from the flesh, no longer being ‘in the flesh’, but ‘in the Spirit’.

This directly impacts how we are to live now. We are to realise our true state, dead with Christ to sin and the flesh, and alive to God by the Spirit of God who dwells in us. As Paul puts it

“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh…”

Imagine that there are two bank accounts, one is the bank account of The Flesh, the other the bank account of The Spirit. While we were in the flesh we were drawing down our wages from the account of The Flesh. That account has no funds in it, but has an unlimited overdraft facility. We can draw down on it without limit, however, as Ravi used to say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, it’s pay day some day.

When we draw down out of the overdraft account of The Flesh, we will one day be required to pay all in return. To live out of that account is death.

With our death with Christ, our debt to The Flesh account has been paid in full, it has been settled and the account closed. A new account has been opened on our behalf, the account of The Spirit, and a deposit has been made into that account on our behalf.

Now in this life we are to live out of the account of The Spirit. As we do, we will find that we can never exhaust the deposit made into the account on our behalf. While, in this life, we will never experience the fulness of His riches that He has lavished upon us in Christ, we can also never exhaust what has been given to us now.

Paul is, in effect, telling us that we are not to try to continue to draw down from our old account, from The Flesh. That account has been closed and there is no life there. To continue to live out of that account is death. We are instead to realise that we have died with Christ, and that in dying with Christ we now have access to a new source of riches and wealth. To die with Christ is to gain life, but we must first die, and live as those who are dead to sin and law and, as a result, free from The Flesh and our indebtedness to it.

We now live not according to the Flesh but according to the Spirit. This is not simply a question of how we behave now, this is a statement of identity.

Follow the implications of what Paul argues here. Those who have the Spirit are the Sons of God (vs 9-10), the Sons of God will be fellow heirs with Christ (vs 17), the Sons of God will be glorified with Christ (vs 17), the Sons of God will be led by the Spirit (vs 14), those who are led by the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit (vs 5), to set the mind on things of the Spirit is life and peace (vs 6). This is all the result of what has been done for us in Christ both in our sin debt being paid, which results in our freedom from the flesh, and in our new birth by the power of the Spirit, by which we become sons and daughters of God.

The logical outworking of all of this is not ‘live this way receive these rewards’, as so many teach, but instead, this is who you have been made to be in Christ, and as a result, this is who you are therefore this is how you will live.

This is all very reminiscent of what Paul will declare later in 8:28-30.

“And we know that for all those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purposes. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, in order that he might be the firstborn of many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

God has already completed these actions, He has accomplished these promises already in and through Christ. He has made us new by the power of His Spirit, and so we are to live now in light of the truth of who we ultimately are in Christ.

So what are we to say then, that because the ‘Flesh’ account has been closed we can no longer draw out of it, we can no longer sin? No not at all. Instead we are to remember who we are in Christ. We have died and have been made alive, and so we no longer live that way because this is no longer who we are.

So it’s impossible for us to sin because we are no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit and children of God?

No, it is still possible for us to sin, and we do, I do, however, our sins are credited to the account of The Flesh, and our flesh is already condemned in Christ. We are to grieve our failings and sins, mourn our present condition, hunger and thirst after God’s righteousness,  and so set our minds on the truth that our lives are now hidden with Christ in God.

As such we repent of our sin, and continually repent as we sin, making reconciliation where necessary and seeking unity where possible. We are to focus our minds on who we are, where our life comes from, and what our eternal destiny is.

“If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you, sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these things the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk form your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

Colossians 3:1-10

Set your mind on the things that are above, put to death that which is earthly (of the flesh), put off the old self and put on the new, make no provision for the flesh, put on Christ. This is all language that Paul uses to describe our new situation and position in Christ, and as such, to encourage us in how we are to live.

Only as we realise that we are dead in Christ can we live with Christ. Only when we realise that we are united with Him in death can we embrace the truth that we have, as a result, been set free from the flesh. Only when we realise that we have an entirely new identity in Christ can we live out of the new deposit and resource that is the Spirit in the new life that comes from the Spirit.

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2Corinthians 5:14-17

If you are in Christ you have been made new, so don’t live as if you are still who you were when you walked in the flesh. Instead live out more and more faithfully each day who you truly are in Christ.

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