Derek Prince - Servants Of Righteousness
In our previous session we commenced stage 8 of this pilgrimage which is at the beginning of Romans 6 and we looked at Paul’s answer to the suggestion that we might go on living in sin in order that grace might abound. Paul disposed of that suggested objection by saying that it’s impossible to live in sin and be in the grace of God because in order to be in the grace of God we have to be identified with Jesus in death, burial and resurrection. And when we are identified with him in his death, that’s the end of sin. We have died to sin so it’s illogical from then on to talk about living in sin. The objection of this imaginary objector is based on a misunderstanding of what it is to be in the grace of God. To be in the grace of God you have to be identified with Jesus, you have to pass with him through death into resurrection. The death is a death to sin. From then on it is unscriptural and illogical to talk about living in sin.
So we looked for some time at God’s dealings with what is called the old man, the flesh, the body, the body of sin, the body of the flesh. All those are different phrases used to describe not our physical body but the old Adamic nature which we have inherited from Adam. Every one of us has in side us by nature a rebel. Even the sweetest little baby, that cute little daughter of yours that’s just two years old. Inside there’s a rebel. I’ve noticed that with children, especially girls, and I’ve helped to raise nine so I have a little experience, about the age of two something surfaces. I see I’ve pressed the right button there! For instance, you say, Come here, honey. And she looks you right in the eyes and turns around and walks the opposite direction. She didn’t reason that out, it’s just an early manifestation of that rebel. She may be genuinely a cute, tender, loving little child but she has the same problem as the ornery, nasty, misbehaved little boy.
Each of them has a rebel inside. But the boy’s rebel shows and the girl’s rebel doesn’t show except in unguarded moments. How many of you have an unguarded moment when the rebel suddenly popped out? I want to dwell a little further on this subject because I find that in many cases where the gospel is preached, salvation is presented as an escape from sin and forgiveness and new life but in many cases nothing is done with the rebel. He’s left to hide under a veneer of religion and religious language. We’re told in this language there are 40 or 50 million people who claim to be born again. I’ll tell you, if there really were 50 million born again Christians in this nation, it would be a totally different nation from what it is. They’ve got the language, and they may be quite sincere.
I heard a well known personality in the acting world, whose name would be known to every one of you, years ago give her testimony. She said, As a girl I received Jesus as savior but it was many years later before I confessed Him as Lord. I sat there and I thought that doesn’t make sense because Paul says in Romans 10:10, if you want to be saved you have to confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. There is no salvation that stops short of acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus. It’s a false salvation.
Charles Finney in his writings had a lot to say about false conversions. I suggest if you’ve never read it you might find it profitable to do so. I have to say frankly I think there’s a great deal of false conversions in the so-called Protestant, Charismatic, Episcopal world today. I was in the nation of Ghana, which is a beautiful nation and a lovely people. I had two coworkers with me apart from my wife. One was a Palestinian Arab who had met the Lord here in the United States. The other was a young man born in Morocco, a Moslem by birth, who had miraculously encountered Jesus while he was hitchhiking through Europe. So on the Sunday morning when we weren’t having the meetings of our conference Ruth and I stayed home and rested. But this young man, This former Moslem Arab, wonderfully converted and one of the sweetest spirits I’ve met, went and preached in a Pentecostal church.
When he came back I said, What did you preach on? He said, I preached on not working. I said, What did you mean by that? He said, I preached on the fact that you cannot work to get saved, you’re saved by grace without works. He said, At the end of the meeting I asked if there was anybody who wanted to be saved who had been relying on works and had not experienced grace. And he said to my astonishment, the entire church stood up. He said, I thought that was a mistake, so I went back and I explained to them very carefully what I was trying to say. And said, now how many of you believe that you need to trust, and the whole church stood up again. I’m not saying that all those people were not saved. I think a lot of them were not. They had a form of religion, they’d got a label.
You see, salvation is a lot more than changing labels. You sit there in the seat and you’ve got sinner pinned on the back of your jacket. Then you go forward and say a little prayer and you come back and somebody pins saved on the back of your jacket. But there’s a lot more to it than that. You see, you’ve got to deal with this rebel and he’s a very slippery character. He’s very cunning, he has a lot of ways of evading execution.
I want to share a personal experience of mine which made this very vivid to me. In the early l950s I was pastoring a small congregation in London, England and we used to conduct street meetings three times every week in a place in the center of London called Speaker’s Corner Marble Arch. If you go there today it’s not at all like what it was in those days. Well, one night I had a dream and in this dream I saw a typical street meeting with a ring of people standing around and a man in the center of the ring preaching. I looked and listened and the man, I said what he was saying was good, I’ve got no criticism on what he’s saying. But, I don’t like the way he looks. The only way I could describe him was he looked crooked, he looked as though he had a hunched back and a club foot. I couldn’t understand how he could be like that and yet saying the right things.
Well, I woke up in the morning, didn’t understand the dream and forgot about it. But about two weeks later I had precisely the same dream. So this time I thought to myself, God must be trying to speak to me. I said, God, and I related the scene and what I’d seen and my impressions. I said, God, that man in the middle of the ring there, what he was saying was good but there was something very crooked about him. Who is the man? I got the same answer that Nathan gave to David, Thou art the man. Well, that was a shock. But I realized for the first time that God was pinpointing the rebel, the old man, in me. And I turned to Romans 6 and I saw that the remedy was execution but that the mercy of God was the execution had taken place 19 centuries ago when Jesus died on the cross.
Our old man was crucified with him. That’s a historical fact. Whether we believe it or not doesn’t change the fact but our believing it and acting on it will change us. It was getting near the Easter season and somehow I had in my mind continually a picture of the hill of Golgotha with three crosses on it. But the middle cross was taller than the other two crosses. And I understood that that was the cross on which Jesus was going to be crucified. So the Holy Spirit said to me, For whom was that middle cross made? Then it was as if he said, Be careful before you answer. So I paused and I thought and I said, It was made for Barabbas. He said that’s right.
You see, it was. It was there waiting for Barabbas. Then the Holy Spirit said to me, But Jesus took the place of Barabbas. I said that’s so. Then he said to me, But I thought Jesus took your place. So I said yes. Then he said, You must be Barabbas. I never argue with people but this was a revelation to me. I am Barabbas, I’m the criminal, I’m the person for whom the cross was made. It’s made to my measure, it fits me exactly, I should have been on it. But at the last moment an unexpected switch took place and Jesus took the place of Barabbas. That’s God’s vivid way of demonstrating that the rebel, the old man, was crucified in Jesus. What we have to do is believe it. I’ve got to give you another picture which is from the prophet Isaiah. I’m grateful to the lady who lent me her New International Version.
I want to read this because it is, I think, a little clearer. In Isaiah 1 God indicts Israel for their many sins but the root problem of Israel was rebellion. This is how he describes it in Isaiah 1:5–6: Why should you be beaten any more? Why do you persist in rebellion? See what the problem was? Rebellion. Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness; only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged. God showed me that’s how I deal with rebellion. That’s the end of rebellion. And then I saw that’s a very vivid picture of Jesus as he hung on the cross. He exactly fulfilled that prophecy.
Let me read the words again. Your whole head is injured By countless different ways. Thorns pressed in the scalp, blows on the face, the beard plucked out. your whole heart afflicted He died of a broken heart. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness; only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged. That’s the most exact picture you can give in so few words of the appearance of Jesus on the cross. What is God telling us through the prophet? That the rebel was punished in Jesus. Jesus bore the punishment of the rebel because the sin of Israel, its root problem in the midst of all its religion was rebellion. Then we get in Isaiah 52 verse 13 this vivid prefiguring of Jesus as the sacrifice. Isaiah 52 verses 13–14: See my servant, he will act wisely. He will be raised and lifted up, and highly exalted.
And Paul quotes that in Philippians 2 where he says God also has highly exalted him. He’s referring to that verse. And then it goes on: Just as there were many who were appalled at him, his appearance was so disfigured beyond any man, and his form marred beyond human likeness. See, we have so many pretty pictures of Jesus on the cross with maybe a little blood trickling out of his hands or a wound on his side. That doesn’t even begin to present the reality. You consider all that he’d been through to that point. There wasn’t a sound place on his body. Why? It had to be. It was the outworking of rebellion. That’s where you and I should have been. But in the infinite mercy of God, a switch took place. Jesus took the place of Barabbas and he took your place and he took my place. Then if you go on in Isaiah 53 which is the great picture of the suffering servant. But really, the introduction is in Isaiah 52:13 and following.
You get to verse 6 which is the central verse of the entire second section of Isaiah. I can’t go into the mathematics of this but mathematically, Isaiah 53:6 is the exact center of the closing 27 chapters of Isaiah. You know Isaiah is divided up like the books of the Bible. 39 chapters and then 27 chapters. The 27 chapters really are the prophetic gospel. If you go through it, I don’t have time to do it now, you go through it, Isaiah 53:6 is the middle verse of the middle chapter, the middle passage. It’s the key to everything and it says: We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us hasturned to his own way What’s that in one word? Rebellion. What’s the common sin of all humanity? Rebellion, that’s right. And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
That word iniquity in Hebrew, avon means rebellion and the punishment for rebellion and all the evil consequences of rebellion. On the cross, Jesus as our substitute, the last Adam, became the rebel with our rebellion and endured all the evil consequences of rebellion. This is a favorite theme of mine, it’s not appropriate but let me just tell you the key. An exchange took place and this is the door to God’s treasure house if you can grasp this. What happened on the cross was Jesus became identified with our rebellion and so this is the exchange. All the evil due to our rebellion came upon Jesus that all the good due to his perfect obedience might be offered to us. And whatever way you look at that exchange, it was total.
He was punished that we might be forgiven. He was wounded that we might be healed. He took our sin that we might have his righteousness. He died our death that we might share his life. He was made a curse that we might receive the blessing. He endured our poverty that we might share his abundance. He bore our shame that we might have his glory. He endured our rejection that we might have his acceptance. I cannot dwell on that but if you can just see the picture of the rebel there on the cross and understand: you’re the rebel, but Jesus took your place. Not only did he bear your rebellion, He bore all the evil consequences of your rebellion that you might enter into all the blessings of his perfect obedience.
And you know what that is? It’s grace. You can’t earn it, you didn’t deserve it, you had no claim upon it. There’s only one way to receive it which is by faith, that’s right. You just have to believe. It’s interesting that when Isaiah presents this picture of the suffering servant in chapter 53, he begins with a warning against unbelief. Who has believed our report? The great barrier to receiving the benefits of Christ’s atonement is unbelief. Let’s renounce it, each one of us. Let’s say, God, I want to believe. I believe in all that Jesus did for me. I may not understand it but I do believe it God. Amen. That’ll change you by just saying those words. Sometimes in meetings I surprise people because I say right at the beginning the first thing we’re going to do is renounce the spirit of unbelief in this meeting. They look at me and say you? I say, Yes, me.
Every one of us has a continual battle with unbelief. Let’s face it. We must go back to Romans 6. You see what infinite riches are opened up in this 6th chapter. I don’t want to harp on the point but I want to say to you if we don’t practice baptism the way the New Testament practiced it, all this truth is concealed because it’s baptism that is the vivid external acting out of our identification with Him.
When I was training teachers in East Africa we used to tell them this, it’s just approximate. Remember, children remember 40 percent of what they hear, 60 percent of what they hear and see, 80 percent of what they hear, see and do. So God being the great teacher, when it comes to this great central truth says, I don’t want you just to hear it, I want you to hear it, see it and do it. And every time when you’re baptized and when new believers are added to the church and they’re baptized, this glorious truth of our identification with Jesus in death, burial and resurrection is enacted before us. I think one of Satan’s primary objectives has been to remove this pageant from the church so that we might lose the glorious truth that it represents.
Let’s go back to the words of Paul. We’ll go from verse 6 of Romans 6. Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him Remember, that’s true whether you knew it or didn’t know it, whether you believe it or not. It’s true. But your knowing it and believing it is what’s going to make a difference in your life. You see, first of all, Paul says in verse 6 knowing. And then he says in verse 11 consider or I prefer the old version, reckon. First of all you have to know, then you have to reckon. But if you don’t know, you can’t reckon. At the beginning of these sessions that Scripture was quoted, My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. That’s exactly where it is. The people don’t know so they can’t reckon. If you know, then it’s your responsibility to reckon. But I suppose, in a sense, it’s the responsibility of the ministry in the church to see that you know. Pastors, teachers, evangelists, whoever.
All of us are responsible to see that God’s people know this because if they don’t know it they can’t reckon it and if they don’t reckon it they can’t experience it. Going on, verse 6: Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with But I prefer to say rendered ineffective, put out of action. that we should no longer be slaves to sin You see, you can have your past sins forgiven and still continue to be a slave to sin. The old man hasn’t been dealt with. for he who has died is freed from sin I don’t know why they say freed because in the margin it says justified, and that’s the correct statement.
When you die, you’re justified from sin. Do you know why? Because when the law has put you to death that’s the last thing it can do to you. After that, the law has no more claims on you. You’ve passed out of the territory of the law. So when we are dead with Jesus we’re justified. There’s no more claim against us. We’ve paid the final penalty in him. Let’s stick to that word justified. First of all, it’s such a glorious word and secondly, it’s what Paul says. He that has died is justified, acquitted from sin, he’s paid the final penalty, there’s nothing more that the law can demand of him. Verse 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.
Notice there’s an if. Just earlier he said if we’ve been buried we’ll be resurrected. But if we haven’t been buried we have no right to be resurrected. If we have died we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again death no longer is master over him. For the death that he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life that he lives, he lives to God. And bear in mind, we are identified. So we die a death to sin once for all and after that the life that we live, we live to God. That’s the transition. And so Paul ends up: Even so, in other words, just exactly as it happens to Jesus. Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
I’ve asked people many, many times take a moment to consider what’s meant by the phrase dead to sin. I always picture some terrible man who does all the things that religious people don’t do. He swears, he drinks whiskey, he smokes cigars, he watches pornography on television. He’s just a beast, a bad man. His wife is a believer and his children are believers and he gives them a miserable time. He swears at them, gets angry with them. And one Sunday evening they tiptoe out to the local gospel hall and leave him sitting in his chair smoking his cigar, swilling his whiskey and watching something that he shouldn’t be watching on television. They have a wonderful meeting that night, they get really high in the Spirit and they come back and they’re still singing choruses as they get in, and suddenly they remember he’s going to curse them. They stop dead and nothing happens. They tiptoe into the room. He’s sitting in the chair, the smoke is curling up from his cigar but he’s not smoking it. The whiskey is untouched on the table. He’s not interested in television.
Do you know what happened? He had a heart attack, he died. He died to sin. You see? Let's see what it means. Sin has no more power over him, sin has no more attraction for him and sin produces no more reaction from him. That’s what it is to be dead to sin. Isn’t it? I mean, there’s no disputing that. A dead man doesn’t lose his temper, doesn’t drink whiskey, doesn’t swear, doesn’t do all sorts of other things. He doesn’t gossip. So you and I, because of what Jesus has done on our part, we are to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin. That means sin has no more power over us, sin has no more attraction for us, sin produces no more reaction from us.