Derek Prince - Believers United To Christ
At the end of our last session we came to the end of stage 9 of our pilgrimage. Stage 9 dealt with God’s program for the old man which we stated was execution and in the final session we dealt with how to apply that solution in our own lives. I pointed out that it consists in two basic things. First of all, willing the right thing and secondly, yielding ourselves and our members to God as instruments or weapons of righteousness. Now we’re moving into the final stage of this journey before we reach the conclusion which is Romans 8. The final stage is Romans 7 and in my opinion, according to my observation and my own experience, it’s the hardest one to go through.
I used to think that Paul had put this in the wrong place because it’s dealing with the law and I thought we deal with the law before we’re converted and after that there’s nothing more about the law. But I learned by observation and by experience that that’s not true. After we’ve been converted, after we’ve experienced deliverance from the old man, we come face to face with this tremendously difficult issue: What is the place of the law? How do I relate to law? I don’t know, I mean, I’m not widely read in contemporary literature but I don’t know of any work of Christian doctrine that really faces this question squarely and deals with it. If there is one, I don’t know it. It’s one that’s always attracted me from the moment I was converted and began to read the New Testament because of my background in philosophy.
I think that training showed me here’s a problem that has to be resolved if the Christian life is going to work. I would say the majority of Christians that I know and I travel with and meet with, and there are many exceptions to this, but the majority of Christians today aren’t even aware there is a problem let alone what the solution is. In my series of books, the Foundation Series, I use this little example of the man who went to the doctor with a pain in his tummy. The doctor sounded him out, examined him and said, I think your problem is appendicitis. He said, Appendicitis, what’s that? The doctor said, That’s inflammation of the appendix. The man said, Up to now I never knew I had an appendix to be inflamed.
A lot of Christians are like that. They have a problem, they have a pain. When they go to the word of God the word of God says, Your problem is that you’re wrongly related to the law. And the Christian answers, I never knew there was a problem, this is the first time I’ve heard about it. So, God helping us, we’re going to devote four sessions to the 7th chapter of Romans. I’m just praying for grace for me and for you that we’ll get through it with a clear understanding. I don’t think it’s easy but I do think it’s possible by God’s grace. We’re going to deal now in this session with the first 6 verses of this 7th chapter. Where Paul uses what I would have to say is a rather involved metaphor from marriage to explain a release from the law and our freedom to live another way.
So I’ll read it and then I’ll try to interpret it for you. Or do you not know, brethren... And I’ve observed that Paul uses that kind of phrase probably half a dozen times in writing to Christians. My somewhat cynical comment is that in most places Christians don’t know today. Do you not know, brethren, [for I am speaking to those who know the law]... And it’s the law, it's not "law", it’s the law of Moses. ...that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? Once you’re under the law there’s no escape except by death. It’s a lifetime commitment. For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning her husband.
Paul is using this analogy of marriage. I better go on and read and then try to explain it. So then if, while her husband is living, she is bound to another man, she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress, though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, [and you remember the special use for the word flesh?] while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, [please note that statement] The sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the law... From what have we been released? Are you sure? But now we have been released from the law, ...having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
That’s the analogy. Now let me try and interpret it. First of all, let’s take the basic fact that under the law if a man married a woman, as long as the man remained alive, the woman was not free to marry another man. And if she married another man she would be stigmatized an adulteress, she would have committed adultery. But if the man to whom she was married died, then she was free to marry another man without being an adulteress. Now, I’m going to step out of line for a moment and point out something which is my personal conviction and some of you probably disagree with me violently. I’ve heard that Scripture used as an argument against a woman whose first husband committed adultery from having the liberty, if he divorces her to marry another.
I just want to point out to you that that’s not consistent because if you apply the law in that situation, you’ve got to apply the law all the way. And that happily releases any woman whose husband is an adulterer because the mandatory penalty for adultery under the law was death. There was no alternative. The Jews reminded Jesus of that, they said, What do you say about this woman taken into adultery? And then they said: Moses said she should be put to death. They weren’t doing it because they weren’t observing the law of Moses. So dear ladies, and I know there are hundreds of women who are struggling with this problem. If your husband has been unfaithful to you and left you for another woman and committed adultery, legally he’s dead and the law that bound you to him is no longer valid.
You can’t apply the law on one hand and say it doesn’t apply on the other. If you’re going to apply the law it has to be applied all the way. James said that, you can’t keep one commandment and ignore another. If you break one commandment you’ve broken the whole law. The law stands or falls in its entirety, you can’t take one little piece and say we’ll observe this, we don’t observe that. Which is what the majority of people do. They say we’ll observe this, we won’t observe that. For instance, in Judaism, Orthodox Jews have 613 commandments and they admit privately that they keep about 32 of them. Conservative Jews decide what they’re going to keep and what not, which is a reasonable point of view in a way.
Reformed Jews just do whatever they like. And you have similar groups inside the Christian church. I can’t go into that but I don’t ever want to leave women or men under guilt when they don’t have to be under guilt. I’ll go a little further and say sometimes if a man tells me his wife has committed adultery and shows no evidence of repentance, I’ll say divorce her. Get the best lawyer you can. You might not agree with that not always. If there is any possibility of repentance and reconciliation, that’s another matter. But I don’t trust people who say they’ve repented because it suits them. You might guess from what I’m saying that I’ve been involved in some situations, I have.
Now we’re going back to the real issue. I probably lost some of my hearers but, God knows about that. Paul says through the law you were married. The law was like a marriage covenant and it was for life. What were they married to? This is the difficult part. They were married to their fleshly nature. Because the whole essence of the law, and this is the problem of the law, is you’re required to do it in your own ability. You’re relying on your fleshly nature. That’s why it never works as we’ll see as we go through. But the law is like coming under the law and the only nation that’s ever come under the law was Israel. But it’s a pattern for all of us. Coming under the law is like a marriage ceremony in which you’re married to your fleshly nature. As long as your fleshly nature remains alive, you can’t marry somebody else. Okay? Because you’ll be an adulterer or an adulteress.
But, what Paul is saying, the good news is your first husband died. When did that first husband die? When Jesus died on the cross. Our old man was crucified with him. When you grasp that you say, Praise God. I’m free. I don’t have to go on with this awful husband of mine that gave me an awful life and gave me no blessings, no peace, no righteousness. I’m not tied to him any longer. I can be married to another man. What’s the alternative? To be married to whom? To the one who rose from the dead. The risen glorified Christ. He can become your husband whether you’re man or woman. What we’re talking about is a relationship in the Spirit. Just that you see this for a moment, the real possibility of it keep your finger in Romans 7 and turn to 1 Corinthians 6:17. We have to read verse 16 to get the context.
Paul is teaching against fornication and sexual immorality and he says in verse 16: Do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot [or a prostitute] is one body with her? For he says, The two will become one flesh. That’s the background. Then he comes out with a totally different alternative but it’s on the same basis. But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Now the picture was of sexual union between a man and a prostitute. On the basis of that picture Paul says there’s another kind of union that you can have with the Lord. It’s not sexual, it’s spiritual. That’s a marriage relationship with the Lord. He that is joined to the Lord is one? Not soul, not body but spirit.
I would ask you a question and your answer could be as good as mine. What is the act by which we are joined to the Lord in one spirit? Worship, that’s right. You see, that’s why worship is the highest activity of the human being. And worship is procreative If you can see what I mean, it’s when we’re joined to the Lord in worship that we begin to bring forth, to birth, the things that God wants brought forth. Worship is not a sort of appendix to the Christian life, it’s not a little addition to services, it’s the culmination. It’s the consummation. If I could say it without offending anybody, it’s the consummation of our marriage to the Lord. We are united with him in one spirit. And when we have that union, marriage union is always for the sake of procreation. That’s when we procreate, that’s when we bring forth. That’s when spiritual fruit comes out of our lives. Can you see that?
See, you need to know which husband you’re united to. Let’s turn to Galatians for a moment, chapter 5. I want to say I really appreciate worship leaders. I appreciate our worship leaders here. I think they’ve done a most magnificent job. Don’t clap them now because of problems with the tape. Otherwise we’d give them a hand right now. I’ve observed another thing which is just by the way. Casualties among worship leaders are very high. They are almost the number one target for Satan. You need to pray for them. Galatians 5:19 and following. Now we’re going to look at the two kinds of offspring from the two kinds of marriage union.
Verse 19, Now the deeds of the flesh are evident... And they are all too evident, they show. You can tell people that you’re spiritual but if you’re fleshly, it’ll show. ...which are, immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousings, and things like these... Now let me ask you, do you want that kind of children? But that’s what the flesh brings forth. You cannot find one good thing in that entire list. The flesh cannot produce anything acceptable to God. It is corrupt. That’s the key word describing our fleshly nature. Jesus said a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. It’s impossible.
Paul says in Romans 8, and we’ll get there a little later, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. It’s impossible because none of the things in this list please God. Now what’s the alternative? You’re married to Christ, joined to him in this sacred, spiritual union. Verse 22: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control... Find something bad in that list. Can you see it’s not a question of gray, it’s a question of black and white. The works of the flesh are totally bad, the fruit of the Spirit is totally good. Then as a kind of afterthought Paul adds about the fruit of the Spirit: ...against these things there is no law.
The people who bring forth that kind of fruit do not need to be governed by the law. They’re not under the law. They’ve escaped from their marriage to the flesh under the law, they are free to be married by the Holy Spirit to the resurrected Christ and bring forth the kind of fruit which is appropriate to that union. You see, the key to the Christian life is not effort, it’s union. Most of us are far too busy trying. You show me any vine that ever brings forth grapes by trying. I’ll be interested to see what it looks like. All the significant figures in the New Testament speak about a living personal relationship with God which without effort brings forth what God wants.
Let’s turn, as an example to John 15, the well known parable of the vine. Just the first 5 verses. Jesus is speaking: I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. I’m so glad for that statement incidentally because I’ve had people trying to dress me, prune me! The only one who is skillful enough to prune is the Father. Don’t let human beings get at you with their choppers. Going on, verse 2: Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He takes away That raises an interesting theological question. How can you be a branch in Jesus without being a believer? And yet if you don’t bear fruit, he’ll take you away. Anyhow, I leave you to settle that. Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
Some of you are going through pruning and you may be fighting it wondering and saying, What’s gone wrong? Nothing has gone wrong. This is part of the process. You’re not being pruned because you’re a backslider or because you’re wicked or because you’re uncommitted. You’re being pruned because you’ve been bringing forth fruit. And you’re being pruned in order that you may bring forth more fruit. We’ve got to distinguish between God’s chastisement and God’s pruning. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. [Verse 4 ] Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me.
What is the key? It’s abiding in Jesus. It’s not effort, it’s union. And out of that union the Holy Spirit brings forth the beautiful, luscious grapes which are the fruit of the Spirit. [Jesus goes on:] I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do how much? Nothing. When you’re out of relationship with me, there’s nothing you can bring forth that is good. That’s a beautiful parable, really. It contains very simply the three persons of the Godhead. Jesus the Son is the vine. The Father is the vinedresser and the sap that rises up through the vine into the branches and brings forth fruit is what? The Holy Spirit. Do you see?
So that’s what the Christian life is about. It’s not a set of rules. I’m not saying rules don’t have their place. But we are not made righteous by rules. If we have been made righteous by faith, we will keep the appropriate rules. But we’re never made righteous by keeping rules. I think Christians really need to understand this here in America because I find so many people passionately concerned about politics. Christians. I believe Christians should be interested in politics but if you imagine that you’re going to change this nation by getting new laws, you’re deceiving yourself. Laws never change people’s hearts. I suggest that for many it would be more important that you make sure you’re bringing forth the fruit yourself. No matter who gets elected as president, it isn’t going to change this nation very much. What’s going to change this nation is the power of the Holy Spirit.
I say to many people listen. The problem with America, and it’s just the same problem with Britain and many other nations is that the bad people are outnumbering the good people and they’re growing in number daily. You see, let me ask you this question for a moment. Which kind of country would you rather live in. A country with good laws and bad people or bad laws and good people? If you choose the good laws and the bad people, you’re a fool because history shows very clearly that even if a nation has good laws, bad people will put a bad use to them which is exactly what’s happening in the United States today. The solution is not changing the laws, it’s changing the people. What will do that? Only one thing, a revival.
Some of the effort that’s been directed to politics would be better directed toward revival. In my naive way, I say this: The only solution for America, for Britain, for many other nations is something that will very rapidly and thoroughly change bad people into good people. What will do that? The Holy Spirit. Nothing else. How many of us know by experience you can be changed from being a bad person to a good person overnight? Bless you, I know too. I’ll put both hands up. I started one night as a sinner and ended up next morning as a servant of the Lord. I met Jesus.
You see, what they’re teaching here about laws has got a lot of practical outworkings. In many senses, people turn to law through laziness. If you understand what I mean, they want the law to do something that only they can do. Let’s go back to Romans 7 and see if we can make sense of it again. I think I need to say one more thing but probably we don’t need to turn there. What I am teaching you as best I can is God’s provision for righteousness. And it’s solely through faith in Jesus, his atoning death and resurrection, the power of the Holy Spirit. And God has made a perfect provision. I believe not merely for personal righteousness and holiness but for health. I personally believe that the atonement of Jesus provided healing.
That’s my personal conviction. I was in the hospital a year on end, I didn’t get out of it until I believed that. So I have reasons to think I’m right, apart from what the Bible says. We need to be very careful that we don’t assume we are what we are. In other words, because I’ve been teaching this and you believe it, don’t walk out of here telling everybody you’ll never sin again. Be sure of one thing, you’ll trip up before the day is out. I don’t think I have time to complete this, I probably need to move into the next session which will be coming shortly. But there is a great difference between the legal and the experiential. Legally you’re totally righteous. Experientially you may have a long way to go. So if somebody would be kind enough to remind me when we begin the next session, I’ll go on with this very important distinction between the legal and the experiential. What I am teaching you is what your rights are in Christ. But whether you’ve appropriated them or not, that’s another matter.