THE POWER OF THE PREACHING OF THE CROSS (MESSAGE N° 2)
By Henri Viaud-Murat
English version of Tape C 116, "Source de Vie", BP 25, F-30920 Codognan, France.
This message is the second of a set of 5 (C 115 to 119)
The Twofold Message of the Cross
The Holy Spirit wishes to speak to our understanding and to our hearts. When our understanding is filled with light from the Holy Spirit, we can understand Gods Word. Then the Holy Spirit makes the Word sink into our hearts, so that we actually become one with the Word ; but we need to understand it. That is why the Holy Spirit says : "I will guide you into all truth". He will give us light concerning all things, if our hearts are open. He will speak to our understanding, and allow us to apprehend the deepest mysteries of God in such a way that they will sink into our hearts ; he will plant the truth in our innermost beings and enable us to walk in the truth.
I am going back to the message of the Cross to insist on certain truths, so that through the Holy Spirit they will sink into the depths of our hearts and generate faith. Only through faith can we walk as Jesus wants us to walk.
Now here is the foundation, the very bedrock of the Gospel : the Cross is central to the whole of Gods Word. There is a twofold message in the Cross : "Jesus died for us, and we died in Him." We shall be reading from Romans, chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8, which clearly set forth this twofold message.
The first message is that the sacrifice offered up by Jesus on the Cross fully atones for our sins. The blood of Jesus has the power to blot out all sin. Jesus Christ the Righteous One poured out all of His precious blood when He took upon Himself the chastisement we deserved.
The second message is no less momentous : the Cross does not only provide forgiveness for our sins ; it also puts to death our old sinful nature. There would be little profit for us if we had to keep coming back to seek forgiveness, if we kept falling over and over again into the same old sins.
However, some Christians spend their lives doing just that. Indeed, it is precious to know that we can always come to God to be forgiven for our sins if we confess them and apply the blood of Jesus to them. But the Lord wishes us to go further, and to understand that the Cross is the means of slaying our former nature which keeps urging us to sin. Both aspects of the message of the Cross are equally indispensable. They are irrevocably linked, and we need to understand those things spiritually.
We often stop at the first message : "Through His blood, Jesus has blotted out our sins on the Cross. Come to Him, confess your sins and be forgiven !" But the Cross also provides the slaying of our former nature. In and with Christ, we died when He died, and were resurrected when He was resurrected ; which means that all of our former nature, with its flaws, its hang-ups, and its difficulties was swallowed up by Jesus death and destroyed by it. Through the resurrection of Jesus, we are granted a new nature, planted in us through His Spirit. Our flesh is like a shell that needs to be completely shattered, so that the sweet smell of this new nature can be released.
Our flesh was crucified on the Cross with Jesus ; but unless our understanding and our hearts have truly taken in the work of the Holy Spirit, we can still be walking in defeat. Unless we understand that our flesh was actually put to death in Christ, and accept the reality of this through faith, we cannot walk in victory over sin. If we have only grasped the first part of the message of the Cross, that is to say the forgiveness of sins, without realising that our former nature has been put to death, we cannot fully benefit from the message of the Cross and we will be constantly walking in defeat, in the flesh, without the revelation that our flesh is dead and that we can walk in the newness of the life that God has granted us. However, as soon as the Holy Spirit grants us that revelation through faith, we become fully aware of our position in Christ. Through faith, we enter a new world, created for us by God, a world in which nothing remains of the former world we have just stepped out of.
God has lifted us out of the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His beloved Son, where all things are new. He has made new creatures of us, a new creation. In the Spirit, He has taken this new creation into a Kingdom where all things are new. We still have to wait for Jesus return and the resurrection of the dead, when the final aspect of His work on the Cross is to be manifested. Our bodies will be resurrected when He returns, and we shall receive new bodies in which sin will no longer dwell. Then we shall clearly see that all things are truly new.
Meanwhile, all things are new in the spirit ; God enables us to walk in His Spirit, although our bodies are not yet resurrected. If we have grasped, through the Holy Spirit, that our present bodies are dead, that our flesh is dead, and that we can walk in the Spirit through Faith in the Son of God, despite those bodies in which sin still dwells, we can walk in the Spirit on an utterly different ground than the one we used to walk on. When our attitude is one of faith, the law of the Spirit that is in Christ enables us to overcome completely the law of sin and death that is in the body, because we are grounded in faith. Everything is given through faith in Jesus, and revealed through the Holy Spirit.
God is seeking men and women who have grasped this through spiritual understanding, heeded the voice of the Holy Spirit, received this truth into their hearts in faith, so as to walk in the revelation of it and be wholly sanctified, till the Lord returns.
Sanctification, therefore, is not something that we have to grow slowly into. Jesus Himself has secured our sanctification through His death and His resurrection. It is His present to us, a gift we receive as soon as our spirit is filled with light and we enter - through faith - the new Kingdom He has created for us. We can walk in complete sanctification as soon as we understand that the cause of our former problems (that body, that sinful flesh of ours that has been rotten ever since Adam and Eve) was dealt with when Jesus put it to death on the Cross. When we grasp that in our spirits, in our understanding, and in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, we can walk in complete sanctification.
Some Christians walk in defeat, living in the flesh. Others say : "Now this has got to stop. Im sick and tired of it ! The answer is neither to say : "Lord, make a better person of me !" nor to be bent on "doing the right thing". That would be a sure recipe for failure. When we get really desperate, there is only one answer left : Gods answer, that is to say the Cross. We have to come to Jesus and say : "Lord, by faith I want to come to that place of perfection, under Your dominion. So Lord, I come to You and to Your Word, to receive the sanctification that You have secured for me." Jesus has been made sanctification for me. Through His death and resurrection, He has engulfed death as well as sin, He has engulfed my past. I dont want this to remain a mere concept, Lord : I want it to sink into my heart of hearts, I want to receive the assurance of it through the Holy Spirit, so that from now onwards my thinking will be completely renewed through Your Word. Let your words sink into the depths of my heart and wash away all my former ways of thinking, so that I can now live by faith in the Son of God, in this new Kingdom You have created for me."
This can be, since Jesus commands us to be a demonstration of it when He says : "As He who has called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct." (1 Peter 1:15). "You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy". (Leviticus 11:45) "Therefore be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48).There is no half-way with Jesus. He cannot command us to be holy and perfect unless we actually can live in perfection and holiness. If we need to be Christians for forty years before we can begin to walk in sanctification, its just not worth it : some will never be able to make it, theyll die before they get there, or else theyll waste too much time. So that isnt the Lords answer. His answer is a heart that thirsts for God and for His revelations, a heart that comes before Him and says : "Lord, I want to understand. Let my spirit be filled with the light of Your Spirit, and enlighten my understanding so that I can clearly see all that Jesus has accomplished on the Cross and receive it as mine, since it is Your gift to me. Then no matter what our background is, whether we are rich or poor, dim-witted or clever, with or without a degree, whether we are executive officers or apprentices, all that has nothing to do with our new life in Jesus. All those things are part of the old life that was put to death in Jesus. Through faith, we receive the new nature that God has created for us, a brand new nature which will enable us to reach the fullness of Christs stature. God is not going to start with something old, then make it evolve according to a perfect pattern. He throws out the old into the rubbish-bin, into Christs tomb, grants me a new nature and says : "This new nature is to make you into the likeness of Jesus". From now onwards, I shall live in that new nature, and no longer in my own past. All that is finished and done with.
That does away with all the newfangled methods of Christian psychology, with soulish forms of counselling, with soulish inner healing that makes a dreadful, confusing mixture of the old and the new, and finally solves nothing ; but Jesus has settled everything perfectly. He has thrown the whole of our past into His own grave. When He died, he hauled our past wholesale into His death ; when He rose from the dead, He made all things new. However, we need to believe that. If, formerly, you used to consider yourself a nobody, a failure, an uneducated dullard that people look down on, that was your former nature. But if you look to Jesus and to what He has done, His Words will fill you with faith, even if you dont see anything happening yet. Looking at yourself in your own mirror, you see yourself as you used to be. But when you look into the mirror of Gods Word, you can see what Jesus has done and is doing. Jesus doesnt want you to look at yourself in a man-made mirror ; He wants you to look at yourself in the mirror of His Word. That is where He shows you what He has made of you : a wonderful new creature, made to manifest all the qualities that are in Jesus.
From now onwards, Jesus says to you: "take your eyes off your own self. Instead, keep them on what I have done, on the new nature I have given you. All I require of you is to believe, and to take what I am giving you." We need to lay hold on the gifts of God, and say "Thank You !" If someone you love and are loved by gives you a beautiful present, the best thing you can do is to take it and say "Thank you !". That is how you will bring joy to the heart of the One who loves you. Jesus gift to us is an astounding one : being created anew ! Our fleshly eyes cant see that new creature, but through faith, we can see what our eyes of flesh are unable to perceive. Through faith, we can see as God sees !
The fact that all this was accomplished on the Cross shows us why the message of the Cross is so powerful. It always takes us back to the death of whatever is old, and to the renewing of all things in Christ. Unfortunately, Jesus does not find many people who preach the Cross, and very few accept and believe the message of the Cross. This message is no longer preached because it is no longer considered believable ; and that is because it is neither practised nor preached by those who could still preach it. A message has no power unless it is practised by the one who preaches it.
Since our problems remain, and we need to find some kind of an answer to them, people have set up all sorts of man-made theories as substitutes for the Word of God. However, those theories are powerless to deal with the problems raised by our uncrucified flesh. "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6). In verse 8, Paul says : "But God proved his love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8). That is the first part of the message of the Cross : "Christ died for us". "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." (Romans 5:9).
That first part of the message of the Cross is fundamentally based on the power of Jesus blood, which blots out our sins and imparts everlasting life. "For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." (Romans 5:10).
Throughout the rest of the chapter, Paul explains how death has ruled over human nature since Adam, owing to disobedience and sin. That disobedience and that sin caused the spiritual death of humanity, and death was handed down from father to son, right down to us. When we came into the world on this earth, we inherited death from our parents, and a whole spiritual, psychological, and physical inheritance blemished by sickness, ill-health, etc That inheritance can be summed up in a single word : "death". No matter how clever we are, even if we can travel to the moon and to Mars, death presides over all those activities, and they all end up in death and in the grave.
The message of the Cross says : "Jesus died for you, to blot out your sins and to give you Life. Condemnation is no longer." Through a single act of justice and through faith in this message, we receive the justice of the Lord. And in verses 20 and 21, Paul says : "But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5:20-21). So the first part of the message of the Cross is the wonderful redemption that Jesus paid for by His blood : He paid the price that we owed, through His sacrifice on the Cross. His blood blotted out all our sins. Immediately afterwards, Paul declares in chapter 6, verse 1, "What shall we say then ? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound ?" That amounts to saying : "You have not grasped the second part of the message of the Cross. Part one, in Romans 5, was : "Christ died for us." Now, in chapter 6, Paul says : "We have died to sin." Our old, sinful nature died in Him ! Throughout chapter 6, Paul explains how vital it is to have the revelation of our being dead in Christ. In verse 3, he says : "Do you not know that as many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death" ? So many people are ignorant of it ! They may have read about it, but those words have not enlightened their understanding, and have not shone in their hearts.
How important it is to understand that the only real Christian baptism is baptism into Jesus death and resurrection. The Lord requires us to be immersed into water once we have believed, which is a representation of our burial and our resurrection. Water baptism in itself does not impart death in Jesus Christ, or resurrection in Him. Only faith in the message of the Gospel and in what Jesus has done can save us. Then our salvation is accompanied by water baptism by immersion, which is all-important, spiritually, when seen in the light of the Cross.
We should be careful to present every aspect of the message of the Cross to new converts, from the very beginning. Those truths should be set forth to them in full detail, till they sink into their spirits, never to be lost to their consideration !
However, could we be content with saying to them : "Come to Jesus, He is going to forgive your sins ! All right, then, now get into the water !" We need to explain to them that their going down into the water is their burial into His death and His resurrection.
Dont you understand that those who are not baptised by immersion lack something vital ? They lack the actual sign of their burial ! What would you say of a Christian who never partook of the Lords Supper, just because he has grasped the spiritual significance of the bread and wine ?
"Do you not know that as many of us were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death ?" (Romans 6:3). To be baptised means : "fully immersed into". We have been fully immersed into the death of Jesus. Alleluia ! How wonderful that his death should be a life-giving message ! Our past was under the yoke of death on account of our sin : eternal death, carrying us into hell, for those who are not converted to Jesus ! So that spirit of death that prevailed over us had to die in order to disappear. The only place where that spirit of death can be swallowed up is Jesus grave ! When Jesus died, he took with Him that burden of death that was on us. "Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4).
As a Christian, you can walk daily in "newness of life" only if you understand that you died and were raised in Christ. Have you grasped that in your heart of hearts, through the work of the Holy Spirit in your spiritual understanding ? "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." (Romans 6:5). If you are truly dead to your past life, sin no longer rules in your present life. This does not mean that you will not go through times of weakness, times when you are no longer grounded in faith in Jesus death. As soon as you move away from a position of faith, you fall, as Peter did when he walked on the water, then started to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus.
If you never take your eyes off Jesus and His Word, and if throughout the day, your spiritual understanding never departs from the fact that your past life died in Christ and that in Him you are a new creature, then through faith you can walk in that newness of life which is his gift to you : "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should be no longer be the slaves of sin." (Romans 6:6).
All our problems come from that "old man" : wrong behaviour, jealousy, anger, spite, wrong feelings, uncleanness, etc The "old man" was crucified with Christ. Notice the phrase used in verse 6 : "knowing that " We need to know it. Have you got that knowledge of it in your heart, as a revelation of the Holy Spirit ? Do you know that you are a new creature ? Dont say : "Oh, I m far from perfect yet !" You need to say : "Yes, in Christ, I am a new creature. As long as I walk in faith in the Son of God, I am free from sin. I can only sin when I fall away from faith, back into the flesh."
God is calling us to a life of faith, so we receive all things through grace alone : "knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." (Romans 6:6). Many Christians are the slaves of sin, because they dont know that their body of sin was destroyed through the death of Jesus on the Cross. For God, the problem has already been dealt with. It must be likewise for us, "for he who has died has been freed from sin". (Romans 6:7). If you know that your "old man" is dead, because God says so and because His Word is true, if God says that we have been crucified in Christ, then it is a fact. It is not a promise, but something that was actually accomplished two thousand years ago. If God says that thanks to the Cross our old man is dead, then it is done. All we can do then is receive that by faith, because it is the written Word. If Scripture is an authoritative Word for you, then instantly the Holy Spirit will confirm it in your heart and you will say : "Amen, Lord ! Even before I have seen anything yet, I believe it." Dont wait to see before you believe, but believe first, and then you will see.
"Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over him." (Romans 6:8-9). Therefore death no longer has dominion over us. "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me has everlasting life." (John 6:47). Even if we have to pass through physical death, we know that what dies then is the body that has not yet risen. But our spirits are alive, eternally alive, so that we pass from this earth to heaven without a single second of separation ! We are already alive in Christ. As soon as our bodies die, our living spirits are instantly reunited with Christ in heaven ! It must be clear to you that the doctrine of purgatory derives from the absence of the message of the Cross. A Christian who is born again in Christ cannot be engulfed in death. Only our physical bodies will know death, but they are already dead in Christ. I am already expecting the resurrection and the return of the Lord, who will change my body of humiliation into a glorified body. However, I am already alive in Christ and whatever befalls me, I remain alive in Christ ! "For the death that he died, he died to sin once for all ; but the life that he lives, he lives to God." (Romans 6:11).
In verse 11, Paul makes an important statement : "Likewise, you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Therefore sin will no longer rule over us. The Cross has broken the power of sin over us, because that power resulted from the rule of death over our mortal bodies and our past mortal lives. Now, the Cross has broken the power of sin by nullifying the mortal body over which sin ruled. So Paul concludes : "What then ? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace ? Certainly not !" Do you not know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness ?"(Romans 6:15-16).
"But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of teaching to which you were entrusted. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness." (Romans 6:17-19).
Now that your spirit is alive in newness of life in Christ, you will use your members as instruments of righteousness, and no longer as instruments of sin. They are simply changed into instruments for the Lords service, till the day comes when they will be gloriously transformed, when Jesus and all His saints will come to reign on earth ! We shall reign with Him and rule over the earth with Him, with an iron rod. First, we need to understand the message of the Cross and accept it in faith, so as to walk in holiness with Him.
Paul goes on to say : "But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:22-23). That is because now, through faith, Christ is alive in me forever.
To summarise, in Romans 5, Paul explains that "Christ died for you." In Romans 6, he explains that "you died in Christ". In Romans 7, he takes us a step further, and wants us to understand the struggle of a new convert who has not quite fully grasped what it means to have died in Christ, but finally receives the revelation of it, and in Romans 8 stands once again on the ground of victory and walks in the Spirit.
In Romans 7, Paul explains that not only we have died to our former selves, but also to the Law. That means we are no longer constrained to walk in obedience to its commandments, however good they are. From now on, we will walk according to the Law that God has written in our spirits. That inner Law is a life that enables us to produce the fruit of holiness.
We no longer have to submit to a divine Law that is outside us, a Law given to us to put in practice. That was what was required of believers under the old covenant. The Law declared : "Do this, dont do that !" They endeavoured to obey, but never managed to come into full obedience. Men had set up a legalistic system that was powerless to produce the holiness of God or to express His life.
In many churches, Gods commandments are carefully taught and Christians are told : "Now that you are a Christian, you have to do this, and no longer do that You must no longer watch television or go to the pictures or to night-clubs. You must walk blamelessly, attend meetings, pay your tithes, etc " All that finally becomes a set of laws and commandments that minister death instead of life. The burden grows heavier and heavier on the believers shoulders. He knows that those commandments are righteous and good, but soon realises that he is unable to practise them. Being unable to practise them, he takes refuge in hypocrisy. In the presence of others, he manages to control himself and to appear to be what he is not. But in private, with his family or his spouse, his uncrucified nature surfaces sooner or later. If that Christian has a heart for the Lord, he suffers. But many harden their hearts in the long run, because they see no answer to the problem. The message of the Cross has not resounded in their ears.
When a Christian walks in his new nature, he receives the commandments of God into his heart, into his spirit, and to practise them becomes natural for him ; not because he has been told that he must, but because he has received them into his heart as a life-giving law. He gladly practises the Word of God because he knows that the very Life of the Lord is at work inside him. His new nature rejoices in it. Can you see the difference between those two ways of living ?
Paul reveals to Christians that they have "died to the Law". That means they have died to every form of legalism. When Gods Law was given to the Hebrews, it was given to people who had not been born again. Gods commandments are good and perfect, but mans carnal nature is unable to practise them !
In Old Testament times, men could not live a crucified life, that is to say as having died and risen in Christ, since they knew neither Christ nor the message of the Cross. The prophets spoke about those things, but they had not yet come to pass. So the Old Testament saints could not walk in the Spirit as born-again believers, as we are required to do. They had grasped many things concerning God, had received revelations from the Lord, and they walked in the light they had received. But the ultimate grace of new birth has been granted only to the Church of Jesus Christ, which is baptised in water and in the Spirit. The Church alone has been granted the revelation of her death and resurrection in Christ.
As long as Jesus had not come to this earth, no-one could live as the Church is required to live. If it had been possible, if there had been some way of living in perfection without the Cross, there would have been no need for Jesus to come. He had to come and die for our sins, then rise again, so as to grant that supreme grace to His bride, the Church, thus enabling her to walk in newness of life through His Spirit.
God had given mankind a perfect law, but it cannot be practised without the reality of the Cross. The purpose of that law was to show men that through their own personal human efforts they could not obey it. The law was given so that sin might be revealed. Men had to understand that they were born sinners, and that their human nature was a sinful one. That sin is in the flesh, in this body of sin. When God commanded : "You shall not kill," immediately that sin which is in the flesh declared : "I am going to kill." I would have been ignorant of sin if I had not received that God-given commandment. Sin, in my flesh, keeps on rebelling against Gods commandment and urging me to disobey.
So God granted the Law because He knows how evil mans heart is. Man was unaware of that, so God had to provide him with the evidence of it. Man had to understand that his heart was so evil that he could not obey God. Even the most sincere and the holiest of men, despite all their efforts to obey, never reached one hundred per cent obedience. Under the stern tutorship of the Law, God wanted man to understand that he was a sinner who needed to be redeemed by Jesus. Man was thus made to understand that by nature he is sinful and unable to obey Gods Law.
Together with this conviction of sin, God was preparing the coming of His Messiah. Men were to see the only One who had ever obeyed the whole of the Law to perfection. The Lord Jesus was to come and satisfy all of Gods demands, and to bear the chastisement we deserved. Thus God wanted to show man how much he needed divine grace, and in what way man was to be born again through Christ, so as to be filled with the Spirit of God and enabled to obey Gods Law from the heart, for mens hearts were going to be changed on the inside.
Let us not, as Christians, repeat the same mistake as the Jews, placing ourselves under the Law, under a yoke of man-made requirements, or even of divine requirements ; in Romans 7, Paul shows that even children of God sometimes do that for a while. However, the full revelation of the Cross puts an end to that. We may be well-meaning, honest children of God who, failing to grasp that they have died in Christ, have open-heartedly received part of Gods Word, and are trying to practise it, without success. As Paul says : "For what I do is not the good I want to do ; but the evil I do not want to do, I keep on doing." (Romans 7:19). "O wretched man that I am ! Who will deliver me from this body of death ?" (Romans 7:24).
A sincere Christian will say : "Lord, I fully realise that your Word is righteous. You say : "Love your neighbour as yourself. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn your left cheek. Love your enemies I know that is righteous and good. From the bottom of my heart, I want to do it, and I manage once or twice, but the third time, I simply cant ! Im always having ups and downs, stumbling and trying again, Lord, Im exhausted, Im a wretch, come and rescue me !"
Because Paul says in verse 14 : "For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold to sin," some use this verse as an excuse for all their failures. Since Paul acknowledges that he didnt manage, however could they ? But they overlook the context and the following verse. When Paul mentions that "self", that "old man", he means his flesh, his former nature, which was every bit as carnal and sold to sin as ours is. "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practise ; but what I hate, that I do. If then I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good." (Romans 7:15-16). Gods commandments are good. I want to do the right thing, but I cant. When I try to obey Gods law, I realise that in my members another law is at work opposing the law of God. Because of that other law, I keep stumbling. "But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells." (Romans 7 17-18).
From chapter 5 to chapter 6, remember that Paul went from "Christ died for our sins" to: "We have died in Christ". In chapter 7 he goes back on the struggle that is ours when we want to obey the Lord wholeheartedly, but in our own strength, before we fully grasp the message of the Cross : resurrection Life cannot fill us completely, for the flesh is there like a screen or a veil that stops it. Resurrection life is received through the revelation of the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, many Christians spend the whole of their lives in the flesh, in defeat. They know that Gods Word is righteous, and that Jesus commandments are good. They do their utmost to obey as best they can, but keep falling short of Gods absolute demands. They never manage to reach perfection. Paul is not referring, here, to shallow, lukewarm Christians, who are not interested in Gods Word and only want to gratify their own desires. He is referring to sincere Christians, who truly want to satisfy their Lord, yet keep on stumbling.
The good news of the Gospel is that they can be overcomers ! Further on, Paul exclaims : "Wretched man that I am !" (Romans 7:24). Yes, "wretched man that I am" if I keep on walking in defeat ! But we are not to use that exclamation to say : "You see, finally, Paul was just like us ; even he couldnt manage". Paul is not saying that he remained in such a condition of wretchedness. It was a stage he went through, before breaking through to victory. The whole of chapter 8 witnesses to that. So Paul did not stop at Romans 7 ! Why should we ?
Paul knows that it was the Cross that freed him from the Law. He understands that he cannot obey in his own strength, through his own willpower, but through faith in what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. When he exclaims : "Who will deliver me from this body of death ?" he has already made the statement : "knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.".(Romans 6:6). He was freed from that "body of death" when his spiritual understanding opened up and the Holy Spirit said : "Stop, Paul, that is the wrong way to deal with your problems. Youll never make it that way, youre not standing on the ground of faith !"
Paul himself declares : "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord ! So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin." (Romans 7:25).
If you are still walking in the flesh, you are still a slave to the law and to sin. But if you are dwelling in the Spirit and in faith, you are no longer a slave to the law of sin. You are now a slave to the law of God and you are walking in the Spirit.
In Romans 8, Paul adds : "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit."(Romans 8:1) That means : "in Jesus Christ crucified and risen". That is not in the text, but it is what Paul means. "Those who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:4). Those who are still walking according to their former selves with their wrong inclinations are still under condemnation. But those who walk according to the Spirit and have been regenerated in Christ are free from any such condemnation. "that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:4).
So the same Paul who said, in Romans 7, that he was falling short, now declares that his understanding has been enlightened. He knows that the body of sin has been destroyed and that as long as he walks in faith he walks in permanent victory, since he also says : "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2). That remains a fact as long as we consistently walk in faith.
In Christ, my old nature was crucified. In Christ, I am a new creature. When I come up against sin, I shall be in a position to resist and overcome it, for I am no longer a slave to sin. I fall back into slavery to sin only if I forget that revelation and resume my former way of living, overlooking the fact that I have been crucified with Christ and have become a new creature in Christ. But when I have received the wondrous revelation of the Cross, then I can walk in permanent victory. Alleluia !
Paul clearly states in Romans 8:3 : "God condemned sin in the flesh". For that reason, Jesus had to be made flesh in a body like ours, and that flesh had to be put to death. He had to take upon Himself all our sins, all our condemnation and go through death in our stead. Because He underwent death in His flesh, we can partake of His Life. God the Father has placed us in Christ, so that our sinful flesh might die through His death. "God did so by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh ".
Christ was not born with a sinful flesh. Jesus flesh remained utterly undefiled. Some Christians teach that through His mother, Jesus had an adamic flesh just like ours, but the Word of God says the opposite. Jesus conception was utterly miraculous, pure and undefiled. Even the ovum He came from was not Marys, otherwise his conception would have been partly human. No, his conception was totally supernatural from the start. God His Father made His body free from the slightest trace of sin, and yet His body was just like ours in all other respects. So Jesus was able to be a perfect manifestation of divine life, of perfect life. If the Lord Jesus had inherited a nature that was even partly carnal, He would not have been the perfect Saviour we needed. He could not have redeemed us.
So Jesus remained utterly pure ever since His conception, in a flesh that was like our own in all things, except sin. He experienced weakness, thirst, hunger, and weariness, but never knew sin or sickness. Those who teach that Jesus had all the childhood diseases that other human beings catch have no understanding of Christs untainted nature pardon me for saying so. Indeed, that would mean that from His conception, Jesus had inherited a carnal human nature, and that cannot be.
Paul says : "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin : he condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8 : 3-4).
Let me say this again : to walk in the Spirit is to walk through faith in Gods everlasting Word. The Spirit always takes us back to the Word. To walk in the flesh is to walk according to our own human hearts and patterns of thought, according to what men tell us, or what the devil tells us.
In verse 10, Paul adds : "And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness." As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit, who is everlasting Life, living within us. The Lord has quickened our spirits, filling them with the Life of God who is within us, because of that righteousness that has been granted to us. "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:11).
Paul begins by saying : "Your bodies are dead on account of sin, you are still burdened with a mortal body that has not yet been raised from the dead. But your spirits, which you have received from Jesus, are alive within you and are filled with the Life of God. Whats more, we have the Holy Spirit living in us."
What has the Holy Spirit done ? He has raised Jesus from the dead. The very thought of that is amazing! The body of the Lord Jesus had been dead for three days and three nights. His blood no longer ran through His veins. Had physicians examined Him and taken an electroencephalogram, they would have come up with a flat line. The diagnosis would have been simple : "This is a dead man !". Then the Holy Spirit comes and brings Jesus dead body back to life ! All his bodily functions are restored to life. Resurrection Life is manifested in His physical body, now transformed and glorified ! Death has been swallowed up by immortality and Resurrection !
Paul adds : "That selfsame Holy Spirit lives in you. He will restore life to your mortal body". That has a twofold meaning : first, He will heal you sicknesses and your infirmities, while you are still awaiting Resurrection. Then when Resurrection day comes, he will give you a glorious body that will live for ever.
Already in our bodies we have that Holy Spirit of Resurrection, who is alive within us and wants to give us all the strength we need till Jesus returns, till the Resurrection comes. Even in weakness and under persecution, even in tribulation, in prison, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us, we shall receive supernatural strength to accomplish all that Jesus wants us to accomplish on this earth, till the end of our pilgrimage.
"He will give life to your mortal bodies." Why ? Because He is the Spirit of Resurrection ! Because Jesus has borne our sicknesses and our infirmities, just as He also bore our sins and our iniquities. The whole of our former life has been swallowed up by Jesus death : our sin, our illnesses, and death. If we trust the Spirit of Resurrection who dwells within us, we can be assured that God will maintain us in good condition till Jesus comes. If ever we become sick, the Lord has an abundant provision of healing for us, because he bore our sicknesses and wants to heal us, and He has given us the evidence of that in His Word and throughout His earthly ministry.
How amazing Gods grace to us is : He has made of us living tabernacles for the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Resurrection and of Life ! He has made ample provision for us to walk in holiness every day of our lives, and do His will until He returns.
If we trust in what Jesus has accomplished on the Cross, we know that in Him there is the answer to all our problems, healing for all our sicknesses and infirmities, and deliverance from every crushing weight on our lives. Everything was accomplished by Jesus on the Cross! This same Jesus lives within us through His Holy Spirit ! He wants to fill us with His everlasting Life, and has the power to do so. Are we going to believe it, and see it come to pass ? "But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth ?" (Luke 18:8).
There is power in the Cross. It is the power of God ! It is on the Cross that everything was accomplished, that everything was dealt with. Jesus came and crossed out our past lives ! Will the message of the Cross still be preached when Jesus returns, or will it have been replaced by those traditions and teachings of men that disfigure Jesus work, distort and minimise it, preventing the Lord from doing His perfect will in us ? The Word of God has already given us a clear answer. As the end-times draw closer, obviously the message of the Cross in its fullness will be preached less and less frequently. We must not allow ourselves to be deluded : that is what we can see wherever we look. Paul said : "The falling away comes first." (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
That "falling away" is already occurring. Satan knows full well that he was totally defeated at the Cross ; that the whole of our past life was swallowed up in Jesus death, and that through His Resurrection Life we have been given a perfect answer to all our problems. With the spreading of apostasy, the message of the Cross will be increasingly set aside or distorted. All that is left of the Cross is an ornament to be set up on church buildings or hung round peoples necks. The full message of the Cross will not often be preached in the end-times, because the Lord Himself said : "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold." (Matthew 24:12).
If we want to see the abundant Life of the Lord in action once again, we must go back to the message of the Cross, not only in our preaching, but in the daily living of crucified lives, through faith in this wondrous message.
Here are some more Scriptures to shed light on what has just been said and to improve our understanding of the message of the Cross.
"For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus : that if one died for all, then all died ; and he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again." (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). If we no longer live for ourselves, that means that we understand the message of the Cross. Now we live for Jesus. We no longer live for ourselves, because we understand that we died in Christ. One who is dead has no selfish desires left to satisfy. Living in the flesh means having selfish desires that are not in accordance with God. If we walk in the Spirit, our discernment of Gods will for us is going to grow keener and keener, and we shall adhere to His will through faith, because His will is always good for us. "Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, we know him thus no longer." (2 Corinthians 5:16). At first, the disciples knew Christ according to the flesh. They saw Him at work in the world. They knew Him from the outside. Now we need to know Christ from the inside, in our spirits, through deep spiritual union with Him in our hearts. Knowing Christ according to the flesh means knowing Him from the outside, as Job knew Him when he said : "I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear." (Job 42:5). We no longer know Christ according to the flesh, as some theologians do, holding debates about Him without knowing Him.
"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation ; old things have passed away ; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation". (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). All things have become new. So, beloved, give up every piece of that old luggage of yours. Drop it all off at the "left luggage" of History, into Jesus death ! Leave it all in Jesus grave ! You are a new creation.
Now, we need to know one another according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. Fleshly knowledge would say, for instance : "Oh, Ive known so-and-so for twenty years, and he has always been like that !" If my perception is carnal, I will consider that person according to the flesh and will be blind to the new nature God has created in him. We are far too used to looking at people according to the flesh instead of looking at them with the eyes of faith : if they are born again, it keeps us from seeing the new nature Jesus has placed in them and wants to make manifest through faith in His Word. We need to help each other to be aware of our problems and our shortcomings, but we must also discern what God is doing in us, when we are new creatures in Christ. What counts is to be a new creation in Jesus Christ ! Everlasting Life is at work within us, to manifest Jesus own character in us. We must stop knowing people according to the flesh and start knowing them in the Spirit.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says : "I have been crucified with Christ ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." The second part of the verse is vital : "the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20). When I know that I have been crucified in Christ and with Christ, I know that if I live, it is Christ who lives in me. I live in faith in the Son of God who has given me His Word so as to reveal His will to me. Further on, in Galatians 5:24, Paul adds : "Those who are Christs have crucified the flesh with its passions and its desires."
We have crucified the flesh because we know that when Jesus Christ was crucified, we were crucified with Him. In Himself and with Himself, He has crucified the whole of our former carnal nature, the flesh together with its passions and its desires. So the flesh must no longer rule our lives. In Colossians 2, there is another wonderful passage : "buried with him in baptism, in which you also were raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead."? (Colossians 2:12). Baptism is primarily baptism into Jesus death. It is also water baptism by immersion, which is a burial.
"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he has made you alive together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses." (Colossians 2:13) The Lord Jesus made death die. His death gave us Life, through His resurrection, and through His complete triumph on the Cross.
In 1 Peter 2:24 as in Isaiah 53, both aspects of the Cross appear in the same passages : "(Christ) who himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness by whose stripes you were healed." Can you see how God presents the whole message of the Cross in a single, wonderful verse ? What a glorious verse ! In just a few words, it conveys the whole of the work of the Cross. Jesus Christ bore our sins so that we could die to sin and live for His righteousness. At the same time, He has healed us by His stripes. Since He bore our sins, He also bore the consequence of our sins, that is to say sickness and death. "For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." (1 Peter 2:25). How wonderful !
Further on, in chapter 4, Peter says : "Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God." (1 Peter 4:1-2). Those verses may be somewhat confusing if one does not discern the Cross at the centre of all of Christs work.
Christ suffered in the flesh ; not only because of His incarnation in the flesh, the life He lived humbly as a man among us, rejected and forsaken, but also because of His sufferings on the Cross. "Arm yourselves with the same mind." Our self has to be crucified, and we must walk as ones who are fully crucified. "For he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin." If you understand that, you know that to be crucified means to suffer. When your flesh is dead, you have ceased from sin. Sin no longer rules over you. You are dead in Christ and are a new creation in Him. You no longer live according to the lusts of men, but according to the will of the Lord.
In 2 Timothy 2, Paul says : "This is a faithful saying : For if we died with him, we shall also live with him. If we endure, we shall also reign with him. If we deny him, he also will deny us." (2 Timothy 2:11-13). Paul could have used the present tense : "Since we died with Him, we live with Him". Those who are called by Jesus Christ to reign with Him are not just those whose sins have been blotted out by the blood of Jesus. They are the ones who have actually gone through death on the Cross, having received the message of crucified life with Christ, of death to the flesh, and of resurrection life in Christ. If you have grasped that, and if now you walk in faith in that Word, you will reign with Christ when He comes back. And not only will you reign with Him, but you will be caught up in the clouds to meet Him !
If you are not walking as a crucified one, you have not fully received the message of the Cross. Perhaps you will be among the saved ones, those of whom Paul said : "he himself will be saved, yet as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:15). However, you will not be able to take part in Christs reign. Only the overcomers, those who have actually passed through the Cross, will reign over the nations with Christ.
We still have to study the following points, as far as the message of the Cross is concerned :
We shall study those points in the following chapters.
Let us pray :
Lord, my Father, let Your Word be planted within our hearts, in my own heart and in the hearts of all Your children. In You, there is truly a victorious life to be lived ! You say that those who receive Your message are already reigning on the earth in Christ. They are living as royalty on this earth.
I beseech You to accomplish a perfect work of spiritual enlightenment in our hearts. Enlighten our spiritual understanding through Your Spirit. Let the wondrous revelation of what we are in Christ, of what Christ did for us and made of us in Himself be forever planted in our hearts, Lord ! May we always walk in the light of that revelation through Your Spirit, living lives of holiness and obeying You perfectly from the depths of our hearts, living perfect lives ! Let us witness Your glory, the glory of what You can do in the lives of former sinners regenerated by You, even as we still inhabit those bodies of flesh.
Accomplish that in our lives, perfect that wonderful work through Your Spirit. Let those who see us be able to see You in us, and give You glory as they see You moving and living in us, because on the Cross You dealt with all of our problems !
Lord, I bless You for Jesus who accepted to be put on that Cross and to give up His life once and for all, so as to deal with the problem of sin, of the flesh, of death.
You are alive now, and you live in us. I give You glory. I know that Your everlasting Word will accomplish a work that is far beyond our comprehension, but we can receive it through faith. Lord, I thank you with all my heart ! Accomplish that in the lives of all Your children, be glorified in Your Bride, whom You are preparing for Your beloved Son, and have set apart for Him when He comes. Only He is worthy of receiving such a Bride, without spot or wrinkle or any such blemish ! Thank You, for through the Cross You have removed from our lives every trace of our former nature ! Praise be to You, my Father, in Jesus Name ! Amen !
The above teaching is the transcription of a spoken message, given in French by brother Henri VIAUD-MURAT. An audio cassette-tape of the original French version is available. The whole of the original recording has been written down unaltered, so as to retain the spontaneous quality of the spoken message, except for a few minor changes made to improve the clarity of the written text.
You can obtain a copy of the audio cassette-tape of this message and others (in French) by writing to :
Source de Vie - La Grotte - F 48370 St Germain de Calberte
You will receive, without any obligation on your part, a copy of our cassette tape catalogue which is available only in French for the moment.