Notes from Norman
Simple as This
By Norman P. Grubb
AT LAST OPERATING AS A TRULY LIBERATED SELF
So we pass through the gateway of Romans 6 via Romans 7 into Romans 8! Romans 6 was the application of Paul’s second radical revelation about Christ on Calvary (Gal. 1:11,12; 4:19), and the meaning of the two levels of remembrance at the Lord’s Supper the wine, symbolizing the blood shed for sinners; the broken bread, symbolizing the body dead and risen for the saints. Paul ran from Damascus because, under fierce pressure, he didn’t know how to stand in a Christ-in-him for deliverance, and his friends had to help him out by a rope-basket. He was “driven” into Arabia for three years as a result. There he saw and learned identification with Christ in its full meaning only given us by Paul in 2 Cor. 5:14,21. If He hung there on the cross as us, His body represented our bodies. But what do our bodies express? The nature of its indwelling spirit, which was sin. So Paul actually said that God made His sinless Son “sin for us”. By His shed blood He “bore our sins”, which were not His, and atoned for them in His blood; but now Paul was saying He actually “was made sin” in that holy nature representing ours, because our bodies express that sin nature and are thus “sin”. No wonder He cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” But, as Paul said, if Christ died as us expressing the spirit of sin in His body, when He died, out went that sin-spirit from His body, for a dead body has no spirit; and so out went that sin-spirit from our bodies. And into the dead body in the tomb came His own Spirit, and thus into our bodies. So Paul could say in Rom. 6:10, “… in that He died, He died unto sin once”, and so our bodies were annulled as occupants of sin (Rom. 6:6), and we reckon ourselves “dead indeed unto sin.”
If Romans 6 is the presentation for us all of the fact of our deliverance, by Christ’s body-death, from the sin principle indwelling us, and, we who believe are to state that to be so of ourselves, then we faithfully do so. But we say within ourselves, “I say that, but it isn’t working well in me!” “Reckon” means I say so and suppose so, but that is different from realizing. There is a difference between me saying I reckon I have a book in my hands and my saying I have a book in my hands! It means that I’m not really that sure. So honest Paul, and honest us with Paul, come to the desperate cry of Romans 7: “I say I’m dead to sin, but it isn’t working! Wretched man that I am. What’s wrong?” Calvary fact is no good to me unless it becomes Calvary experience, and in Romans 7, it doesn’t. That’s why Romans 7 is written in the present tense (Rom. 7:7-24), although Paul had just said it was a past fact for him (Rom. 7:4-6). Because all of us go through Romans 6 via Romans 7 to get to Romans 8, and only those who have come through can honestly give the glory statements of Rom. 8: 1-2, Paul must not say it for us, so he identifies himself with us in our stumbling, searching, faltering walk until we ourselves can say that “1 and 2” with him.
At last, by this second travail of the believer, the light is lit, and very simply. “Why do I keep doing things I hate doing, and not doing what I want to do?”, cries Paul in agreeing with the tenth commandment not to covet, setting himself not to do it, and then finding “sin wrought in me all manner of lusts”. Now here is the secret and the answer. It was sin that wrought these in me and caused me to do and have them. Yes, sin, but not I!! That was the flash of Spirit-light. “Why”, Paul says, “I didn’t want to do those things, so it wasn’t I doing them.” Then who was it? Why, obviously that intruder who got into me through the Fall and has made me his dwelling place. It is not I, but “sin that dwelleth in me”, which he repeats twice for emphasis in Rom. 7:17,20. It was sin, Satan in his nature, operating in me, but by his supreme deceit he has made me, from Adam onward, think it was I doing it, as if I have an independent nature of my own. But I am only a vessel, branch, temple, slave, body-member. The doer is the one I contain! And so Paul saw it. He had, as in Rom. 6, seen in his Arabia visit, this total meaning of Calvary – which Christ’s body represented ours and our body expresses the sin-spirit. So did His! But, as He died, out went that sin-spirit from His body as ours, and in His resurrection in came His Spirit of Truth in place of that false deceiving spirit cast out forever. So, Paul moves on with his exclamation of delighted thanks in Rom. 7:25 to his total statement of Who he now is with no further condemnation, but set free and knowing he is set free by the law (the fixed principle) of the Spirit of life by Christ in him from that former law (fixed principle) of sin and death, that lie of independent self-relying self. Now it is Christ dwelling in him (Rom. 8:8,9) where it had been sin dwelling in him.
The whole key to this lies in the understanding that we humans never had a self-operating, self-relying nature, but were solely created to express God in His nature. But we only became conscious functioning humanity when we were voluntarily, though deceivingly, taken captive by that spirit of error, so that we each were Satan-I. Then, through our Last Adam and His Calvary death and resurrection, we change back to our True Owner-Creator and are Christ-I. Many believers know and claim the reality of Christ in you, as in Eph. 3:17; but because we never knew the basic reality of formerly being Satan-sin dwelling in us, and mistakenly living in the deceit of a self-acting self, we have been falsely taught that we have a deposit of sin in our human selves (soul and body) and must therefore have some continual forms of warfare for the rest of our lives. Yet the glory of the revelation is that there never was or has been anything wrong with our human selves (spirit, soul, and body) which God created as “very good”. All that happened to our selves was the misuse of self by the Satan-god, and now right use by our true Christ-Indweller. This means that we can boldly accept ourselves as right selves with nothing wrong with us, and that we have always been right selves with nothing wrong with us, and that we have always been right selves in wrong hands, but now in right hands. The flesh, Paul’s common term for our humanity, is right in its right ownership, as with Jesus (“God manifest in the flesh”). With us, it had become “sinful flesh”, but then in Christ the sin was condemned in the flesh (Rom. 8:3), and “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:24); and “the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20). Flesh as humanity is, of course, always available to temptations by its appetites (Gal. 5:16-18), and can catch us out if we foolishly go back to struggle with self-effort. But if we fully recognize the Spirit expressing Himself as us/by us, then that old pull of sin and the “you ought not” law on our deceived self has no further power. (Gal. 5:18) Flesh is not in itself an evil thing any more than the eye is evil. It is the lusts, which are evil, not the flesh or the eyes. (1 John 2:16) We need expanded understandings of the completeness of Christ being expressed by our humanity, with a growth, as in 1 Pet. 3:18, and an ever expanding conformity to His likeness expressed in our humanity. (2 Cor. 4:18 and Rom. 8:29) We thus have rescued and regained our human selves from any blame in themselves and those false condemnations we lived in while in a Rom. 7-deceived consciousness of our guilt. We walk blameless and sanctified as Paul said in 1 Thess. 5:23. We regain our human selves, mortal in the physical and thus remaining in our world to be a light in it, but holy in our spirit-selves expressed in our souls and bodies. (Heb. 10:13)
THE WAY IS THE OBEDIENCE, NOT OF WORKS, BUT OF FAITH
There is the faith entry into Who we all really are. That is why our real obedience is that which Paul names it to be in almost his first and last word in his Romans letter (Rom. 1:5 and 16:28) the obedience, not of works and self-effort, but of faith, which requires the one necessity of our inner heart acknowledgement of the actual truth concerning our Lord Jesus Christ as given us by Him. This is as real a faith committal as was our first act of saving faith, which then produced the Spirit’s witness. But this second faith committal may be said to be more difficult and radical because that first faith committal only concerned our sins and their hold on us and the guilt and fear rightly produced by them. This second committal is our very selves, the apparent producer of the sins, and self is all we have. This is why this further total committal cannot be fully made until the fundamental fact has been cleared in our understanding, by the Word confirmed by the Spirit, that we never had a false self-acting self to give up its apparent selfhood. This was Satan’s lie. We never were more than containers, vessels, branches, etc., with no such self-relying, self-acting self; and so this second step, or rather stride, is only a recognition of a given fact about us as participators in Christ’s two-thousand-year-old-body death and resurrection. This is serious and radical because we have had these deceived concepts of our independent selves in action, and that includes what we might call our “good” selves. It is radical to see in fullness that all the good we have done by our self-activity has been Satan-good (that “good” aspect of the false Edenic Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil). Thus trying to be and do good is as much the product of our Satan-self-for-self nature expressed by us as are any of our “bad” doings. Perfect flesh living is really perfect sinning. Paul said in Rom. 7:21 that “when I would do good, evil is present with me”, and that was a “law”, a set principle from which he could not by himself escape. By this he meant that while resolving to do good was right (“to will is present with me”, Rom. 7:18), the actual attempt to “do good”, though unknown to himself at the time, was that same self-for-self, self-relying Satan-spirit operating in his apparently good self-efforts. (Phil. 3:4-6) Just as an apple seed can bring forth only an apple tree, with apples being its only fruit (some good for eating and some not), so too the seed of Satan can bring forth only Satanic fruit, some good and some bad. Therefore, we cannot easily give up our total selves and move into our God relationship until we know that there never was any good in ourselves (Rom. 7:18), i.e., until we know the lie of independent self.
We cause great offense to our fellow believers when we make such statements of faith as this one: “once only Satan-I, now only Christ-I”. They still think of us as having a sinful nature. As a result, our opposition often comes from churches and pastors so long accustomed to self-condemnation in our apparent sins and failures. To them, it is like blasphemy to say nothing was ever wrong with our human selfhood. This is why this stride of faith (really only the acknowledgment of fact in Christ) is well-called by Kierkegaard (who deeply knew the human self) “the leap of faith”. When taken, it must be as serious and openly confessed and once-for-all as was our faith-step into receiving Christ. Once made, it is as marked an act as a marriage vow and ceremony. It took me five hours in a Congo forest to say with finality that I, Norman Grubb, have been crucified with Christ and thus, in His death to sin, I have died to sin as an indweller. And then to say the “Nevertheless I live” of Gal. 2:20. But no! There is no such thing as independent living and therefore, with Paul, to say, “Yet not I, but Christ lives in me” (where before it had been Satan living in me). That was as far as I really got on that crisis occasion, confessing with my mouth, together with my precious wife doing the same, by writing my statement on an old envelope which was all I had deep in that forest. But, once said, my confession of faith became fixed and was never to be gone back on.
The witness of the Spirit, the substance of faith as in Heb. 11:1, comes when the believing is established enough to receive it. In 1 John 5:10 the inner witness is a given part of the believing, and while we do the believing, the Spirit gives the witness. Sometimes that takes time for me two years; for my wife two weeks! I never went back on my established, spoken, written word of faith. The witness is from Him to me, not from me to Him, so I must avoid any seeking of it, or questioning my act of faith. No! Any delay only stirs me to confirm my “obedience of faith” in that five-hour act of faith I made, and I just went on with my normal activities until one day He must have seen I was in a right condition, the sudden quiet light was lit in me, “Yes, it really IS Christ in me, expressing Himself in my form, He as me, He living, thinking my thoughts, speaking my words, doing my deeds.” This was so total that for a time I almost thought I was Christ! That didn’t matter while the glory of the inner recognition settled in me.
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