By the body of the Lord Jesus on the Cross believers were made dead to the law (a), in order righteously to be joined to Another, even the risen Lord. The reason why we had to die to the law was seen to be, not at all because the law was bad (it, on the contrary, was “holy, just and good”), but because we were bad.
That is, our flesh was so powerless to do good and so ready to do evil, that the application to us of God’s law, as Paul did, he has not power to keep it, but sin only makes the law a constant means of working death to him; and the more a man tries to keep the law the more he comes under the power of sin. “The strength of sin is the law” (1 Cor 15:56). So that there is only this left for us—to die to the law, and be joined to the risen Lord in a resurrection realm absolutely beyond the sphere of the law.
A great many people think that while sinners have no power against sin, saints have; that is, that God gives the new creature strength in itself to overcome indwelling sin. But this is a fatal error. Many, many Christians today are struggling against sin, with the idea that God expects them, since they have become His children and have learned to hate sin, to “pray for divine help” and then “fight the good fight” against sin. And so they struggle manfully, but with what sorry success because their whole theory is in error. It is because they do not finish the verse “Fight the good fight . . . of faith.” God has not given us, even in our new nature, power over sin. His plan is entirely different: He Himself becomes the power in us that overcomes sin. He does not delegate this power (b). He said, “All power is given unto Me,” so He Himself exercises it within us, in the person of the Holy Spirit, who has come to dwell in us for the very purpose of delivering us from the power of indwelling sin.
It is an outright perversion of the truth of God to teach (as did the Puritans and as do the Covenant theologians) that while we are not to keep the law as a means of salvation, we are yet under it as a “rule of life.” This is to take away the taskmaster’s whip, and yet expect him to rule those subjects which he could barely govern while he has his whip. Such teaching is in the theory of Antinomian (lawlessness), for it takes away the condemnatory power of the law upon those that are still allegedly under the law. But in practice this teaching is legal enough.
Let a Christian only confess, “I am under the law” and straightway Moses fastens his yoke upon him, despite all the protests that the law has lost its condemning power. Men have to be delivered from the whole legal principle, from the entire sphere where law reigns, ere true liberty can be found. This was done on the Cross. There we “died unto the law” (Gal 2:19); we were there “discharged from the law” (Rom 7:6); and are now “not under the law” (Rom 6:14). And those who, with child-like faith, believe this enter the blessed sphere where grace reigns, and the law of love is a delight, and where the service is in “newness of the Spirit,” not is “oldness of the letter.” The Holy Spirit, indwelling the believer, performs in him the will of the Father, whose will, at last, is His will (Rom 8:3, 4; 12:2).
-Wm R Newell
(a) Gentile/law of sin and death—Jew/this and the Law of Moses
(b) This is not to be confused with “power to tread on serpents” as in Luke 10:19, which did not concern the power of sin itself but of sinful angels, e.g. vs 17, 20)