The Victorious Christian Life

A Lesson Series for the Earnest Christian

© 2002 by Thomas W. Finley, 2013 Revised Edition

Lesson Ten: Under Grace (continued)

In our study of being freed from the law and being under grace, we must consider the role of commandments and injunctions in God’s written Word. Throughout Christian history some Christian teachers have been alarmed at those believers who say that the “law” does not apply to them. These teachers were alarmed because they feared that being “without law” meant that such believers would disregard Biblical commandments and hence be prone to live in sin.

Historically, there may have been some Christians who distorted the concept of freedom from the law in such a way as to permit them to live ungodly lives. But, rightly understood, freedom from the law does not entail a disregard for Biblical commands.

A life under grace does not mean we are free to live however we wish. It does mean, however, that the way we live that life, and the way we realize and keep God’s commandments is fundamentally different than the way of being “under the law.”

Remember that being “under law” involves living to a set of external commandments by means of my own ability. It is the way of independence. The way of grace entails a living under the supply and direction of the Holy Spirit. In that way, I am dependent upon God for everything - to show me His will and to supply me with His power to do His will – all by His inward working in my heart.

Jesus as a pattern

If we are to be followers of Christ, we must look to the pattern He set. While living on the earth Jesus laid aside His position in glory and assumed the position of a man dependent upon God (Phil. 2:5-8). The Bible clearly tells us that Jesus lived in obedience to God’s will and God’s commandments. How He lived that life is instructive. Let us look at some Scriptures.

“I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (Jn. 5:30)

“For I do not speak on My own initiative [lit., of myself], but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak.” (Jn. 12:49)

“But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go from here.” (Jn. 14:31)

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.” (Jn. 15:10)

The last verse cited shows that we are to keep the Lord’s commandments, just as He did the commandments of His Father. Yet, notice that the commandments the Lord kept were ones He realized in His intimate living relationship with His Father. In John 12:49 Jesus states that it is “the Father Himself who . . . has given Me commandment.” This construction in the Greek portrays an emphasis on the Father being personally involved in the giving of commandments to Jesus.

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” (Jn. 14:10)

This last verse shows us even more. Not only is the Father personally involved in giving Jesus direction, but the Father is living in Him to carry out the works He commands! I like the way this same verse reads in the Williams translation: “Do you not believe that I am in union with the Father and that the Father is in union with me? I am not saying these things on my own authority, but the Father who always remains in union with me is doing these things Himself” (Jn. 14:10, Williams). This is dependence! This is supply! This is grace! Yes, even Jesus, in His dependent position as a man, needed grace. Note the following verse:

“But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9).

Commandments and the overcoming Christian

The proper Christian life does involve doing the will of God and keeping His commandments. This is unarguable from Scripture (Jn. 14:15; 1 Cor. 7:19; 1 Pet. 4:2; 1 Jn. 2:3-4; 3:22, 24). But, we are not as those “under law,” rather we have died to law that we might be joined to another, to Christ, so that in union with Him we might bear fruit to God (Rom. 7:4).

We must understand that for the believer the keeping of God’s commandments is never something apart from the working of God’s life in us. To keep the law requires the effort of man’s flesh. The believer’s keeping of God’s commandments is something altogether in our spirit, a realm where we are experiencing oneness with Christ (Rom. 1:9; 7:6; 1 Cor. 6:17).

The written commandments of God in the Bible reflect the will of God, the character of God and the ways of God. Thus, the commands and principles of God in the Bible match God Himself. The outward word in our hands is thus in harmony with the living Word (Jn. 1:1; Rev. 19:13) who dwells within. Therefore, the normal Christian experience is that the Holy Spirit within will often speak to us, direct us, correct us, warn us, and rebuke us with passages and principles from His holy word. Our seeking is after God Himself, but we often meet Him by means of His Spirit-directed and Spirit-laden word (Jn. 6:63).

The word of God is indeed the “language” which the Holy Spirit can use to speak to us directly, personally and exactly as is needed in a particular situation. Let us consider some verses that confirm this.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16)

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12)

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jn. 14:26)

“And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for any one to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” (1 Jn. 2:27)

Perhaps we could use other verses, but these four taken together show us how God works in us with His words, which includes His commandments. The first verse shows us how the Scripture can be useful for all kinds of direction and understanding in the Christian life. Then, the next verse from Hebrews tells us that such Scripture can be alive, piercing into our inner being to the spirit within, judging the very thoughts of our hearts.

In the verse from John we see how God the Holy Spirit can take what has been spoken before and bring it into our remembrance at the right moment. The strict interpretation of this verse, according to the context, involves the words of Christ to His disciples. No doubt, however, in application to our lives, the Holy Spirit often brings verses to our remembrance. Finally, we see that the “anointing,” a term for the moving activity of the Holy Spirit within us, teaches us about all things, and as we respond in obedience to this moving teaching, we abide in the Lord.

No doubt the anointing will use Scripture to speak to us in many cases, as we have seen from the other verses. The Bible is the “language” which the Holy Spirit often uses to speak to us. Also, we may feel some inner forbidding or urging from the anointing within us, and we can often interpret these feelings in our spirit by the understanding of Scripture in our enlightened mind.

The word of God and the Spirit of God go hand in hand in the overcoming Christian life. If we have a heart truly seeking Him, which includes seeking to obey Him, then the Lord has a way to speak to us from His word. In this “speaking” there will be verses from His word which will make an impression upon us, and we will realize that God is requiring us to walk in accordance with those Scriptural injunctions.

Our experience

Some practical examples relating to our experience may underscore this matter of commandments not being discarded in the overcoming life, yet not being realized in the way of “law” but of “life.”

Why does an overcoming Christian turn away from a sinful temptation? He does so because there is an inner forbidding, an inner aversion to sin that fights against the fallen flesh. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17). The overcomer is not following a rule; he is experiencing a life within. Yet, he will be aware of the Biblical injunctions against sin, sometimes specifically brought to his remembrance at the time of temptation.

Why does an overcoming believer turn away from dwelling upon an advertisement for a new car and shun any strong desire for it? It is because there is something within him that shrinks back from loving that car, even the lifestyle of self-indulgence promoted by the advertising world. That something within him is the life of God that loves the Father instead of loving the things of this world (1 Jn. 2:15-17).

Why does an overcoming sister feel uncomfortable with very short hair or a short dress? It is not because of a rule, as is promoted in some legalistic congregations. Rather, it is because the life of God within her is repulsed by immodesty, or by looking like a man. It is repulsed by the self-assertiveness of the feminist movement. The overcoming sister has an inner desire to be under her husband’s leadership. She also desires modesty before her Lord and before others. Sometimes the Lord will speak Scriptures to her in her spirit to remind her of His holy ways.

In the overcoming Christian life, the commandments of God are not carried out by will power, and the character of God is not achieved by outward imitation. These virtues are realized in us by the working of God Himself. Note the following verses as proof of this truth:

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:12-13)

“Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.” (2 Cor. 3:5)

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world – our faith” (1 Jn. 5:3-4). What is born of God is our human spirit (Jn. 3:6; Heb. 12:9). Since our spirit contains the life of God, as we walk in the realm of our spirit through faith, keeping His commandments is not a burden because the life of God within carries out His will.

“Now the God of peace . . . equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever, and ever. Amen.” (Heb. 13:20-21)

Living in spirit, freed from the Law

We are freed from the law, yet we maintain God’s righteousness in our living by living “according to the Spirit.”

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:2-4)

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law” (Gal. 5:18). Here we see that the believer is freed from the law when he is following the leading of the Holy Spirit within him. In other words, he is inwardly seeking after the Lord in his spirit, in order to be in union with Him, to know Him and to follow Him. As he seeks after Christ in this way, and follows the anointing of the Spirit within, he is out from under the Law. He is experiencing grace. What could be clearer? It is when we are practicing our spiritual union with Christ that we leave behind the law, with its potential for being a catalyst for sin. “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14)

“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 [or spirit] and not in oldness of the letter.” (Rom. 7:6)

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)