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Governed by Life, Not by Law
By David A. DePra
But if ye be led of the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Gal 5:18)
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Rom 8:1-4)
To be LED by the Spirit is to be GOVERNED by the Spirit. This is the meaning in the New Testament Greek. This is vital to see, lest we limit being LED by the Spirit to, "leadings." No. If I have Christ in me, Jesus must GOVERN ME. In other words, He must be my personal LORD. The kingdom of God is IN ME through Christ. This is a government. Thus, those who are born from above as sons of God are to be GOVERNED by the Spirit of Christ, not merely ones who have, "leadings," of the Spirit.
Now, with that settled, we turn to Gal. 5:18. There is a contrast being given to us. Given the context – the book of Galatians – the Truth therein is clear. Paul is saying that if you are GOVERNED by the Spirit of God you are NOT under the law. Equal to this would be to say that if you are GOVERNED by the law, you are NOT being governed by the Spirit.
Please note that the issue here is NOT whether we are to obey God, or to do good works. The issue here is not DOING. Rather, the issue here is what – or WHO – GOVERNS us. That is the point. And Paul says that it must be one or the another. You and I are either governed by the law or governed by the Spirit of God.
Rewards and Punishments
When we think about being GOVERNED, it is natural to think about rules and laws. Sure. The law of God tells us how to live, and how to not live – giving us rules and laws. But ask: What really gives the law of God power to govern us? Actually, the penalty for violating it. Or, if you prefer, the reward for obeying it – if anyone actually thinks they can obey it. Without a doubt, the consequences and rewards attached to ANY law -- especially to the law of God -- is the power behind the law. This, more than anything else, gives the law power to govern people.
Indeed, this points us to the definition of the phrase, "under the law." To be under the law is to use my works to establish my own righteousness. Or, to if I fail to establish my own righteousness, being under the law means that I am proven to be unrighteous. But notice that it doesn’t end there. There must be results to each of these outcomes. To be under the law also means that I am under the rewards / penalty system of that law. My works not only determine whether I am righteous, but in turn, my righteousness determines my reward, punishment, indeed, my standing with God.
Thus, we see the result of being UNDER THE LAW. We are governed by the law because we want to make ourselves right with God – so that He will bless us rather than judge us. One way or another it comes down to that – this is what it means to be GOVERNED by the law of God.
The Cross of Jesus Christ put an end to all of that – and provided a new government. Rather than be governed by the law of God, we are to be governed by the Spirit of God. What does that mean? Well, it means that we are governed by a NEW LIFE. We are governed by a knowledge of Jesus Christ and a relationship with Him.
Now, if you think about that, you will see that this will not lead us into sin. Rather, it will actually get us to where we obey God all the more – obedience to the law included. But we will be under a completely different GOVERNMENT. Rather than be governed by rewards and punishments, we will be governed by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
Back to that in a minute. But for a second, I want to get back to the governing power of law – which is based in its system of rewards and punishments. I want to make a statement of Truth which is so contrary to human thinking, and so contrary to even much Christian teaching, that some may think it is heresy. That statement is this: Through the Cross of Jesus Christ, and subsequent resurrection, every system of rewards and punishments was abolished. In Christ, God no longer operates on that principle. Of course not. If He no longer operates based upon LAW, or works, or our merits, then He cannot operate on any system of rewards and punishments. Once we see that this is the case, we will know that God has abolished all systems of rewards and punishments.
Of course, there are many Christians who continue to believe that yes, we are not saved by works, but we are rewarded according to our works. I know all the verses that seem to indicate that, including the ones that actually state it – within a certain context. But the fact is, if we are rewarded according to our works, we are UNDER LAW. It may not be a law that is determining our salvation, but it is a law that is determining everything else. And if that is the case, then we are GOVERNED by that law in our Christian life.
If you and I are appointed to earn our reward in heaven then even if we are eternally and forever saved, our entire Christian life is going to being governed by LAW – by the law that determines our reward. We will be living under the law just as much as if we were trying to earn salvation. In fact, most Christians who live under the law do it along this line. They do it, not to earn salvation, but to either earn a greater reward, or to simply keep right with God so that they can be blessed NOW – which amounts to the same thing. In the end, they are governed by the law.
Paul said that if you are governed by the Spirit you are NOT governed by the law, which in turn, means that if you are governed by the law you are NOT governed by the Spirit. What this tells me, right off the bat, is that all systems of rewards and punishments are done away, and that all – including our reward – is by the grace of God in Christ. There is a lot more in that, but it is the Truth.
Works cannot earn us salvation or God’s blessing, and works cannot LOSE us salvation or God’s blessing. In fact, we must come to the Cross in order to be set free from the whole notion of our own working. The Cross has not only dealt with our sin, but the Cross has dealt with our sin of trying to deal with our own sin. There is simply no way to emerge from the Cross with any possibility of earning, or failing to earn, anything from God. Why? Because at the Cross you die. You are buried with Him in His death. You are raised with Him. There is no more law with rewards and punishments. There is only LIFE in Christ.
Losing One’s Life
If we are to earn anything from God then we are NOT in Christ. Rather, we are outside of Him trying to, "earn our way in," or we are trying to get God to bring Him out to us. No. If we are in Christ, we have everything He has, and everything He is. It is only left to us to grow to know Him and experience Him. It is left to us to WORK OUT what God has put INTO US by His grace.
There is a reason why the Bible says that the Lord Himself is our reward, and that we are the reward of the Lord. I’m going to leave it at that. For anyone who demands that they can earn a reward from God, have at it. You will meet defeat – even if that defeat is the deception that you are succeeding.
Jesus said we must LOSE OUR LIVES in order to find them IN HIM. Now, what is included in LIFE? Everything. Including your very being. Does it sound like there is any earning of a reward possible – or the possibility left over -- in LOSING your life? Well, Jesus actually does, in the passage in Matthew 16:23-28, quote that very verse, "you will be rewarded according to your works." But in context, what WORKS is He talking about? Clearly, the only, "works," mentioned in the passage is that of LOSING your life for His sake, or that of saving your life for yourself. Those are the only two works God talks about. And if you lose your life, your, "reward," is that you find true life IN HIM.
There is a bit of irony in this, if not a play on words. Obviously, if you are to lose your life into His hands, you are to lose your reward into His hands. Indeed, you are to lose all EARNING completely. All earning through works must be completely crucified out of the picture. But you will find life in HIM – you will find Christ Himself – in whom is ALL that God has for us. In one sentence the entire Truth is worked out – we are no longer under law of ANY kind, but governed by the Spirit of LIFE in Christ. We no longer obtain anything by our working – that possibility must be voluntarily lost or relinquished. Instead, we obtain all that God has for us IN CHRIST. HE, and only HE, is our, "reward." Yet IN HIM are all things.
Under the Law
Let’s read a bit more about what the Bible says about being, "under the law."
Now we know that what things the law says it says to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: (Rom 3:19-22)
What is the purpose of the law of God stated in this passage? To stop every boast of righteousness, and to show us all to be guilty. In the end, it will come down to that. If you try to use the law to make yourself righteous, you will stand contrary to this verse. God says that the law will expose you as a hopeless sinner. You will be trying to use it to become righteous. Your only chance of success is if you become totally deceived as to the Truth.
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse. (Gal 3:10)
This speaks for itself. If I try to achieve the righteousness of God through your own working, you are UNDER A CURSE. I believe this is pointing to the fact that to the extent that we continue walking under the law we will live in defeat. We will NEVER come into the Truth. If that doesn’t get our attention nothing will.
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. (Gal 5:4-5)
This is a stunning pronouncement by Paul. Christ will be of NO EFFECT unto us if we are under the law. We will stand, not under grace, but outside of it. Indeed, this is because to be under the law is to deny the Cross. Think not?
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Gal 2:20-21)
This is how serious an issue this matter of being governed by law is. If I try to do through my own working what is only in Christ through His Cross, I will never truly experience the effect of the Cross. I will never live in the grace of God. I will be under a curse. I will be deceived.
But what is the effect of the Cross? Paul said that Christ would be of NO EFFECT to those justified by law-keeping. So what EFFECT is He talking about?
He is talking about the power of the Cross is setting us free from sin. He is talking about the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, which is only possible if we lose our lives to the Cross. You can live in religion all your life. But this is not Christianity. God has give us a spirit of power, love, and a disciplined spirit.
If you read the many passages in the Bible that talk about the Cross, and the need to come to the Cross, rather than try to become righteous through my own working, you see that again and again it is not just SIN that must come under the Cross. All the more vital my own working to deal with my sin must come under the Cross. Of course, this working IS SIN – although we don’t usually realize it. It is a denial of the Cross, and therefore unbelief.
My own working to deal with my sin can take many forms. Sometimes it is outward works. But often it is inward works, in the form of attitudes, emotions, and intellectual exercises, all of which constitute adherence to some form of LAW – to some method to earn or maintain standing before the Lord. People fast, memorize scripture, confess sins to each other, cast out generational curses, worship outwardly, keep principles, make themselves accountable, submit to authority, join a church or group, get hands laid upon them, give money, or even do NOTHING – thinking that any or all of these things will be THE THING that will cure what ails them. Some of us even turn our faith into something we present to God as our righteousness. No. NOTHING I can produce out of myself – nothing I can work and nothing I can be – is the answer. The only answer is that I must LOSE MY LIFE – lose every one of these things as the answer – and come to the Cross and die with Christ. Only then can there be true life.
You see, when I try through my own working to solve my sin issue, I am actually putting my faith in my own working. Thus, my faith is NOT in Christ crucified. And yet, even then, God is faithful. He will allow us to try every angle and every method to achieve righteousness so that He can use our failure to prove to us the Truth. It would seem that it is impossible for us to learn it any other way. It is only when we come to the utter and complete failure of our own working that we see the Truth – in Christ crucified alone must our faith stand.
When God allows us to continue to try and fail in our own working, it will seem to us that we are falling apart. We may doubt our own Christianity. Why? Because what we thought should work isn’t working. And if we have no frame of reference for the Cross, we won’t have any answers. It is always a terrible thing when there is a huge BLANK SPACE in our knowledge of God. The enemy will bring many things to fill in that blank space. But only one thing can fill it. God is letting us fail in our UNTRUTH so that He might prove the TRUTH in us – that we really have nothing in ourselves. But also that in Christ crucified alone there is hope. Thus, even our failure is unto the end that we might see HIM.
Now, once our faith is IN Christ crucified, there is a power. There is Truth and light and freedom. Power does NOT come from a second blessing. Power is Christ crucified and His resurrection.
Faith in Christ crucified is an abiding reality. I continue to rely upon HIM for everything. I continue to rely, yes, on what He has done. But upon HIM now. Today He is Christ crucified. It is upon that basis, and that name, that everything stands.
Am I weary and heavy laden? If so, it might be because I am working – I am trying through my own working to live in Christ. I cannot. If I want to live in Christ, I must first die to all my own working. Then I won’t be governed by any sort of law. I will be governed by LIFE – the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
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