The New Birth: 5. Walking in the Spirit

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We now come to look at the power of this eternal life in Christ, which is possessed by the believer.
In Galatians 2, we find the language of one who has experimentally accepted this wonderful portion. The Apostle writes, “I am crucified with Christ,” — here is the distinct and positive acceptance by faith, that, in God’s sight, Paul the sinner existed no longer! The unrighteous being’s existence had come to a termination in the Cross of Christ! God’s righteousness demands that the whole race of the first Adam, which had revolted from him, be ended judicially in His sight. He could no longer allow the unrighteous thing to continue. In love He provided a sacrifice which would satisfy fully His demand. In His gift of His Son, He expressed that love which was without measure or end. “In the end of the world” His own Son comes in — enters in grace, when His hour came, into that terrible judgment to which the first man became subject — He bears its fullest outburst — dies — and is buried. He is then raised up and glorified of God, whose righteousness it was at once to set on His throne, the Man who had done so. He thus brings to a judicial ending the whole race. Until this was done God never gave man the place of death — never pronounced the sentence that man was “dead in trespasses and sins.” We read, Christ “died for all, then were all dead” (2 Cor. 5:1414For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: (2 Corinthians 5:14)). This was the state Christ’s death proved them to be in. Here, then, is the unspeakable privilege for faith’s acceptance, to know that I am dead! It is not that God asks me to be better, but tells me I am dead! “Nevertheless, I live” says Paul, the believer. “Yet not I.” No! that sinful “I” is swept away — gone forever! “But Christ liveth in me.” Yes! He has brought to an end, in God’s sight and to faith’s acceptance, the “I” that broke my heart with its vileness; and rose up out of the judgment having done so, the only life, the life of every one who believes! “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.” Here then is the whole matter out, to the acceptance of faith: — I live by an object — I have my eye upon Him who is my life in heaven; the Holy Spirit has come down, and dwells in my body (1 Cor. 6:1919What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19)), linking me up to Christ, and making good His life in me; so that it is “not I but Christ liveth in me.”
The Holy Spirit then, is the power of this life. It is by the Holy Spirit, in the first instance, using the water of the word, that the soul is born again. The word reaching the conscience, made the conscience bad. But the water and the blood came out of the side of a dead Savior (John 19:3434But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. (John 19:34)). The blood purges the conscience, and makes it good. So that he that believes has got life out of the death of the One who had borne, when He died, the judgment of God; and who has Himself, as risen, become his life. The Holy Spirit then makes good this life — Christ — in the believer; “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin (its only fruit), but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Rom. 8:1010And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)); the practical righteousness which flows from this. This life is in resurrection, at the other side of death and judgment. It is Christ risen who is the life in which we rejoice and live before God (Col. 3:44When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)).
Now we have a principle in Scripture which we but feebly apprehend. It is Walking in the Spirit. We read, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:1616This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16).) “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:44That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:4)), &c. If we may characterize one thus walking in the Spirit, it would be by saying, He has got his eye upon Christ. The soul has got the apprehension that Christ is its life, and that it is united to Christ by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, when ungrieved, maintains the soul in unbroken engagement with Christ Himself, who is the life; and the Christian thus walks in the Spirit, outside the flesh, and what his evil nature loves and lives in. The thoughts of Jesus — His lowliness and meekness, gentleness, grace, separation from all evil, while surrounded by it, in this evil world — the tenderness of His gracious heart — the absence of all living to self, which was found in Him — the beauties, and graces, and mind of Christ, thus engage the soul, which adoringly worships in the thought, that He is my life! The result of all this is that, the soul thus occupied, is walking outside itself — outside the flesh, in the life of another, by the Spirit. He walks in the Spirit, and no trace of his evil nature appears. It is not that it is removed or changed; but it is kept in the silence of death, where God has graciously put it. It is not by efforts to reduce it to order, and so to get the victory — a victory which would only restore the flesh to its own importance and recognition: but by the engrossment and engagement of heart with Him, who is my life, outside of self altogether. Thus the flesh is left in its true place — dead, not made better.
How frequently does the Christian excuse himself for failure, by pleading the fact that he has got another nature; a horrible nature in him! How frequent are the excuses which come up before the soul! because, forsooth, he has got two natures, while in practice he should have but one.
The case of Stephen, in Acts 7, gives an example of a man walking in the Spirit. In Acts 1:99And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. (Acts 1:9), the disciples gazed after the ascending Lord Jesus, till a cloud received Him out of their sight; but they saw nothing more. In the second chapter, when the day of Pentecost had come, the Holy Spirit descended, and took up His abode in and amongst the disciples. In the seventh chapter, we find a man “full of the Holy Ghost, who looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:5555But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, (Acts 7:55)).” Here then is an example of a man living and walking in the Spirit; his eye is upon Christ. His testimony follows, as suited to those around him (Acts 7:5656And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. (Acts 7:56)). This provokes the enmity of the world, and they stone him with stones; but so completely superior is he to their murderous hate — so engrossed with Him, who is His life in heaven, that he is living as much in the translated state here below as if he were there altogether. He is spending his last moments here for Christ, without an anxiety or troubled thought about himself. He is “delivered unto death for Jesus sake,” and the “life of Jesus” is manifested in his body (2 Cor. 4:1010Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:10)). All the passions and resentment of evil in his nature are so completely subdued that they appear no more than if they had no existence whatsoever.
How often we find souls trying to reduce to order their evil nature in their own strength — true souls too — conscious that it should be reduced to order in God’s sight, as before man. Many a long fruitless life is spent thus. Praying, perhaps, and mourning over a nature which distresses and breaks the heart, in the laudable effort to subdue its workings, and quell its risings; but without effect. The soul has not apprehended the power to subdue it in anywise. As one has said, “The flesh of man likes to have some credit: it cannot bear to be treated as vile, and incapable of good — to be excluded and condemned to nothingness, not by efforts to annul itself, which would restore it to all its importance; but by a work that leaves it in its true nothingness, and that has pronounced the absolute judgment of death upon it, so that, convicted of nothing but sin, it has only to be silent. If it acts it is only to do evil. Its place is to be dead, not better. We have both right and power to hold it as such, because Christ has died, and we live in His risen life. He has Himself become our life.” Rather should the soul turn away in abhorrence of the evil thing, and get the eye distinctly upon Christ. This is the normal office of the Holy Spirit in the Christian, to keep the soul engaged with Him — to give thoughts of Jesus, and keep them flowing through the soul. His interests and engagements, aims and ends, become those of the Christian who has His life; and the result of engagement of heart with Christ is the easy and natural subjugation of the evil thing. It is treated with the non-recognition it deserves: its desires, aims, and lusts are checked; they are held in death and practical subjection; they are passed by without recognition; and the soul drops easily and happily into practical life in the Spirit. Members are mortified; not by trying to mortify them, but by the superior engagement with “things above where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God” (Col. 3). It is “through the Spirit,” we “mortify the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:1313For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Romans 8:13)); and the consequence is that, instead of the continual unhappy strife between the two natures, the flesh “lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh,” the Christian walks in the Spirit, and does not fulfill them in any wise. Instead of the sad “works of the flesh.” the “fruit of the Spirit” is the easy and natural outflow of that life which the believer possesses in Christ —”love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” is the exhortation founded on the fact that the Spirit is our life, connecting us with Christ. “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the passions and lusts.” The flesh has been crucified, and faith acts upon this wondrous privilege and deliverance, and “walks in the Spirit,” who is the power of this eternal life. The good Lord give His people to know it, and practice it, for His name’s sake.