The Old and New Testaments Have the Same Message

Fortunately over the last 30 years there have been significant voices trying to break the Christian misconception that the Old testament was a book of commandment keeping with little to do with love and grace and the New Testament was more about love and grace and less about commandment keeping. What had been overlooked in that stereotype were the many verses in the Old Testament about grace and the many verses in the New Testament about commandment keeping. God didn’t change his mind in the New Testament. Both testaments have basically the same message – That God created us, loves us, liberates us (exodus, sacrifices, and return from exile in OT; cross and empty tomb in the NT) and seeks to bring restoration to the world and that we respond in a way that is fitting with those godly priorities and objectives.

In John 14:15 Jesus throws out one of those stereotype challenging verses that makes the New Testament sound like the Old Testament (from the old/obsolete point of view mentioned above) when the reality is it is God just sounding like God regardless of which testament you are in. “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Then in 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” But Jesus what about grace and all those pages penned by Paul about being saved by grace apart from works and all the rest?

Let’s put what Jesus said in terms of relationships we all understand today. “If you love your wife you will do the things she appreciates.” Or how about the flip side, “If you could care less about the things your wife appreciates the most, do you really love your wife?” The state of being married is not defined by the presence or absence of doing things important to the other party. The state of being married is an agreed upon covenant on the front end. Doing doesn’t necessarily make a spouse love you more but the absence of any caring actions is demonstrable of what is on the inside. Doing is an external sign of an internal state. Doing shows what is in the heart and that is what God is after no matter which testament you are reading.

0 Responses to The Old and New Testaments Have the Same Message

  1. Frank says:

    Matt,

    A fine little piece of theology. I really like the emphasis on the unity of the Bible, and on works as a demonstration of faith. Nicely done!

  2. K. Rex Butts says:

    Excellent post. I am struck by the fact that in both testaments, obedience (the way we live) is the apologetic witness to the rest of the world. I am not saying there is not a place for books and sermons on what we conventionally think as Christian Apologetics but if we think that offering logical reasons and proofs for God’s existance can replace faithful living as a credible reason for God’s existance…well, perhaps then we have misunderstood God.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  3. ozziepete says:

    Too funny, I just blogged on the same thing yesterday. http://tinyurl.com/yjstcn2 I’ve been preaching through Exodus trying to make this point. I think the 10 Commandments actually demonstrate this better than most people realise. The basis for the covenant is God’s love for His people. It’s only after agreeing to covenant that the laws/terms are given. Ex 20 must be read in the context of 19:3-8.

  4. […] A friend just blogged on a similar topic here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Church Core ValuesJohn 21: Do You Love […]

  5. Jerry Starling says:

    Matt,

    This is another (or maybe the prime) example of the “Indicative imperative.” You “are” before you “do.”

    You must fall in love with God before you can possibly do what He says you should do. Without the loving relationship (which definitely involves the Holy Spirit – see Romans 5:5), the commands of God will be burdensome.

    Who was it (Augustine???) who said, “Love God and do as you please.” If we love God, it will please us to please Him.

    Jerry
    committedtotruth.wordpress.com

  6. jamesbrett says:

    Is it fair to say, or is it an oversimplification, that the major difference between Old Testament “command keeping” and New Testament obedience is that we now have the Spirit to empower us to actually be able to keep those commands and live obedient lives?

    • K. Rex Butts says:

      James,

      That is a good question. I am not sure if that is the difference or not. I don’t know. That is a question I would like to ask my former NT Theology professor, Dr. Rick Oster (who was instrumental in getting many HUGSR students to see the consistency between the OT and NT).

      Any ways, your question is one that needs exploration because it is a good one. Thanks!

      Grace and peace,

      Rex

  7. Brian says:

    Amen! this has been a “hobby” of mine for awhile.
    very important stuff, the misconceptions ruin true grace and defame God in the OT, and make fools out of David and other men of Faith

  8. Hank says:

    I don’t believe that it is any easier for a child of God to “actually keep (God’s) commands and live obedient lives” today, than it ever was for the children of God throughout the Old Testament.

    Rather, I am convinced that it was just as easy and/or difficult to live obediently for Adam & Eve, Joseph & Mary, etc., as it is for you and I today.

    Otherwise, unless God will judge the Old Testament saints differently than he will us…. it would be harder for them to go to heaven than it is for us.

    IF in fact, we have the Holy Spirit helping us to serve God and be faithful and pleasing to him whereas the saints of old had no such help available.

    Not trying to derail this good post, but I am very curious to hear more thoughts regarding the concept which claims that it is easier to serve and please God as a Christian today than it was for his people throughout the Old Testament.

    • jamesbrett says:

      Well, I don’t know that I’ve thought completely through all this yet — actually I know that I have not. However, I know for sure that we are today saved by God’s grace through faith. And I know that those who lived under the old covenant were also saved (called righteous) by God’s grace through faith.

      So if the Holy Spirit’s indwelling empowers us to be obedient to God’s commands in a way that was not available to those who have gone before us, I don’t think it makes it any easier for us to be saved than for them. Because we are all saved by grace through faith. The obedience is a result of our faith, unable to be separated from it, but it doesn’t save us. Only if we were saved based on how closely we came to being obedient to God in all things would the Spirit’s role give us an unfair advantage.

      Though, even then, if we’re saved by God’s grace, it seems impossible that there’s really an unfair advantage. It’s all God’s gifting and his initiation. If he chooses to pay the last workers a full day’s wages, that’s his prerogative…

      But even if the Spirit did not provide for us the power with which to be obedient (I believe he does), I think I would still make the argument that it’s easier for us to be obedient today than it was for those in the Old Testament — if for no other reason, just because we have now been able to see God in the flesh. We know what God looks like in human form, how he lives, what he does. That’s why Jesus renews certain challenges / commands, such as the shift from loving your neighbor as yourself to loving your neighbor as Christ has loved you. There is a new standard, which is a more clear example of what God desires.

      I’m actually writing a post later tonight about some of these ideas and their relation to the incarnation. We’ll see how that ends up…

  9. Matt Dabbs says:

    How does Jesus raising the bar in his teaching, especially the sermon on the mount as to the obedience God is looking for play into all of this? Sounds like he made things more strict, not more easy. Any thoughts on that?

    • jamesbrett says:

      Good point, Matt. I realize I didn’t word well what I wrote. I do believe that Jesus “makes new” some commands, though I’m not sure I’d call it raising the bar — rather he explained and demonstrated more clearly the desires of God. And that does SEEM to make the commands more difficult to follow.

      1) I would argue Jesus’ “new commands” are not a changing in the desires of God, but a clarification. Not an actual raising of the bar, but a more clear explanation of what God has desired all along — a description of kingdom life, that is now being demonstrated in him. I don’t think God in the past wanted us only to refrain from adultery, but now has changed his mind to say, “don’t lust.” He didn’t want the lustful thinking in the Old Testament either.

      2) I think having seen God in the flesh (so that we have seen the Father), is what might make living out the commandments “easier,” not the fact that Jesus has set / demonstrated a “higher” standard.

      3) Honestly, it’s hard for me to look at all this as if the Holy Spirit doesn’t bring to the table a great deal of power and guidance in all of this — because I believe he does.

      One of the things I like most about Christianity is (as far as I know, though I could be very wrong) it’s the only religion in which I don’t have to find the power within myself to please my God. He gives me the Spirit to enable me to live a life that is pleasing to him. Am I off base?

      • Hank says:

        Would you say that the religion of God’s people throughout the O.T. required them to “find the power within (themselves) to please (their) God”? Assuming they were not given the Spirit to enable them to live a life that was pleasing to him?

      • nick gill says:

        I would say what Brett said before —

        we are all saved by grace through faith. The obedience is a result of our faith, unable to be separated from it, but it doesn’t save us. Only if we were saved based on how closely we came to being obedient to God in all things would the Spirit’s role give us an unfair advantage.

        Adherence to religion is not what pleases our God — an active faith is what pleases our God.

    • ozziepete says:

      Good question Matt. I think it’s easy for us to project NT values back onto the OT. I’d agree tha’t the whole “You have heard it said… But I say to you…” pattern of Matt 5 indicates that Jesus was raising the bar?

      The Pentateuch was given to establish a relationship between God and his people, but primarily at a national level. It became the civil code enforced by the Israelite nation. Therefore, it wasn’t appropriate for God to legislate against lust. Can you imagine the Israelite cops trying to enforce and punish that crime.

      In Numbers 15:39 the crime is pursuing the “lusts of the heart and eyes”, not the lusts themselves. While other OT passages may warn against the dangers of lust I’m not aware of it ever being legislated against as Jesus does in Matt 5:28.

      It seems to me that there are some different standards between the Old & New Covenants and the role of the Holy Spirit certainly differentiates the two also.

      Finally, further down Hank makes the point several times that Jesus statements were made under the Old Covenant and not in the “church age”. I really think that’s an artificial divide.

      In Mark 1:15 John proclaims, “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near.” Note it says, “HAS COME” not “WILL SOON COME”. In the ministry of Jesus the kingdom of God arrived! Maybe it just started a transition period, but at a minimum it means we can’t just dismiss Jesus statements as being “under the old covenant”. Jesus teaching and life is the foundation of our faith! Jesus was already calling his disciples to live according to the kingdom of God. He wasn’t teaching them to better observe the Old Covenant!

      I’ve enjoyed the discussion, thanks everyone for taking the time to share your thoughts. 🙂

      • Hank says:

        Ozzie, I am glad I just noticed what you have written here. My point in bringing up the fact that these statements of Jesus were made under the old covenant is not to dismiss them at all. And I do not recalll even implying as much. Did I?
        Rather, my point had (and still has) to do with the fact that they were made to an audience who had no “indwelling of the Holy Spirit”….seeing how the Holy Spirit was not yet given.

        And I agree with your statement that, “Jesus teaching and life is the foundation of our faith!”

  10. Hank says:

    Good point Matt. However, wouldn’t you say that the Lord was was more explaining the type of love and obedience that God had been calling for all along? As opposed to the idea that he was kicking it iall up a notch? One thing for sure, he was at least explaining to the audience then and there the way God really looked at things at the time. And he was clearly expecting the disciples back then and there (which was prior to Pentecost), to understand and actually live by the standards he had just clarified in the sermon (Mat. 7:24-27). There is no indication that he was looking off into the future (the church age), when he was explaining that God was concerned with the hearts of men as well as their actions. What I am questioning, is the idea that the disciples after Penetecost were/are more empowered to manifest pure hearts than were their Old Testament brethren. I believe that the Old Testament blessed man of Psa. 1, who delighted in and meditated on the law of God both day and night, was every bit as empowered to be just as pure as any saint this side of Pentecost.

    P.s., I love this site bro. Thanks

  11. K. Rex Butts says:

    At the risk of oversimplification, I believe the difference between the OT and the NT is that the later is the fulfillment of what God promises through covenant to Abraham. Because of Christ and his cross, both Jew and Gentile can become one – “fellow citizens” (cf. Eph 2.19) – in Christ. Living out the moral/ethical demands of redemption does not seem to be any easier, even without having to live out the precise Levitical law code. It is still just as difficult to live as a righteous person. The good news is that it is Jesus Christ who makes us righteous.

    A good book that I am almost finished with which sheds great light on this subject is “The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative” by Christopher J. H. Wright. The book is biblical theology at its finest and therefore it will make for some good Bible study to those with some background in the fields of theology as well as Old and New Testament studies.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  12. Hank says:

    Just be clear…

    I believe that the Bible teaches us that the armor of God which is available to the Christian is the same armor God had provided his people throughout the ages. As we utilize such armor (and to the extent we do), God empowers us to have pure hearts, resist the enemy, and walk in the light. And I believe there is no reason to believe that the formula is different today than it ever was before. God strengthens, protects, and preserves the NT saint in the same way as he strengthened, protected, and preserved our OT counterparts. Of course, there was some miraculous activity along these lines with the apostles and their work during the first century.

    Thanks all for your thoughts…

  13. jamesbrett says:

    Hank, you are right to say that I don’t believe individuals were given the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the O.T. [The Spirit did occasionally come on someone in order to act, but there was no indwelling — Jn 7:37-39] I believe the Israelites were expected to write the law on their own hearts, by speaking of it regularly, repeating it to their children, meditating on it often, etc — so, yes, I believe they were under their own power to be obedient to God.

    That seems to be the point — that Israel was under a system in which they would over and over again fail, bringing death, BUT pointing out sin (and the need for a savior). So, although man failed to be obedient to God’s desires, the law achieved its purpose, which was to make sin be recognized as sin, and was therefore holy and good. (Rom 7:7-13)

    Then enters the new covenant, ushered in by Christ, who makes men righteous through faith, both those under the old and the new covenant. But Christ does more than bring forgiveness of sins; he sets up his kingdom, in which believers are able to experience in part now what they will experience fully in time. This is where the Spirit seems to come into play. “We have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Rom 7:6) So now, not only did Jesus serve as an offering for our sins, but he did what the law was powerless to do, and condemned sin in man, “in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:3,4)

    So (one of) the Spirit’s role(s) is that of sanctification, bringing about in the believer a kingdom lifestyle. Hence all the talk in the New Testament about living by the Spirit, its fruits in our lives, and the way in which it brings obedience and the removal of sin from our lives. The Spirit is the beginning of God writing his law on our hearts himself. (Jer 31:31-34, Heb 10:15-16) So it is not under our own power that we are obedient to God’s commands.

    To me, that’s what is so beautiful about Christianity. It is God who does the drawing, God who does the saving, God who does the sanctifying work in man, and God who receives all the glory. I am but to have faith in that kind of Father, trust in his Son to save me, and walk in step with the Spirit he has given me.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t word it that “it’s EASIER for those under the new covenant to be obedient to God’s commands because of the Holy Spirit in us. Maybe it’s said better that to be obedient under the old covenant was an IMPOSSIBILITY, and purposefully so. But when the Spirit is in our lives, it becomes possible.

  14. Hank says:

    James,

    I appreciate your thoughts. Please allow me to ask a couple of more questions relative to this discussion:

    1) Do you believe that the children of God during the OT were able (even expected to) to produce the “fruit of the spirit”? If so, how were they able to do that?

    2) You wrote that — “It is God who does the drawing, God who does the saving, God who does the sanctifying work in man, and God who receives all the glory. I am but to have faith in that kind of Father, trust in his Son to save me, and walk in step with the Spirit he has given me.”

    Would you say the same regarding the children of God prior to Pentecost? Or did God not DO the “sancifying work in man” until after the Day of Pentecost? In other words, do you believe that the OT saint was responsibe for sanctifying his own self but that the NT saint has it done to and/or for him by God? And if so, doesn’t that imply that if I am not as sanctified as much as another Christian, that God is the one responsible?

    3) We know that you and I (as Christians) are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit”? (Eph 5:18). Does that not mean that you and I are the ones responsible for filling ourselves with such? Can any Christian determine to be more filled with the Spirit in the year to come than he was over the past year? If so, how does he go about becoming more filled with the Spirit?

    Please know that my understanding of this subject is not what it used to be and that I am genuinely interested in seeing how others address these same questions that have challenged me over the years — I am not just trying to debate you for sport 🙂

    Thanks brother and look forward to your (and others) thoughts.

  15. Hank says:

    Also, you wrote — “I believe the Israelites were expected to write the law on their own hearts, by speaking of it regularly, repeating it to their children, meditating on it often, etc — so, yes, I believe they were under their own power to be obedient to God.”

    Does not God expect the Christian to write the word of God on their heart, to speak of it regurlarly, repeat it to their children, meditate on it often, etc.?

    My fear is that many Christians (not anybody here), remain spiritual infants who are basically ignorant of the word of God because they have been led to believe that unlike the OT saints, that Christians today are taught the word of God and are sanctified by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit himself. That the responsibility is not their own.

  16. jamesbrett says:

    Hank, I’m afraid the answers that follow are not going to be thought out well, but it seems we’re both searching for truth here and not out to get one another — so I’ll write down my initial reactions with little proofing:

    1) I don’t think anyone, under old or new covenant, can produce the fruit of the Spirit. It is HIS fruit. And since they didn’t have the indwelling of the Spirit, I would say it wasn’t produced in them. However, I do believe that by meditating on God’s word, and loving his laws, an individual can begin to look more like God and act more in accordance with his will.

    2) I believe that all men who are justified are justified by the blood of Jesus Christ, through their faith in him. But beyond justification, actually becoming more like Jesus Christ (oversimplified definition of sanctification?) seems to [today] be the task of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as we walk in step with him. Our position is made perfect through Jesus, but our practice begins to meet our perfect position through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I think those under the old covenant were left to strive to become more like God through practicing the law, their love for God, and discipline.

    But if I don’t look as much like Jesus as the next Christian, I don’t believe it’s a mistake on God’s part. Rather, I may not have opened myself up completely to the Spirit’s working in my life. I may not be disciplined in my relationship with God. I may be too concerned with the worries of the world. I am not suggesting the Spirit does everything, as we do nothing. It’s about us walking in the Spirit. As I am obedient to God, the Spirit encourages and empowers further obedience. As I exercise my faith daily, the Spirit urges me on in those tasks.

    3) Some suggest there is a difference between being indwelled by the Spirit and being “filled” with the Spirit — that one is what every believer has, and that the other involves how much I allow God to rule in every aspect of my life. I don’t know that I’m comfortable with this exact wording and language, but I do believe the Spirit lives in every Christian, though many don’t walk in him, and therefore are not exhibiting his fruits in their lives. [But I also wonder how long these remain Christians, before they are cut off…]

    • Matt Dabbs says:

      James,

      #1 – What about John 15:5 – “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

      He will bear much fruit. It is clear that he only bears fruit when connected to the vine but it is still part of being a branch that we bear fruit. Sounds like a partnership to me. Here is why. Look at the flip side in John 15. Rebellious (disobedient) branches don’t bear fruit and are then cut off like branches to be burned. But they were connected to the same vine at first, right? So by what you are saying everything connected to the vine bears fruit because it is the vine’s doing. But Jesus clearly teaches in John 15 that there is a partnership that is taking place and both have to be doing their part for fruit to be produced.

      Does that make sense?

      • jamesbrett says:

        Yes, I think that makes perfect sense. That’s what I was trying to say in #s 2 and 3 — and probably worded poorly. I agree completely that it’s a partnership between the Christian and the Spirit — the two working in conjunction with one another. But it has been my understanding that under the old covenant, there was not that partnership…

        I do believe fruitless Christians are cut off at some point — though I don’t think they particularly have to be “rebellious.” It seems from the parable of the soils they can just be too concerned with money and the worries of the world (though I suppose that could be called rebellious). All the same, that’s where I’d say most modern Christians are: we possess a faith in Christ, but are not really allowing the Spirit to work in them as he desires, because we’re too caught up in the worries of the world.

        Also, I spoke a little more to the idea of people waiting on the Spirit to do all the work in another response that is awaiting moderation.

  17. jamesbrett says:

    *4) I do believe God expects us to meditate on his word today. I believe that is one way in which we open ourselves up to the work of the Spirit in us.

    “My fear is that many Christians (not anybody here), remain spiritual infants who are basically ignorant of the word of God because they have been led to believe that unlike the OT saints, that Christians today are taught the word of God and are sanctified by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit himself. That the responsibility is not their own.” –Hank

    Hank, I have the same fear. But I also fear (maybe more so) that in reaction to this, we ignore the biblical truth concerning the responsibility of the Holy Spirit in sanctification. And we take that responsibility on ourselves. In essence, then, we are giving up what Jesus gave us, in favor of the Old Testament approach, which was designed to fail in order to point to sin and tutor us into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

    And, as far as remaining spiritual infants, Paul says this is a result not of waiting on the Spirit to do everything, but of not being “spiritual” — ie. not being guided by the Spirit (1 Cor 3:1-3). Spiritual infancy seems to be a result of being more concerned with worldly issues than with what the Spirit desires to do in my own life.

    Matt, thanks for letting this discussion take over much of your space here. I hope it’s alright, also, if I paste two links. Hank, the first of these is my “life story” in vague terms. I discuss in it my battle between the extremes of legalistic religion (my power) and the “recliner of grace” (God’s power as I do nothing) — and how both left me lacking the change God desired to produce. The second is my attempt at understanding Paul’s words about doing what he doesn’t want to do, etc — that he was describing there a life under the law –and that Christ rescued him from that life.

    http://jamesbrett.wordpress.com/about/
    http://jamesbrett.wordpress.com/2009/11/06/pauls-mistakes/

  18. Hank says:

    Thanks James,

    I really do appreciate your thoughts and think this is a very interesting subject. If I may, I would like to share what I believe and read what you have to say regarding such.

    1. I believe that as a man (or woman) hears, believes, meditates, and acts according to the word of God, he is at the same time (and to the same extent), being led by God and will be a producer of his fruit. Just like the blessed man of Psa. 1 who delighted in and meditated on the word of God “is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season” v.3. I picture the same fruits here as in Gal. 5 — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc.
    Further, Jesus told his disciples in Jn. 15 that they were already clean through the word and that they would produce fruit as long as they would remain/abide in him. Again, I do not think that the fruit considered here is any different than is described by Paul in Gal. 5.
    Too, the Lord said in Jn. 15:2 (which was before Pentecost), that “every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

    Now, this whole concept of God working alongside of the faithful follower to prune and thereby enableing him to produce even more fruit is nothing new. The question is not DID God prune and produce back in the day, but — HOW did God “prune” and cause a man to “bear more fruit” before the day of Pentecost? After all, it was produced, and God was always there to prune and help a man produce even more.

    I don’t see any reason to believe that fruit God helped produce in his followers in the OT was any different than the fruit God helps his followers to produce today. Nor do I see any reason to believe that the way he does it has changed. In essence, when Paul described the armor of God in Eph. 6, I do not believe he was introducing something new, namely — prayer, truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, and the word of God. Rather, such armor was provided all along and when utilized, the believer would be “strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”

    Lastly (and before Matt blocks me for too many words), is it at least POSSIBLE that what Paul had in mind in Gal. 5:16-26 was the battle between the disciple’s flesh and his spirit — rather than the disciples flesh and the Holy Spirit? Like when Jesus said that the (disciple’s) spirit was willing but that the (disciple’s) flesh was weak. For if the battle is between my flesh and the Holy Spirit…. why is my flesh so often stronger?

    • jamesbrett says:

      Thanks, Hank. I, too, am enjoying our discussion. I just hope Matt doesn’t mind us taking up so much space…

      – I agree with you that there are fruits produced under the old covenant through meditation on, and obedience to, the laws of God. I just don’t see how they can be the fruits of the Spirit. I even believe they are things like love and joy and peace, but if they’re exactly the same as in the New Testament, then why would Paul say the Spirit produces them? When it was really me producing them through reading laws and being disciplined to be obedient? If I allow my sinful nature to rule me, it will produce in me impurity, hatred, jealousy. But if I allow the Spirit to guide me, it will produce love and peace, etc.

      – The entire section of John 15 about the vine and pruning and fruit is surrounded on either side by Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit. And he explains that the Spirit will teach us all things and guide us into all the truth that Jesus was not at that time able/willing to share. Jesus even says we’re better off for him to leave, so the Spirit can come. So I would question any reading of John 15 that doesn’t take into account the Spirit’s role in producing fruit — as that is the context.

      – Romans 8 is nearly a parallel of John 15, and makes it clear that the way in which we do remain in Christ and him in us is through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. The Spirit is said to be active to help us meet completely the requirements of the law. We are told that we are controlled by the Spirit if he lives in us. Paul also says that the Spirit in us allows us to receive life (I am assuming this is abundant life or true life or kingdom life, something of that sort?). And it is by the Spirit that we put to death the sin in our body. He then goes on to talk about the Spirit’s role in bringing about the full redemption of our bodies and our full adoption as God’s sons — I would call that “glorification,” the end result of sanctification. But now, we only have the first fruits of that glory, and we have it through the Spirit.

      – I don’t think I can read the Galatians 5 text as a battle between the disciple’s own spirit and a sinful nature for several reasons:
      1) Vv 16-18 seem to be clear that we are discussing living by the Holy Spirit and not some other part of myself.
      2) This reading would also be more in keeping with other texts in the Bible — John 14-16, Romans 7-8, 1 Cor 2, etc.
      3) (and this one I’m really not sure about, but…) it seems a man’s own “spirit” is somehow influenced either by the sinful nature or the Spirit of God in him. I don’t believe a man’s spirit is itself good and separate from a sinful nature. If I were forced to call a man’s own spirit good or bad (and I don’t think I am), I would choose that his own spirit is bad — the sinful nature. I think that’s why it’s called the “nature.”

    • jamesbrett says:

      Hank, I realized I went off on several tangents and didn’t answer your questions. I will try again:

      “The question is not DID God prune and produce back in the day, but — HOW did God “prune” and cause a man to “bear more fruit” before the day of Pentecost?”
      – I’m not sure. It seems, though, the Old Testament is written with the community in mind first and foremost, so that it’s hard to see this pruning on the individual level? With the nation, he pruned by allowing other nations to come in and destroy Israel. And the nation was expected to produce fruit (ie. look like God to other nations) by keeping his laws.

      There do seem to be benefits on an individual level, such as a man will be happy if he keeps God’s laws. And I think following God’s laws bring fruits (like those of the Spirit) in a person’s life — even in non-Christians that just live a good life. That person will exhibit love and peace and joy. But it’s not the same as what/how the Spirit produces.

      I don’t think it’s necessarily that the fruit itself is different, but that we are being empowered to be obedient by the Spirit, and thereby exhibiting more fruit than we would left to our own abilities. Maybe that’s a way I can word what I think?

      “For if the battle is between my flesh and the Holy Spirit…. why is my flesh so often stronger?”
      – I would argue because we’re not doing the kinds of things that allow the Holy Spirit to work in us. I think I must be obedient to God’s commands, or at least have true intentions of doing so, in order for the Holy Spirit to do his work in me. As I practice obedience, he empowers me to be even more obedient. I would say that many “Christians” are not making genuine attempts to be obedient in every aspect of their lives. And the Spirit will not force them to be compliant. And for those who are actually struggling between flesh and the Spirit, generally, I think flesh wins so often for two reasons:
      1) it is the default setting.
      2) we get caught up in worldly things and lose focus on what’s lasting and true

      I see the Spirit’s empowering us to be obedient in much the same way I see God drawing us to him… or Jesus saving us from death. In none of those cases, does God force something on us, but if we draw near to him, he finishes; if we seek grace and salvation, he pours it on us; if we are striving to be obedient, he enables us.

      And now my questions:

      – Why is it so important that New Testament Christians not have an “unfair advantage” in being obedient?

      – What do you believe is the purpose of Jesus sending the Spirit to dwell in believers?

      • Hank says:

        – Why is it so important that New Testament Christians not have an “unfair advantage” in being obedient?

        It’s not. I just don’t see that we do. Again, I simply understand the Bible to teach that the faithful disciple of God who was connected to and abided in the true vine before Pentecost, was just as able to be pruned and produce the same fruit as us today. Even the same amounts. I don’t believe that the armor of God was new equiptment to be issued out for those of the church age exclusively.

        – What do you believe is the purpose of Jesus sending the Spirit to dwell in believers?

        Primarily, to guide the apostles into all truth, to teach them all things, to remind them of everything Jesus had spoken to them, to speak through them when brought before councils, etc.

        As far as you and I, and the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit,” I wonder if we have forced an interpretation that is not only unneccessary, but also inconsistent? Here is what I mean:

        The Holy Spirit is “in us” as Chrsitians make no mistake. The Bible is clear in teaching that the Holy Spirit is “in” every Child of God today. But, the Bible was just as clear in teaching that Jesus himself was “in” his disciples (and that they were “in” him as well) Jn. 15:4 ff.

        Why do we have to insist that the Holy Spirit is “in” us in any way(s) different than the way that Jesus is “in” us? Or, that God the Father is “in” us? Or, that we are “in” them?

  19. jamesbrett says:

    Hank, I had responded earlier about a couple of other things that haven’t come through. I think they’re awaiting moderation, because I had put a couple of links on the page. Anyway, here is that response:

    *4) I do believe God expects us to meditate on his word today. I believe that is one way in which we open ourselves up to the work of the Spirit in us.

    “My fear is that many Christians (not anybody here), remain spiritual infants who are basically ignorant of the word of God because they have been led to believe that unlike the OT saints, that Christians today are taught the word of God and are sanctified by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit himself. That the responsibility is not their own.” –Hank

    Hank, I have the same fear. But I also fear (maybe more so) that in reaction to this, we ignore the biblical truth concerning the responsibility of the Holy Spirit in sanctification. And we take that responsibility on ourselves. In essence, then, we are giving up what Jesus gave us, in favor of the Old Testament approach, which was designed to fail in order to point to sin and tutor us into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

    And, as far as remaining spiritual infants, Paul says this is a result not of waiting on the Spirit to do everything, but of not being “spiritual” — ie. not being guided by the Spirit (1 Cor 3:1-3). Spiritual infancy seems to be a result of being more concerned with worldly issues than with what the Spirit desires to do in my own life.

    Matt, thanks for letting this discussion take over much of your space here. I hope it’s alright, also, if I paste two links. Hank, the first of these is my “life story” in vague terms. I discuss in it my battle between the extremes of legalistic religion (my power) and the “recliner of grace” (God’s power as I do nothing) — and how both left me lacking the change God desired to produce. The second is my attempt at understanding Paul’s words about doing what he doesn’t want to do, etc — that he was describing there a life under the law –and that Christ rescued him from that life.

    [on my blog, the first post is actually a page titled ‘my story.’ the second is a post titled ‘paul’s big mistakes.’

  20. Hank says:

    Hi James.

    One quick point:

    You wrote — “I agree completely that it’s a partnership between the Christian and the Spirit — the two working in conjunction with one another. But it has been my understanding that under the old covenant, there was not that partnership…”

    However, (and as Matt pointed out above), Jesus clearly speaks of a partnership when teaching his disciples that they must remain in him to produce any fruit and that as they do…God would partner with them resulting in even more fruit produced. And as Jesus taught such…they were all living under the Old Covenant. And there is no indication that Jesus was looking into the future as opposed to stating the way things were at the time and had always been, for that matter. (i.e., the blessed man of Psa. 1).

    • jamesbrett says:

      I think the entire conversation in John 13-17 (give a little) is forward-looking. Jesus is explaining what is soon to happen, and how they will carry out his mission when he’s gone. I don’t know any way that I can read chapter 15 without the comments on the Spirit’s coming (in 14 and 16) being included in the thoughts. Another indication is that much of the same wording is used in Romans 8 about remaining in Christ and him in us — but it is clear there that Christ remains in us through the Holy Spirit.

      Jesus is also forward-looking and speaking of the Spirit in the Great Commission when he says he will be with them until the very end, as they make disciples. This is through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling that he will be with them forever. And before he commissions them, he reminds them that all authority on heaven and earth is his. Then he uses that authority to send them, while telling them that he (and his authority) will be with them.

      This is what’s so beautiful about being a part of God’s mission. It is his mission, by his authority, with him active in it at all times. Never is it my responsibility, but rather God’s responsibility in me — through the Spirit’s indwelling.

      • Hank says:

        You are right in saying that Jesus is forward looking in those chapters when speaking of the coming and mission of the Holy Spirit.

        However, he was not looking forward when he claimed that those current disciples were not only “in him” (the true vine), but that so long as they “remained in him” they would (continue to) produce fruit, and even more fruit as God would do his work of pruning them.

        What I am arguing is that the whole concept of the child of God being able to (even expected to) produce the fruit of the spirit (while working in conjunction with God), was nothing new. The faithful children of God of the OT were just as much “in Christ” and able to produce the same fruit as the Christian is today.

        And my second point is that the way in which that fruit is produced by the child of God is the same today as it ever was. Namely, by abiding in the vine, praying, meditating, etc. Basically, by utilizing the same armor of God that has been available to every saint throughout the ages.

        NOTE — my apologies for posting this before reading what you just added. (I just saw that you have added something but wanted to include this). I will read what you last sent and reply soon.

        Thanks, bro

  21. jamesbrett says:

    Somewhere along the way, our conversation shifted from whether or not the Holy Spirit empowers us to be more obedient people (in a way that is different than was possible for those under the old covenant)… to the fruit of the Spirit in the O.T. and N.T. Those may be pretty closely related, but aren’t the same.

    At this juncture, though, I can see the core of our disagreement is actually about the Holy Spirit’s indwelling today. So I don’t believe there’s any way to reconcile our differences. All of my beliefs stated in our conversation are based on what I believe to be a biblical stance that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to dwell inside each and every believer — AND to be active in some way, accomplishing something in us and for us, and ultimately for the glory of God. I am very open to suggestions concerning how the Spirit works, and exactly what he accomplishes — but I’m afraid I’m not open at all to the idea that he’s present, and present only. I’m also not open to the idea that the Spirit’s indwelling was only for the apostles (or that his activity was only for the apostles). I just see too much New Testament evidence that these beliefs are untrue — beginning with, but certainly not limited to, John 13-17 and Romans 7-8.

    One of the most difficult things for me to understand in my life has been why so many people I love would prefer to interpret the Bible in such a way that forces them to today live under the law, as slaves to sin — as if Christ’s incarnation, death, resurrection, establishment of his kingdom, and sending of the Spirit means nothing more than the forgiveness of sins and a reward of heaven. If the Spirit is nothing more than an arbitrary and inactive presence, then there is no need for a new covenant; the old one was fine. Forgiveness of sins committed under the law is all that was needed… And freedom from sin becomes nothing more than the knowledge that it won’t ultimately be held against me.

    I’ve enjoyed our conversation, Hank, and I’m more than happy to discuss our ideas further (what can I say, I love to talk). But at the same time, I know for sure we’ll never get anywhere in the conversation we started, and I doubt we’ll get very far in what would be a new one, concerning the Spirit’s indwelling and the new covenant. But, as I said, I’m more than happy to discuss it further — or to at least give you fair chance to respond to what I’ve written in this post. I hope it hasn’t come across as rude or unloving, though I did want to properly convey the firm stance I take on the issue, and possibly save you a lot of time trying to convince me otherwise. You have been nothing but kind, gracious, and patient in our conversation, and I appreciate that. Thank you.

  22. Hank says:

    Thank you. And I have likewise enjoyed the discussion. I do want to say that just because I believe the Holy Spirit is within us in the same way that the Bible says that Jesus is in us — does not mean that I deny his activity in the world (nor his activity within and for the Christian). Rather, I know that God (perhaps even primarily the Holy Spirit) strengthens me in the inner man, convicts me of sin, provokes me to good works, helps me bear fruit, assures me of salvation based upon his grace through my faith, etc.
    I simply don’t believe I have to understand the Holy Spirit to be dwelling in me in any way differently than the Lord Jesus Christ does for all that to happen.

    In fact, I am convinced that the Holy Spirit convicts the sinner to become a Chrsitian just as much as he encourages the Chrsitian to remain one. The question however, is — how does he do it?

    And for the record, I feel no pressure to change your views regarding this as most of the most faithful brethren I know believe as you do. However, I do like from time to time to present some questions/arguments which forced me to alter my understanding of the matter. I would alter them back were I to see the evidence call for such 🙂

    Feel free to respond if you like. Otherwise, God bless you brother and I can tell that you are a kind and fair producer of fruit. Happy Lord’s Day tomorrow!

    • jamesbrett says:

      Hank, I’m taking the bait…

      “Rather, I know that God (perhaps even primarily the Holy Spirit) strengthens me in the inner man, convicts me of sin, provokes me to good works, helps me bear fruit, assures me of salvation based upon his grace through my faith, etc.”

      If you believe these things, then is this not an aid to use in obedience? Or do you believe these were also available for those under the old covenant?

      Sorry if I jumped the gun on ending a conversation (or assumed too much from what you said). I apologize. I think I am a bit jaded from my upbringing in such legalistic environs. And please don’t think that because I offered an excuse for my action, that I don’t mean the apology — I do.

  23. Hank says:

    Lol.

    That help from God is most definately “an aid to use in obedience.” And I do believe that it was available throughout the old covenant. Again, the Lord taught his disciples who were with him as he was alive (before the new covenant), that as they (even then) faithfully abided in the vine, not only would they produce fruit, but that God would “aid” them in enableing them to produce even more.
    And while it is often argued that Christ is merely “in” us “representatively” through the “actual” indewlling of the Holy Spirit….it must be remembered that Christ claimed to be “in” his disciples before the Holy Spirit was yet given.

    Also, when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”, I believe he was teaching them that God stood willing and ready to help them then in every way he stands willing and ready to help us today.

    The more I think about it, the more I am reminded of the armor of God. It is God’s armor, he supplies it, but it is the responsibility of the child of God (then and now), to “put it on.” If and when one puts it on (and to the extent he does), God will prune and protect accordingly.

  24. mattdabbs says:

    A couple of quick points. I don’t think I agree with the OT – nation, NT – individual idea that Peter/ozziepete brought out. God was just as much interested in individuals in the OT and even poured out his Spirit in the OT on individuals he was calling to specific tasks that required a little extra umph.

    I don’t totally understand what Jesus said in John 14:15-20 (which states both Jesus and the Spirit are in his disciples) that he would be in his disciples and also that the Holy Spirit would come and be in them as well. This is not something that is talked about often in Christian circles today, probably because I don’t think this is ever mentioned in Acts or the Epistles and so it is hard to see how this works out practically like we can see with the Holy Spirit in the early church.

    Good lively discussion, thanks for making me think.

    • jamesbrett says:

      Matt, we actually see the “Christ in us” a lot in the epistles, but I think (I’m certainly not sure) we’ve been “taught” to overlook it for one of two reasons:
      – It’s difficult to understand.
      – It was decided a long time ago, and generally agreed upon (which doesn’t necessarily make it true), that Christ lives in us through the Holy Spirit.

      I’m going to make two replies on here, that cover (in my opinion) the three most explanatory texts in the epistles concerning Christ in us:

      1 John 3:24; 4:4, 12-17 — This text stresses over and over again that God lives in us. If we are obedient, he lives in us; if we acknowledge Jesus is the Son of God (by testimony of lifestyle), he lives in us; and if we live in love, he lives in us. And the way we are able to know he lives in us is because he has given us the Spirit. Also, the one who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.

      The 1 John text could, I guess, be taken two ways:
      1) God gave us the Spirit, and when we are obedient and loving, he (God) lives in us.
      or
      2) God gave us the Spirit, who empowers us to be obedient and loving, proving that God (in the form of the Spirit) lives in us.

      I believe the second option is more in keeping with the full body of scripture. Also, the first option seems to have the Spirit living in us with no effect, other than to prove God lives in us — but if he’s not active in any way, how would we even know he was present in order to prove anything? It is through our increasing obedience, love, and Christ-likeness that we know the Spirit is present in our lives, because he works with us to produce those fruits in us. That is how we know God is living in us, because he and his power are present and active in our lives in the form of the Holy Spirit.

    • jamesbrett says:

      Ephesians 3:16-21 — “I pray that… [the Father] may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

      So Christ dwells in our hearts because of the power that the Spirit gives us in our inner being. Then Paul goes on to talk about how this power makes it possible for us to understand Christ’s love fully… so that we may be filled to the fullness of God (just as Jesus is in Col 2:9). Then v. 20 tells us that God is able to do more than we could ever imagine through this power that is at work within us. This power, then, is the Father’s power through the Spirit living in us, which makes it possible for Christ to dwell in our hearts.

      The idea of the Spirit empowering us to fully understand the love exhibited in Christ, and then exhibit it ourselves, is recurrent in the New Testament. I believe this is how Christ lives in us — through the Spirit helping us to understand his love fully, and teaching us all that he said and still has to say. This is also why he tells his disciples it’s better for him to go and the Spirit to come. Only God living in each disciple in the form of the Spirit would allow all of them to experience Christ fully in their lives, and be taught by him.

      I also believe Christ living in us is a work completed only in the community as a whole. That’s why v. 18 says “together with all the saints” and 4:12-13 talk about all of us together becoming mature and attaining the full measure of Christ. As we are gifted by the Spirit in different areas, it will require all of us together to truly reach the fullness of Christ — that’s why he is the head and we (collectively) are the body. This unity is also the work of the Spirit (4:3). In 2:22 we see that the church is being built together to become a dwelling place for God, through his Spirit.

      Colossians 1:24-29 — FInally, now, it is being revealed to the saints the mystery everyone was waiting on — which is that Gentiles (along with all Christians) have hope to obtain glory: through Christ in them (I believe in the form of the Spirit). As Paul teaches and admonishes with all wisdom, one day every one will be presented as perfect in Christ. This is the job Paul seeks to carry out, with all of God’s energy which so powerfully works in him. Later in 2:9-10, Paul explains that Christ is in bodily form the fullness of the Deity, and that Christians too have been given this fullness (again, I believe collectively).

      • Hank says:

        Also, Rom. 8:10 and Gal. 4:19, which reads — “my little children, for whom I am in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.”

        James, I am so glad that you are still writing here. And I was completely surprised to read what you said concerning the 2 reasons we’ve been “taught” to overlook the numerous passges which claim that Christ is in us. Of course, I fully agree with your assesment there.

        What makes everything even more interesting are the verses that tell us to have and/or that we have “the mind of Christ.” To me, the more we have the “mind of Christ,” the more it can be said that Christ is in us. Or, the more we have the spirit of Christ. Just like when someone says, “You have so much of your dad in you…you talk and act just like him.”

        I believe the same holds true regarding the indwelling of the Spirit. One powerful example I believe is seen in the sister passages of Eph. 5:18-21 and Col. 3:16. Where the former gives us a command (be filled with the Spirit), the latter explains how to do it (let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly).

        But, if this were a debate…I would keep going back to where the Bible cliearly teaches that Christ was in his disciples (and that they were even in him), before the Holy Spirit was yet given.

        Gotta go to Suday School. See ya after church

  25. ozziepete says:

    Matt, you’re certainly free to take another perspective without hurting my feelings!! But I do want to clarify that I don’t see the division as being that stark. Eg. The last 6 (of the 10) commandments all relate to individuals’ behaviour toward their neighbours. And #10 (coveting) even gets to attitudes rather than behaviour. And there are many OT examples of God blessing and punishing individuals.

    Nonetheless, I do see that the basic design of the OT law was of national civil regulations and cultic practices that were to be overseen and implemented by the leadership of Israel, whether elders or kings. I see this as partly explaining the differences between the OT & NT laws and why the Sermon on the Mount can add to, or increase the intensity of, the Mosaic law.

    Hank, if the kingdom of God arrives with the baptism of Jesus and his years of ministry serve as a transition period, then it’s not at all a stretch for him to make statements to his disciples during that period that will be understood fully once the Holy Spirit arrives. Remember too, the Gospels are written to benefit churches (with the Holy Spirit) not JUST record historical events. So those conversations with his disciples have been preserved because they’re relevant to post-Pentecost Christians.

  26. jamesbrett says:

    Hank, I am loving our conversation.

    I read Ephesians 5:18-21 as Paul’s clear command not to use instruments — nothing more.

    About Christ clearly being in his disciples, and them in him… I guess I just haven’t seen that as clearly as you have. I don’t know why the John 15 text has to have Christ already in them — and even if it is so, I’m not positive it means the same as the Spirit living in them (though I lean that way). But further, if it is as clear as you suggest, there are some instances where the apostles received things a bit “out of order,” if we’re suggesting there is ever a norm. For instance, when Jesus sends them out (pretty early in the gospels), he gives them the authority to cast out demons and heal the sick. Then in John 20 (I know that’s after John 15, but just showing a “disorderliness” when compared to our “system”), he breathes the Holy Spirit on them, as he commissions them — so that they can forgive people’s sins. And that’s before he tells them to wait in Jerusalem to get the Holy Spirit!

    [I was joking about the not using instruments thing. Was that wrong of me to joke about?]

    Though, Hank, if I were in a debate, I would not be defending so much the WHEN of the Holy Spirit’s empowering (before JC or after, OT or NT or both, etc), as much as I would be defending the fact that he does empower and accomplish on behalf of believers, what we cannot accomplish on our own. And that he is responsible for enabling us to love like Christ, and empowering us to exhibit the fruits of kingdom life, and giving us strength to be obedient to God’s commands.

    But at the same time, there must be some vast difference between the way things worked under the old covenant and now under the new. Because Paul clearly explains in Romans 7-8 (which you’ve not addressed at all yet) that the law produced death, which was its intention, in order to show us what sin is. And that the new way of the Spirit (and he says new) is the way in which we now serve — apparently this idea of living in accordance, and walking in step, with the Holy Spirit is new, begun with the new covenant.

    Not to mention that Jesus says he will go away, so that he can send the Spirit. If the Spirit was already working as he would after Jesus left, then Jesus would have been dishonest in saying what he did… or mistaken.

    You’re welcome to respond to anything, but what I really want to know is how do you make sense of Paul’s understanding (Rom 7-8) of the law (slavery to sin) and the new working of the Spirit (freedom)? Do you see nothing there concerning a greater ability to be obedient with the Spirit than under the law alone?

  27. Hank says:

    I do not. I believe the the children of God throughout the OT were just as able to faithfully obey God as you and I are today. Remember that Zechariah and Elizabeth were considered “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the statutes and commandments of the Lord.” And we could make a very long list of other OT saints who were just as able to obey God as are any of us today.

    I do not believe that Paul was suggesting that obeying God would be any easier than it was before. The battle between the flesh and spirit is just as strong and active as it ever was before (Rom. 8:1-17; Gal. 5:16-26; 1 Pet. 2:11, etc.).

    I believe that the “wretched man” descibed by Paul is a picture of anybody trying to be righteous before God by not sinning. Such is a virtual impossibility and as the wages of sin (any and all sin) is death…whoever is a sinner is a condemned and wretched man indeed. BUT, BUT, BUT…because of Jesus, the faithful and obedient child of God is delivered from the law of sin and death. And that wonderful news holds true for the OT faithful as well as for us today. Paul was describing what it would be like for the man who was trying to be righteouss under law (new or old) without our Savior Jesus.

    He was definately not suggesting that the faithfully obedient saints prior to Pentecost were wretched and condemned becuase they did not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit empowering them to obey more and better. The entire point was not that we can be delivered by obeying better with the help of the Holy Spirit but that we are made free and uncondemned in Christ. That we have no condemnation and have been set free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. And all of that in spite of our imperfect obedience whether this or that side of the cross.

    I do not believe the context of Rom. 7-8 has anything to do with the Holy Spirit coming to help God’s people obey better tan they were able to in the past. Than men like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, David, the prophets, et. al.

    P.s. I live in Florida bro. How bout you?

    • jamesbrett says:

      You make very good points. I’m coming around, Hank. I’m coming around… but I’m not there yet.

      I live in Tanzania, which is why I’m about to go to bed. So I’ll see if I can reply tomorrow, though it’s a big day. Taking my new daughter to the U.S. Embassy to apply for a social security number and passport. You guys are all invited to pray for our family in this — that it will go smoothly and easily.

      I grew up in Dothan, Alabama — about 15 minutes from Florida.

  28. Hank says:

    In fact, I am sure that none of those faith hall of famers wish that they had the Holy Spirit back then so that they could obey as well as I do today 🙂

  29. Hank says:

    Yeah, I stumbled onto your site. We will pray for your family and work there in Africa. I will keep an eye out for you bro. Good night now.

  30. jamesbrett says:

    Hank, so far I like your ideas on Romans 7 being about a man trying to be righteous by refraining from sin (OT or NT). But what is the “new way of the Spirit” in v 6? I have always contrasted it with “being controlled by the sinful nature” in v 5, because that seems to be a common usage in the NT — that I can be controlled by (or live by or in accordance with) the sinful nature OR the Spirit? … those seem to be my two options.

    And I never intended to sound as if I felt those under the old covenant were “wretched and condemned.” They have been counted righteous by faith, and are sinless in Christ. But I understand Paul to be saying in chapter 8 that those who live in accordance with the Spirit will be dead to sin while on this earth (ie. more obedient). John talks a lot about that in 1 Jn 3 as well — more than being counted righteous, but NOT sinning.

    Another thought: In John 7 the Spirit has not been given yet. And John makes a play on your Psalm 1 passage about how, when the believers get the Holy Spirit, streams of living water will flow from WITHIN them — contrasted by the OT option to be planted NEAR a stream of flowing water. There must be something about the Spirit that is powerful within us to accomplish from within ourselves what the blessed man is Psalms is able to accomplish IF he can refrain from sin, and love the law, and meditate on it 24 hours a day. I’m not sure the Psalmist is even suggesting this man exists? Could he be stating what would happen if man was disciplined enough to do so?

    I hope that doesn’t sound sarcastic. I’m really tracking with what you’re saying, and truly want to understand better.

    As for the heros of faith, I don’t think they made the list for lifetime obedience, but for great faith. There are some pretty bad boys and girls in that list. [Though I am NOT claiming to be any better.]

    Where in Florida?

  31. Hank says:

    Hi James, you wrote — “Hank, so far I like your ideas on Romans 7 being about a man trying to be righteous by refraining from sin (OT or NT). But what is the “new way of the Spirit” in v 6? I have always contrasted it with “being controlled by the sinful nature” in v 5, because that seems to be a common usage in the NT — that I can be controlled by (or live by or in accordance with) the sinful nature OR the Spirit? … those seem to be my two options”

    Here is what I (think I) believe (at this point):

    If we back up to chapter 6 in order to get a “running start,” we can see that Paul is addressing those who had been baptized into Christ in order to walk in “newness of life.”

    [An important side note needs to be made regarding the OT faithful (whether Jew or Gentile) who did not go from being lost to being saved with the coming of Christ. In other words, Jn. 1:11 tells is that Jeus came to his own and his own did not receive him. But to as many as received him…to them gave he the right (or power) TO BECOME the children of God. However, many who received him were already faithful children of God who did not go from being lost to saved — but rather, simply kept on being saved. They merely had their “salvation liscenses” renewed (if you will), by receiving Christ, being bapized etc. Of cousre, there are no more people in that unique situation.]

    At any rate, to those who actually passed from death to life by being baptized into Christ (went from lost to saved — from not being a child of God to being one), Paul says that THEY are:
    1. no longer enslaved to sin v.6
    2. set free from sin v.7
    3. dead to sin v.11
    4. alive to God in Christ Jesus v. 11
    5. not under law but under grace v.14 &15
    6. slave to righteousness v.18
    7. slaves of God v.22
    8. dead to the law 7:4
    9. released from the law 7:6

    Which brings us to the verse you’ve brought up (7:6). The whole point is a contrast between either being under the law (you sin you die) OR being NOT under the law but under grace. And what needs to be considered here is that every faithful and obedient child of God has ALWAYS BEEN “not under law but under grace.” Folks like Zecharia and Elizabeth. Just look at the list 1-9 above and contemplate whether or not those blessings applied to them back then as they do to you and I today?

    So then, the contrast has to do with wether one is an unforgiven sinner….or, a child of God in Christ. Or, as Paul put it — “under the written code” or “in the new life of the Spirit.”

    I will argue (at this point) that even throughout the OT, whenever an unforgiven sinner by grace through faith became a child of God…….that person went from being under the law of sin and death (or, “the written code”), to being under “the new life of the Spirit.” a.k.a. — uncondemned in Christ.

    If the above reasoning is sound, then the OT faithful were “not under law but under grace.” Just like you and I today. Just think about what it would mean to suggest that the OT faithful were not under grace but under law?

    And so, I believe that “the new life of the Spirit” applies to anybody, anywhere, at any time who went from being dead in sin to alive in Christ Jesus.

    Since this is so long and since I have to go to the store (and since you are probably in bed right now), I will get to your other thoughts when I get back.

    I hope things went well with your new daughter.

  32. Hank says:

    I believe that “the new life of the spirit” in 7:6 simply means the same thing as “the newness of life” in 6:5. The two expressions are here synonymous and again, the contrast is between law and grace.

  33. Hank says:

    Hi James, sorry I haven’t gotten back to the remaninder of your post until now. Below will be your second (of basically 3) paragraphs and my response to it. You wrote —
    “And I never intended to sound as if I felt those under the old covenant were “wretched and condemned.” They have been counted righteous by faith, and are sinless in Christ. But I understand Paul to be saying in chapter 8 that those who live in accordance with the Spirit will be dead to sin while on this earth (ie. more obedient). John talks a lot about that in 1 Jn 3 as well — more than being counted righteous, but NOT sinning.”

    I figured that you did not intend to sound as though the OT saints were wretched and condemned. But, if a child of God (or anybody for that matter) was NOT “dead to sin while on this earth” then they were lost. Rom. 6:11 says that the one whoe is “dead to sin” is the same one who is “alive in Christ Jesus.” And I think it has much more to do with being released from the law (of sin and death) than it does with us having extra help to obey it more fully. Don’t get me wrong, knowing that we have died to sin, been released from the law, are under grace, etc., should motivate us to sin less. But I don’t believe Paul was teaching anything new here. In other words, I believe that the OT faithful were just as dead to sin, just as released from the law, and under just as much grace as you and I are today. And again, I think it was just as easy and/or difficult for them to obey God as for us. I disagree with the idea that Paul was using “dead to sin” to mean more obedient. Again, he simply meant set free and released from the consequences of such. Otherwise, he really would be wretched and condemned no matter how much more obedient he would ever become.

  34. Hank says:

    Below is your third paragraph and my response. You wrote —
    “Another thought: In John 7 the Spirit has not been given yet. And John makes a play on your Psalm 1 passage about how, when the believers get the Holy Spirit, streams of living water will flow from WITHIN them — contrasted by the OT option to be planted NEAR a stream of flowing water. There must be something about the Spirit that is powerful within us to accomplish from within ourselves what the blessed man is Psalms is able to accomplish IF he can refrain from sin, and love the law, and meditate on it 24 hours a day. I’m not sure the Psalmist is even suggesting this man exists? Could he be stating what would happen if man was disciplined enough to do so?”

    I don’t think so. I think there were (and still are) plenty of people who fit the description of the blessed man of Psa. 1. Men and women who do not walk in the counsel of the wicked, who do meditate on the word of God, and who do yield fruit in its season. Just as there were (and still are) plenty of people who are like chaff that the wind will drive away, who will not stand in the judgment, and who will perish. To suggest that the blessed man of Psa. 1 did not really exist would do great damage to the entirety of the Psalms. I mean, why not then conclude that before Pentecost there were no people who were being made to lie down in green pastures, or who were being led beside still waters, who’s souls were restored, who were led in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Who fear no evil, who were comforted by God, who were filled with mercy and goodness all the days of their lives.

    I am sure you believe the Psa. 23 guy existed? I wonder how you think the Lord did all that to and for him centuries before the Holy Spirit “was given”?

    James, you make it seem as though the children of God before Pentecost were left to their own strength in terms of faithfully following God and that after Pentecost, God has all of a sudden offered us his help and strength (I am sure that you have written pretty much exactly that). I do not agree with that notion whatsoever. Rather, I am convinced that scores and scores of the passages which have to do with the inwelling of the Holy Spirit have been taken out of context and missapplied to mean something God never meant them to mean. And while I know that you are well studied and honest….it is amazing how many people have no idea whatsoever when they talk about the mission and medium of the Holy Spirit. For example, I had a new friend and his wife come to church with us recently who said it was alright but that he was used to more “Spirit-filled” churhes. You know, where the Spirit speaks through people at random and generates much more excitement throughout the service. Really, he doesn’t have a lot of Bible knowledge but were you to ask him….he would likely argue that he doesn’t need that as much as he needs and has the “real thing” already living inside him.

    Lastly:
    1. I hope nobody is upset with how much I have written here.
    2. I will give you thoughts regarding Jn. 7 and the “rivers of water” if you still care for them.
    3. I would like to know more about the method you have for studying the Bible that changed so much for you.

    brotherly,
    Hank

  35. Hank says:

    P.s. I just re-read what I sent and apologize for sounding a little rude. I get kinda excited when in these discussions and hope I didn’t come across as arrogant. Of course, I am ususally arguing this topic from the defensive side as my position is for sure in the minority. But, that doesn’t mean I should ever ridicule the position of another in an way — especially since I myself once held that position.

    Good day bro.

  36. jamesbrett says:

    Hank,

    Sorry I’ve taken so long to get back. And even this post will not seem like much of a response… but a bit of vacation has been nice. I don’t feel that you in any way sounded arrogant or rude; I appreciate your thoughts — they’ve made me think a great deal.

    However, we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I can go with a lot of what you’re saying, and have even overstated my side of the argument a bit (it’s a habit I have when involved in a discussion of this sort), but ultimately we’re still going to have different views on the Spirit’s work in a believer today vs. his work in the faithful under the old covenant. If I’m honest, I have to say that I believe we have to explain away too many scriptures to claim the Spirit doesn’t work in a different way today than in the Old Testament.

    At the same time, though, I don’t think we’re going to have any disagreement over what the changed life of a believer looks like? It just seems that either:
    1) I’m attributing a little more of it to the power of the Spirit,
    2) you suggest the Spirit was active in the same way in the Old Testament, or
    3) both.

    But I really do appreciate our discussion. Thanks for continuing with me down such a long road.

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