♣ By the Power at Work within Us
“Now to Him Who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…” – Ephesians 3:20.
WE WHO HAVE been freed from the power of sin do not have to sin; since our hearts have been captured and won by the beauty of God’s grace, we no longer remain a captive to sin’s realm. For some people, that is groundbreaking news, for others it is contentious – maybe even erroneous.
However way we view the Apostle Paul’s argument in Romans seven, let us read it unbiasedly and in context of the previous chapters. The letter to the Romans is a continual, methodical and systematical God-inspired reasoning, from beginning to end; we must always bear that in mind. Paul was never disjointed or went off on a tangent without returning tenaciously to his main subject. That was distinctive of Paul’s teaching – this great mind reasoning, step by step, until he reached the summit with his readers and hearers.
The sixth chapter, in this letter, sheds so much light on the seventh; both chapters six (to include five) and seven are inseparable; they go hand in hand in this particular section. To isolate one chapter from the other is to completely misinterpret the glory of the Gospel (if you want to understand the magnitude of the Gospel, then this particular letter of Paul’s encapsulates it like no other epistle does). Paul establishes the fact in chapter six, that we, who have been baptised into or united with Christ’s death and burial, have been made alive by the resurrection power of God to walk in newness of life. When we died with Christ (Romans 6:8), we died to the Law; the law was once our ‘husband’, now we have been brought into an eternal union with Christ. The Law brought us to the feet of Christ and since we have received Him (Galatians 3:24), we have been made to stand on our feet by His grace alone. Paul explicitly stated we have already been set free from sin. This not something that it is to come – it has come!
The first four verses of chapter seven will also guide our interpretation concerning the more ambiguous subsequent sections. Paul doesn’t contradict himself; he’s not optimistic one moment (in chapters five and six) and then pessimistic the next (chapter seven), for how can he be? He was either dead to the law and sin or he wasn’t; a ‘wretched man’, a captive to sin or alive to Christ and a slave to righteousness. He was teaching as an Apostle, concretely established in infallible Truth; there was no confusion, no contradiction and no altering of his stance as he walked his readers through an understanding of God’s sovereignty in man’s salvation. It would be ludicrous listening intently to a college professor who is uncertain about what they teach, or after having lecturing with such clarity and confidence, concludes the lesson in such a way that leaves the students confusedly-suspended in midair – much more the greatest of all Apostles. Paul was boldly proclaiming great news – the glory of the Gospel and was no less than being fully persuaded in his own mind and heart before he wrote to the world.
We have been set free from sin (Romans 6:18) for we are now under the sovereignty of grace (verse 14), not the Law that ‘aggravates’ the power of sin (Romans 7:7-11). When we sense the corruption within our hearts, it certainly doesn’t feel like we have been liberated from the tyranny of sin, but we must reckon with the Truth that we are no longer under its regime, even though we fall at times. An ambassador in a foreign country may have fallen into enemy hands, but that doesn’t alter, for one moment, his citizenship and his legal right to military aid and rescue (that may sound contradictory when taking into consideration the recent events in Benghazi, but the principle is there); because we fall into sin does not entail we no longer stand justified by faith. Our transition from condemnation to reconciliation with God is as eternally fixed as when Christ offered Himself up for sin once and for all; our standing in God is eternally and equally efficacious as when Christ shed His blood for the remission of our sin – “Those Whom He justified He also glorified.”
By “The power of His resurrection” we have been made alive in Christ, the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). That same power is what regenerated us, will preserve us (in that we persevere to the end) and whereby we are being conformed to Christ’s glorious image – it is this power working in us now. Of course, we don’t always sense the reality of that; in the Christian realm, fact comes before feeling, but we have the tendency to reverse that order at times. We may not always feel justified, especially when we have fallen into sin, but the truth of that stands whether we feel it or not. We are not always aware of the reality that our lives are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), but if we daily recognised (through meditation) and appropriated that to every domain of our lives, we would not be weighed down with half the ‘problems’ we are psychologically bombarded with. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones firmly believed that if we as Christians applied the truth of Scripture to our lives, much of our depression would dissipate. You can be in the very midst of a trying period and nothing seems to alleviate a sense of despair, but then, God’s Word speaks personally into your situation and you are lifted; circumstances haven’t changed, but your perception has been elevated. No wonder the Apostle exhorts us to set our minds on things that are above (Colossians 3:1-2).
“According to the power at work within us” is God’s power within us to go through fiery trials – “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death [not remain and perish in it], I will fear no evil, for You are with me” Oftentimes, we fear grim scenarios that have never taken place or may never do so; the dread that comes over us, hoping that no such thing would happen – that is our forecasting and sometimes our adversary’s assault on the mind. When God refines our faith, He gives an abundant measure of grace to not just withstand it, but to overcome through it. Notice when Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted, He was full of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1), but came out in the power of the Holy Spirit (verse 14). That is possible for every single one of us who are in Christ. God’s grace empowers us for the opportune moment – “Satan has desired to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you that you faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31). Remember, God never allows us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. We may feel stretched, but that is the whole purpose to developing spiritual muscle; no muscle growth is gained without a sweat and no growth in faith occurs without opposition. Faith born of God will withstand the fires, but it is not our faith per se that keeps us from sinking, but rather, Christ’s intercession for us that enables us to overcome – the Author and Perfecter of our faith Who will bring to completion the good work He began in us.
Paul said, “For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:29). This is undoubtedly the greatest reference to where, as Christians, passivity is ruled out; it is not the motto that is so popular today: “Let go and let God” – that is to misunderstand the Scriptures; “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). That is just the same as not allowing sin to reign in our bodies (Romans 6:12) – we have to mortify our members by the power that works mightily in us. God’s power at work within us, never self-inherent, but His glory alone; it is there just as with His all-sufficient grace that is always at hand for every need, conflict and temptation. The grace of God has never failed anyone; it is we who have failed to take hold of what is abundantly sufficient for every pressing need and struggle of ours that may be.
This is not endorsing the heresy that sin has been entirely purged from us, in that we no longer sin; we will always struggle with sin until the day we are completely transformed, standing perfect before our Heavenly Father. God’s main will and purpose is our sanctification and that is a life-long process of continued obedience to Him, not our principles – they will soon weary us – but to Him, a continual coming to Christ to receive His burden that is light and His yoke that is easy.
We have God’s power to say ‘no’ to sin that is no longer our master. In light of all this glorious truth, let us go on presenting our entire being to God as living sacrifices and ever seek to live in the power of His resurrection.
Posted on February 20, 2014, in ♣ Devotional and tagged apostle Paul, By the Power at Work within Us, Christ's intercession, Colossians 1:29, Colossians 3:1-2, condemnation, conflict, depression, devotional, died with Christ, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Ephesians 2:6, Ephesians 3:20, freed from sin, God's sovereignty, God’s Word, Gospel, grace, growth in faith, heavenly places, justified, law of God, Mark Anthony Williams, obedience, overcoming, power of God, power of sin, realm of sin, reconciliation with God, resurrection, Romans, Romans 6:12, Romans 6:18, Romans 6:8, Romans 7:7-11, salvation, sanctification, seated with Christ, temptation, transformed, tyranny of sin, union with Christ. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.