Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul to the saints which were at Rome, and more specifically, is found in verses seven through thirteen of the seventh chapter. If you read this particular chapter found within the epistle of Paul to the Roman congregation, you will quickly notice that contained within this chapter is a powerful discourse concerning the struggle that rages deep within the heart, deep within the mind, deep within the soul and life of every individual. There would be those who would directly limit conflict, warfare and struggle with principalities, rulers of darkness, spiritual wickedness, and the like, which are in high places. They turn and direct their attention to the words and language that is found in the sixth chapter of the epistle of the apostle Paul to the Ephesian congregation where he writes these words: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in this places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:10-20).
With these words the apostle Paul makes us aware of the struggle, the conflict and the war which each and every individual faces against the unseen realm. There are a number of preachers and ministers who would consistently preach that our only struggle is with and against principalities, rulers of darkness, spiritual wickedness, and the rulers of darkness of this world. There are ministers who preach, and men and women who believe that their only struggle is an invisible one against unseen forces which would seek to destroy and devour them. There are men and women who spend every waking moment of every day engaged in a constant battle against unseen and invisible forces alone. Very rarely are there men and women who take into consideration that they are engaged in so much more than conflict and warfare with principalities and spiritual wickedness and rulers of darkness. How many men and women look for the devil under every rock and every stone in their garden, and spend all their time focused solely on the struggle with and against the forces of darkness which are present in this age? Before I move and transition any further, it’s necessary for me to make it very plain and very clear that I am in no way suggesting that we should not put on the full armour of God, and that we shouldn’t do all we can to stand, and to stand firm. I am in no way suggesting or even implying that we should somehow direct and divert our attention away from the very real conflict and struggle that is present within this age. I am in no way suggesting that we should not engage the enemy on all fronts in a full blown conflict and battle within our hearts and lives. I am not in any way suggesting that we should somehow ignore the tactics or wiles or the devil and his forces of darkness. I would never even think to recommend that anyone in their right mind cease engaging themselves in conflict against a very real and powerful enemy who would seek to do anything and everything to destroy them.
I feel it necessary at this juncture to emphasize, highlight and include the words of the apostle Peter, as well as James in order to further clarify and confirm this particular reality. In the fifth chapter of his first epistle the apostle Peter writes these words when speaking of the conflict and struggle each and every individual faces within their lives: “Yea, all of you be subject one to an other, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him: for He carets for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal g.ory by C heist Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:5-11). IN the fourth chapter of his epistle, James, the half brother of Jesus writes these words: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more graces. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Drawn nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your l aughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up” (James 4:4-10).
It is quite obvious from the words of the apostle Paul to the Ephesians, the words of the apostle Peter, as well as the words of James that we are engaged in a very real, and a very powerful conflict and struggle within our lives. Both Peter and James make it perfectly clear that we need to resist the devil and to guard ourselves against each and every one of his wiles which he would seek to assault and attack us with. Both Peter and James encourage us to be actively engaged in a very real and very powerful conflict and struggle with the devil within our hearts and lives. In all reality, I am convinced there is absolutely no room for any one of us to be passive in this struggle and conflict with and against the devil within our lives. Just last year I spent six months writing concerning “Satan’s Last Stand,” and how I am convinced that in this generation, and in the days in which we live, the devil is launching his final stand, and his final assault and attack within and against the saints of God. If you read the prophetic writings of Daniel, and even the New Testament book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ, you will quickly encounter that in the latter days—both the spirit of antichrist, as well as the antichrist himself. If you read the writings of the prophet Daniel you will find him receiving a vision from the Lord concerning the war the antichrist will launch against and wage with the saints of God within the earth, and how he will seek to wear them out through a warfare of attrition. Even in the New Testament book fo the Revelation of Jesus Christ you will find the dragon seeking to make war against the seed of the woman, and even how the antichrist himself will wage a very powerful war against the saints of God which are present upon the earth. Consider how the twelfth chapter of the book of the Revelation of presents us with the dragon who is known as Satan and the devil accuses the saints of God both day and night. Consider also how in the Old Testament prophetic book of Zechariah we find Satan standing at the right hand of Joshua the high priest before the angel of the Lord to accuse him. Consider also how twice Satan appeared before the throne of God along with the sons of God, and how on two separate occasions he was permitted to come against Job with full force and fury. Consider how on both occasions he declared to God how he came from going to and fro within and upon the face of the earth—undoubtedly to seek those whom he might devour.
There is enough evidence within Scripture to suggest and indicate that we are absolutely and without a doubt engaged in a very real and powerful struggle with unseen forces. There is enough evidence within Scripture that the devil as a lion walks about to and fro upon the earth seeking whom he might devour. Scripture makes no mistake and holds nothing back when bringing us face to face with the very real reality that we are in fact engaged in a powerful war that would seek to destroy us. Even Jesus Himself was in the wilderness forty days and forty nights, and after fasting, and undoubtedly being very weak, was tempted by the devil. Scripture holds nothing back when speaking to and revealing the very real truth that we are engaged in a conflict with unseen forces that surround us continually throughout each and every day. It is absolutely necessary to put on the full armor of God in order that we might stand firm in battle and conflict with and against the forces of darkness that are so pervasive and prevalent in the earth during these last days. We dare not, we cannot, we should not, we must not be so naïve to think or believe that this isn’t true and that we can somehow ignore this very real conflict and struggle. How many casualties of war have occurred within and upon the earth because men and women failed to take this unseen conflict and struggle seriously? How many men and women have suffered much danger and harm within their hearts, their minds, their marriages, their families, their home, their churches, and their lives because they failed to take seriously the conflict and struggle they are engaged in on a daily basis against the devil, against the spirit of antichrist, and against principalities, rulers of darkness, spiritual wickedness in high places, and the rulers of darkness. We would do ourselves and those around us a great disservice if we neglect to engage ourselves in this conflict—whether for ourselves, or on behalf of those around us. How many men and women presently live in defeat before these unseen forces and unseen powers because they attempt to ignore the conflict and struggle, and because they are unwilling to engage themselves in this conflict and struggle.
When you come to the seventh chapter of the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul to the saints which were at Rome, you will notice an entirely different struggle and war that is found within the heart and life of an individual. In the seventh chapter of this epistle we are quickly confronted with the very real reality that there is a second front which we must guard and defend ourselves against. I am convinced that there are countless men and women who may be very good at defending themselves on the one front against the devil and his forces, yet they fail to recognize—much less acknowledge the struggle that exists within themselves. Perhaps one of the most interesting and powerful concepts within my life is how much of what I face is truly because of the devil and his forces, and how much of it is because of the war and struggle that is present within my own heart, my own mind, and my own life. I can’t help but wonder how many times I have chosen to ignore the very real—and sometimes very intense—struggle that exists within my heart and life. How many times have I been thinking it’s been the devil and his forces that are the cause of what I’m facing within my heart and life, and yet the truth of the matter is that it is simply my own nature and the body of sin that exists within me? This reality is expressed in the previous chapter within the apostle Paul’s epistle to the saints which were at Rome beginning with the sixth verse:
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.l Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience righteousness? But God be thanked , that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:6-23).
IN the first six verses of the seventh chapter we are confronted with the need to be delivered and set free from the dominion of the law within our lives. If there is one thing the apostle Paul made perfectly clear within his epistle to the saints which were at Rome, it’s that the law was and still is completely powerless to produce life within their hearts and lives. The apostle Paul absolutely never discredited or spoke ill of the law of Moses, for the law itself was given in a glorious ministration atop the mountain unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai. The apostle Paul recognized that there were essentially two marriages that were found within and upon the earth—the first is a marriage between men and women and the law, while the second was a marriage between men and women and Christ. IN the sixth verse of this chapter the apostle Paul writes how “we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6). One of the most powerful statements and truths the apostle Paul emphatically declared in this particular epistle is that we are and have been justified by faith before God in and through Christ apart from the law and from works. The apostle Paul acknowledged that the law was absolutely powerless to produce within our hearts and lives the type of life we so desperately need and desire. The apostle Paul believed the law was given to serve as a schoolmaster to point us in and toward the direction of Christ, for Christ did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Jesus Christ is the absolute and perfect fulfillment of the law, and therefore the only way we ourselves can walk in obedience to that which is required by the law is to join ourselves in a powerful union with Christ. The apostle Paul wrote how sin and death was present within the earth prior to the giving of the law, but how when the law came, it came and produced a greater manner of death within our lives, for now sin and transgression was committed in light of the commandments, the statutes, the decrees of the living God which were given by the true and living God within the law. The law of Moses was given in order that we might understand the holy requirements of the true and living God, and to recognize and understand that which pleases Him within our lives. The law was meant to bring us face to face with our utter helplessness to completely and absolutely fulfill and obey it, for anyone who broke even one commandment of the law was guilty of breaking the law itself.
When we come to the seventh verse of the seventh chapter we find the apostle Paul asking his readers and audience if the law is therefore determined as sin in that it seems to work and produce death within the life of an individual. The apostle Paul concluded that the law is no sin, for he would not have known sin but by the law. The apostle Paul would go on to write ho he did not know lust except the law had said “Thou shalt not covet.” What’s more, is the apostle Paul goes on to write how sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in him all manner of sexual desire or concupiscence. Paul declared that without the law sin was dead, for he was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived within him and he died. The commandment which was ordained to life he found to be unto death. The apostle Paul would go on to make an incredibly powerful statement when he declare that sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived him, and by it slew the apostle. This is actually quite interesting, for when considering the reality and power of the law, it is necessary that we understand that the law not only reveals and confirms sin, but the law actually seems to empower sin within our lives. What I mean by that is that while we were guilty of sin prior to the law, and while sin produced death within our lives before the law came, the law caused us to become even more aware of that which transgressed and violated the commandments of the living God. It was through the giving of the law that man actually came to an understanding of that which the Lord required, and was thereby held to a higher standard than before the law. If you consider it, prior to the giving of the law unto Moses atop the mountain of God in the wilderness, there really wasn’t a specific command given in Scripture. The Lord gave Adam and Eve one single command in the garden, and that one single command was to not partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Essentially, there were two instructions the Lord gave unto Adam and Eve within the garden—the first was to be fruitful and to multiply on the earth, while the second was to refrain from eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Up until the giving of the law there really wasn’t any specific set of standards that were given unto men, for it wasn’t until the children of Israel were delivered from slavery, bondage and oppression in the land of Egypt the law was actually given unto Moses.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in his second epistle to the saints of God which were located in Corinth. Beginning with the seventh verse of the third chapter we find these words written by the apostle Paul concerning this ministration which was given unto Moses atop the mountain of God in the wilderness: “But if the ministration of death, written and engraved in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: how shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respse3ct, by reason of the glory that excellent. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: and not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: but their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:7-18).
That which the apostle Paul writes in this seventh chapter of his epistle to the Romans is actually a powerful declaration of how sin and the law seem to work jointly within the life of an individual to produce death. If there is one thing we must recognize when reading the words of the apostle Paul in this particular passage of Scripture, it’s that we have great need to be delivered and set free from the dominion of the law, and the dominion of sin within our lives. We have been called to be completely and totally delivered from the dominion and bondage of sin within our lives, as sin not only works, but also produces death within us. What the apostle Paul presents us with in this passage of Scripture is that there is this internal struggle within each and every individual—a struggle that exists between us and sin, and us and the law. There is this continual struggle that exists within our hearts and lives with sin, for sin through the law seeks to have dominion and control over us. There is a reason why the apostle Paul suggested that the only way we could truly be delivered from sin is through death, for death is the only thing strong enough to deliver us from sin. It was the death of Jesus that destroyed the dominion and power of sin in the earth, but there is a secondary death that must accompany that first death. In all reality, we as the saints of God need to partake of two deaths—one that essentially gives life and power to the second. Without and apart from the death of Jesus upon the cross there can be no secondary death within our own hearts and lives as we reckon ourselves dead to sin, but alive to Christ. The words the apostle Paul writes in this passage of Scripture describes and reveals how there is this constant struggle with ourselves and with sin, as sin not only seeks to revive within us, but also seeks to exercise dominion and authority over and upon us. As surely as we are actively engaged in a struggle against the devil and his forces of darkness within and upon the earth, we are also engaged in a struggle with sin which seeks to work death within our hearts, within our minds, within our souls, and within our lives. We must recognize and understand that there are essentially two deaths that need to each have their proper working within our hearts and minds—the first is the death of Christ which must be appropriated by faith through the power of the Spirit, while the second is our own death as we allow ourselves to crucified with Christ. It was the apostle Paul who declared that the life which he lives in the flesh he no longer lives, but it is Christ who lives in Him. The absolute only way this reality can be manifested within our lives is if we are willing to allow ourselves to be crucified with Christ in order that His life might be manifested and appropriated within our lives. Only when we surrender ourselves to the working of Christ’s death upon the cross can we then allow ourselves to be buried together with Him in the baptism of death, and we can truly experience our own death—death to sin and death to the law. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to allow ourselves to be men and women of two deaths, or whether we will choose a different path. Oh that we would recognize the powerful struggle that exists within our hearts and lives with and against sin, and that we would give ourselves over to the power of death to sin, and death to the law in our lives that we might experience the glorious freedom that is found in Christ according to the working of the Spirit of God within our lives.