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by Pilgrim - Wed Feb 01, 2023 9:00 PM
“The Law of the Spirit of Life”
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The Doctrine of the Atonement - Gresham Machen
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“The Law of the Spirit of Life” NetChaplain Wed Feb 01, 2023 3:12 PM
That the will of God, where it is expressed in the Word of God, ought to govern every Christian, every true believer will admit. But the Word of God is wiser than men; never does it set the believer under the law since the death of Christ. It was a “schoolmaster” until the Cross (schoolmaster showed the way to Christ but could not deliver - Gal 3:24, 25, they were just “forgiven” by the sacrificial ordinance—NC). The Word speaks of commandments, and they are not painful to the growing believer (1Jo 5:3). But it never places him under the law; that Word comes from a God who knows the heart of man, and who knows what is necessary for him and what is injurious to him or impossible. The law is to convince him of sin.

The Father knows, and the man who is taught of the Spirit knows and is familiar with his own heart and knows that the law—all law—is a ministry of death and condemnation; and that it could not be anything else. He knows that as man is set, in any degree whatever under a law, you must either condemn him or enfeeble the obligation of the law. In a word, men do not understand the mind of God about the law. They speak vaguely of a notion of obligation to law, of being bound by the law. But if they are bound by the law, assuredly even Christians have not kept it in fact, though their nature loves it (it being God’s Word—NC), and love is an accomplishing of it.

Now, if they have not kept the law (since they have not kept the law—NC), and yet are bound by it, they are condemned; the law drives them even as Christians (it wasn’t until 30 years after Christ’s resurrection before they realized the law is not compatible with the Gospel of Christ—NC), from the presence of God. If you are bound by the law, and have failed in your obligation—which is just the truth, either the obligation must be weakened and destroyed (in the case of Christ sacrifice—NC), or you must perish. The only obligation which the law knows is to keep it or be lost—nothing else. The law knows nothing of grace, and it ought to know nothing of it. You, believer, have not kept the law (requires a sinless nature, obedience without sin in the soul—NC). Are you under the obligation of doing so? In order to escape, the obligation must be blotted out. Such is the inconsistent conclusion of those who place the believer in subjection to the law!

Faith in God alone maintains the authority of the law (keeps it nullified for believers in Christ—NC)—and for this reason: I own myself lost if I am under law, and I see that Christ has undergone its curse, and has placed me in a new position which reunites two things; perfect righteousness before God, because it is the righteousness of God, accomplished in Christ; and life, the participation of the divine nature (2Pe 1:4), according to the power of resurrection.

I cannot have two husbands, the two obligations, at the same time—the law and Christ (law could only “bring us unto Christ” but not deliver - Gal 3:24—NC). In Christ I am dead to the law, and live unto God. Now the law has authority, and binds as long as we live; but having died (crucified with Christ) I am delivered from the law, in order that I should belong to another—such is the positive language of the Word—to Him that is raised from the dead, that I should bring forth fruit unto God. If you are bound by the law, the law will maintain its authority and its obligation with rigor; it ought to do this, and it will condemn you as sure as you commit sin (the value of the law was to inform man of his sin - Jhn 15:22, 24; 9:41, and what to do about it; this is true love—NC).

If I have died with Christ, the law has no more authority over me, for it does not pass over that barrier. I belong to Another. I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal 2:20). He was under the law while He lived here; but risen, He is no longer so. Now the commandments, whether we say of God or of Christ, have another character for the Christian.

All that Christ has said, all the His apostles have said and all the things in which the OT enlightens us upon His will, direct and govern the life that we already possess and have the authority of the Word of God, that is of God Himself over the soul. I have the life; the words of Christ, His commandments (love as I have loved you—NC) are the expression of this life in Him, its fruits in all respects according to the perfection and the will of God Himself, and the direction of this life in me.

I walk, following then according to the thoughts and intents of my Father and His blessed will; it is the law of liberty (God’s Word, esp. the Gospel of Christ—NC), because I possess already the life. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Ro 8:2). If people really felt what the law is, they would know that upon that ground they are lost, because the law has not lost its strength (1Co 15:56), and it is always and everywhere a ministry of condemnation and death (Though the law obeyed, yet its adherers are still unchanged sinners; we’re to remember that forgiveness came from the sacrificial ordinances, and not from the obedience—NC). Not that we would make such a thing of reproach (because “all have sinned”—NC); for many dear souls were found under the law (Jews—NC)—not, of course, according to God’s will, but through their own want of faith, and through bad teaching (the Law is no more—NC).

We cannot be too watchful for our growth; we are sanctified unto obedience (sanctification sets apart and obedience shows it—NC). The independence of the will is the principle of sin; but the law is not the means of arriving at holiness (forgiveness only is not holiness – Num 15:25, which requires the Son and Spirit—NC). It does not give a new will, nor strength when we have one. Those who are on the principle of the works of the law (which are good but not perfectly obeyed—NC) are still “under the curse” (Gal 3:10). It is to ignore what the heart of man is, to suppose that he can be under a law coming from God and live (laws are only to show condemnation, which answers to why they are for the “unholy” - 1Ti 1:9; the Jew was “forgiven” only by the sacrificial ordinance, and obedience shows gratitude and love—NC).

The Word of God is clear as day that, unless one be condemned, there is no such thing as having to do with the law without weakening its obligation, and it penalties. Grace alone maintains it authority. If I place myself under a mixture of law and grace, I ought to beseech God (like the people with Moses) to hide from me His glory as an unbearable thing; whereas, when I see that glory in the face of the glorified Lord Jesus, by the Spirit’s ministry, I can contemplate this glory with unveiled face, and be “changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2Co 3:18).

—J N Darby

MJS devotional excerpt for Feb 1

“Immaturity is selfish; maturity is selfless. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). “The question for the tried and tempted, the harassed and oppressed, is this: ‘Which would you rather have, the power of Christ’s hand in deliverance from trial, or the sympathy of His heart in the midst of trial?’ The carnal mind, the unsubdued heart, the restless spirit, will, no doubt, at once exclaim, ‘Oh! let Him only put forth His power and deliver me from this insupportable trial, this intolerable burden, this crushing difficulty. I sigh for deliverance. I only want deliverance.” –Miles Stanford

“But the spiritual mind, the subdued heart, the lowly spirit, will say, and that without a single particle of reserve, ‘Let me only enjoy the sweet company of the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ in my trial, and I ask no more. I do not want even the power of His hand to deprive me of one drop of consolation supplied by the tender love and profound sympathy of His heart. I know He can deliver me, but if He does not see fit to do so, if it does not fall in with His unsearchable counsels, and harmonize with His wise and faithful purpose concerning me so to do, I know it is only to lead me into a deeper and richer realization of His most precious sympathy.” —Charles Henry Mackintosh (1820-1896)
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What's New on The Highway website? Jump to new posts
The Doctrine of the Atonement - Gresham Machen Pilgrim Wed Feb 01, 2023 11:45 AM
The reason this month's article appears as the Article of the Month is quite simple. A personal conversation with two individuals made clear once again that there are myriads of people who profess to "know Christ" and are Christians but who have little knowledge of why they profess to be saved. In fact, as is the case without exception, they not only did not believe in the biblical teaching(s) concerning the doctrine of salvation but tried to give arguments against it. You may certainly be justified in thinking that this is rather illogical to claim to be a Christian but not believe what the Bible teaches of how one becomes a Christian or even what a Christian is, all the while insisting that they embrace what the Bible teaches. Unfortunately, this is more than typical. The overwhelming majority of professing Christians, in my personal opinion, here in America and Canada are yet dead in sins; unregenerate and know not the truth of what God teaches concerning the atonement in His Word.

Okay, so this article consists of two necessary parts, albeit in summary form, concerning the atonement. In theological terms, Dr. Machen addresses 1) the passive obedience of Christ, i.e., His death and 2) His active obedience, i.e., His perfect righteousness which is imputed to believers. He also reminds us as the late John Murray emphasized, the death of Christ was "antecedently, absolutely necessary" in order to save even one sinner. Put another way, no one could be saved; reconciled to God due to the payment of satisfaction made in any other way than by the Son of God becoming man and dying on the cross as the sinner's substitute.

The format of the article is the transcription of Gresham Machen's radio broadcasts rather than that of a lecture. Thus, they are much like how a father would converse with his children. Methinks you will all find the article endearing. grin

For immediate reading, just click the following link: The Doctrine of the Atonement.

For later reading at a more convenient time, go to and click on the "Article of the Month" logo. There you will find this month's article and all past articles which have appeared throughout the years on The Highway.

In His service and grace,
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