The Law of the Spirit of Life
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 1 - The Remarkable Transformation from Defeat to Triumph

"The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:2).

When Simon Magus offered Peter money to possess the ability to confer the Holy Spirit, he was summarily reproved for having such mean and unworthy thoughts and ideas as to the person of the Spirit of God. None of us are in danger of meriting such a rebuke. Nevertheless, I think most of us have erred, and perhaps do err, in this respect that our ideas as to the Holy Spirit, our attitude toward Him, are very mean and very inadequate, and fall very far short of the divine reality. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus". We want to hurry on and read the rest of the chapter. We want to read, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" But the key and the secret is verse two which you and I hurry over so quickly and so often.

There could be no Romans 8 if there were no 'law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus'. I believe the apostle breathed a sigh of relief when he finished Romans 7. I am sure he did when he finished experiencing it, and when he looked back after those dark, unsatisfactory days of spiritual experience and wrote them down for the benefit of the Lord's people then and now. When he wrote the sorry history of a despairing struggle to do the will of God, I am sure it was with a sigh of relief that he, as it were, started chapter 8 and emerged out of a realm of disappointment and despair into a blessed, glorious, surpassing experience of triumph and blessing and victory, a full salvation. For that is what it is, an emergence out of a realm of disappointment and despair. Here is the secret of the emergence: the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.

All the experience of Romans 8 is to be traced back to that, and that means far more than the mere personal experience of a man enjoying full salvation, though thank God, it did mean that, for when we emerge from that struggle over our own personal need for God's deliverance, we come into a much vaster realm than we had ever thought possible.

Until now it has all been so very personal. My sins, and my sin, and so on. Well, it had to be personal. The apostle saw to it that it became personal. All this airy talk about the whole creation, and the world, and the future, and mankind - that is all very well, but the moralists, the religionists and the philosophers are brought by the Spirit of God as well as the logic of the holy convicting power of His Word, down to their own personal condition. Never mind the world, where are you? Never mind the needs of mankind, what about your needs? And so the arrow of conviction makes it a personal matter and those who are so ready to talk about the nations, the world and mankind, find the Lord pointing to them and saying, "Who art thou that judgest, oh man? You are the one. You are the sinner." And most of us know only too well the experience of feeling as though in the whole world, we were the culpable, guilty, vile, miserable offender, and as though all the light of all the judgments were focussed upon us and our sins, for this had to be and the Lord sees to it that it becomes personal.

And then you go further into the book. Thank God it is also personal in salvation. My sins, my pardon, my justification; and then the whole question of holiness arises and it is not now my sins, but my sin. It is me, and my need for sanctification and, praise God, my experience of sanctification that comes into view. My old life, such a shameful thing; my new life so full of promise. And then Romans 7 seems somehow to bring into concentrated expression this full personal exercise of the individual soul. I wonder how many there may be whose life history is found in Romans 7?

It seems to me that the last verse which, in a way, seems strange after the cry of gratitude for deliverance has already gone forth, is a summing up of the whole position. The apostle says, "So then" (Rom. 7:25) this is not the last word, but it is the last word about that condition. So then I, in myself, me, this strange complex being, am serving the law of God with my mind, serving the law of sin with my flesh. Was he a Christian, or was he not a Christian? That is all very important: Christian or non-Christian? In myself that is what I am like. So this is all about myself.

But when you come into Romans 8 you find, first of all, as to myself, there is a glorious deliverance. The law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has made me free! Hallelujah, thank God for a personal salvation; it has made me free from the law of sin and death. But before we get very far into the chapter, we find that it is not only a question of my being made free, but that the context broadens until we are talking about the whole creation and a glorious emergence from a realm of disappointment and despair. For me, praise God, but not only for me, but for the whole creation because, the apostle says, the whole creation is groaning.

The Groaning of the Creation

When you were in Romans 7 you thought you were the only one groaning, and my, weren't you groaning, wanting to be delivered from this body of death, this pathetic, groping, miserable state of sinfulness. How you groaned! You groaned because of sin at the core of your being and it was spoiling your life and you groaned. The apostle says, "Listen, and look and take heed. The whole creation is groaning. There is sin at the heart of creation as well as in your heart. And this is the explanation."

You can read all your volumes on history, the rising and falling of empires, the waxing and waning of dynasties, all the concentrated misery of the human race through the ages, not of the human race only but of the whole physical creation, and in one simple sentence you can get an explanation of it all. The law of sin and death is at the heart of it. There is something wrong. The whole creation is groaning and, thank God, if the groaning sinner of Romans 7 emerges into the glorying saint of Romans 8, the apostle says that is just a little foretaste or earnest of the fact that the whole groaning creation shall also emerge into Romans 8. In the widest, vastest, realms of God's creation, there shall go forth the same note of praise and relief: "I thank my God through Christ Jesus", it shall be delivered. The groaning turns to praise, and the secret is what we are going to talk about.

The secret is "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus". That is the secret of the deliverance. How this triumphant saint sings his doxology, praising and blessing the Lord! The darkness has passed; the light has come; everything is altered. Life is just one glorious experience of bliss, not because for him the world is different, but because in a sense, it does not matter what happens to the world; the secret is in himself by the Holy Spirit. In himself naturally he has the law of sin and death, but now in his very being, by the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, he has all the blessing, all the glory, all the triumph, all the love, of which this chapter speaks.

The Cosmic Application

Now I want you to try and think of Romans 8 not only in these personal terms, but in what I might call cosmic terms, in terms which affect the whole creation, and I am obliged to keep to the scriptural word. I cannot say, 'the universe', because that means everything, and we know there is that in this universe which does not wait in hope of the glory of God and will never see it. And so I keep to this term, creation.

I think the apostle was speaking more specifically of the literal physical creation, but that would mean an empty world. It will be a full world of redeemed ones. But think of Romans 8 in world terms, in cosmic dimensions - what a wonderful world it will be! You come down the list: liberty, peace, life, righteousness, wisdom, led by the spirit of God, the favour and smile of heaven, pleasing God; God - pleased with the whole world, the glory, the hope, "all things working together for good", the triumph, the absence of all the shadows, no condemnation in this world, no separation, the love of God known and enjoyed. This will not be for a passing period, but for ever. Not only height, nor depth, nor things present, nor things to come, can ever change this state of absolute bliss and glory. Well, thank the Lord that is a better prospect than you read in the newspapers, though they try and work up a little optimism in them sometimes. It is true, Paul says, the creation has been subjected to vanity: corruption, frustration, and misery, but God has done that in hope.

So, poor struggling, miserable, despairing saint in Romans 7, there is hope, there is a different kind of life which perhaps to you seems unattainable, but it is all so simple. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" leads you right in, and so, poor struggling creation, groaning and despairing, God's word for you is not despair, but hope, and the way in, as we have said concerning individuals, is the way of the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus". What do I mean by that?

Well, just look at the groaning again. The creation is groaning (8:22), but we see in verse 26, the Spirit Himself is groaning. We go back to verse 23 and we find that the redeemed saints are groaning. What is this? What is the creation waiting for? Well, waiting for the day when Romans 8 shall dawn. Yes, but what is coincident with that day, indeed more than coincident with it; what is the effective cause of it? What is this inarticulate groaning of the creation tending towards? It is written down here: the manifestation of the sons of God. What are we groaning for? Exactly the same thing described in another way - the adoption. So the whole creation waits for the consummation in the saints of that which takes place when the "law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus" begins to operate in us.

Romans 8 then tells us, not merely of the experience of full salvation, but tells us also of the meaning of full salvation and this is precisely where we need to ask the Lord to give us light. The experience, if only personal, blessed as that may be, is failing of its purpose if it is not tending toward the Divine end which God has in view and that end is something big, much bigger than your or my experience of full salvation. That end is as large as God's creation. That end is in vast worldwide terms, and this poor saved sinner, struggling along to learn the secret of the victory, when he does emerge, finds that he has not only learned the secret of victory, but he has been brought into the secret of Divine purpose for the whole creation.

Well, you say, he is still groaning. He groaned in Romans 7; he is still groaning in Romans 8, but it is a very different kind of groaning. There is no spirit, it is said, with groanings which cannot be uttered. Well, the groanings in Romans 7 could be uttered alright. Paul knew how to utter them and so do I and so do you! The pity of it is that the children of God spend the best part of their days still groaning with groanings that can be uttered and that ought to have been left behind long ago. These are the groanings of corruption.

But when we turn to Romans 8, what does it say about this groaning world? It is groaning, travailing together in pain. This is a different kind of pain and suffering. The pain, the suffering, the groaning of corruption is one thing, but the groaning and the pain of birth, of production, is a very different thing. Surely the Spirit's groaning, and the church's groaning, are now not for themselves, not for sin, not the pangs of dissolution, but birth pangs, longing, aching, towards a great and glorious deliverance which shall be well worth the pain. This is not like the Romans 7 man groaning, that is a shameful thing. It is unproductive and, in many cases, if not always, it is unnecessary. But this is the ardent, urgent, reaching out in the midst of a glorious experience of the Lord for the full development and consummation of the manifestation in glory, of what God means by deliverance, and God means something big, as big as creation.

That brings us to a very practical challenge. When you groan, when you pray, when you long and desire, when you are freed from preoccupation, and your heart spontaneously turns to thanks and praise, to words which express heart-longings, are they the groanings of Romans 7? Are they the groanings and longings about your own personal state and need, or are they the Spirit's unutterable desires for the manifestation of the glory of Christ? Put it this way, have you found the secret of personal deliverance which has set you free to devote yourself to the deliverance of the whole creation? "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus'. When that is reached, when that day dawns and that glory is seen, of course the world will be a wonderful world because Christ will fill all things. But Christ will only fill all things because, having begun at the heart, He has filled a people with Himself.

And the creation has been waiting a long time, waiting in hope. It is an amazing picture which the apostle paints, daring almost beyond what we feel would be right to utter. While sinful men care nothing for the purpose of God, and while even saved men so often are careless or indifferent as to the great goal of salvation; while there is apathy and indifference everywhere, yet the whole creation goes on longing and groaning for that day. One thing is certain, that when the apostle speaks of the Spirit making intercession for the saints, he is not thinking in these little petty terms that so often preoccupy us in prayer. He is thinking of the great goal of redemption and these intercessions are groanings which cannot be uttered, that that day may be realised, and the only way of its hastening and of its accomplishment, is that the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" should find full expression in those who are the Lord's. That is the secret right at the heart of things. The Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God, is God's executive whenever a new creation is being brought into view.

The New Creation

You don't need me to remind you of the opening verses of the Bible when that creation (alas, so soon to be marred) was in view and came to its appointed beginning. The first thing said about it all was that "the Spirit of God breathed upon the face of the waters" and then judgment had to fall, and after the flood another creation, though in many senses the same, but we may say, a new creation emerged from the flood. You will remember that Noah's attitude towards it was governed by the dove, and where the dove was at home. Of course the raven was at home in the old creation, but the dove was not at home there. It was not until the new creation emerged from the waters of judgment and when the dove was at home there that Noah opened the ark and they came out. Well, sin was in that creation; the waters of judgment had not purged it after all, and the old creation continued until the blessed person of the Son of God appeared and brought in a new creation, new, not only in time but also in character. New, because different, and this time incorruptible, for when He came forth it was a new creation and the words that were spoken of Him from the very beginning of the process of incarnation, were that this one was begotten of the Holy Spirit. "How can this thing be", asked Mary and the answer was the Holy Spirit - a new creation by the Holy Spirit, and now in Christ.

We share that blessed Life, but why do we share it? What is the Divine end and aim in calling us to share it? Well, it is literally and in the largest terms, a new creation. That is God's end: the earth. Oh, not another world; it is such a muddle. That is why people want to die because this world is such a muddle and this life such a problem, and the best thing to do is to get out of it all and go somewhere better. This is a human way of bettering yourself, but it is not God's way. God says that this same world, "This earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. This is the hope that I set before you, not to shuffle out of your responsibilities and difficulties, but to see My mighty hand transforming everything". The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, and the final presentation of things shall be a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells all righteousness. The secret will be exactly the same. The Spirit of Life is the secret.

But how is the Spirit of God approaching this task? Well, we have read that. How can the world know the transforming power of the Spirit of God? Well, we have read that. A day, a moment, when the poor, convicted sinner of Romans 3, the poor, struggling saint of Romans 7, not one, but vast numbers of them, emerge out of their sin into Christ, out of the struggles of trying to please Christ, into the glorious liberty of a living Christ, then they shall all be transformed into His likeness. This is the manifestation of the sons of God: the adoption unto sonship. That is the secret.

Now, you think of it as it is, both a challenge and an inspiration to you. Is this not something worth living for? Does not this altogether ennoble and dignify life for us? The thought not merely of finding for ourselves a blessing (there are plenty of blessings in Christ), but not merely that, but of being at the very heart of that which is the supreme blessing to the whole universe? That is what the Lord saved you and me for. We should realise that there is an eternal purpose and that the secret of this purpose, comprehensive and yet simple, is the "Spirit of life in Christ Jesus". He should have His full opportunity in our lives and then He will see to it all. It is His responsibility. He will do it, but He needs me; He needs the church redeemed by precious blood to reach that goal and that day. And that means that we need to be made aware, to be instructed as to the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" and then to be obedient to that law and that Spirit.


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