Most American church teaching is based upon the premise that man can improve his moral state of being by choosing to do so, having strong resolve, and exercising religious practices. These religious practices, of course, vary between the numerous denominations and non-denominations. The prevailing consensus is that a person can experience victory over sin and the world by desiring it hard enough, reading the Bible enough, giving enough, professing enough, being taught enough, and by giving themselves wholly to follow the prescribed methods. Those who are under this teaching and truly desire to live righteously, find themselves in an endless, exhausting, frustrating cycle of resolving, performing religious activities, falling back into sin, and repenting to begin the cycle again. Why? Because this whole doctrine is established upon a false premise. Teaching founded upon this premise leads people away from God to serve the letter of the law – “. . .for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). Jesus was speaking to people under this same form of doctrine when He said,“Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). They, like many today, had “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:1-4).
To be freed from the law, and to partake of God’s grace, we must first come to understand and concede that man can change his mind but has no ability to change his nature. God created us with a spirit, a soul, and a body (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). Our nature resides in the spirit region of our being and is the root that produces the fruit seen in our day-to-day lives. It is the nature of the spirit within us that is producing our words and deeds. Look at Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”. We have bolded some key words in this verse because they reveal the functions of the spirit and soul in man. If you look closely at this verse, you will see that “soul” is follow respectively by “joints” and “thoughts” while “spirit” is followed respectively by “marrow” and “intents (intentions)”.
Let’s first look at the soul. In our physical bodies, the joints provide for movement and thus reflect the physical life of the body. Without joints, our bodies would appear lifeless. As joints provide a reflection of physical life in the body, the soul reflects the spiritual life that is in man. “Soul” is also followed by “thoughts” showing us that it is the region of our being wherein reside the thoughts, reasonings, intellect, will, and emotions. Looking at “spirit” we see that it is followed by “marrow”. The marrow in our physical body produces blood cells. The life of a physical being is in the blood(Leviticus 17:11). Identically, the spirit produces the spiritual life of a man – one of sin or one of righteousness. “Spirit” is also followed by “intents” showing us that man’s intentions are generated by the spirit in him. I trust you see that our intentions do not originate from within the soul. Neither the will, intellect, reasoning, nor emotions dictate our intentions. Our intentions are generated and dictated by something deeper than our consciousness. They come from the spirit within us. This is the portion of our being that man has no ability to alter or modify in any way. These intentions are either the product of the prideful, selfish spirit of Satan, or the selfless, loving Spirit of God. Our moral state of being and subsequent conduct originates in the spirit, is communicated to the soul, where it is processed, and is then worked out through the body in the things we say and do. So many individuals, with a zeal for God, are finding themselves weary, frustrated, and defeated because they have been led to believe they can produce righteousness by modifying their soul and daily practices. Man’s moral state of being and behavior can only be altered by a work of God within the spirit portion of his being.
No man or woman is their own person. One of two spirits is dictating and controlling our moral state. Man can not know enough, reason enough, stir his emotions enough, or participate in religious activity enough to improve his moral condition. In Ephesians 2:1-3 we read, “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others”. These verses confirm the spiritual realities I have been sharing with you. You see that, before regeneration, we all“walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience”. All were “by nature the children of wrath”. Until an individual has repented and believed the gospel to be crucified with Christ and born again (regenerated by the Holy Spirit), his moral being and conduct is dictated by the prideful spirit of Satan. This “spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” is influencing the souls of unbelievers with pride and selfish lusts. The intellect, reasoning, emotions, and the will are slaves to that spirit. In this state of being, the mind can only process information from a selfish, prideful perspective. The soul then, with the depraved influence, signals the body to say and do that which will elevate and gratify self thus reflecting a life that is of this world, a life of sin.
God declares these same realities through the apostle Paul in Romans 7 saying, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin” (vs. 15-25 NKJV). Here, Paul is not describing the normal Christian life as most seem to believe, but instead is putting himself in an illustration to reveal the condition of a religious person who has a zeal for God, but is yet under the law. You will find scriptural proof of this in our teaching titled “Who Shall Deliver Me?”. Looking at these verses we see a man who has God’s law presented to him, consents that God’s law is good, and who wills to uphold it. Through all his efforts, he finds another law in his members (his carnal being) that is warring against the law of his mind (soul). Here, you have a man who is wanting to do righteousness. His will is to please God, but he finds there is a force working in him that is deeper than his consciousness and stronger than his will. Now look at the following verses again – “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members”. The “inward man” refers to the soul. His intellect, reasoning, emotions, and will delight in the law of God. But, the law in this man’s being is warring against the law his soul is delighting in and holding him captive to sin. “Law” is defined as: a controlling force. The law holding this zealous, religious man captive is the law of sin which is carried out by the spirit of Satan and is the controlling force in every unregenerated person. Who will deliver this man from his state of death? “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”.
Going on in Romans 8 we read, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according the Spirit”(vs. 1-4). Here we see that in turning to Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life has freed this man from the law of sin and death which was the controlling force, holding him captive in the previous verses. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is the law of grace whereby we are partakers of the Holy Spirit who brings the divine influence upon the heart. The fruit of the Spirit manifests when the divine influence becomes the controlling force in our lives, and against such fruit there is no law (Galatians 5:16-26).Subsequently, true believers are not under the law. Read 1 Timothy 1:8-11.
Through the cross of Jesus, our souls are freed from their union with the spirit of Satan, and by His resurrection we are justified to have the Spirit of God come to be one with our soul. The Holy Spirit continually influences our intellect, reasoning, will, and emotions with the love and humility of Jesus. As a true believer yields himself to this controlling force in faith, the soul will reflect the life that is in Jesus, and God’s law of love is fulfilled. I sincerely hope this has ministered to you and, if so, I urge you to request or download our teaching series titled, “Free Indeed” on CD or DVD. It provides an in-depth look into the things that have been brought to light in this brief study.