The Good Witness of Consent to God's Law
By Given O. Blakely
"When I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good" (Rom. 7:16). That assertion by Paul is at once informative, comforting, and challenging to the child of God, who is engaged in relentless war with his own unregenerated fleshly nature. It apprises him of the true situation with the faith life, with its incessant conflict, and points him to the way of spiritual triumph by the claiming of his reborn status in Christ.
The Continuing Conflict. The Apostle had acknowledged that he did not have complete control of his thought life. "When I would do good, evil is present with me," he said (v. 21). Although he delighted in "the law of God after the inward men," he was confronted with inward opposition. He found "another law" in his members, "warring against the law" of his mind, and bringing him "into captivity to the law of sin" which was in his members (vv. 22-23).
The warfare was occasioned by the fact that the spiritually renewed part of Paul aspired to complete dominion. As he expressed it in another place, The Spirit lusted "against the flesh," but, vice versa, the flesh also lusted "against the Spirit." The two being "contrary the one to the other, he could not unfailingly do "the things" that he "would" (Gal. 5:17).
The Apostle abhorred the intrusion of the fleshly thoughts and desires. Yet he was unable to wholly prevent their occurrence. "How to (unfailingly) perform that which is good I find not," is his way of putting it (v. 18). As is so with all warfare, that experience was a distinctly unpleasant one for Paul, as it is for all saints. It prompted him to cry, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (v. 24). This inward conflict was the cause of the groaning and desire for the Lord's coming or his going to Him by death, repeatedly voiced by the Apostle, and experienced by all who follow in his steps (Rom. 8:16-23; II Cor. 5:1-8; Phil. 1:21-23; 3:20-21).
It is to be observed at this point that a striking parallel exists between this situation with that experienced by the ancient Israelites. The hard taskmastery of Egypt made them ready and eager for the scheduled departure therefrom when the time for it arrived. So is the "good warfare" of the faith life designed by God to produce in His saints a fully-consenting willingness to "be absent from the body" and to be "present with the Lord" (II Cor. 5:4-8).
The Evidential Bearing. The evidential function of the flesh’s opposition, attesting to his sonship of God, is the blessedly comforting aspect of the warfare cited by Paul. He saw in the opposition of his reborn spirit—the law of his mind—to the "law of sin” confirmation of his participation in the divine nature. "If I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good." "Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me," he concluded, claiming his full justification in Christ (v. 17).
In his acknowledgment of the law as "good," the Apostle manifested that it had been written in his heart, rather than on "tables of stone," as at Mount Sinai (II Cor. 3:3). Such acknowledgment is highly valued in heaven, since it justifies God in His exactions of His people. Those who are spiritually at variance with the law are opposed to God, who gave it.
Numerous expressions in the Psalms give voice to the hearty approbation of the divine law expressed by Paul. We should certainly seek grace whereby we might, with him, accord it full approval. "The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Ps. 19:8). “O how love I Thy law! It is my meditation all the day" (Ps. 119:97). “I will delight myself in Thy commandments, which I have loved" (v. 47). “I hate vain thoughts: but Thy law do I love" (v. 113).
Although these expressions manifest the experiences and sentiments of David and the other psalmists, there is a sense in which they were also prophetic. They were the harbingers of the hearty "consent" to God's law which Paul, no doubt, more fully experienced, and of which he spoke.
The Personal Application. The application of these considerations to today's saints needs to be made by all of them. Unless there is proper discernment in this area, Satan will seek to defile one's conscience by the flesh's opposition to the renewed spirit, and so separate him from God.
The point stressed by Paul in Romans 7 is clear. It is that the hatred of vain and sinful thoughts and the love of godly ones by the believer bear a definite and consolatory witness. It is to the fact that the one so involved is salvationally related to Christ. It is written of Him, it will be recalled, "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity" (Heb. 1:9). A similar attitude by us shows that we have been made "partakers of Christ" (Heb. 3:14), and so of "the divine nature" (II Pet. 1:4).
While the believer, in his thought life, deplores the opposition of the flesh to his renewed nature, he finds good, as has been said, in that very situation. It is the confirmation thus provided of his consent to the goodness of God's law, and thus of his kinship with Him. That is the faith-view of the inner struggle, and it is precious beyond measure.
The true state of the case needs to be duly recognized. Paul's assurance resulted from his believing, not from his achieving. Those who have been made "accepted in the Beloved" (Eph. 1:6) readily acknowledge that they have to contend with a contrary nature that is persistently assertive.
For that reason they have "no confidence in the flesh," but "rejoice in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:3). Their confidence is in God, and it is ministered to them by their faith in Him. As to the experience of perfect righteousness, they, with Paul, "through the Spirit by faith" wait for it (Gal. 5:5, ASV). It needs to be emphasized that the proper assessment of our present condition is possible in Christ, and should be diligently sought. The fact that many are deficient in this area is a point of concern to those who perceive the nature of the faith life.
Many a person has been needlessly frustrated by the conflict of the flesh and the Spirit, which is a thoroughly normal situation for all who remain in the earthly body. A lack of spiritual understanding is clearly responsible for that regrettable situation. Ample provision has been made by God for our coping with the inward warfare. We have been given spiritual weaponry capable of neutralizing the effectiveness of our lower nature's aggressiveness (II Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:10-20). But it must be employed by the believer, if it is to properly serve him. You are challenged to take up the weaponry, and "fight the good fight of faith" (I Tim. 6:12). There is no need for you to despair, because of your present imperfections. –Noted and recorded by Fred O. Blakely