The Overcomer Trust

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By J.C.Metcalfe.


Human nature has been impregnated through the fall far more deeply than is generally recognized and we do need a clear understanding of what the Scriptures have to say about this. Let us start with the teachings of the Lord Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, for here we have the first hint of the basic principles laid down in the rest of the New Testament, and here also we have the final authority.




In Matthew 16 v17 we find the declaration made by the Lord Jesus following Peter’s admission, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. “Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but my Father in heaven”. All true understanding of the Saviour comes by direct revelation from God, ‘flesh and blood’ are powerless in this realm. To seek to work upwards from the base of natural reasoning to discover God and His ways is folly. We have to receive all from Him. This harmonizes with what Paul writes in Galatians 1. Verse 11 and 12 read, “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ”. Look further on at verses 15 and 16, “But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not consult with any man”. This is a very practical aspect of truth and one that needs to be constantly remembered and reckoned with.

We can neither receive living truth direct from others, nor can we in our turn impart it to others. All revelation is God’s gift. The Lord Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 13 v11, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you”, and the principle is still the same. The wonders of God’s grace are unveiled by the Holy Spirit to the humble heart and can be understood in no other way. This must surely mean that time should first be given to the task of ensuring that the Spirit of God is able to work with and through us in our ministry, and only afterwards to our techniques and methods of preaching and teaching. The touch of the Spirit is the key to effective service and by effective service I mean that which is of eternal value. Flesh and blood is of no help here.




There was another occasion when the Lord Jesus told Peter, “Where I go you can not follow me now but you will follow me later”, and the fulfillment of the first part of this statement, with the reason for the disciples’ inability, is seen in Matthew 26 v41 and the parallel passage in Mark 14 v38. The Lord Jesus was facing the agony of Gethsemane alone and even the loyal, impetuous Peter was asleep, “He returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not keep watch with Me for one hour?’ He asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak’ ”. It is not possible for the old nature to walk the way of the Cross, only one empowered by the Holy Spirit of God is able to tread this path. It is even said of the Lord Jesus Himself that it was “through the eternal Spirit” that He trod this way, and “offered Himself unblemished to God” (Heb. 9 v14). Paul puts it in this way and we shall do well to note the close harmony between the teaching of Gospel and Epistle. “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15 v50, John 3 v3-5). And yet it is greatly comforting to realize that the Lord Jesus, recognizing the disciples’ handicap, did not blame them but gently reminded them of His lonely path, and promised them ability to “follow afterwards”. How greatly the coming of God the Holy Spirit into heart and life changes things. Does not almost all of our incapacity arise from the fact that we look to find powers of endurance within ourselves, which our fallen human nature completely lacks, and therefore fail utterly to rely upon the Spirit of God? In this way we render the work of the Saviour on our behalf in His death and rising again, abortive in our lives and experience. We frustrate the grace of God. The barrenness of our fleshly nature renders even the Law unavailing to mould our lives into any semblance of true obedience to God and likeness to Christ, “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in sinful man (flesh), in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit”. This is the promised “afterwards”, when the Spirit of God reigns within, the coward is made brave, the wavering strong, the failure true as steel. What a change, what a triumph of grace (Rom 8 v3).




The next thing we need to understand is that old nature has no means of entering the new sphere of life in Christ, nor of leading anyone else into it. “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3 v6). So runs the devastatingly simple summary of the Lord Jesus. As one commentator says, “The meaning of ‘birth from above’ is explained by an analogy. What a man inherits from his parents is a body with animal life and passions, what he receives from above is a spiritual nature with heavenly aspirations and capabilities. What is born of sinful human nature is sinful and human, what is born of the Holy Spirit is spiritual and divine”. Is it any wonder that the Lord Jesus immediately follows this summary with a new underlining of the absolute necessity for the new birth? “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again (from above)’ ” (John 3 v7). We receive our life as natural men and women by natural generation, there is no other way. We receive eternal life by means of the miracle of the birth from above through the agency of the Holy Spirit, because of the Cross of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. There is no other way. This is again strongly emphasized in John 1 v12-13, “To all who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, . . . But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name, which were born not . . . of the will of man, but of God”. It is surely one of the great satanic delusions that this astounding miracle of conveying new life in Christ can be accomplished by some rite or ceremony.

Our fallen human nature is once again declared to be helpless and powerless. Here is a realm jealously preserved as that of the divine operation of the Spirit of God. The urgency of giving to the Spirit of God the paramount place, that is His by right, in the work of the Gospel is seen by the way in which Satan is seeking to popularize counterfeits of His power. A close study of Scripture along this line, and a consequent re-thinking of our whole approach to evangelism, is one of the great needs of Christians today. Often our sights are set far too low. We lack the necessary patience and grace to wait and watch the Holy Spirit finish the work He has begun in bringing new life in Christ to birth. We must be utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit of God.

Perhaps the clearest commentary on the powerlessness of the flesh and the might of the Spirit is to be found in Galatians. It is impossible to read the out workings of the flesh in chapter 5 v19-21 without recognizing in ourselves, and in those around us, the twisted life of fallen human nature. In verses 22-23 we find ourselves in a completely different atmosphere. The Spirit of God is at work and we are able to trace those new traits and gracious influences in the lives of those who are learning to walk in fellowship with the Saviour. Verse 24 then shows us the only way by which the old may be mastered and the new spring forth, through union with Christ in His death and resurrection, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires”. Again, this is not something we can do for ourselves, it is a miracle which has been wrought on our behalf and which is made real by the Holy Spirit as we count on it as an accomplished fact.




The final crucial reference to the fallen nature in the Gospels would seem to be in John 8 v14. The Pharisees have declared that the Saviour’s witness to Himself cannot be true, and He answers, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know . . .  You judge by human standards”. Have you noticed how the misunderstanding of the Jews is based on their wrong view of His origin and the purpose of His coming into the world? To them He was a man, a miracle working Galilean prophet and no more. They failed to recognize that God had indeed become “revealed in the flesh” and they had no understanding of the forthcoming revelation of His saving power and grace to be seen in the cross, the empty tomb and the rent heavens. Religion to them was a matter of ceremony and detailed legal observance. Their view was governed by the thinking of their natural minds. In conjunction with this passage it is instructive to read Paul’s words to the Church at Corinth (1 Cor. 2). He tells them that his deliberate purpose has been to proclaim nothing in his message to them but “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”.

Because of this he has not relied in any way on purely human wisdom nor on oratory. Then he continues in verses 6-8 (J. B. Phillips’ translation), “We do, of course, speak wisdom among those who are spiritually mature, but it is not what is called wisdom by this world, nor the powers-that-be, who soon will be only the powers that have been. The wisdom we speak of is that mysterious sacred wisdom of God which He planned before the creation for our glory today. None of the powers of this world have known this wisdom, if they had they would never have crucified the Lord of glory”.

Today you have only to turn to the correspondence columns of some of our religious magazines to witness the unedifying spectacle of men using their fleshly wisdom in wordy warfare. It seems possible to arouse endless argument about externalities and divergent points of interpretation, but the Church’s enemy cares nothing for these exhibitions of “judging after the flesh”. They do not harm his kingdom. What he hates and fears is the proclamation of the Saviour in His triumphant “exodus” to the very throne of God by way of Calvary. The wisdom of the Spirit will always be occupied with Christ to the exclusion of everything else. The wisdom of the flesh will always be ready to use the sword, as did Peter in the garden, in a so-called defence of the truth but will utterly fail to understand or be able to walk in the way of the Cross (See James 3 v13-18).

If we are to walk worthy of our calling and to be those through whom God is able to do His work in the world, then these lessons must be learned. We can only master them by applying ourselves wholly to them and making it our business to learn direct from the Holy Spirit of God. 


From: ‘Great Deliverance’. 


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