THE MEANING OF BEING DELIVERED FROM THE LAW
Romans 7 is a great chapter, and we cannot cover all of it today. We will only mention verse 4. In this verse, the first thing mentioned is: "So then, my brothers, you also have been made dead to the law." In other words, we are dead to the law. Brothers, have we realized that we need to be delivered from the law? If I say that we should be delivered from sin, everybody understands because sin is loathsome, and it is right to be delivered from it. If I say that we should be delivered from the world, everyone also understands because the world has crucified our Lord and is indeed evil. If I say that we should be delivered from ourselves, everyone also understands because the flesh is something evil. If I say that we should be delivered from uncleanness or licentiousness, we can still understand. But if I say that we should be delivered from the law, some may say that they do not feel the need for such a deliverance. If the apostle says that we need to be delivered from the self, we say, "Amen." If he says that we need to be delivered from the world or sin, we would again say, "Amen." But when he says that we have been delivered from the law or that we are dead to the law, we do not know how to respond. We realize that what the apostle said cannot be wrong, but we do not understand why he said it. We understand deliverance from sin, from the self, and from the world. But we cannot understand the reason for deliverance from the law. Why did the apostle tell us that we are delivered from the law and that we are dead to the law? What does deliverance have to do with the law? It has a great deal to do with it. Deliverance from the law has a great deal to do with deliverance from the world, from sin, and from the self. Therefore, this is a very important matter.
Brothers and sisters, if we desire to experience deliverance, it is very important that we realize that God has no more hope in us. If we are seeking deliverance, we first need to understand ourselves and realize that we are hopeless. We have to clearly see how God evaluates us and how we evaluate ourselves. All of us belong to Christ; we are His. We may have been Christians for many years, but I am afraid that we have lived a life of failures and frequent stumblings and downfalls. But what happens after each failure? Almost everyone makes a resolution after a failure, saying to himself, "Next time I will do better and will not fail." Every failure brings another heartache and self-condemnation, and the question is raised once more, "Why did I do this? Why did I fail again? I am a believer and should not be this way. This is too poor!" You become very disheartened. After you fail, as with almost everyone, there are two results. First, you resolve to do better the next time. Second, you feel sorry and sigh, looking back at what you have done and asking why you are so bad. This is what you do all the time. When you fail, you are heartbroken and ask, "How could I have fallen so low? I will never do anything like that again. Lord, deliver me from this!" Your experience is similar to that of Romans 7. Before one heartache goes away, another occasion for heartache comes. One resolution has not worked, but you still find yourself making a second resolution. This goes on time after time and things still do not improve. This is your situation. What is the reason for this? The reason is that you have not yet been delivered from the law, and have not yet seen what the law is, and what being delivered from the law is.
If you want to understand what it is to be delivered from the law, you must first understand the relationship that the law has with us. The law is God’s requirement on our flesh. The law is God telling us that we should or should not do something. It is what God says concerning what we ought and ought not to do. It is what God forbids or commands us to do. Therefore, the law is God’s requirement on us. In brief, the law is all the demands that God places on those who are in Adam and all the commands that God gives to those who are in Adam, commands that tell them what they should or should not do. (God does this to prove the corruption and the hopelessness of the flesh.) Not only can God put us under the law, but we, who are in Adam, can also put ourselves under the law, hoping that we can please God. We set up ordinances for ourselves to keep, saying, "I should not do this. I should not do that." In addition to the commandments that God has given us, we have also given ourselves many other commandments which are just as severe as the ones God has given. Therefore, God puts His demands on us, and we also put demands on ourselves. This means that we still have a hope in the things of Adam, thinking that we can improve and striving to advance and overcome. Brothers and sisters, God has put us under the law, and at the same time we have put ourselves under the law.
What does it mean to be delivered from the law? It is to entirely lose hope in ourselves. Not only should we entirely lose hope in ourselves, but we should not hope at all. Do not hope for anything concerning ourselves any longer. This is the way to be delivered from the law. God allows us to sin day after day in order to make us realize that we are corrupt and unclean, and it is impossible to improve. We cannot overcome, and we cannot keep the law. There is no possibility for us to be helped; we are completely useless, and we are not improving. God wants us to realize that the reason He crucified us on the cross, which He did in Christ, is because we are corrupt beyond any hope. When we consider ourselves to be hopeless and realize that God considers us to be hopeless, we will only stand on the position God gives us. God says that we are corrupt to the core and hopeless. We need to say the same thing, that we are corrupt to the core and hopeless. All that we can do is sin. We do not cherish any hope about ourselves anymore. This is what it is to be delivered from the law. What a great deliverance this is! The unique way of deliverance is to consider ourselves as being hopeless.
The last time I was in Canada, I met a certain Mr. G. He was a good man and was also good in the gospel. God used him to save many sinners. Now he is old, over sixty years of age. One day we were walking on the street and talking, and we came to this topic. He said that this is the lesson we have to preach to others all the time. I asked him what he meant, and he began to tell me his history: "When I was a young believer, I was very zealous. I wanted to serve the Lord well, advance, and make myself good. But things always turned out the opposite way. The more I tried, the worse I became, and the more I realized that I could not make it. I was disappointed as well as bewildered. I found no solution. One day another brother said to me, `Mr. G., God never cherishes the hope that you cherish for yourself. You have so much hope for yourself, but God has no hope in you!’ I was very surprised and asked him what God had to say about me. He said, `God knows that you are powerless and that you cannot do anything. You are hopeless. This is why He crucified you on the cross. What you deserve is only crucifixion and nothing else.’ From that day on, the scales seemed to fall from my eyes. I saw that God has not required anything of me, and I saw that I could do nothing. This is why He crucified me on the cross. If that is the case, why do I still need to struggle?"
Brothers and sisters, in theory and in doctrine we know very well that the old Adamic life is irreparable and incurable. But the surprising thing is that in our experience, we still try to repair and improve it; we still cherish hope for the Adamic life. Many people say, "I am surprised that I still commit such a sin!" But I say that we should be surprised if we no longer committed such a sin! Is there any sin that we could not commit? We can commit any sin; the root of all sins is in us. God considers us hopeless and impossible to reform. This is why He crucified us on the cross. When the Lord died, we died also. God’s crucifixion of us on the cross is His evaluation of us. In effect, God is saying that we deserve only death and annihilation.
Brothers and sisters, how different is our evaluation of ourselves from God’s evaluation of us. We think that we are able to do something. We think that we can overcome, be holy, and make progress. But God does not cherish any such hope. All we are from head to toe is sin; we are absolutely useless. There is no way to save us except by the way of death. Without death, there can be no deliverance. We always think that there is still a chance for improvement and victory. But there is no such thing. Today we see the first fact, which is God’s evaluation of us, how much He thinks we are worth. Brothers and sisters, the ones who see this are blessed before others. Countless numbers of Christians have experienced repeated stumblings, defilements, failures, disappointments, and journies of hopelessness before they see that God has absolutely no hope in them. The sooner we see this fact, the better it will be for us, because this is the starting point of all deliverance. All genuine release of life begins here. We should see that we deserve nothing but death. The sooner we see this, the faster we will grow. The whole problem hinges on how we view the old Adamic life. We know and have mentioned this over a hundred times: the old Adamic life is irreparable and unalterable. But how many of us have really seen that we deserve to die? How many have seen that there is not another way besides death? Understanding the doctrine is one thing, knowing and seeing is another. Doctrines can only make us understand something in the mind, but seeing requires revelation in our spirit. All the things which do not come from God’s revelation and from our seeing are the things that do not count; they are not effective at all.
The meaning of being delivered from the law is to be delivered from God’s demands. This means that we have ceased all hope of pleasing God; this comes as a result of understanding the Adamic life and the work of Christ. We no longer hope to do anything to please God. As long as we still hope to please God by our own effort, we are not yet delivered from the law, and we will not be able to avoid heartaches and disappointments. The only way not to be disappointed is for us to know that God has no more hope in us.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 11: The Present Testimony (4), Chapter 13, by Watchman Nee)