My grandfather used to jokingly ask me, “Jeremy, do you have an innie or an outie?” Of course, he was referring to my belly button (which is an innie, just for the record…). But as I did today’s lesson from The Power of the Gospel, titled The Gospel on the Inside, this silly question came to mind. That’s because the lesson began talking about the New Me, which is the topic of the second half of the Gospel. And as it talked about the New Me, it discussed the new inner nature versus the old inner nature, and the new outward goal versus the old outward goal. So you can see where I would get all this inner/outer, innie/outie stuff, right? Good…
Summary of the Gospel So Far
So far, we’ve mainly looked at the first half of the Gospel. We said that the first quarter of the Gospel can be summed up with the phrase, “Christ died for me.” It refers to the work of the Cross in dealing with my sins. The second quarter of the Gospel can be summed up with the phrase, “Christ died as me.” This part refers to the work of the Cross in dealing with my self (my sinful nature). Both of these parts, and therefore the entire first half of the Gospel, are already accomplished facts that are put into reality by faith. They are a “once for all” work – “Christ died for me, once for all…, [and] I died in Christ, once for all.**
The Second Half of the Gospel
The next part of the Gospel, which is the 3rd quarter, is best summed up as “Christ lives in me.” We talked a lot in the last several posts about the fact that we have died – at least, our old selves have died. But when you are that old self, and the old self dies, there is nothing left to live, right? Very true, but also short of the truth. Because after we accept the fact that we have died, by faith, we must then accept the fact that we are alive again in Christ, also by faith. Paul put it this way:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
This new life, in Christ – this is the day to day Christian life. This is what we will be looking at over the next few days, living in Christ by walking in the Spirit.
A Theological Debate
In looking at the life in the Spirit, it is natural to start looking at what is old and what is new, and what is on the inside and what is on the outside. This may not be very clear right now, but let me explain further.
Lately, I’ve been listening to some free lectures from Reformed Theological Seminary on iTunesU. Of course, reformed theology is very much based in the teachings of John Calvin, and although I don’t necessarily consider myself “reformed,” I love studying theology, I think most of the Doctrines of Grace have a lot of theological truth behind them (I’m not sold on everything), and these lectures are free! Anyway, this past week I listened to one lecture where the teacher brought up a passage from Romans 7:14-25. You have probably read this passage before – it’s the one where Paul says that he does what he doesn’t want to do, and doesn’t do what he does want to do. The passage is long, and I recommend reading it all (here), but for our purposes today, we can look at the last verse, in which Paul summed up the entire passage (v. 25):
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (v.14-25)
The instructor pointed out that there has been some debate in theological circles over whether Paul is speaking of the old, unregenerate self in this entire passage, or if he is talking about a struggle all Christians have, even in their new, regnerate lives, between their depraved selves and their reborn selves. The instructor said that he believes Calvin was in the second group. I must admit that I always wished that this was the case – it was comforting to read this passage and know that Paul, a titan of the faith, had this same struggle going on inside him that I had inside me…the fact that sin still seemed to have a grip on him, and that he still does things he does not want to do. But I have come to see, through today’s lesson, that this isn’t the case. Paul is talking here of what the Gospel rescues us from.
The lesson gave a good number of arguments for this view, but for the sake of keeping this post from having 2000 words, I’ll jump on applying it to the Gospel. What Paul says here, in a nutshell, is that the Old Self has an inner nature and an outer goal. An “innie” and and “outie,” we’ll call them. Verse 25, copied above, lists what this are:
- Innie – slave to the law of sin, the law of sin and death: we are controlled on the inside by this nature
- Outie – God’s righteous decree (Old Testament law): our outward goal is to obey God’s law
These two are incompatible – they pull us in opposite directions. In our nature (Old Self nature, that is), we are sinful. But in our minds, we know that the Law is good (think Ten Commandments, though it is more than that). So we try to do good by following the rules, but it’s too hard, because what is on the inside always wins. No wonder Paul said “What a wretched man I am!” (v. 24). It’s a never ending battle. But in steps Christ, and everything changes:
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4)
Now we have a new innie and a new outie:
- Innie – the law of the Spirit of life
- Outie – Pursuing God himself
When we are regenerated, Christ lives in us, and we have a new inside nature. Also, our outward goal is no longer to follow the rules, but to pursue God himself. These two are completely compatible – as the lesson put it, there’s no longer a tug of war going on inside you. We want what we have – a relationship with God. And we live how we should – pursuing God leads to obedience. It’s a win-win.
** Taken from Lesson 11: The Gospel on the Inside, from The Power of the Gospel, OBC