Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hear­ing with faith? Are you so fool­ish? Hav­ing begun by the Spirit, are you now being per­fected by the flesh? ()

The Spirit-Filled Church by Terry Virgo

The Spirit-Filled Church: Find­ing Your Place in God’s Purpose

We recently noted an ongo­ing dis­cus­sion about the effort we’re called to make in our sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion. I believe Scrip­ture tells us that although we can do things that look like sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion, if those actions are done in the flesh they are sim­ply behav­ior mod­i­fi­ca­tion. It’s a change in the heart that is desired, not sim­ply an out­ward change in actions.

I’m cur­rently read­ing The Spirit-Filled Church: Find­ing Your Place in God’s Pur­pose, by Terry Virgo. Virgo takes this argu­ment one step fur­ther, show­ing us that using the law for sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion gives Satan the oppor­tu­nity to heap con­dem­na­tion on us. “The law always kills in the end,” Virgo notes.

This por­tion of The Spirit-Filled Church (avail­able for pre-order at Ama­zon and via Ama­zon in the U.K. here or world­wide from the U.K here) out­lines Virgo’s case. It’s in agree­ment with what we’re advo­cat­ing in our cur­rent Com­pleted by the Spirit series:

It is essen­tial for us con­stantly to rec­og­nize our death to law. It is no longer the basis for our rela­tion­ship with God and never will be. We are mar­ried to Christ and our ful­fil­ment as Chris­tians is bound up in our love rela­tion­ship with him.

All evan­gel­i­cals know that they can never be jus­ti­fied by the law, but what they often fail to real­ize is that they can­not be sanc­ti­fied by it either. The law always con­demns. Its pur­pose is to bring us to Christ (). The tragedy for many believ­ers is that they get caught in a trap. They reach a cri­sis when they feel deeply chal­lenged by a word from God con­cern­ing their sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion and they deplore their recent his­tory. With new-found zeal they deter­mine to do bet­ter in the future. But at that very moment they make the fatal error that will lead them to cer­tain fail­ure and dis­tress. At the time when they most need to break the snare, they choose the wrong choice. They begin to impose cer­tain laws upon them­selves in order to help them reign in life. They per­haps adjust their alarm clock for half an hour ear­lier. They deter­mine to read the whole Bible in the com­ing year, and so on. These steps may have real worth in and of them­selves, but they do not pro­vide us with the keys to “reign in life”. The mis­take is in think­ing that in order to reign in life we must do some­thing, while the New Tes­ta­ment does not teach that. It says that we reign in life by receiv­ing the abun­dance of grace and the free gift of right­eous­ness ().

NO CONDEMNATION

The prob­lem for many Chris­tians is that they always feel con­demned. But the answer to con­dem­na­tion is never sim­ply to improve our per­for­mance. It is to reckon on our posi­tion through grace. God has jus­ti­fied us freely as a gift. Con­dem­na­tion is to do with guilt, not with feel­ings or improved per­for­mance. If we, through grace, are declared “not guilty” by God, then we can­not be con­demned. Only the guilty man stands con­demned. It is God who jus­ti­fies, and if God has declared us “not guilty”, Satan can­not take us to a higher court. There is none. There is no con­dem­na­tion for us, not because we have been doing well lately, or because we have set our­selves a new stan­dard, but because we are in Christ Jesus. He has car­ried our guilt on the cross. The more we come to enjoy that truth, the more we will know how to refuse Satan’s con­stant bar­rage of accu­sa­tions aimed at get­ting us down.

If Satan can get us off our ground in Christ Jesus and onto the ground of our effort, he knows he has us in our grip. We may suc­ceed for a while with New Year res­o­lu­tions but even before the chill winds of Feb­ru­ary, con­dem­na­tion looms large all over again. The law always kills in the end. [1]

More read­ing:

Adrian Warnock, who wrote the foward to The Spirit-Filled Church, has a num­ber of posts at his blog about Terry Virgo.


[1] Virgo, Terry. The Spirit-Filled Church: Find­ing Your Place in God’s Pur­pose. Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch, 2011. Print. p. 59–60.


Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hear­ing with faith? Are you so fool­ish? Hav­ing begun by the Spirit, are you now being per­fected by the flesh? (ESV)


24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be jus­ti­fied by faith. (ESV)


17 For if, because of one man’s tres­pass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abun­dance of grace and the free gift of right­eous­ness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (ESV)