Of all the barbarous tortures contrived by the perverted mind of man, one ancient practice was especially gruesome. A prisoner would be chained to the body of a dead man and wherever he went , he was forced to drag the putrefying corpse with him.
In the Aeneid, Virgil accuses the Etruscan king Mezentius of inflicting this macabre punishment upon some captives (viii. 485).
The apostle Paul pictures mankind apart from Christ shackled to a far more hideous corpse when he writes, “We know the law is spiritual. But I am not spiritual. Sin rules me like I am its slave. I don’t understand the things I do. I don’t do the good things I want to do and I do the bad things I hate to do. . . But I am not really the one doing these bad things, it is sin living in me doing does these bad things , . . . So I have learned this rule; when I want to do good evil is there with me . . . this is terrible! WHO WILL SAVE ME FROM THIS BODY THAT BRINGS ME DEATH” (Romans 7:14-27 – Easy To Read Version).
The idea is if the sinful nature remains unrestrained, the result is bondage to sin, which leads to spiritual death. In the letter to the Galatians Paul states, “Our sinful selves want things that are against the Spirit. The Spirit wants things that are against our sinful selves. These two different things (powers) are against each other (fight each other), so you don’t do the things you really want to do” (Galatians 5:17-18 – Easy To Read Version).
Peter speaks of a conscience free of guilt and shame in these words. “The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:21). With the forgiveness of all past sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), the believer can rejoice (with good conscience) that his sins are covered with the blood of Christ.
Some are being chained by the corpse of good works pursuing salvation based on their own merit. It is widely held that if people are honest and morally right that these human works can MERIT SALVATION.
Look at Abraham. “For if Abraham were justified by works (human efforts), he has something to boast about (to glory in) but not before God. For what do the scriptures say; that Abraham believed God and it was counted (credited) unto him for righteousness? Now to him that works (human efforts) is the reward not reckoned of grace but of debt. But to him that does not work (works not), but believes on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted (credited) for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6: Romans 4:1-5). This is why the Word of God declares, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (I Timothy 1:15). Woe to the man who tries to do it on his own.
In my early years of ministry, I met a woman who was sad and lonely. She lived opposite of the new church building. We sat on her back porch and often discussed the wonderful blessing of being free from the old life. She described her former years as one “who lived on a diet of old stale dry hard bread.” Her life had been filled with tragic failures and brutal disappointments. Reading the Word and seeing the Christ brought her to conversion. The joy and happiness that was immediate was wonderful to behold. Time passed and as a growing young Christian she was doing well. But things changed in her life and the joy of salvation was tarnished (Psalms 51:10-12). She slipped and fell; my visits continued. One day she told me again about the old life to which she had turned.
The many hours we had spent on that porch – the struggle that she had made – the beautiful life that Jesus brought and the wonder of sins forgiven was now to be lost.
“Isabel”, I spoke through tears. You told me of the old life of old stale hard bread. But Christ came and you sat at his table, spread with grace and forgiveness and joy. Are you telling me now, that you have deliberately turned back to that old stale hard bread!!”
Peter wrote, “Whereby are given to us great and precious promises; that by these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust . . . for it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandments delivered unto them” (I Peter 1:3-4; 20-22).
I freely admit that at times in the last 65 years I have had doubts, discouragement, and times of failings. In those times I have relied upon the words of Paul, the chief of sinners. “There is therefore NOW no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). I did not save God, he saved me. I did not find God, he found me. “I am not ‘faithful’ to God, HE IS FAITHFUL TO ME.”