There are two great subjects treated of in scripture in connection with man’s relationship with God—purpose in God, and responsibility in man. The former is in the second Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This purpose was established before the foundation of the world. (See 2 Tim. 1:9, 10; Titus 1:2, 3; Prov. 8; 1 Cor. 2:7.) Many passages refer to details of this. Ephesians especially fully develops it. But God did not begin with this, nor with the second Adam in whom these promises were to be accomplished, but with the first, placed in responsibility before God and in blessings dependent on faithfulness in his position.
Christianity begins when this question of responsibility is closed. I do not mean, of course, that Christians are not responsible. But their responsibility is that of children of God, redeemed by grace from the condition of ruin in which man was fallen. Individuals withal have to pass through in their own souls experimentally the results of this condition of responsibility; but in Christianity it is not to ascertain whether they can meet judgment, but to arrive at the clear discovery that they cannot, that they are guilty and lost; to have judgment realised in their consciences that “there is none righteous, no, not one “(every mouth being stopped, and all the world guilty before God); that they cannot themselves get out of this condition, but that Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost; that “when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
I do not now enter into the details of this redemption, nor of what the purpose connected with it is. I only refer to it now to shew that it is when the divine development as to the first man’s responsibility is closed, and man viewed as guilty and lost under it, that Christianity begins. The question of responsibility was gone through in the first Adam. First, he failed being innocent; then displayed his lawlessness in corruption and violence, bringing in the flood; then under law broke it; and when (all this being already true) God came into the world in goodness, the full character of sin was developed in enmity against God by the rejection of the blessed Lord. This closed the probation of man. Now, says the Lord, is the judgment of this world. Hence we read, “He appeared once in the end of the world (the consummation of ages), to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” and “these things … are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
Christianity then comes when the question of man’s standing in responsibility is closed, not only as being a sinner, but when God having tried all means of recovery saying, “I have yet one Son,” had tried them in vain as regards the discovery of good in the first Adam, or his recovery as such. He is already guilty and lost, and proved so.
Besides his state of innocence, inalienable life for ever and responsibility were attached to the two trees in the garden; but man took the wrong road in connection with responsibility, and forfeited life. In the law the question was again raised as to both; but satisfying responsibility was put before life. “This do and thou shalt live.” Christ meets our responsibility in bearing the consequence of it, our sins, and, being made sin in that place, perfectly glorified God, and becomes our life (of which more hereafter). Thus and thus only the two are reconciled for sinful man—life and responsibility.
Now, from the beginning, the coming of Christ was intimated in the judgment pronounced on Satan; and then, when God began to deal with man in the new world when it had wholly departed from Him into idolatry, in the promise of the Seed in whom the nations should be blessed, to Abraham called out from it. But the promise was never fulfilled till Christ came; and He being rejected, though the promised Seed had come, the result of purpose was not fulfilled; but the ground of it was laid according to grace abounding over sin, and in righteousness, Christ having perfectly glorified God as made sin, and gone as Man into glory according to divine righteousness, so that man’s being there was the demonstration of righteousness. Thus propitiation for sins was made, which met the responsibility, and the ground laid for the accomplishment of purpose, and then the Holy Ghost comes down on earth, the witness of these things, and the present power of that Christianity in which through grace we enjoy them.
Hence we have the responsibility and state owned and demonstrated, and man met in it in grace; and the purpose revealed and ourselves associated with Christ in it; but the old creation and the first Adam state judged and lying in wickedness and alienation from God; and the new creation, connected with the Second Adam, raised and glorified, revealed; while as to life we are brought into it, with the Holy Ghost dwelling in us.
Now the Gospels give us Christ come into the old creation, and in diverse characters, His passing into death as so coming; and all give the resurrection, which is the essential beginning of the new as to man in every respect, for example, life and acceptance; not all, His ascension. There is this difference in them, that while the three first (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) give us His rejection historically, and in prophetic testimony, more or less, what was to take the place of His presence; in the first (Matthew) as Man, and according to promise, that is, in the first creation, and in Israel; the last of the four (John), being the revelation of His Person, that the Word was God, precedes all dispensation and creation itself, and begins by the world He had created not knowing Him, and His own rejecting Him, and then unfolds His Person, and what was proper to Himself and His service and the coming of the Holy Ghost when He had gone to the Father.
All this is assumed in the Epistles, and in Paul’s and John’s our being in the ascended Christ; in Paul’s also the doctrine of the “assembly,” and the purposes connected with it. This leads me to our immediate subject.
Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans, does not enter on the ground of the new creation, but treats of man on this earth as a responsible being, only in one word as an abstract doctrine shewing him as he will be, and that only personally: “Whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Here alone (chap. 8) purpose comes in, but only as to the state of individuals. God’s sovereignty is asserted in chapter 9, but only to give God title to let in the Gentiles, in contrast with a national election claimed by the Jews.
But the purposes of God, or the new creation which is in purpose, are not in view. Man is a responsible creature in this world, dealt with as such, though in the end glorified. This responsibility is met by the work of Christ, and the coincident fact of having life in Him. With this the great fact of present Christianity is recognised—the Holy Ghost down here. By this we know that we are in Christ, but as down here. It is the believer’s state down here in virtue of the Holy Ghost coming here. He sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts; but all this is my state down here, not the new creation. Its being so indeed gives it such value, though from other scriptures I know all this involves a part in the new creation. But I am saved in hope, I rejoice in hope of the glory, I am a joint-heir with Christ as a son; but my present place is suffering with Him. Though promising thus personally the glory, likeness to Christ according to the purpose of God, the Epistle treats the question of the divine ground of righteousness and the standing of a Christian in this world through the removal of sin. This it does in a double way, having respect first to the conduct, and then to the state of man as a child of Adam. Romans 1:18 to chapter 5:11 treats of his conduct, and the perfect grace that has met his case. Every mouth is stopped, and all the world guilty before God. But God has set Christ forth a propitiation, through faith in His blood, whether for remission of past sins (as to which God had shewn His forbearance in the times passed before Christ’s work); or now to justify him that believes in Jesus. “He was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.” So that by faith we have peace with God, stand in present favour, and rejoice in hope of the glory; yea, rejoice in tribulation as working good; yea, joy in God Himself through Christ, through whom we have thus received a perfect reconciliation.
But in all this, through knowing God’s love by the Holy Ghost given to us, we have our personal standing before God here; it is not new creation, though the life we have belongs to it. But the Epistle meets the whole question of our personal relationship to God. First, Christ is a propitiation through faith in His blood, and being risen again, the ground of our justification is shewn to be perfect, and being justified by faith we have peace with God. God imputes no sin to the believer, Christ having been delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.
Then, from chapter 5:12, the apostle takes up our state. Adam, by his obedience, has brought all connected with him into the condition of sinners; Christ, by His obedience, ail connected with Him into that of righteousness.
But with this another truth is connected. If it be by one Man’s obedience, we may five on as we like and be righteous by Christ’s obedience, says the world. But I have this righteousness by having part in His death; the having part in it is the very profession of Christianity; but death is not living on! Thus delivery from the state and power of sin is by death, and our death is in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Romans, even in the first part, recognises the Christian’s personal state on earth; the Holy Ghost is given to us, we are in Christ, live in Christ. The assembly itself also is assumed in the hortatory part; chap. 12. What is treated of, this state being assumed, is the divine way of grace as to it. Meeting our responsibility by bearing our sins I have already spoken of. The second part treats, we have seen, of our state.
But if we are alive in Christ, and Christ is in us, it is Christ who is risen and even is glorified, after having died. Such a Christ being our life, we are esteemed dead, for He who is our life, our true I, has died, and this is valid and effectual for faith. It is the profession of our common Christianity: we are baptized to it.
But in its effect (save the statement in chapter 8 of the effect of God’s being for us) this is not pursued beyond death; so that, Christ risen being our life, we are set free. “If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, and the Spirit is life, because of righteousness.” Christ is looked at as our life, but we are not viewed as risen with Him. He has been a propitiatory victim, and delivered for our offences, and died to sin once, all alone. He is not looked at as gone down into our place, and Himself and we raised up together. In this case He is not life to us, but a dead Man raised up, and this involves not merely life in Him but a new estate into which He is entered, and involves a new creation, though it may be and is considered apart.
But in fact He has died to this creation, and been raised to be, as Man, head of the new creation, and head of the body. There is, however, in the teaching of Romans deliverance, for He has died. Hence, not only we live in Him, but “our old man is crucified with him,” but we are still alive in this world with Christ’s life— “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”; but dead to sin in it, and to the law. Risen with Christ involves the purposes of God, Christ being viewed as the object of those purposes, and the power which brings them about; and hence we are associated with Him in them, and hence it leads on to our union in the church with Him. Not but that Christ is viewed as risen in the Epistle to the Romans: we find it thus in the first part, where it is applied to our justification, our clearance from guilt. But this is the acceptance of the victim; if not risen, I am yet in my sins. In the second, we are stated “to be (married) to another,” even Christ, that is raised from the dead. But we are not raised with Him. This introduces by the power of God at the next step into the new creation, as a state of things, and into the assembly. Christ, our life, or living in Him, is another thing from Christ viewed as a dead man raised, yet it is a risen man who is our life.
But being alive in Christ, that is not all; but we are alive in Him who was crucified, and we have died with Him, and this frees from the old man and from the law. Thus we are baptized to Christ’s death, buried with Him by baptism unto death; but called upon, therefore, only to walk in newness of life, for we are here in this creation as to our place. “We know that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed,” for “He that has died (which is our state through the cross) is justified from sin.” You cannot charge a dead man with evil lusts and a wicked will. “Now, if we be dead with Christ, we believe we shall (also) live with him.” Thus we are distinctly reckoned as dead; but living with Him is spoken of as a consequence of this, not as a state we are in. Christ died unto sin once, and now lives to God. His death is essentially identical with His dying to sin. “In that he died, he died unto sin once”; so we are to reckon ourselves “dead to sin” (for we are physically alive here), and “alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
A living Christ is our life here; but we are not looked at as raised up with Him. It is still the same responsible man, but all sins put away, one who will be like Him in resurrection, who is not to serve sin; it will not have dominion over him; it is not to reign in his mortal body, for there he yet is; but being set free to yield himself to God as alive from the dead, and his members as instruments of righteousness unto God; freed from sin by Christ being our life, and sin in the flesh condemned in Christ, a sacrifice for sin, and we, He having died, reckoning ourselves dead.
But everlasting life is the end, salvation is in hope, while we have fruit unto holiness here, sin in the flesh condemned in Christ’s sacrifice; and that being in death, and available for us, we see the condemnation gone, and ourselves dead to sin. The great point is that we have died. Only it is in the cross, where sin in the flesh was condemned, and are now alive in Christ, called to walk accordingly here; not put, according to purpose, in Christ in the new creation.
This death is then applied to the question of the law. Now the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives. But we have died, and consequently have ceased to be under it. We are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that we should be to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead. Still we are looked at as here, but married to Christ, who is raised, but not we raised with Him. We are delivered from the law, having died in that in which we were held. And then the state of the renewed soul under the first husband is given at the end of the chapter, where our death in Christ is not known; not the power of life in Him who is raised, and the presence of the Holy Ghost in us giving energy according to Christ’s place to this life; chap. 7.
Then the whole truth is summed up in the first three verses of chapter 8, the effect on the walk of the man down here in verse 4, which is man’s responsibility as such, but the spring and power of the walk quite different, as are its effects (end of verses 4 and 5), with the judgment of man’s condition when in the flesh.
But we are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; if the Spirit of God dwell in us, our place and standing are not in the flesh before God. But note, the Spirit is come down here; it is still man down here, but in Christ and in the Spirit, and that by His Spirit dwelling in him, but that is down here. If he have not the Spirit, he is not Christ’s; but if Christ be in him, for now it is Christ in him, and not he in Christ (compare John 14:20), the body is dead, a mere lifeless instrument of service; if it lives, it is a spring of sin only, flesh. But, Christ being in me, who did die,, because of it dead, it is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness; for that is what is looked for in this world, and that is what is found in the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of righteousness, which is by Christ Jesus to the glory and praise of God. Still we are here, sons of God indeed, and so heirs— joint-heirs with Christ—but not in the new creation, but in the suffering one, and suffering with it, though that suffering be not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed in us.
But we suffer, having the Spirit, as taking up these sorrows according to God, and expressing them by groans produced by the Holy Ghost, and understood by God as those of His own Spirit, though in our hearts, even when we do not know what to ask for. Just as Christ here could groan in sympathy with a suffering creation, and even Himself in the days of His flesh offer up His petitions with strong crying and tears, only not imperfect as we are, in it. The Spirit is the power of life, the Spirit gives us consciousness of sonship and our joint inheritance with Christ, and the Spirit groans in our hearts, we being such in the sense of all that is around us, we being joined to it as to our body, Christ our life in the inner man, and the Spirit dwelling in us. We are saved in hope, and know our place in the glory to be revealed, and hence feel the sorrow of our actual position, according to the Spirit of God, according to God Himself. , We are sons and know it, but the sons of God are yet to be manifested. For the responsible man triumphantly asks, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” and knows that nothing can separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Everything works together in this poor world for the good of those who love God. Hence the exhortation of the Epistle is to present—we being thus here—our bodies a living sacrifice (that is, not in actual death, as Christ).
In Ephesians they are sent forth from God to manifest the divine character on earth. Here they are set forth as actually subsisting men on the earth only set free, and to offer themselves to God as a living sacrifice. It is the responsible man justified and set free, with a new life in Christ to live to God, reckoning himself dead to sin, as having been baptized to Christ’s death, as having died with Him.
The Epistle to the Colossians goes farther still. The believer, indeed, is not seen sitting in heavenly places in Christ. A hope is laid up for him in heaven, and he is to set his affection on things above, where Christ sits at God’s right hand, not on things on the earth. But he is not only dead with Christ, but risen with Him; he is dead, and his life hid with Christ in God. When Christ appears, he will appear with Him.
And here it is of moment to notice two distinct aspects of man’s state, taken up in these epistles. He is viewed as living in sins and the indulgence of evil, and he is viewed as dead in sins. It is one and the same state; if he is alive in the sins, he is dead toward God. In the former case death must come in to deliver, for there is no mending of the flesh; in the latter it is a new creation.
Romans takes up the former view, Ephesians the latter. The new creation is wholly the purpose of God. The former, living in sins, is connected with responsibility; the latter has the second Adam risen and glorified for its centre. The former deals with man as he is; only life is found in the second Man, and so death for the first; for the Second has died and is risen, and become the believer’s life. Colossians practically takes in both as to the state of man; only it does not put him in heavenly places, nor speak of a new creation; it is only we “risen with Christ.” Hence also the “one body” is alluded to, and they are warned against not holding the Head; but the doctrine of the body is in no way developed, nor the purpose of God revealed.
It is important to notice that the death is always the same, for it is Christ’s death. Death there was death. He died, and therein died to sin once. That death, ours by faith, is the only death spoken of. His death as a person who had been alive in this world was His death to sin. We are dead with Him in Colossians, dead with Him in Romans. It is death to sin, in Him and in us; only He had none, and we do not literally die but appropriate His death through grace.
But in Colossians we are looked at as having lived in sins; chap. 2:12; chap. 3:7. This coincides with Romans. But (chap. 2:12; chap. 3:1) we are also risen with Him, and we are also viewed as having been dead in sins (chap. 2:13), which so far coincides with Ephesians: only it does not go so far—not seating us in heavenly places, nor, as I have said, develop the doctrine of the body, nor the purpose of God. But the being risen with Christ takes the believer himself into a new state. It is not merely life in Christ. Christ having come down and borne his sins, coming into his place of death, the sins having been put away and forgiven, he is raised with Him, and thus enters on a new sphere of existence. He has done with all the elements or principles of this world; he is not to walk as one alive in this world subject to ordinances, as in a religion suited to the flesh; but to have his affections on things above, where Christ sits; he is dead, and his life is hid there, for Christ is his life, though he be not sitting there as yet himself. Hence he has put off the old man and put on the new, and this is renewed in knowledge—has his knowledge according to a wholly new sphere of existence, after the image of Him that created him.
Here “new man” is not exactly the same as in Ephesians. There it is new in kind and nature—kainos; here neos; that is, he starts afresh, as just born with this, but renewed in knowledge in anakainoo, a wholly new kind. In Colossians we are not spoken of as dead to sin nor law; but ourselves dead and risen; that is, more definitely associated with Christ in the matter. It looks onward, and not backward, as Romans does. The death is always Christ’s own death; but in Romans it is viewed as delivering us as in this world from sin in the flesh and law; in Colossians, as associating us with Christ in death and resurrection. We are not dead to anything in Colossians, as living here, though by Christ; but have died from one system and begun (neos) another. We are not alive in the world, nor manifested, nor sitting in heavenly places. Our life is hid above with Christ, and our heart and hopes are to follow after.
Hence too we have indeed the purposed reconciling of all things as to their state, but not the place in which all things are brought into one in Christ. Only the now accomplished part of the mystery is noted, “Christ in you [Gentiles] the hope of glory”; not the crown of glory here to Jews, as He will be; but in the Gentiles, and the glory a hope.
In Romans then we have the believer alive in Christ in this world; but dead with Christ (chap. 6:8); and being so dead, dead to sin, as Christ died actually to sin, and is alive to God, and being dead, dead to law also (for law has power over a man as long as he lives), we are to live in newness of life; and shall be in likeness of Christ’s resurrection. He is viewed as a man in his responsibility, as forgiven and justified (this to chap. 5: n), rejoicing in the hope of glory, in tribulations, and in God Himself; and as regards state and sin in the flesh and law, he has died and is free. There is no condemnation for him; sin in the flesh was condemned in the sacrifice of Christ. This is all negative, save that he is free, and has the Spirit of God dwelling in him. He looks for the redemption of the body, the quickening of his mortal body; for he is yet in this world the responsible man: only he is now to walk in newness of life.
In Colossians he is risen with Christ, and as such has a hope laid up for him in heaven; he has died, as in Romans, but is risen with Christ. The rudiments of this world—not only philosophy (which is the wandering of the old man’s mind), but any religiousness which supposes a man alive in the flesh—are passed for him. He is not alive in this world; but, being risen also with Christ, he has his life hid up there with Him.
But another element comes in; not responsibility, nor living and walking in sins; but, as towards God, dead in sins, which precludes the question of responsibility; yet God has quickened him together with Christ, having forgiven him all trespasses.
Remark too that in Colossians we have no mention of the Spirit. Once it is said, “your love in the Spirit” as a fact; but in the doctrinal part it is not spoken of. It is life. We lived in sins, but have died; we are risen also, and, as dead in sins, have been quickened with Christ. We are not to be subject to ordinances as if we were alive in this world; we are dead with Christ from all its principles. Christ is said to be in us, which is by His Spirit; but not the Holy Ghost as a Person given to us. That is a seal and an earnest to us here. In Colossians we are dead and risen with Christ. Christ is our life.
Another expression may be noticed. This is connected with our having in Christ all that was shadowed out in figures of the law. The body was of Christ, and we are complete in Him; that is, in Christ risen. The expression, “circumcision of Christ,” is similar to “we live by the faith of the Son of God,” “have the faith of God,” “the body is of Christ.” It is what characterizes the thing spoken of. It is not Jewish circumcision, the sign of putting off the old man, but the reality of it in Christ, namely, in His death, being buried with Him in baptism. What is put off is the body of the flesh, the body of sin destroyed, planted in baptism in the likeness of His death, our old man crucified with him. Christ after the flesh, as Gentiles, we have never known; Christ risen we put on. We have nothing to do with Christ as to coming to God, till the cross. There He draws all men. As alive, we can go back and feed on the bread that came down from heaven. We have no justification in the Colossians, but a new state; only that, that state being resurrection with Christ, all sins have been forgiven through what preceded. The old man is put off, the new man put on. In Romans the body is dead, the Spirit life in us down here.
In Ephesians we have purpose fully as to ourselves, as to Christ and His place as head over all things, and to the body. Hence we are only looked at as dead in sins, and there is a new creation. It begins (after shewing the relationship with God and the Father in which we are placed in Christ, and God’s purpose to gather all things together in Him, our joint-heirship with Him, and the earnest of the Spirit till we have the inheritance), (that is, after shewing our calling and inheritance, and dealing for it) with Christ, known first as dead, but raised from death, and set at God’s right hand, far above all principalities and powers, and given to be Head over all things to the assembly, the fulness of Him that fills all in all; and us also, once dead in sins, quickened and raised by the same power from that state together with Christ, Jew and Gentile also together, alike by nature children of wrath, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ. It is not, as often remarked, with Him yet, but in Him, for this is operation of power for the accomplishment of purpose, not purpose itself. We are God’s workmanship created again in Christ Jesus.
This is simpler than Romans or Colossians, because it is wholly and simply a new creation and our actual state with new life, and flesh is not in question at all. God is shewing the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus; only, of course, redemption and forgiveness come in. But, as I have said, there is no death to sin. I am not at all looked at as a living man here. The fact is recognized that we once walked in them; but we have put off the old man and put on the new, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness. In Colossians we are only renewed in knowledge after the image of Him who created us. We are not born and have not died, but, being dead in sins, have been created in Christ Jesus—God’s workmanship. Hence, as to conduct, having put off the old man and put on the new, and having been sealed with the Holy Spirit of God for the day of redemption, we are called to be imitators of God as dear children, and shew God’s character as Christ did, not to present, as from where we are (as in Romans), our bodies a living sacrifice to God as our intelligent service, but to give ourselves up in love as Christ gave Himself for us to God a sacrifice and offering. We are to walk in love, one essential name of God manifested in Christ, and walk as children of light; and if unable, Christ, who was the light of the world, will enlighten us.
Remark the perfectness of affection presented in chapter 5. We may look up in affection or look down. The higher the object, if we look up, the nobler the affection. Here it is to God Himself; if we look down, the more unworthy, the greater the love. So Christ for us; and Him we are to follow.
The subjective measure of our path is the truth as it is in Jesus (namely, the having put off the old man, which corrupts itself according to the deceitful lusts, and the having put on the new man, created after God), and not grieving the Holy Ghost. The objective measure is the blessed Lord, Christ manifesting God in this world as love and light. Only remark that we are said to be light in the Lord, not love; though we are to walk in it. For we have the purity of the divine nature in the new man, and, as born of God, cannot sin. But love, after all, is sovereign goodness in God. Thus the Ephesians has nothing to do with the doctrine of Romans, that God justifies the ungodly; nor with death to the old man, learned in the death of Christ, by him who felt (as born of God) its power and bitterness, though this be recognized in that we have put off the old man; but with the new creation, and the purpose of God revealed to those who have part in it.
Romans deals with the old thing: only we have life in Christ. Ephesians reveals the new, and sets us in Christ by the same power which raised Him from the dead and sets Him at God’s own right hand. Hence we are sitting in heavenly places, and there is union.
Colossians does touch on Roman ground: only sins are looked on as wholly gone when the divine action begins in Colossians, as is true of the old man in Ephesians (“having forgiven you all trespasses”), whereas their putting away is positively treated in Romans. But it does speak of putting off the body of the flesh, having died with Christ, and adds, “risen with him,” which leads to “the body,” and puts in a new place, yet not in heaven, but that place looked to; and when this is treated of we are looked at as dead in sins, not dying or having died to sin, but dead in them. But heavenly things are a matter of expectation, as newness of life here was in Romans. There is not new creation which involves God’s purposes, in which nothing old is, and so new creation, and the full purpose as to our acquired place, our place in Christ, though not yet with Him.
The Colossian is renewed in knowledge (anakainoo) after the image of Him that created him; the Ephesian created after God in righteousness and true holiness, and renewed (ananeoo) in the spirit of his mind, made fresh and new continually.
Galatians and 2 Corinthians require a few observations.
And first, of the latter, in chapters 4 and 5, we have the two points of death to sin and dead in sins referred to, confirming the explanation given. The former is the reducing to practice the death to sin.
Colossians 3 is God’s view of all Christians: “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Hence he will not recognize a Christian to be alive in this world at all. He has members upon earth, his life is hid with Christ in God, he walked in evil practices when he lived in them.
Romans 6 is faith’s acceptance of this; a man recognizes himself to be dead.
In 2 Corinthians 4 he realises it, always bearing about in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in his body, and nothing else. There was the constant application of the cross, of the dying of Jesus, so as not to allow sin in his flesh to stir at all. He held the cross to it, and there is a realisation of this in which all link with the world and the will of nature is broken, and confidence is in Him that raises the dead; so that, death working in a man the sentence of death in himself, not to trust self, only the life of Christ lives, and thinks, and works in him. Death was applied to all that was nature in Paul, so that only the life of Christ in him worked in others. It was much to say, but Paul could say it of himself, and God put him to the test to see if it was made good. He was delivered to death that only the life of Jesus might be manifested in his mortal flesh.
We must compare 2 Corinthians 1 to understand this properly. (See verses 8, 9.) Only chapter 4 comments on and explains what is there historically stated. This was death; the sentence of death realised is always bearing about the dying and suffering in the flesh, ceasing from sin: only, being thorough in his path, it was for Jesus’ sake he was delivered to death. There was no flesh or lust at work, and the dying of Jesus, borne about in what would have been the seat of sin, prevented the motions of them. I repeat, it was a great deal to say, but so it was. Christ was perfect in never allowing sin to enter; we practically, as far as may be in us, in never letting our will and lusts move when sin in the flesh is there, by applying His dying to hinder its even stirring. The Lord grant we may do it constantly! In chapter 5 we judge that all were dead. If we live, then we belong, as we have seen in Ephesians, to a new creation (w. 16, 17). This belongs to a wholly new creation; it is not “he is”; but [there is] “a new creation.” This much 2 Corinthians affords us.
A word now on Galatians. The comparison of Galatians 2:19-21 and Romans 6 is full of interest, and much clears up the operation of law and our being crucified with Christ. In Romans 7 we read, “I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” The law brought death on my conscience; for it is a ministration of death, and a ministration of condemnation. But in Romans 7 we have not the man delivered (save the last verse), but the process by which the soul learns what the flesh is, and our need of deliverance. Sin in the flesh is there, and the law comes and forbids it in its first movements in lust. It brings death on the conscience; sin rose up alive, which was dormant in indifference, nothing being done which affected the natural conscience; but “thou shalt not lust” brought in death. Then comes the experience under law— “no good in me”— then “it is not me” —then “it is too strong for me,” and then deliverance. The law of the Spirit of life in Him, and sin in the flesh condemned in His sacrifice. In a word, the process of discovery of sin and its power in us, and the deliverance through Christ.
In Galatians, in contrast with legalists, we have the matter viewed from the Christian point of view. In that very work of the law which Romans owned brought in death, that death is viewed as a sentence judicially executed on me. I am dead to it by being dead. But if it had been the direct application of the law to oneself, it would have been condemnation as well as death. Still the apostle gives it its full effect; he “by law was dead to law.” The law had judicially killed him. But this was as alive in the flesh. But how was this really done? Christ had been crucified: he had been crucified with Him, nevertheless lived, but not he, the killed Saul, but Christ lived in him. Thus the law had killed him: he did not exist any more. But the condemnation did not come in with the death, because it was really in Christ’s death. It had taken place so that the condemnation was all gone, taken by another; and he dead by that which effected it, and Christ now lived in him. This death the law itself could effect and did; at least it did in the conscience of the renewed man: only it was done in the crucifixion of Christ, that the condemnation might not accompany it. For death is always my death, but it is thus deliverance from flesh.
There is another word in the Galatians we may notice, chapter 6:14, 15. This leads us not to the new creation exactly, but that that alone was of any value. He gloried not in a worldly religion, what the world and self could recognize as done in the flesh; he gloried only in the cross. This is the shame of it more than death, though death it was, but a death of shame by which the world was put out; that which morally was all his glory, but made an end of every worldly glory. All that was glorious for him was the world’s deepest shame, and where he had been crucified to the world, he looked down at it from that which closed all connection with it.
“Dead to the world” is not a scriptural expression simply as such: only we are not, having died to its principles in Christ, recognized as being alive in it. But it is not like sin, or the law, which, as far as we are concerned, have ceased to exist for us if we have died. They are either in us ending in death, or that which has ceased to exist for me altogether if I have died. Not so the world: I have done with it, but have to remain in it and be kept from the evil, and overcome it, as Christ did, as dead to its principles. It never was “I”: sin, or the flesh was; and the law ceased to exist for me when I died, for it had power over me as long as I lived only. We have died to the world’s rudiments, its principles, which were in us; still having died, I do not reckon myself alive in it. Death is always our death, and that only, whatever it makes us dead to, and this is always in the cross, and we are dead to all He died to there, for we were crucified with Him. But one thing this passage shews, that there is only the alternative— either fleshly ceremony and legal righteousness, which is none, or a new creation.
One thing remains to consider—the types which relate to this. If we look at the history of Israel up to the Red Sea, it is in itself entirely complete, for we have actual judgment on the one hand, and complete deliverance on the other; death and judgment on the one hand, and salvation by them on the other; that is, death and judgment for man in rebellion, or in Christ—delivering by them. When we come to experimental application, the state we get into by faith in this redemption, we must go farther, and take in the wilderness and Jordan and what followed. In this aspect the Red Sea begins the Christian course. The blood of the passover had met God’s eye as righteous Judge, and His love can freely and righteously deliver, and they are delivered at the Red Sea. Christ’s death and resurrection are a perfect redemption and deliverance. “Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed; thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.” God has “borne them on eagles’ wings, and brought them “to Himself. In a word, it is redemption, making us thus strangers and pilgrims indeed in this world, bringing us to God Himself. The wilderness thus becomes the place where God exercises men, and brings out what is in their heart. (See Deut. 8:2, 3 and 15, 16.)
Another part of Christian life (Canaan) is added to this, which, though not at the same moment perhaps in exercise, yet is part of the same life, for the Christian is always in the wilderness, and always in heavenly places in Christ, that is, whoever has the Spirit of Christ dwelling in him. His intelligent realization is another thing; his enjoyment of it in faithful carrying out still another; but both are his place. He is sitting in heavenly places in Christ, he is walking on this earth as a pilgrim in the wilderness.
I proceed to consider the type of Jordan and what follows. Jordan is death, and still Christ’s going down into it; but it is not God’s rod smiting the sea, so that by that judgment was salvation, and no ark was there. In Jordan, in this passage of death, the ark goes first, or man could not pass; it is not defence and salvation and deliverance from their Egypt condition, their coming out free, but their going into the place of promise. It is the same death of Christ, but going down before His sheep, so that, He having taken away its power wholly, they should pass over dryshod; there was no barring river—the waters were gone—but an entrance into Canaan, yet an entrance into Canaan, not for rest, but for conflict as Jehovah’s host in the good fight of faith against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places.
The ark there is the efficient cause; that is, Christ going into death, but we going down there with Him though after Him; so that it is not His being delivered for my offences, wounded for my transgressions, nor even deliverance from bondage, sin in the flesh condemned on the cross, and I free as to a divinely given title by redemption; but I have gone through death with Him, and am come up out of Jordan into the heavenly places; not Christ dead for what I was, but my dying with Him, yet in His death.
Then I eat the old corn of the land, not the manna. Christ, as food for my pilgrimage and my wants, is not the character He has now, but Christ the food that belongs to the heavenly places. I sit there as to my title and standing without combat, and then combat to put my foot on and possess all. There it is that I am circumcised; that is, I have put off the body of the flesh. The rudiments of the world are done with, the reproach of Egypt is rolled away. Our politeuma (citizenship) is in heaven; but this does not hinder my running on to attain Christ and the resurrection from among the dead, but the contrary.
The Jordan then gives us death with Christ, and coming up out of it, resurrection with Him, as we find it in Colossians. This introduces us into the heavenly condition personally; then, where they were, they were circumcised, which does not belong to wilderness condition. There the heart and flesh are tested as down here for flesh is in us. But once passed the Jordan—dead and risen in Christ—there is circumcision—the putting off the body of the flesh; we have done with Adam, and have put on Christ. It is “the circumcision of Christ,” because it is the true force of that typical rite as we possess it in Him. We have put off the old man and put on the new. Then we eat the old corn of the land, do not recognize ourselves in this world, nor know any man after the flesh. Then we eat the passover; recognize, being circumcised (dead with Christ and that realized), the full force of His death as full of deliverance as well as forgiveness, the close of all connection with Egypt, as Christ in death. Not now as blood on the doorposts, but as death to all the old scene, as seen of God.
Both the Red Sea and Jordan are Christ’s death; but one is deliverance by sins put away and sin condemned in His death; the other, our dying and resurrection with Him. Ephesian teaching (though connected with this, as to the having put off the old man and put on the new, which is the experimental part of it, that is, our state before God and our sitting in heavenly places in Christ) is not found in the types. That is a wholly new creation when we were dead. There is no type of that. The types give the experimental knowledge of the redemption and deliverance of man.
2 Corinthians 4:10, 11 gives us the practical carrying out of this. (Compare chap, i:8, 9.) Verses 14-18 take Ephesian ground. Death is simply death and Christ’s death, of which it is expressly said, “In that he died, he died to sin once.”
I may add another point which comes before us as regards death, both doctrinally and in the experience of the apostle. In itself death is always simply our being dead with Christ. Its application or effect may vary. It always applies to our relationship with God in nature. But this may be sinful nature in me, so as to be death to sin, or to the law, which was God’s measure of conduct or rule of life for us as alive, as children of Adam. This death too closes; or it may apply to the principles of the world, the system that Satan has formed for the scene of the natural life’s development and satisfaction without God. Of these we have spoken—and these are the material points, because these are either contrary to God, or that which, applying to man alive in the flesh, brought in death and condemnation; because as God’s law it must be such to sinners when brought to bear upon them.
But Christianity is connected with a power, brought into this world of sin, and not belonging to it at all, the power of the Spirit of God, which, besides freeing us from the power of evil as dead in Christ to sin and alive to God, associates us with Christ in the new creation, whether as revealing it in hope, or as setting us in it in Him. “If any man be in Christ (it is) a new creation.” There is one to which,as such he belongs. “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new, and all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself.” God has “wrought us,” for our “house which is from heaven.” “We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained.”
Now the old creation has a double aspect: nature as God made it, and natural relationships which as His own creation God maintains the obligation of, and sustains as good; or, on the other hand, as fallen and in an evil state. Of this last I have spoken. We are delivered from the power of the evil that is in it. But while he who condemns creation in itself, and the relationships God Himself formed (as marriage, parental authority, or the like), or resists what He has established in the midst of evil as authorities to repress it, is an enemy of God, and is led by spiritual evil; yet, supposing power and gift and calling from God, a person may live out of all these by the power which connects him with the new creation. The being in the natural relationships of God’s old creation is not evil. It is very evil to say so. I do not speak of authorities now—it involves other questions—but of natural relationships.
But a man may, as a special vessel of the power of the new creation, be disconnected with the natural relationships of the old. Paul knew no man after the flesh. Not that he did not daily need grace, diligence, and even a thorn in the flesh, as others might; but that there was positive power in which he lived above the whole scene through which he moved. He did not merely live as a Christian, keeping his body under, and, we may say in a general and very full sense, out of the evil which corrupted the old creation; but, as to human relationships, out of the old creation as to his course and walk. He was before the world exclusively as a minister of God. But this is a question of power, and even of gift. It is not unconnected with deadness to the whole scene around; but still it is a matter of power and service. It was for the gospel’s sake to carry out the activities of God’s love more undistractedly in the midst of the evil; he insisting carefully on the other as established of God, being good. A man may live to God in them, acting up to them as of God, though, the power of evil having come in, he has to sit loose to them; 1 Cor. 7:29. He may in a legal way dread them, as not free to God; or he may, as outside of them, if really free, have nothing to say to them, yet recognize them in their place, because he is free.
The Lord says, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” in His service (John 2:4), and goes down (12), He and His mother, and His disciples; and on the cross owns her when His service was accomplished, and commits her to the care of the disciple He loved. He could shew that He could appreciate the beauty of the lilies of the field, love the young man who ran up to Him as lovely in character; though He could not occupy Himself with lilies, and detected the sinful root which governed the young man’s heart. He could take up children and bless them, though fully recognizing they needed One come to save that which was lost. He could recognize, in a word, what was in nature of God, and manifest what was sin in it, because He was perfectly free from all evil, and it had no power whatever over Him; subject to Mary and Joseph, though conscious He was the Son of the Father. If we have such a place, it must of course be as dead, because sin is in us; but as free, though watchful, because Christ is our life.
Hence we can rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with those that weep, without a human cause save in others for joy or weeping, but in divine and gracious sympathy. But we must be wholly with Christ to do it truly, yet man to feel it truly as He was. Only in us this supposes us dead to self, for in us self is selfishness. I am “free from all,” says the apostle, “that I may be the servant of all.”
But this is not Gilgal nor circumcision. That rolls away the reproach of Egypt, puts away the body of the flesh, and deals with sin in ourselves. It needs this that there may be the free activity of God’s love, not hindered by it; but there is more in it, the free power of the new creation, based on the cross of Christ; and we being such as we are, and where we are, always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies, and delivered to death, too, to test and keep it thorough and effectual, and this where the free power is, and the call of God to it, in having the sentence of death in ourselves, the practical power of the cross, the dying of the Lord Jesus. The first power of this respects sin and the flesh, and the rudiments of the world (compare 1 Pet. 4:1-3, connected with chap. 3:18); but, where this calling and free power is, it may go on to being loose from all that might impede its exercise. Where this is not, the attempt to take it up is only monkery, which may be sincere, and will prove that we are not free, but slaves; sometimes with disastrous effects. Where that power is, it is indeed blessed, and the freest fullest service. If we are in the relationship God owns and approves, the duty attaches to us which belongs to us, according to God, with the affections too, only as to self, our own state of soul, the passage quoted from I Corinthians 7:29 is our guide. As to mere natural objects sought, they turn us away (self is then the centre); enjoyed as of God when free, and not sought: God is owned in them. Honey could not be in a sacrifice; on the top of the rod, while pressing on doing “one thing,” it may lighten the eyes. But we must be as the true Gideonites—lap the water with our tongue, as a dog lappeth, and not stoop down on our knees to drink. The times too are straitened.