There is practically one subject in what I have read, but divided into two parts: one, Christ as contrasted with all the thoughts of the world; and the other, the true place of the Christian as in Him. It is a new place, even in Christ. He begins by pressing on them a warning against all the philosophy and Judaism abroad. They really ran into the same channel; and this is connected with the second point referred to, because they belong to this world. Christ is put, first, in opposition to all that; and, secondly, he unfolds that what is in Christ is in a risen Christ, outside of this world. There are the same things current now, for people are turning back to “the rudiments of the world.” All this infidelity and ritualism have just the same root, though not the same shape; both belong to this world, and are what man’s mind and imagination, as a child of Adam, can take up. The contrast is Christ risen—Christ out of this world.
This chapter brings out both. They are the workings of man’s mind and imagination—what man can do; whereas the moment you get what God has revealed in Christ, and the place Christ is in, man has nothing to do with it. They are the rudiments of this world: the one is reasoning or mental flesh; and the other is imaginative flesh. This ritualism—Christ offered every Sunday, etc.—is as if there was not one offering for sin. But I find “By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” Then it is not perfected! This makes all the difference. My imagination and fancy can take hold of these things, or the mind rejects them; but they are the denial that Christ has finished the work of redemption.
We are very little aware (though they are quite different parts of human nature) how it all has to do with man—man not delivered from himself—and having Christ instead. The apostle first warns them, and then shews what the real thing is, that is, Christ in heavenly places. God had taken up human nature among the Jews to see if it could be brought into connection with Him; and it could not. It was tried in a certain sense; but God had to hide Himself behind a veil: if there were no veil, you must be able to stand in the light, as God is light. God never came out, but He set up a gorgeous worship, and He gave the law as a more perfect rule for human nature, for man as he is. The question is, has man kept it? No one has. Where a person is going on under Judaism, he will take all the gorgeous part of it, and, on the other hand, he talks of the law, without the consciousness that he has not kept it. Of course numbers fear the law when their conscience is awakened; and, where there is truth of conscience under such a system, they are always unhappy. Man’s mind takes its own course, and ends necessarily without finding God. “Can man by searching find out God? “Instead of that, you get God fully revealed in Christ, and man brought to God in Christ. Christianity supplants the darkness of the natural mind (I do not say soul), which could have nothing to do with God, and which, take it in its fullest broadest sense, is necessarily atheism, as it never reaches to God, confining itself to what the mind can find out; and that is what they were all doing here.
The apostle was anxious about them, because they were constantly mixed up with these things—living in the midst of these Greek philosophers. Although he had never been there, yet his heart knew experimentally by the power of the Holy Ghost what the snares were, and he says, “I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you.” He felt the dangers that were there, and he looked on these saints as belonging to Christ, whom he so loved and laboured for, and he shewed interest in them.
Verse 2. Here I get the understanding of the mystery of God, and that is another thing altogether. It is not the way we are accustomed to understand the word “mystery,” as a thing not to be found out; but it is a thing only known by revelation— it is not known save to the initiated. It is that which by divine revelation and teaching we know, and it brings us into a totally new world.
You get, then, another important thing needed. Supposing I was the greatest scientist in the world, there is not a bit of love about it: it is connected with nobody, and there is not an atom of soul-work in it. Therefore God cannot be known, for God is love. Faith gives us an inlet into all the things that love has done. Science is as cold as ice—dead cold: you cannot let a bit of feeling in. There is no relationship with anything in the world or any One above it (v. 2). But revelation lets in “To the acknowledgment of the mystery of God” —God the source of their life, God the One who dwells there by the Holy Ghost among them, and gives the feeling that flows from the relationship into which they are brought. The mind may get developed, but there is no moral [motive?] in it—it is not in its nature. The Christian acts by a motive. Science does not touch the ground that the soul is on. What has feeling to do with the discovery of how the physical nature works? In Christ I learn the blessed truth, that God dwells in me by the power of the Spirit in the divine nature, and I have communion with the Father and the Son. I get into a new world altogether.
Then I rise “unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding.” Understanding of what? Of how animals were born? No; of the hidden mystery. I get my heart opened to see all the scope of God’s plans and counsels in Christ. You get the “full assurance of faith “(Heb. 10:22) (that is not science!) that “he that hath received his testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true.” Science says, “I think this, and I think that” —such is all it has. I find adequate certainty about all common things, but if I have the testimony of God, I get the positive certainty of faith—the only certainty we have. I have set to my seal that God is true—He cannot but be true.
I get another “full assurance,” and that is “hope” (Heb. 6:11), for there you have the affections engaged, and the things realised. It gives much greater reality—the very acquaintance imparts great reality. I am going to be in the same glory with Christ, and that is the full assurance of hope. Am I going to be there? Yes, of course, if you are a believer, and you have the earnest of it in your hearts. “Earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” —that is the full assurance of hope.
The third thing goes much higher— “Full assurance of understanding” —for it is part of God’s plan and counsel in Christ; and if we are not there, Christ’s glory is not complete, and it cannot be otherwise. “We have the mind of Christ.” If I have the full assurance of hope, then I see these things as a part of God’s plan and Christ’s glory, and that is the full assurance of understanding.
“To the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, wherein are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” There is nothing so certain in the world as the revelation of God, known only by redemption. Now you belong to another world: these things (philosophy, Judaism, etc.) do not belong to the world I am in. Of course there is God’s creation, but it is His first creation; it passes away, or we perish from it. It is a wonderful creation, but that is not being reconciled to God, and being in the new creation. In this mystery are all God’s wisdom and knowledge—all summed up—all His counsels there, to which the natural mind has not even an entrance, and never can, for “they are spiritually discerned.” It rests on the revelation of God. The soul rinds its affections in the new creation; it has a world it belongs to, and “they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.” You get the figure of it in Abram. He had not so much as to set his foot upon; he was not in the land, but he belonged to it, and that is just where we are, “As having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” The world attracts Lot’s heart in the character of its efforts at grandeur; but Abram was a stranger and pilgrim, and he says, “If thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.” Lot goes down to the plain just ripening for judgment, and pitches his tent near Sodom; then he gets nearer and nearer, till he is snatched out of it. As soon as Lot had gone down and chosen this prosperous place, then God says to Abram, “Lift up now thine eyes,” etc. As soon as he had completely given up the world in heart, then the promised land rose up before him. He realised the thing that was promised to him. It was separation to God in faith. He got the full assurance of hope.
Now we go on to learn where the Christian is, not what he is yet. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” It is Christ up in heaven in another world. “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Here I find the actual starting-place, and this is, that in Christ all the fulness of the Godhead bodily is revealed. I have the perfect revelation of the fulness of the Godhead in Christ. I have nothing new to look after (save of course, to know it better), for I cannot go beyond the fulness of the Godhead, and it is revealed to me. In Christ, in that Man—more than man, for He was God too—has been the revelation of the fulness of the Godhead. It requires eyes to see it; but to faith, which saw through the veil of His humiliation when here, there was not a trait in His character, an act in His conduct, or an expression of the feeling of His heart going out to the misery around Him, that was not the revelation of the Godhead; the Father was revealed, as in John 14, all was revealed, and nothing else to seek after, except to know it better.
Then I get the other blessed side (v. 10), “In him dwelleth all the completeness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in him” (just the same word in the original). Yes, and I say I am complete in Him before God—God is completely revealed to me in Christ; but what about you? can you stand before Him? I am before Him complete in Christ, with not a single thing wanting. This makes it such a full statement of what the mystery is—the positive relation of all the fulness of the Godhead in One who has come close to me in love, that I may know He is love. When Christ was in this world, He did not seek anything great or grand for Himself. What did He seek? Sorrow, poverty, misery. That is what God has been doing in this world—perfect love (and power too) relieving distress—love that brought down perfect goodness to where I was; that is what God is to me. Perfect goodness in the midst of all the sorrow and misery of this world, and the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in Him bodily! Ah, poor science! it is a long way off from that. It can tell me about protoplasms, but about divine love never!
The mystery of Christ shews me this completeness without going to outside things—not up in the clouds to reach it if we can, but brought down to me here. I am complete in Christ, but as I find God perfectly revealed (none of us can measure it, of course, or even go through it—we have to search it out, and grow in it) then I find this on the other side: How can I stand before Him, and grasp all that? Are you fit to be in His presence? Yes; I say, “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” That is the place you are brought into, just as the completeness of the Godhead was brought to us in Christ. Then I find that I am complete according to all God’s thoughts. Just as God stood in Christ before man, man stands in Christ before God. It is not merely philosophy spelling out what has been all around us since the creation, it is the One who created it all; and besides this, I find my personal blessedness in it. I am complete in Him, I have everything I want, and that I want for eternity. “Both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one” —all one set. What life have I got? Christ. What righteousness? Christ. What glory? Christ. Just in one position and state. How can I tell how much God loves me? This I can tell you (or rather Christ has told us), that you are loved as Christ is loved. And we know it now. “I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it,” etc. He dwells in us, and the Holy Ghost brings down this love into our hearts; “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us.”
Now the apostle turns to a special thing which was their difficulty then, that, while he gives the whole scope of God’s mind in the mystery, he goes down and deals with this fleshly religion. The Colossians were accustomed to be in the midst of these things. The Jewish system was bringing out for us whether man in the flesh could have to do with God. How many souls there are now under the law in their hearts (they are lawless if they are not)! You must get the knowledge of sin by the law, if rightly applied. It is man, as responsible man, getting a perfect rule of what he ought to be, and circumcision is merely the expression of that—death of the flesh. All that was shadowed forth in those things you have in Christ.
The apostle turns more to details to shew where we are as Christians (v. n). A totally new thing it is—the putting off the body of the flesh. They never had circumcision in the wilderness, not till they crossed the Jordan—a figure of our dying with Christ. Gilgal was the place where they rolled away the reproach of the world. I get the same here. Before it was a circumcision made with hands; now it is without: I have the true circumcision. Instead of the mere outward ritual of the thing, I have the thing itself; I am complete in Christ. How so? Why I am dead and gone! I have put off the old man altogether; I am not speaking of carrying it out: this you get in 2 Corinthians 4:10. A risen Christ is my life, all connection with this world is gone. I am dead to sin, and alive to God. I have put off the body of the flesh, I have died with Christ. I reckon myself dead; I have got a risen Christ as my life; to faith then I have done with this flesh—done with it altogether. I have got this new thing; I am in it (of course I am in this poor earthly tabernacle still, but) I do not belong to this world; I have died through the death of Christ. It is not merely saying you must die—saying “you must” does not give a thing. If you have died with Christ, you are risen with Him—you have left it all behind. It is the very character and meaning of baptism. With Christ I died, I am baptised to Christ’s death. Here am I, a living man, and I go through death with Christ (an outward sign, of course)—a person who has gone with Christ into His grave, and come up out of it again. He passed out of the condition He was in here as a man on the earth into a totally new place—God raised Him from the dead. You then get, “Wherein also ye are risen with him,” etc. As a Christian you are risen. I have got into this new state; I say, That is myself, for I am a Christian.
And now we get much further light on our condition. “And you being dead in your sins” (v. 13). I was living in sins in the other, but the truth of “dead in sins” goes a good deal farther: alive as regards my sins, but dead as regards God. This goes farther, and takes up the nature that likes doing them. There is not one single thing in your heart with which God could link Himself. “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” There is nothing in heaven your nature would like.
I get now, not merely “quickened,” but “quickened together with him” (v. 13); because, supposing I am alive, I may be spiritually alive, or I may be in Romans 7. Any one there says, “I think Christ is precious to me, and I love His word and His people,” but he is examining himself to find out if he is in the new creation. Like the prodigal, he has not met the father; but this is not quickened together with Christ— quickened, no doubt, and when I speak of being quickened in that way, it is the divine operation of a new life in my soul. But quickened together with Christ is different. Where do I see Christ Himself? Not as quickener, but as quickened. Christ as man has been raised from the dead. He died under our sins—for them; He went on unto death for us, and God has raised Him up, and, supposing I am a believer, I am raised up with Him. If I look at myself, it is as raised with Christ, as it says here, “Quickened together with him.” It looks at Christ as a dead man, but that in coming down to death He put away my sins, and therefore I am raised with Him. It is not merely the fact that I have life; I have life in a new condition where Christ is. I have got into a new place before God— Christ’s place—and all my sins are left on the other side of Christ’s grave. I do not own the old man, it is the horrid thing that has been deceiving me.
There are two more things I would just mention. There are these ordinances—all “blotted out.” All the things the flesh can do in order to gain acceptance are dead in the flesh that did them. Where do I find Christ now that we are risen? Where do I find Christ in the Lord’s supper? It is His death. “Bringing Christ into the elements,” as people say; there is no such thing, for it is a dead Christ. The shed blood shews forth His death, and there is no such Christ now. After His resurrection He is alive, death can have no more dominion over Him. And so baptism, as to its signification; it is unto His death: I have gone down with Christ to death, and I am risen with Him.
Only one thing more. In order to bring us thus complete in Him, there were other things against us—these “principalities and powers” (v. 15). Christ has destroyed Satan’s power in the cross; I was a living man in sin—that is gone. Then all those ordinances I was bound to—they are gone. Well, then, Satan’s power (not that he has not power)—Christ has triumphed over him, “Through death destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil”; so death has lost its power too. The cross of Christ has closed the history of the old man, and of all its associations. I was a slave of sin, “I am quickened together with him” —a slave to ordinances, they are “nailed to his cross” —a slave to Satan, his power is destroyed. I am risen with Christ beyond these things, and that is where the Christian is. I am going to have an everlasting holiday; I have it even now in spirit. I am going to God’s rest in heaven. I do not keep days, for this is going back to heathenism. Do you think the sun going round will make them keep days in heaven? It is an everlasting holiday; it is only in our hearts now, for if we follow Christ, we learn its sorrows and griefs too, for He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” We are taken out of all the speculation of philosophy, for we are in a world into which it cannot get.
Now, beloved friends, are your hearts ready to accept such a Christianity? The flesh clings to what the flesh likes— clings to the world, and that which Satan has power over us by, and therefore there is still the combating. But are you content with this? I do not talk about realisation; but are you content to take that path which Christ walked as your path?—to take up your cross daily and follow Him? It looks bitter to the flesh, for it is another world that the flesh can have nothing to say to, even in thought. We shall fail in many things; but are you content to have done with the world into which you were born—to be dead out of it? It is the character and essence of what Christianity really is. My place is as a Christian come up out of Christ’s grave. Are you content to take such a Christianity as that? You will never escape the wiles of the devil—either philosophy or Ritualism—you have not got what takes you out of their sphere and dominion. It is the wiles of the devil we have to stand against, not his power— resist him. We have still that allowed in us, in our lives, which Satan can use and get a hold of. You say I must have done with this world that does not want Christ; but if I am risen with Christ, I say I have done with it. The more we go on, the more we shall see it is what is needed. If we are not using the power of Christ in that way, we shall not succeed. If we are risen with Christ, there is a world that the life belongs to, and a world that the flesh cannot touch. Is my heart living for the world where Christ is gone, or for this world?
The Lord give us to see Him so precious, that those things that were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. It is all very easy with a single eye, but “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” If Christ is up there, then, of course, our hearts will go after Him. It must be a thorough thing.
We see in this epistle that Christ is all: there is life in Him; then we see the object into which this life grows—the child grows up into that. We get, further, all the scene into which Christ has entered, as the child grows up into the scene around him. Christ is all, and He is in all too. Then another thing which we are all conscious of—the way in which He has met our need as poor sinners, the work of Christ which He has wrought for us all alone; all that meeting our consciences, and the effect of it too, which is that the Christian is looked at in two different ways—as a sinner saved, and as one who stands in the system and circle of God’s purpose; they are two very distinct things, and the way of treating them is distinct too.
There are many thorough and devoted Christians who do not get beyond this first thing that God has done; but there is another thing—the thought and purpose God had in doing it, our portion looked at as connected with the second Adam.
He is our Saviour as regards the first man, looked at as responsible man, but behind all that, and beyond all that, there is the purpose of God, in which we are looked at, not as in the first man, but in the Second. You get the old man looked at (vv. 12, 13), One dying for our sins, standing in our place as guilty sinners, saving and justifying us; and then you get the second point, “quickened together with Christ.” Whenever he speaks of quickening in these epistles, it is not merely the fact of having life; He looks at us as dead in our sins, not responsible people, but dead, and God not dealing with a responsible man, but a new creation, totally new; it is quite a different aspect, though they run into one another. I have died in Christ— “in which things ye walked when ye lived in them,” and death had to come in as to that life.
There are two things in connection with that, though he does not go much into the second in this epistle. First, we are a new creation, then there is the sphere in which this new creation has its life. Our conversation is in heaven. As to myself, I know that in me dwelleth no good thing, but I am placed, like Christ, before God. He has said, “My Father, and your Father”; “as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly” —this takes another scope altogether.
We come in as guilty sinners. If I merely get hold of the purpose of God, without conscience being reached as to sins, there is no truth in it; I must know what I am in myself before I can know what I am made in Christ. That is the point I had in my mind, which I desire to have your hearts turned to—the difference between saving a sinner, and one whom Christ is not ashamed to call a brother; that is not true about sinful Adam. Looked at as new creatures, we are new creatures in Christ Jesus (in Colossians he does not go much farther than that); new creatures which grow up as a child does in the sphere in which it lives, in which all its thoughts and affections are developed.
Verse 2. You do not want the wisdom of the world here; the life is of God. We are passed through this world, left here for exercises and trials, much to learn and much to unlearn, but still we get this sphere into which we are brought by grace, as well as the nature which is capable of enjoying it.
Verse 6. “So walk ye in Him.” If Christ is our life, let us walk in Him, the heart not getting out of this sphere which belongs to the new creation. You must all know, if you know anything of your own hearts, that double-mindedness is a great snare, even in the most sincere. We are constantly surrounded with that which belongs to the old man. I am not talking of sins. Take an unconverted man—his heart is like a highway for everything that comes before him in the world. That is an extreme case, but for us there is the danger of distraction, politics, all the things going on around us; and if the heart is not living in the sources of strength, it is double-minded—I do not mean in will, but that which determines the conduct of a Christian is not there; it is not the strait and narrow way for his heart, but that running through his mind and heart which saps the spiritual strength, and the manna is light food for him, not sweet as honey, but light food. Such is the danger of distraction, and so he says, “Beware.”
Verse 8. “Not after Christ.” This is the turning-point. The world has its principles, its rudiments; and all these things that distract us belong to the world’s estimate of things, and we do not suspect danger. People are talking of things around, and we are drawn into the ordinary conversation, and we come out with the consciousness that we have been unfaithful to Christ, and our spiritual strength is weakened. When the people were thinking of the leeks, the onions, and the cucumbers, they forgot they had been making bricks without straw in Egypt. A glorified Christ on high is the testimony that the world would not have Christ, and it goes on with its own rudiments and principles. Look at the prayer in Ephesians 3— what infinite blessedness! the poor world has nothing of that, and there you get the sphere of the life.
“In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” I get this wonderful central object, that where all the fulness of the Godhead is, it has all been in a Man: how little our hearts reach up to it! He says, “Strengthened with might,” that we may. But there it is for us, and in us too we can say in one sense; but that which He looks for is, that having got in a Man, the object of the Father’s delight, all the fulness of the Godhead, I should feed upon that with joy. If my soul has really felt and seen the fulness of the Godhead in Him in this world, if my eyes are open to see what He was there, I find this wonderful thing, a Man who is much meeker than I am, who thinks about my feelings much more than I do about His, and He is here close to me—a Man much more true, humble, gracious, affable than any other; and now we are united to Him where He is. You find what people do when they are settled in the truth of justification—they go back, and feed upon the Gospels. He becomes the food of the soul, and its object; and we find this unspeakable truth, that He who is sufficient for the Father’s delight is sufficient for mine—my thoughts poor enough, but His perfect. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father”; that is what is before us in “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”; and this truth was the very first one that was attacked. And this is the reason of one of those cases of gracious thoughtfulness which we get at the well of Samaria: ‘If thou knewest Who it was that came down so low as to be dependent on a woman like you for a drink of water—’
He was utterly alone in a world of sinners, and then worked redemption; and now we are brought through the power of redemption and the Holy Ghost to see who He is.
He never gives up His Godhead place. It does not cease to be condescension when the thing is complete, and instead of waiting on our infirmities, it is bringing us into His blessedness. What are all the distractions of the world in the face of such a thing! It was His intention we should walk by faith; when He speaks of sight, it is the sight of heavenly things, but it is equally true we cannot live by sight here.
Verse 10. If the fulness of the Godhead dwells in Him, we are complete in Him too—complete according to God’s mind, in Christ before God. What is the measure of that completeness? Christ. And what is that “in Christ”? God looked down at Christ, looks at Him now, He is all the desire of His heart, and we are complete in Him. All that satisfies God’s delight, His spiritual judgment (if I may use such an expression of God), He also brings us into (of course, He keeps His Godhead). All His thoughts as to righteousness, holiness, love are satisfied in Christ, and we are complete in Him. What a place, beloved brethren! And it was brought down to us in perfect grace where we were; and, on the other hand, there is all that God’s heart and righteousness could delight in, and we are in that, Christ the measure. God had His measure for man, that was the law, what the first man ought to be; but here it is where all God’s thoughts are satisfied, not in the first man, but, in His own wisdom, in the second Man.
He applies it now in detail. We see how God takes us up as poor sinners to redeem us: first, as regards His dealings with us where we were; and then, taking us in our lowest possible condition as dead in sins, we see what He has brought us into. Here I get the putting off, the circumcision; that is no part of the purpose of God. It is not put off outwardly, it is the discovery, not of certain things we have done, but of this old stock, the flesh, which is enmity against God, a positive thing in me, to which death must be applied; it is in grace, for it is the death of Christ. I find the evil thing, the flesh, lusting against the Spirit, and the only remedy for that is death; to reckon ourselves dead, that is our place as Christians, and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. I get the figure of that here in the putting off” of a thing always evil in its nature. If I try to keep it down, as not knowing it is dead in Christ, it will be a laborious effort, in which I can never succeed; but if I see it dead with Christ, I see it is a question between Christ and God. “What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” Of forgiving it he does not talk; it was an evil nature, and God condemned it in death.
But in all this God is dealing still with the old thing. First, I need to get my sins blotted out as guilt, but when I want, in honesty of heart, to walk aright, I find this—I died there; I am not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; and I say, It is not I, it is only sin, and this was crucified in the cross. But then all that deals with the old man. It is the necessity of my condition, but not the purpose of God. Many, alas! have not even learned that. They see their sins are forgiven, but not that they have died out of that condition, so as to have done with it altogether. I am entitled to reckon myself dead, and then in Christ, who has redeemed me, I get by the Holy Ghost power against it; but still that is all about the old thing. I get this death to sin, and resurrection too, but still dealing with the old thing. But then, when I come to the new thing, I can look at it in another aspect. It is stated in this epistle and in Ephesians. In Ephesians it is more as to its nature, “which after God is created in righteousness and holiness of truth.” God’s own nature reproduce, it was manifested in Christ, the pattern and fulness of it. In Colossians 3:10 it is expressed a little differently: “Renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” I have got to know what love is; I know what righteousness in the divine sense is, and I know what holiness is. If I am chastened, it is that I may be a partaker of His holiness. “Renewed in knowledge” —I press this, for while Colossians does not put us so much into the new sphere, I am renewed in knowledge. He has brought into our souls the knowledge of what is pleasing to God, a new nature, associated with God in its very being and nature.
Supposing for a moment that I have known justification, have known the old man dead, I get another thing, “dead in your sins” (v. 13). When I come to know myself, I see that, spiritually speaking, I was dead, not a living sinner dealing with the old thing as bad, but I am dead in sins. My starting-point is total alienation from God; it is not the things I have done, nor the evil nature that did them, but no one thing in my heart that answered to God, and when the only thing that answered to God’s heart was here, we would have nothing to do with Him. I have got on to another ground now; I have found out that, in respect of God, I was dead in sins; but then, when I was lying, in a spiritual sense, dead in sins, Christ came down to the cross, and He died for my sins; and I get Christ, not as the quickening Son of God, but rather as quickened, and with that alone in Scripture the new creation begins. When speaking of the lusts and sins of the old man, I say, You must die; but now on this ground I am totally dead, not a movement of my heart towards God, and nothing could stir any movement. It was tried—God, in His love, sending His Son; and what it woke was hatred.
I am quickened together with Him, an entirely new thing which I had not before, Christ now the only life I have. God’s power has come in, and taken me spiritually out of that state, as He took Christ out of it, and has put me into Christ, not yet with Him. I am created in Christ Jesus, and so he says, If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation: our faith ought to realise it, for we are not there actually yet.
In this new creation we are sitting together in Christ, but it does not go so far as that in Colossians; He makes me a partaker of His own nature, and this is the only thing I own at all. What is the first man? What does he belong to? To the world, of course. This makes one of the difficulties of the Christian. I cannot expect the world to see what I see. But there is a path the vulture’s eye hath not seen, and He does help us through these difficulties. We have to go through it; but this is not the world the new Man belongs to.
As dead in sins, we are totally away from God. Do not we know it, beloved friends? Take the most respectable, decent man in the world—the things of Christ have no interest for him—he is dead towards God; he may be intelligent, honest, etc., but you never get Christ in his heart. It was just the same with ourselves. It is not a question of reprobate criminals, but we were dead.
Supposing I get a dead man, is there any motion in his heart towards another? No. Can you produce any? No. You may galvanise him for a moment, just as striking impressions may be produced, but he is dead. But I get this unspeakable grace, that Christ came down here actually to death. God quickened Him and us, and I am a partaker of the divine nature, a totally new thing—of the second Adam, not the first— a man that belongs to God’s new creation, because he is a new creation. We never know thoroughly our blessing until we get hold of that; the thorough consciousness of what we were as dead in sins; the grace of Christ in coming down here; and therefore we are totally and actually raised out of it into another world. God has a new creation, of which Christ is the Head, He sitting now at God’s right hand alone, and we strangers and pilgrims seeking a country, Christ the ensample, and we have to follow His steps, the path which none but the spiritual eye can see through this world. A new man, created of God, the life I have now got as created to satisfy Himself and all that He is. When we were these poor wretched sinners, guilty, away from God, it was in the purpose of His heart, ordained before the world unto our glory. I cannot enlarge upon this now—perhaps could not do it properly if I tried. But there is that sphere we belong to altogether, though left to go through this world.
Beloved brethren, as born of God you belong not to this world at all, but to the world where Christ has gone to prepare a place for you, and from whence He is preparing you for the place. When dead in sins, He has quickened us together with Christ—the divine grace of the Son of God, who became a man on purpose to die, and came into our death and sins, made sin for us, and He is gone to be the beginning and the Head of this new creation. Our every-day trial, how far we are living in this new creation, our conversation in heaven.
There are these two things: the nature you have got, “created after God in righteousness and true holiness”; and then, where will that find what will satisfy its affections? It is revealed to us in Christ, and the Holy Ghost down here has brought these things out before us, “that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”
We have to see, beloved brethren, how far we are not only keeping out the evil lusts of our hearts, but as new creatures are living in the new creation of God. I may be a babe in it, of course, but the affections of the babe are as true as those of the old man. How far is your conversation in heaven, where Christ is gone to prepare a place where you may be with Him and like Him? your hearts in love and thankfulness to Him who loved you, living in the things He died to bring you into.
What I desire your hearts to study in Scripture is this—that while there is this reckoning ourselves dead, there is the other aspect, that, dead in sins, we are created anew in Christ Jesus. You are a new creation as to state and condition, but how far are you living in the sphere it belongs to? It is a wonderful thing to think God has created us thus, Christ the attractive point there the power of it all; and what is this poor world to me?
The Lord give us, beloved friends, as quickened together with Christ, all trespasses forgiven, to see what it is to have our conversation in that which we belong to.