If you examine the writings of Paul with a little care, you will find this principle at the root of all his teaching—that we are dead and risen with Christ. It is not only that He has died and risen for us, but that we are dead and risen with Him. He adds another thing; and that is our union with Him, now that He is ascended. “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” These two principles are found here; our being dead and risen with Him; and our union with Him, now that He is on high. When he speaks of union, there is so far a difference that he looks at us as dead to begin with; and the whole power of Christ comes in to raise us. When he looks at people as living in sin, he brings in the doctrine of being dead to sin. On the other hand, if we are looked at as dead in sins, with no spiritual life, then the whole work is of God in raising us out of that state; so in Ephesians he unfolds the privileges of the child of God, from death to union with Christ. Here he lays, as the foundation of his teaching, our being dead and risen with Christ. Thus he associates us with Christ in every respect, first by death, then by resurrection, and, lastly, “when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory.”
The difference in the two epistles lies specially in this. To the Colossians he speaks of life, or the new nature, we have in Christ; whereas, in Ephesians, we have much more of the Holy Ghost by whom we are made one with Christ, “members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” Here it is death and resurrection and association with Christ. Indeed this is his doctrine everywhere. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” “And you being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” His constant theme is that, as believers, our entire association is with Christ.
Now I repeat that, blessed as the full privileges are into which we thus come, the great doctrine, which lies at the foundation and root of all this, is the being dead and risen with Him. The true condition of every believer, that which from the very starting-point this doctrine teaches, is the utter judgment of the old man; the sentence of death passed upon it, and condemnation altogether. There is no recognition of the flesh as to allowance or acceptance of it. But when I have found out that the old man is simply this evil thing, then I discover that it is a question of putting it off and of putting on something else. It is not a correction of the old nature, but the having done with it and having something else instead of it. I put off the one, and I put on the other. It is a figure, of course, but the figure of what is most real to faith. On the one hand, I have done with my Adam-life; and, on the other, the nature that I get or put on by grace is the Christ-life. But how can I put off a life? I can put off an opinion or a bad habit; but how can I put off a life? The only way of putting off a life is by dying. But here I am alive. How, then, can it be true of me that I have put off the old man? This is the great truth that the apostle brings before us. After having received Christ for my life (the second Man He is called, the last Adam, the life-giving Spirit)—after having received life from Christ, He Himself being in me, God has appropriated to me all the value and power of that in which Christ is, and which is in Him.
Here it is more particularly as regards life; but He has been crucified for us, not merely as putting away sins, but “in that he died, he died unto sin once. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” There is this great basis of truth upon which all the apostle’s teaching is founded: that Christ comes, presents Himself to man as in the flesh, and man will not have Him. Man could not have to say to God as a living man in the flesh. But Christ dies for him; and those who receive Him into their hearts now live by Him. “As many of us as were baptised unto Christ Jesus, were baptised unto his death.” Such is the way he answers in Romans 6, where the charge is made, “Let us continue in sin that grace may abound.” If it be said, Christ by His death and resurrection has made me righteous before God, and so I may live in sin, there is this doctrine in reply. The obedience of Christ is obedience unto death; and if you are dead with Christ, a dead man does not live. He strikes at the root of the matter, and says, You have got this justification of life by Christ’s death and resurrection, and you are denying the very thing that justifies you. It is death to sin and life to God; and therefore you who plead for sin are denying the great truth upon which your salvation is founded. If you have died with Christ to all that is in this world, you cannot be living in it. “How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?” It is a sweeping conclusion to every cavil. If I take death, as I do in baptism unto Christ, I take it to all that which I was living in—to sin, flesh, the world, yea, to the law itself. The law has power over a man as long as he lives. Put a man in prison for stealing; and if he dies, it is all over with him. The prisoner is no longer there to be dealt with. The law has not lost its power; but it cannot touch a dead man. And if I say as a believer, I am dead with Christ, my life is over in that sense. It is the same thing as to sin. Obedience becomes obedience to God. Death closes necessarily the connection of the living man with all the things to which the old man had to say. I am crucified with Christ, I am dead with Christ, and I am risen with Him.
On the other hand, there is the positive side: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.” I have received Him who has risen, as my life. Nothing can be more important in its place than a distinct and definite apprehension of this; not only Christ has died for us, but we can also say that we have died with Him. How it cuts at the root of everything that flesh seeks! What can a dead man seek? We are to reckon ourselves dead—not to reason that we must die, which will not give us power; but we are to reckon ourselves dead. Supposing a person comes to tempt me—how can he tempt a dead man? He tells me to come and amuse myself in something. But I say, I am dead; and the reason I can say so is that my life is another kind of life altogether. The old stock may spring up and shew itself sometimes; but I learn to treat the old life as not the tree at all. We may fail to do this, and then it will produce the old bad fruit; but inasmuch as Christ is my life, I am but a grafted tree; I have a right to take that which I am grafted into as the real tree, and have nothing to do with anything else.
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” What are the things that belong to a risen life? The things down here in the world? No. What can a risen man seek in the world? He has nothing to do with the things of this life. That is the position in which He puts us. But, blessed be God, the risen man, supposing we are actually risen, has objects; his life belongs to another world, even to heaven. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above.” If I am risen with Christ, and Christ has become my life, where is Christ? Up at the right hand of God. He does not say, You are there; but speaking of life he says, “If ye then are risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”
Mark how distinctly he here associates us with Christ. He says, Christ is hid in God; well, He is your life, and your life is hid there too. But Christ is going to appear; and when He appears, ye also shall appear with Him in glory. There is complete association with the Lord Jesus now for life, so that my life is hid with Him in God, because He is my life; and when He appears, I also shall appear with Him in glory. It is not union, but complete association with Christ. It is this which gives its character to the Christian, and shews what his life is: “that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal bodies.” It is the reproducing Christ in this world: and we get, in the verses that I have read, the complete description of what this life is in a practical sense. The life itself is Christ. “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” But what a truth this is, that, if I am a Christian at all, it is Christ that is my life! It is not the old tree dug about and dunged; that was done with. When He cursed the fig tree, it was pronouncing upon the old stock its everlasting fruitlessness. There was no fruit to be found on it; and He said, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever.” The old man, the flesh, is a judged, condemned thing; it is the second Man, the Lord from heaven, who is the spring of everything which is good or blessed. It is the great principle that is thus laid down. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.”
Now mark one thing very distinctly of this life. If Christ is my life, in that sense Christ and heavenly things become the object of my life. Every creature must have an object. It is God’s supreme prerogative not to want an object. He may love an object; but I cannot live without an object any more than without food. This life has an object. The law wanted this; it gave no object. It said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength”; but it told me no more about the matter. It is very blessed in our life as Christians, that, while Christ is our life, yet I am crucified with Christ; and “the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.” That is, I get now an object which acts upon and feeds this life, and makes it grow. “We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” There is the life; and this life has a perfect blessed object which it delights in and contemplates; and this object the Lord Jesus is, not in His humiliation but in His glory. Therefore what is looked for is, “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” There is nothing accepted short of what is seen in Christ. Where He is the life in me and the object of this life, the point is purifying myself even as He is pure, getting more and more of His grace by thus looking at Him.
We are to reckon ourselves dead, instead of having to die. You may ask the flesh to die, but it never will. We talk of having to die to the flesh, because we have not got the consciousness of the positive distinctness of the two natures. The old man will take good care not to die. But being alive in Christ, I have the privilege and title to treat the other nature, the old one, as dead, because He died. It is never said that we have to die, but that as Christians we are entitled to, and do, hold ourselves for dead; because we have this new life. The person who talks of dying to sin, actually holds himself to be alive to sin. The moment I say I found myself ruined, but now I have got Christ for my life, I can say I am dead to sin. There is never the slightest varying of Scripture with regard to this. That point being thus settled, with the one blessed object before us, we seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. I have got a life formed and fashioned in His very nature, delighting in these heavenly things, causing us to grow up into Him in all things.
But now comes the actual unfolding of this life. He begins with the lowest things and goes on to the highest, and gives the whole principle and development of this life. He says, “Ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God.” He will not own the old nature as a life; but he says, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth.” And if I look at these members on earth, what are they? Gross sins. All these members upon the earth are lusts. “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness which is idolatry; for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience; in the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.” But that is not all. He adds, “But now ye also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.” If I get angry, it is a proof that the will of the old man is not broken. Anger is not a lust; but if you are living in grace, you do not get into a passion. There is the power of a life which does not these things, and which masters that which does them. We find anger and violence in Satan, who is a murderer; corruption and violence in men. We find all the negative parts here. He says, “Lie not one to another.” He is speaking of that which would be produced by the flesh where it is not kept in check. I am to put off the movements of the old nature. “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds.” We have “put off the old man with his deeds”; but we have also “put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.”
Mark here what we are brought into. I have put off the old man with his deeds; and I have put on something. What have I put on? The new man, which is Christ. I have put on an entirely other nature. And what is the measure of this? Christ is the image of the invisible God: and I am renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created me. God has created this new man; and what is the measure of it? Christ is the source of it and the measure of it; Christ in all His perfection above is the image of Him that created it; and what the Christian sees now in heaven is what he is to be practically—it is Christ. “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk even as he walked.” He is “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” The measure of it is the revelation of God in Christ. If I am looking at a legal character of right and wrong, I am looking at something in my conduct as a man, and this is not the measure. “Be ye imitators of God, as dear children.” But am I to be a sacrifice to God? Certainly. “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” That is just the very fruit of all that we are. Wherever the power of divine life comes down and takes possession of a man, it manifests itself in his giving himself up to God. The love of God came down in Christ; and how did it shew itself in practice? By giving Himself up to death. “Ye are bought with a price.” Then “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Therefore he says, “Be ye imitators of God, as dear children, and walk in love as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” So again here, “Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
I must begin, then, by treating the old man as dead. We shall soon feel our shortcomings. But that puts us in the blessed place of being dead with Him, and calls us to shew the power of the life in which we are called to walk. “Ye have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all and in all.” If I am speaking of myself as an Englishman or a Frenchman, I forget that I am dead or risen again, and that Christ is all. He is the only object, the only one that the mind is right in resting on and looking at. “Christ is all.” Looked at as the object, it is Christ and nothing else for one that is dead and risen with Him, be he who he may. What do I want? Christ. What am I to’ follow? Christ. What is the object that my heart has to think of? Christ.
The other truth is this: He is in all Christians; He is their life. “Christ is all and in all.” He is in us as our life; and, being in us as our life, Christ lives in me; and “the life which I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.” He is all to me. There is the Christian depicted in a few words. Having positively put off the old man with his deeds, and having put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him, Christ is everything to him, and Christ is his life in him. Christ is everything as the fulness of this object, and Christ is in him as his life. Most simple, but wonderfully full! He does not say what a Christian ought to be; it is what a Christian is that we have here. Christ is his life and Christ is everything to him as having this life. He knows nothing else. We may find our shortcomings, which is another thing; but this is what we are as Christians: “Christ is all and in all.”
We see then how blessedly the apostle refers to this for power and practice. He takes now the positive side—the spirit and path in which I walk. “Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” That is, walk like Christ. Having now Christ as my life, and Christ as my object, I am given power over the motives that were mine before, and things that are around me have lost their force. I speak of what the life is in its character and principles. The one object that the new life has is Christ; that which alone forms and governs this life is Christ; and, the soul of the believer being filled with Him, the things of the outward world have lost their force: his mind is filled with something else. The life that is in him is occupied with Christ. The consequence of this is that outward things have no longer their influence over him. “The eye is single, and the whole body is full of light.” Hence what excites the old man is not working now in that way, and the thing manifested is the effect of Christ as revealed to the new man—the new man living on Him. The apostle puts it thus: “Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved,” etc. He does not say, You make out that you are “elect of God, holy and beloved.” He says, This is your place: I want you to live in the consciousness of this; and you are now as such to do so-and-so. Such is the truth of all blessed affections. If I, as a child, doubted that my father were my father, how could I have the affections of a child? I should say, I wish I were sure of it; but I could not have the full flow of affection that follows from having no doubt about it.
The apostle, then, says, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved,” etc. Now I am walking in the consciousness of God’s delight in me. Is there not love, joy, peace in the soul? That is the place the heart lives in: and now I have to put on all these things. But the way of putting them on is walking in the blessed consciousness of the truth of my place in Christ. If a man is quickened, there will be the desires of that new nature, though he may not be able to enjoy it. There are affections and duties which flow from the place I am in. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved.” Oh if my heart can live in that—in what I am—as elect of God, holy and beloved, I can put on anything then! It flows from the blessedness of the place I am in. If I live in the consciousness of my relationship, in the consciousness of what God is to me, these are the fruits that will follow. The first-named fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace; then there will be long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. But I must have love, joy, and peace first. If I am perfectly happy in God, I do not mind if a person insults me; but take it patiently. I am perfectly happy, and have got my soul in the place of these blessed affections. Hence other things will not have the power to turn me from it. He says therefore, “Put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved.”
So with Christ. He is above all: He is the blessed object, elect, precious—the Holy One, the beloved One above all. And He is our life. When I can act as being in this place, my heart is true in its affections. There we are in this blessed relationship; and we must seek to have the abiding consciousness of what we are before God, that we may, in the enjoyment of this, produce the fruits suitable to this state. Put on these various things which are the life of Christ in this world: “Bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another and forgiving one another … even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God [or, Christ] rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body, and be ye thankful.”
But now, having spoken of its practical character, he goes on to another step in this life. He looks for the word of Christ dwelling richly in us in all wisdom; and he calls us to live in the largeness of heart and understanding that belongs to a person that has this place in Christ. He says, I want to have your heart and mind enlarged to live in these things; I want the word of Christ, this full revelation which God has given to us of His thoughts and mind as revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ, to be dwelling in you richly.
Let us now stop and ask ourselves, What has my mind been occupied with to-day? What has it been running after? Could you say, The word of Christ has dwelt in me richly? Now, perhaps we have been occupied with politics; perhaps with the town talk, or with something of our own. Has the word of our own heart, the word of our own mind, filled up the greater part of our day? That is not Christ. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom.” All knowledge is in Him, and all practical wisdom. They are distinct things; but if they are real, they go wonderfully together. Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This, then, is what is looked for; that in this condition there be the unfolding and development of the blessed knowledge of Christ. The Spirit of God takes of the things of Christ and shews them unto us. We live in that sphere in which God unfolds His own mind.
You may mark along with this, that it is not merely knowledge or wisdom of which he speaks, but he adds, “Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” It enters into the affections, because that is the character of hymns and spiritual songs. It is not so much knowledge written down like a sermon, but it is where the heart answers in its affections to the revelation of Christ, perhaps something that I have heard in a meeting when Christ has been unfolded: it is the Holy Ghost raising up the affections in answer to the revelation of Christ that has come down. Then there is the expression of the heart that has received it in the affections of the new man, answering to this in the praise and adoration that it produces. It may not be the reproduction of the same ideas, but it is the adoration of the heart that is drawn out towards the Person that has been revealed.
“Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Here I get the whole course of everyday life. There are constantly difficulties that I find in passing through this world. I say, Ought I to do this thing or that, or not? I am uncertain as to the right course, or I may find great hindrances to doing what I think to be right. Now if ever I find myself in doubt, my eye is not single; my whole body is not full of light, therefore my eye is not single. God brings me into certain circumstances of difficulty until I detect this. It may be something that I never suspected in myself before which hinders me from seeing aright; but it is something between me and Christ; and until that is put away, I shall never have certainty as to my path. Therefore he says, “Whatsoever ye do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” This will settle 999 cases out of 1,000. If you are questioning whether you shall do a thing or not, just ask yourself, Am I going to do it in the name of the Lord Jesus? It will settle it at once.
Thus if a person says, What harm is there in my doing such-and-such a thing? I ask, Are you going to do it in the name of the Lord Jesus? Perhaps it may be something of which you will answer at once, Of course not. Then it is settled at once. It is the test of the state of the heart. If my eye is single, if the purpose of my heart is all right, I get here what settles every question: it tests my heart. I wanted to know the right path, and it is as simple as ABC. If my heart is not upon Christ, I shall endeavour to do my own will; and this is not God’s will. There is the constant uniform rule which clearly judges every path and circumstance: am I simply doing it in the name of the Lord Jesus?
But what do I find with it? “Giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” In another place it is said, “In everything give thanks.” Where my heart can take Christ with me, my mind is on God, and I can say He is with me, even if it is tribulation. I have got the path of God, I have got Christ with me in my path; and I would rather be there than in what is apparently the fairest and pleasantest thing in the world’; as it is said in Psalm 84, “In whose heart are the ways of them.”
Thus closes this unfolding of the life of Christ. It begins with the great truth that we are dead and risen with Christ— the judgment of the old man absolutely and completely, and our reckoning it practically to be dead. People have talked about dying to the flesh, and of its being a slow death, etc., which is all nonsense. It is a simple fact that is true already. And if I died with Him, I shall live with Him. It is the power of this that works in my soul. The root of all Paul’s doctrine is that we have been crucified with Him, and have died with Him; and it is not now we who live, but Christ that lives in us. Then Christ becomes the object of this life. Having laid that ground, that the old man is put off and the new man put on, which is Christ, he draws the consequence of the blessing in which we stand, and the fruits which spring from Him; and then there is this simple but blessed rule for him that is in earnest—I do nothing but what I can do in the name of the Lord Jesus.
One great thing here practically put before us is this: Christ is all. He is in all; but this is the great thing we have to look to, Is He practically all? Can you honestly say, Though a poor weak creature, notwithstanding I am not conscious of having a single other object in the world but Christ? You find many difficulties—you are not watchful enough—your faith is feeble—you know your shortcomings; but can you, notwithstanding all this, honestly say, I have no object in the world but Christ?
First, the root of all is Christ as the life. Then, we pass over to the outward conduct in the man’s walk. And let me remark that, while a person may be walking outwardly uprightly and blamelessly, it may be very feebly as a Christian and without spirituality. You will find many a true Christian, who has Christ as his life, and with nothing to reproach him as to his walk, and yet has no spirituality whatever. If you talk to him about Christ there is nothing that answers. There is, between the life that is at the bottom and the blamelessness that is at the top, between him and Christ, a whole host of affections and objects that are not Christ at all. How much of the day, or of the practice of your soul, is filled up with Christ? How far is He the one object of your heart? When you come to pray to God, do you never get to a point where you shut the door against Him? where there is some reserve, some single thing in your heart, that you keep back from Him? If we pray for blessing up to a certain point only, there is reserve; Christ is not all practically to us.