Life On the Highest Plane
Vol. 2: The Relation Between Christ and the Christian
Christ Our Sanctification
A People for His Possession and Use
The Christian is a new creation, in a new sphere with a new Sovereign, living a new life, all of which speaks of differentiation and distinctiveness. The Christian is a marked man. There is a distinct line of cleavage between the man "in the flesh" and the man "in the Spirit." There is a definite boundary between "the world" and "the heavenlies" and the man who through redemption has stepped over that border line is thereby a sanctified man. Christ, the Saviour, has become his sanctification.
The necessity for sanctification will be clearly seen when we remember that man was created for God's possession and use but through sin he fell into the possession and use of Satan. In sanctification God recovers His own and fits him for communion and cooperation with Himself.
Sanctification, as Scripture reveals, has a very vital relationship to the believer's calling, position and condition. This is typified in God's redemptive dealings with the children of Israel. Through His call to Abraham God chose and set apart a nation for Himself. With them He made a covenant by which they were to be separated from all other peoples upon the earth and were to become a holy people who would show forth the praise and glory of His name among the heathen nations. The children of Israel were set apart as God's peculiar possession, under His sovereign control and for His exclusive use.
|Deuteronomy 14:2, "For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth."|
But the children of Israel were sold into the bondage of Egypt and became the subject—slaves of Pharaoh. That He might repossess His own, God redeemed them and brought them out of Egypt and into Canaan. In position as well as by calling they became a separated people; God's own possession.
Leviticus 20:24, 26, "But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that fioweth with milk and honey; I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people. And ye shall he holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine."
Numbers 3:13, "Because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I am the LORD."
Then God commanded them to live as a people who belonged wholly unto Him. The separateness which He had wrought through their changed position was to be manifested through a changed condition. As a people in covenant with a holy God they were to live a holy life in the midst of altogether unholy nations and were to be God's instrument in the conquest of the promised land.
|Leviticus 20:7-8, "Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God. And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which sanctify you."|
THE BELIEVER A SAINT BY CALLING
In the New Testament God says that believers are a chosen, called, and separated people. In Christ the believer was set apart as God's own peculiar possession even before the foundation of the world. Every believer is chosen in Christ to be holy; he is called to be a saint; he is set apart to show forth the beauty, glory and holiness of His God.
Ephesians 1:4, "According as he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love."
Romans 1:6-7, "Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Peter 2:9, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
Thus we see that every believer was chosen and called to be a saint and that a saint is one set apart as belonging to God and as separated unto Him for His use. Throughout Scripture this is invariably the meaning of the words "to sanctify" or "sanctification" whether used in connection with things or persons. That which is sanctified is something wholly set apart for God's possession and use and when God lays claim to anything and separates it unto His use it is by that act "sanctified." God's undivided proprietorship of the believer lies enfolded in the very heart of the truth of sanctification. In the eternity of the past God called us to be His own possession. He said, "Thou art mine."
THE BELIEVER A SAINT BY POSITION
When, where, and how is the believer sanctified? At what point of time, at what stage in spiritual experience, and through what means is the believer wholly separated unto God and set apart as the special possession of the Lord? There has been much confusion on these points that has led to bewilderment on the part of many and even delusion on the part of some.
But God's Word is crystal clear on this theme as on all others connected with salvation if we keep to the scriptural meaning and method of the spiritual experiences God intends we should enjoy. Let us never forget that God is infinitely more concerned about our entrance into the fullness of our inheritance in Christ than we can possibly be. How hurt and harmed is the separate, holy Christ by the mixedness and unholiness in the lives of Christians. Then surely He would take great care that this wondrous truth of sanctification should be made very plain.
So the Word of God answers the above questions by showing us that sanctification is primarily a change in position and secondarily but of necessity a change in condition. God tells us very plainly when, where and how the children of Israel were sanctified.
Numbers 8:17, "For all the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself."
Leviticus 11:45, "For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
By the blood of the Paschal lamb they were redeemed in Egypt and set apart as a people for God's own possession. By the crossing of the Red Sea they were redeemed from Egypt and separated from other people for the Lord's use. Even during the wilderness wanderings in which there was much of murmuring and rebellion they were, as far as their position before God was concerned, a sanctified people.
Just so the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ marks the place of the believer's sanctification; the blood of the Lamb of God is the means; and the moment in which the sinner puts his faith in that atoning blood for salvation marks the time.
Hebrews 10:10, "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
Hebrews 13:12, "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate."
Acts 26:18, "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me."
God never acts apart from Christ. Everything that God does whether in creation or salvation He does through His Son. And everything that God does in Christ for man's salvation He begins at the cross. So our sanctification begins there. At the cross the sinner becomes a saint. Every believer has been set apart for God's own possession and use by the sacrifice of His Son. The believer is a saint by position. As in justification the guilty sinner is accounted righteous through the blood of the cross so in sanctification the defiled sinner is accounted holy. By the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ he "hath been perfected once for all." In this objective aspect sanctification is absolute and complete. Christ Himself and Christ alone is our sanctification.
Hebrews 10:14, "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."
1 Corinthians 1:30, "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption."
Thus we see that sanctification in this aspect is not "a second work of grace" at some time subsequent to conversion; nor a result of any act of consecration or faith on part of the believer; but that it takes place through God's first and initial work of grace—the death of His Son—and is simultaneous with justification and regeneration. "The primary and fundamental idea of sanctification is neither an achievement nor a process, but a gift, a divine bestowal of a position in Christ."
In this positional aspect of sanctification all believers share equally: the youngest, weakest and most immature is as truly and as much sanctified as the oldest, strongest and most spiritual Christian. This fact we see in the spiritual history of the Corinthian Christians as given in Paul's epistles. These letters were written to rebuke and correct gross sins, outstanding evils, even fearful immoralities in the Corinthian church yet the apostle writes to them as those that have been sanctified, those who are "holy in Christ." While he tells them that he cannot write unto them as unto spiritual but rather as unto carnal Christians yet he calls them saints. Even though they are still in the wilderness as regards spiritual experience yet he considers them a people separated unto God for His possession and use. It is because they have been so set apart and given such an exalted position that he reproves them for their unholy condition.
|1 Corinthians 1:2, "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours."|
Their position as sanctified ones is the basis of his appeal for a corresponding condition of life. He reminds them that fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, drunkards, and revilers, shall not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), and then frankly says, "and such were some of you" in the old sphere when you were wholly separated unto sin and wholly separated from God. But it is all different now for "you are sanctified" and are thereby set apart unto God. Therefore your condition should correspond with your position. You were once in the devil's possession and use but now you are set apart unto God for His possession and use. You are saints; therefore live like saints.
|1 Corinthians 6:11, "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."|
Are you a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ? Then you are a saint. Have you put your trust for salvation in Christ's shed blood? Then you are sanctified and set apart as one belonging wholly and only unto God.
Are you "a new creation in Christ Jesus"? Then you are also "a saint in Christ."
THE BELIEVER A SAINT BY CONDITION
A holy God must have a holy people. That which God has taken to be His own, which He has separated unto Himself must be holy even as He is holy. God took Israel out of Egypt into Canaan that they might be made a separate people shut in to Himself that through His presence in their midst as their Lord and Leader they might learn to do His will and obey His laws. He had called them to be a holy people. He had separated them that they might become a holy people. Their changed position from Egypt to Canaan presupposes a corresponding changed condition in all their manner of living. His very proprietorship of them demanded holiness. That which belongs to God must be holy, for God cannot presence Himself with unholiness neither can He use in His service that which is unclean. If He did so, He would deny His own nature, dishonor His own name. What God is, that which belongs to Him must be, or else God would lay Himself open to the charge of being a partaker of the sin of His people. Because they were a separated people God commanded them to be a holy people and to put all uncleanness of every kind away from them. He told them that the real purpose of their redemption had been their sanctification.
Leviticus 20:24, 26, "I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people. And ye shall be holy unto me; for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine."
2 Chronicles 29:5, 15-16, "And said unto them, Hear me, ye Levites, sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place. And they gathered their brethren, and sanctified themselves, and came, according to the commandment of the king, by the words of the LORD, to cleanse the house of the Lord. And the priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord, to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the LORD into the court of the house of the Lord."
God has taken the believer to be His own and His proprietorship of the life is in itself a call and a challenge to holiness. God has redeemed us that He might possess us and He possesses us that He may conform us to the image of His Son. Christ saved us that He might sanctify us.
1 Thessalonians 4:7, "For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness."
Ephesians 5:25-27, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish."
The position of the believer in Christ is a call and a challenge to holiness. It also reveals God's provision for the life of holiness which He expects of the believer. God requires Christians to live "as becometh saints" but the power for such a life is not in ourselves but in Christ Himself. Through identification with Him in His death and resurrection we have been planted into Christ and He environs us with His own holiness. We are "holy—in Christ."
Ephesians 5:3, "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints."
Philippians 4:21, "Salute every saint in Christ Jesus."
The presence of Christ in the believer is a call and a challenge to holiness. "I am holy—be ye holy." Perfection of life is God's only standard. In Christ incarnate we find divine holiness in a human life and nature. Through Christ crucified, that holy, divine nature was imparted to us. In the risen, ascended Christ indwelling we have the very presence of the Holy One in power. In virtue of what Christ did for us we are made holy and in virtue of what He does in us we are kept holy. Christ Himself is our sanctification.
1 Peter 1:15-16, R.V., "But like as he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy."
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it."
In this conditional aspect of sanctification there is a vast difference in believers. Some who have been Christians for a quarter of a century may show few evidences of a holy life while one who has known Christ but a short time may have much "fruit unto holiness." The progressive realization of holiness in life depends upon the believer's response to God's provision for it in Christ. With some this progress is a steady inflow, while with others it comes through a special experience which seems to them as marked as that of conversion. Let us now consider what that provision is.
SANCTIFICATION IS A RADICAL REVERSAL IN RELATIONSHIPS
Entrance into the new sphere involves a decisive, clean-cut reversal of every relationship obtaining in the old sphere. What the sinner was alive to the saint becomes dead to, and what the sinner was dead to the believer becomes alive to. The radical change wrought in the believer's position demands a complete reversal in every relationship if a corresponding change is to be wrought in his condition. Sanctification is one act with a double significance: negatively it means separation; positively it means holiness. Christ, our sanctification, separates us from all that is opposed to the will of God and lie separates us unto all that is consistent with that will.
Let us consider first the things to which the believer becomes dead.
The Believer Becomes Dead to Sin
Three phases of three words each which the apostle Paul uses throw marvelous light upon this reversal in the believer's relationship to sin. Please note that it is a study in prepositions.
Ephesians 2:5, "Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ."
Romans 6:8, "Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him."
Romans 6:2, "God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"
"Dead in sins"—such is the sinner's relationship to sin in the old sphere. He is so permeated and saturated with sin that God can only describe his relationship to sin as one of immersion in it. Sin in his environment.
"Dead with Christ"—such is the sinner's identification with the Sin-bearer. Salvation had to put both the Saviour and the sinner on the cross to reverse the relationship to sin.
"Dead to sin"—such is the believer's relationship to sin in the new sphere. He is so insulated and enveloped by Christ that God can only describe his relationship to sin as one of death to it. Christ is hus environment.
Death defeats death and annuls its power over the sinner. The believer is so united with Christ in His death that he enters into precisely the same relationship to sin that Christ enjoys—Christ Jesus was never "dead in sins," the Lamb of God was "without spot and blemish" for there was no sin in him. But as the last Adam, the representative Man, the sinner's Substitute, He was in a very real sense "made sin for us." The sin of the whole world of sinners was upon Him so that on the cross of Calvary in a very real and awful sense He was so separated unto sin for our sakes that He was separated from God. But, praise God, His death once and for all changed not only His relationship to sin but that of the believing sinner in Him.
Romans 6:10, R.V., "For the death that he died, he died unto sin once [Gr., once and for all]: but the life that he liveth, he liveth unto God."
Romans 6:11, B. V., "Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus."
Let us not through unbelief or fear of the consequences minimize the force of the words in Romans 6:11. To make this truth stand out before us in all its daring ruggedness let this verse fall into its constituent parts before our eyes.
|Dead unto sin
Alive unto God
|]-||The believer's changed relationships.|
|In Christ Jesus
|—The divine Medium.
—The Human Means
—The defined Measure.
Simpler words could not have been used to convey to the mind and heart one of the most profound truths in the Bible nor could language tell us more plainly the severing power of the cross of Christ: nor make more clear the meaning of sanctification in God's thought. The believer "dead with Christ" is dynamited out of the old relationship "dead in sins" into the new relationship "dead to sin".
But what does the expression "dead to sin" mean? Does it mean that sin is dead or that it is eradicated? Does it mean that the believer is beyond the reach of temptation or the possibility or ability to sin? No, it means nothing of the kind. God's Word teaches that the believer on earth has the penalty of sin removed and the power of sin broken but nowhere does it say that he is freed from the presence of sin. That blessed state is the believer's future inheritance as we shall see in a later study. Nor is he freed from temptation. In fact temptations are even more severe and more constant as one maintains in faith the attitude of "dead to sin." But "dead to sin" does mean that in Christ the believer has been brought positionally into such a relationship to it that he is beyond the reach of sin's dominion, that he is environed by Christ Jesus in such a measure as to share to the full His victory over sin. It means also that through the new birth he has been given a nature which hates sin and loves holiness. Where formerly there was response to sin, and apathy toward God, now the attitude is completely reversed. Sin meets with a cold reception and a quick rebuff while the whole being is aglow with an ever deepening love and devotion to its Lord. "The new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" refuses sin and chooses holiness; says no to sin and yes to God.
This positional victory over sin through grace is perfect. In Christ, God has taken the believer beyond the necessity of sin's lordship. In Christ sin's power is broken and its claim is canceled. Several times in Romans 6 God declares the believer's perfect freedom from the power of sin.
Romans 6:18, 22, B. V., "And being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness. Now being made free from sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end eternal life."
Romans 6:14, "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace."
These words if they teach anything clearly tell us that the believer in Christ need not sin, that sin has no rightful claim upon him. Let us get this thing straight and have no confusion in our minds about it. God nowhere says that we are not able to sin but He clearly says that we are able not to sin. In other verses in Romans 6 God states explicitly that sin still has power over the believer because the believer permits it. In other words, the believer sins because he wants to, because he yields to the allurements, the charms, the call of sin or he sins because he does not claim his privileges in Christ.
Just here I can almost hear the murmur of doubt in the heart of some reader as he says, "Is such victory possible?" Most of us have an inadequate conception of the meaning of the cross and of the power of Christ. We imagine Him able only to carry us safely over the borderline of the new sphere of life and unlock for us the door into heaven, but utterly impotent to keep us victorious and Christlike in the midst of the temptations of a sinful world. We are so ready to believe in the strength of the devil and so loath to believe that we are indeed spiritual multimillionaires, "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." But such you and I are, even while living as spiritual paupers. But "He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think," and will prove that He is so able if we but give Him the chance.
Perhaps some reader, if we were talking together personally, would put to me the questions that have been asked scores of times. Can this truth of complete and continuous victory over sin be brought from heaven to earth, can it he brought out of the realm of the doctrinal into the realm of the experiential? Will it really work if applied to my temper, jealousy, worry, pride, resentment and hatred? Can I in my daily walk in a world reeking in sin and placing temptation before me at every step really be kept unspotted and unsullied? Can the relationship "dead to sin" be actualized in my spiritual experience here and now on earth?
My answer to you would be, "Test the power of Jesus Christ's victory over sin on your besetting sin and give Him a fair chance to prove to you that He can save to the uttermost, even to make you dead to that sin. Take the sin that is dragging you down into the very depths of despair and let Him who is your sanctification make you dead to it."
A missionary came once for a talk. Her face was the picture of despair. By her own confession hers was a joyless, peaceless, powerless life. She found no joy in Bible study; no reality in prayer; and she had no love for souls. She had dreaded having me come to that school to lead a series of evangelistic meetings because she thought she would be expected to do personal work among the girls and she was utterly devoid both of desire and of power for such a task. Her body as well as her spirit was ill and she had already told her Chinese co-workers and her fellow missionaries that because of ill health she did not intend to return to China after her furlough. We talked together of the life of victory in Christ but she repeated over and over again that while she believed it was for others she knew it was not for her. She knew intellectually the Bible truth about victory over sin and was altogether familiar with every Bible verse that I quoted. She had read many books on victory in Christ and could have told any person who came to her seeking help the way to victory. But she herself was living in utter defeat and abject discouragement. Deep down in her heart was a hurt. There it had been for four years eating away at her spiritual vitals like a cancer. To that hurt she was wholly "alive." We talked for hours but she left me as she came—in despair. However, a deep, quiet assurance of complete victory for her came into my heart. I knew that victory in Christ was God's will for her for He had said so in His Word so I confidently claimed His promise in 1 John 5:14-15 and thanked God for the answer to the prayer as I fell asleep.
Before breakfast there was a tap on the door. What a gloriously radiant face greeted my eyes as I opened it and she exclaimed: "Oh! it's gone and I know it will never come back again!" What gone? The hurt. How? The Lord Jesus Christ, her Victor, had presenced Himself in the spot where the hurt was and had made her dead to it. Since that time, fully seven years ago, God has used that missionary to help many another defeated one into the joy and peace of victory over sin.
Sanctification is separation from sin and Christ is the Separator and He sanctifies by indwelling, possessing and controlling. Victory is not a mere blessing, doctrine, or experience, but it is a Person. To have Him acknowledged as sole Proprietor of the whole being and allowed to act as such is to be assured of victory over sin. To have Him crowned as Lord and in control is to have victory already. This throws light on what real victory is and what it is not. Some of us may not have victory because we are altogether too superficial in our thinking. We trifle with this very important thing. We think we shall obtain victory by reading literature on the subject or by hearing messages at a conference, or by an interview with some Christian leader while all the time we are unwilling to face God alone that He may show us both what sin is and what victory is.
God does not speak of being dead to "sins" but to "sin." He does not talk of "victories" but of "victory." He does not command us to be troubled over our sin but to be "dead" to it. He makes it very clear that He does not mean mere control over outward expressions of sin but a definite dealing with inner disposition. Real victory is a glorious and marvelous change in the innermost recesses of the spirit which transforms the inner disposition and attitude as well as the outward deed and act. "Real victory never obliges you to conceal what is inside." No, more than that, if one has real victory over sin he longs with intensity to let others know what his treasure is.
If we are to look to the Lord Jesus to make our freedom from sin actual and if "dead to sin" is to be lifted out of its doctrinal setting in Romans 6 and made an experiential fact in your life and mine, then we must know both what sin is and what victory is. Satan blinds the minds, dulls the consciences, deadens the spiritual sensibilities so that countless Christians never think of calling some sinful things sin. Of course we are forced to call some glaring, outstanding offense against God and man that becomes more or less public, sin. But what about that black, defiling, evil thing, hidden away in the spirit, heart or thought which has not yet found its way out into a word or a deed, but which is open to the all-seeing, all-searching eye of our holy God? Is that sin? God would lead us to think it is.
Psalm 19:12, 14, "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Let the word of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, 0 Lord, my strength, and my redeemer."
Psalm 51:6, 10, "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Create in me a clean heart, 0 God; and renew a right spirit within me.
2 Corinthians 7:1, "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
Let us face a few simple tests and see if we have been cleansed "from all filthiness of the spirit" and if there is freedom from sin "in the inward parts."
You used to lose your temper and give way to violent outbursts; now there is a large measure of outward control but a very great residue of inward irritation and secret resentment. Is that real victory?
Someone says something unkind or unjust to you; you do not answer back and outwardly you appear polite but inwardly you are angry and are saying to yourself, "I'd like to give her a piece of my mind!" Is that freedom from sin?
Someone has wronged you; you do not openly retaliate or seek to revenge the wrong but in your innermost heart you wish the person misfortune and rejoice when it comes. Is that having "a right spirit"?
You are a favored one through family, position or wealth. You do not openly boast but your heart is filled with secret pride, vanity and a sense of superiority. Is that counted as being "dead to sin"?
At a summer conference in China a woman came seeking help. She was unhappy and others around her were made unhappy. There was unlove in her heart; in fact, there was someone she hated. She was a Christian worker and recognizing the havoc this feeling was working in her own life and in that of others she tried to gain gradual victories over it. She had hated even the sight of the other person but she acknowledged finally the sinfulness of that. So she invited the person to dinner in her home but hoped she wouldn't come! When she came to me she had reached the point where she was "ready to forgive" but "would never forget!" Then she compelled herself to say that she "wouldn't hate" but she "couldn't love." Not until God, who is love, really possessed her heart did she become "dead" to that sin.
In Christ Jesus full provision has been made for you and me to be "dead to sin." But Romans 6:11 tells us that the believer must respond to God's act of grace by an act of faith. Man's faith is the cooperative complement of God's grace. Through faith God makes real in experience what through grace He has made real in fact. Through grace God has reversed the believer's relationship to sin and now God calls upon him to "reckon" upon this reversal as a fact and so to act, walk and live.
Furthermore, Romans 6:12-13 tells us that the believer must respond to God's act of grace by an act of the will.
|Romans 6:12, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof."|
This is a call, a challenge and a command all in one. It is a call to higher ground, to life on the highest plane. It is a challenge to take God at His Word and prove His power as Victor. It is a command to assert the rights of one whose real life is in the heavenlies in Christ.
Through the finished work of Jesus Christ, God has done all He can do toward the believer's sanctification. If he enjoys in experience real separation from sin he must now act. His will must coalesce with God's will and work as a unit if he is to live as one "dead to sin." And God does not let this step be shrouded in misty vagueness but in Romans 6:13 tells in simplest and plainest language just what the believer must do to keep sin from reigning in his body.
|Romans 6:13, "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."|
"Yield," "yield," "YIELD"—by a definite, intelligent, voluntary act of the will the believer must choose Christ as his new Master and yield himself to Him as Lord. Christ and sin cannot both "reign" over your life at the same time. There is no possibility in God's plan for such a compromising alliance. Jesus Christ not only desires to enter every life as Saviour but to rule as Lord and to reign as King. He not only designs to take possession but to assume control. He is not content to be recognized only as the owner of the house but purposes as well to be manager of the household. He is not satisfied to become something only to us but wishes to be everything.
Romans 6:14-22 reveals two incontrovertible facts:
1. We are able not to sin.
2. If we sin, we sin because "we want to sin; because we will to sin; because we choose to yield to our old master instead of to our new Master.
But it also clearly implies that by "reckoning" ourselves dead unto sin and by "yielding" ourselves unconditionally to Christ we may come to have a totally changed attitude to sin. Love for it and indulgence in it will become hatred for it and resistance to it. Sin is not dead and it will continue to entice but it will meet with no response from us. Our former master still lives and works hard at his task but Christ, our new Master, makes us deaf to sin's appeals by making us dead to sin itself.
The Believer Becomes Dead to the Law
If one is to come into real liberty in the Lord and be released from the futile striving to attain by his own effort what by faith he may obtain as God's gift, he must apprehend this second reversal in his relationships. Paul in the light of his own experience expounds this truth quite fully in Romans 7. Paul as a sinner had tried to become righteous by keeping the Law of God. He had failed utterly and had come to Christ as his Saviour that he might be made righteous in Him. But in Romans 7 as a saint, he was trying to become holy by attempting to keep God's Law in his own strength. He had learned that he could not be saved by his own efforts but he had still to learn that he could not be sanctified in that way.
The Law is holy and demands of man both perfect righteousness and perfect holiness, but it cannot give to anyone the power to be righteous or holy. So when one comes into a realization of the holy nature of God's Law and of its rightful demand for holiness of life the attempt is made to live such a life in one's own strength. It is this that Paul is telling us in Romans 6 and 7, we neither can do nor need try to do. He tells us this in three different statements each of which unfolds a distinct phase of this truth.
First, the saint in the new sphere is under a distinctly different regime from the sinner in the old sphere. He is no longer under Law but under grace.
|Romans 6:14, "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace."|
Second, the believer has come under the regime of grace through his union with the Lord Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection. So now under grace he fully shares Christ's relationship to the Law. In His incarnate life Christ Jesus as the representative Man met every demand of the Law both for righteousness and holiness. In His death, as the sinner's Saviour, He met every claim of the Law for righteousness against the sinner and in His resurrection, as the Head of the new creation, He met every claim of the Law for holiness against the saint. The Law has no further claim against the believer either for righteousness or for holiness for every claim has been fully satisfied.
Third, the believer is, therefore, dead to the Law.
Romans 7:4, "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God."
Galatians 2:19, "For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God."
It is the function of grace to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It is the work of grace to undo the work of sin. Sin made us unholy: grace makes us holy. Grace always operates through Jesus Christ who dwells within us in the very perfection of His own holiness through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Does this not show us how needless and futile are our efforts to compel ourselves to live well pleasing unto God, to achieve victory over sin through good resolutions or through willpower, and to live a holy life through legal bondage to certain principles or practices? The way of sanctification is as simple as the way of salvation. As truly as Christ is our Saviour just so truly He is our sanctification. Our part is to believe and to receive.
Holiness is a gift and a gift is not "attained" but "obtained." Christ Himself is our holiness. Holiness does not come as a result of "works" but is a "fruit." Becoming "servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness" (Romans 6:22).
Becoming "dead to the law" does not give to any Christian the license to sin. Far from it. His death to the Law is accomplished only through his marriage union with the Holy One Himself and that for one definite, distinct purpose, that he may "bring forth fruit unto God" and live wholly unto Him. It is for the one purpose of enabling him to do the will of God in every department of his life.
The Believer Becomes Dead to Self
The exact words are not in Scripture but the thought is clearly there in the following passages which show the believer's radical reversal in his relationship to self.
2 Corinthians 5:15, R.V., "And he died for all, that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their sakes died and rose again."
Galatians 5:24, "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."
"The old man" never acknowledges himself as dead. Self-will is married to self-love and they and their entire offspring will work night and day to retake the throne of the believer's life permanently, if possible, but if not, temporarily. But Christ enables us to say a continuous and firm no to every appeal of self and to refuse it even a foothold in any of the territory which He has conquered. The divine Proprietor is amply able to guard and keep His property for Himself. Our part is to maintain a persistent and consistent attitude of death to self.
The Believer Becomes Dead to the World
Christ, as our sanctification, brings out a very radical reversal in the believer's relationship to the world and in its relationship to the believer. The apostle Paul uses a very strong expression in stating it.
|Galatians 6:14, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."|
He says it is a twofold crucifixion. A double death takes place at the cross of Christ when the sinner becomes a saint. The absolute necessity for this is clearly seen when we remember that the sinner is part of the system,
called the world, which is Satan's channel of manifestation and his instrument for service. The world and the Church are wholly antagonistic in their whole manner of living and working: their pleasures, pursuits, plans and programs are as different from each other as Christ is different from Satan. So when Christ sanctifies the believer as His own possession and for His own use, He takes him so altogether out of this world-system and separates him so wholly unto Himself that he is thereafter "dead to the world."
As soon as the believer really takes this attitude toward the world and maintains his position in Christ as a consistent member of His Body then the world hates him and disclaims any relationship or affiliation with him. As long as the believer compromises and maintains a friendly attitude toward the world the latter will be friendly with the hope of winning the Christian back into its fold. But the world only loves its own and hates all that is not of it so that when the believer comes out into an open, decisive separateness the world thereafter is crucified unto him.
John 15:19, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
1 John 3:1, "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not."
The real secret governing our abandonment of the world is our love for the Lord Jesus Himself. He loved us so much that He gave Himself for us. We are captivated by that love and we open our hearts to receive Him, then He gives Himself to us. He in His loveliness becomes much more attractive than anything the world can offer; He in His tender sympathy, loving understanding and exquisite love bestows upon us much more than the world can give; He in His own wondrous divine-human Person satisfies our hearts as all that the world has to give could never satisfy.
It was so in the life of a university student who was enamored of the world. She fed on worldliness, she walked and lived in it. Her clothes, her companionships, her pleasures, her conversations, her tastes, her choices, in fact everything about her bore the mark of the world. She had been indulging in the gaieties of the university life to an excess that troubled even her worldly minded friends. But one night in the beginning of the spring term of her senior year she found Christ as her Saviour and her Master. Only a few days later she was to have attended the biggest dance of the season. She did not go but spent the entire evening in communion with her newfound Lord over His Word and in prayer. Throughout the remaining weeks of her senior year she refused scores of invitations to similar parties. A something had come into her life that made some who had known and prayed for her very happy and that made others who had companioned with her in the past very contemptuous. She would have told you that that something was a Someone, it was the Lord Jesus. Love for Him had made her dead to the world, which, when she no longer belonged to it had become dead to her.
This radical reversal of our relationship to sin, to the Law, to self and to the world is brought about through our identification with Christ in His death and resurrection. In Christ crucified and risen we are made a separate people for His possession and use.
Christ our sanctification not only made a clean-cut reversal in our relationship to Satan and to everything pertaining to his sphere but He made an equally revolutionary change in our relationship to God and to everything that belongs to His Kingdom.
The Believer Becomes "Alive Unto God"
Having been born into God's family as a child and into His Kingdom as a citizen his whole life is now centered in the family and Kingdom interests. Having been accepted as Saviour, united with as Head, and crowned Lord, Christ has become both the center and the circumference of his life and all in between. In Christ Himself the believer finds his deepest joy, his greatest delight and his completest satisfaction.
As being "dead to sin" detracts from sin's charms and breaks its power to lure and entice so being "alive unto God" enhances Christ's charms and heightens the Holy Spirit's power to woo and to win us to love our Lord and to delight in Him. To be "alive unto God" is to love the Lord Jesus as we love no other person or thing in heaven or upon earth. It is to adore Him as the Beloved, to give Him the place of preeminence in our lives. It is for Christ Jesus Himself to be all and in all to us.
Colossians 1:18, "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence."
Song of Solomon 5:10, "My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand."
Colossians 3:11, "But Christ is all, and in all."
But is there in the lives of very many Christians whom you know such a personal passion for the Lord Jesus? Does the average church member impress the world as being "alive unto God"? Is the Christian businessman more eager for God's projects to succeed than his own? Upon which does the Christian mother put most thought and time—her daughter's health, her place in society, or growth in her spiritual life? Which does the ordinary church member attend most regularly, the cinema or the prayer meeting? Is there not a sluggishness and stagnancy in the lives of thousands upon thousands of professed Christians today that amounts almost to deadness toward God and His interests? Many of God's children in all parts of the world believe that the Church of Christ is in just such a dead condition and that there is great need of revival.
Perhaps this book will fall into the hands of some persons who are altogether unconscious of the need of such a quickening. They are conventional, respectable Christians. They always attend church, go to prayer meeting and fulfill faithfully what they consider to be their financial obligation to the church. They never do anyone any harm; neither do they do anyone any good. They would not consciously put a stumbling block in the way of somebody's becoming a Christian; neither would it ever dawn upon them to put forth an effort to win one. They are colorless Christians. They would be disgusted with the frivolous person who found pleasure for a morning in reading a trashy book but just so they would be bewildered at the joy some earnest soul found in several hours' study of the Word. To them the pleasure places of the world have no attraction but neither does the trysting place of prayer. They are the lineal descendants of the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal, who did not bring disgrace to his father's name but neither did he bring joy to his father's heart.
What I am trying to say is that you and I may be separate and yet not be holy; we may be orthodox and yet not be spiritual; we may be "dead to sin" and yet not be "alive to God." We may have cut ourselves loose from every form of worldliness but in so doing have become critical and self-righteous. We may be loyal defenders of the faith, ready even to lay down our lives for it and in so doing become bitter and unloving. We may be faithful in the fulfilling of every obligation to God and have given ourselves in self-sacrificing devotion to His cause and yet have no warm glow of love in our hearts, no spring of joy in our souls, no fervency of spirit in our communion with the Lord Jesus Himself.
But the divine-human God-man can never be satisfied with negation. If He died and rose again to separate us from sin. He ascended into heaven and was exalted to the throne that He might separate us unto the Lord. The work of the cross is to be perfected through the work of the throne. What the Saviour began the Sanctifier is to continue. The ascended Lord lives to keep us holy through His Spirit.
This He does as our great High Priest, our Advocate and our Intercessor. He has lived on earth and He knows how unceasingly we are in contact with that which defiles. He knows the insidiousness of Satan's temptations and how he takes advantage of our times of trial, affliction, weariness, loneliness, sickness, disappointment, stress and sorrow to press upon some vulnerable spot in our character to tempt us into sin. So there He is as our Representative before the Father's throne pleading our case and as we turn to Him in frank open confession of our sin He applies the precious blood that cleanses and enables us to walk again in the light of his holy presence. Christ has come not only to save us but to save us to the utter-most. A life as pure and perfect as his own is His only standard for us. For this He intercedes constantly at His Father's throne.
1 John 2:1, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
Hebrews 7:25-26, "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens."
But how could the believer's conscience ever become enlightened to discern the presence of sin and how would his heart he made to recoil from its defilement and his spirit to resent its intrusion? Here again we see the perfection of God's grace in the gift of the Holy Spirit by whom the initial work of sanctification in us is begun and through whom its progressive work is carried on. It is He who makes us feel the need of cleansing and leads us to Him who alone can cleanse.
1 Peter 1:2, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sancification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."
2 Thessalonians 2:13, "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth."
A holy God has opened the way into His presence and has taken unto Himself a people to live there in abiding communion with Himself. Blessed the man or the woman who has found his way into that holy sanctuary and delights himself in the Holy One! Upon such God sets His seal signifying that they are His own possession forever and that He has begun to work within them conformity to the image of his Son. This seal is none other than the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 1:13, "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise."
2 Corinthians 1:21-22, "Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts."