On the Epistle to the Romans 6

 •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 7
But here the flesh, which wants to have its own righteousness, and the world, which affects to be the guardian of morality, brings forward an objection in order to resist the truth and grace which show man to be lost on account of sin. They say, if by the obedience of one we are constituted righteous, it is then just the same whether we be obedient or disobedient. This objection only proves that he who makes it knows nothing of the truth, that he has no apprehension whatever of his own lost condition, nor of the new life which the believer has received, and which, because it is of God, cannot tolerate sin.
Let us observe here what important truths are involved in the change of ground on which man's relation with God rests. The turning-point is the cross, the death of Christ. The old man, Adam's race, has been tested without law, under law, and then under the revelation of grace and truth when the Son of God was in this world as Man. God Himself was come, manifest in the flesh, not to impute sins, but " reconciling the world unto himself "; and if the blessing of the race of the first Adam had been possible it ought to have taken place then; but it was impossible. Much is said of a connecting link found between God and man, but even God manifested in grace and truth found none. On the contrary, the death of Christ is the positive, definitive, and absolute breach between man and God. It was not only that man without law was under sin, nor that under law he was openly disobedient to it, but in rejecting Christ he refused the grace of God which shone forth in Him. The Lord said (John 12:3131Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. (John 12:31)), in speaking of His death, " Now is the judgment of this world "; and in John 15:2424If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. (John 15:24), " They have both seen and hated both me and my Father." Therefore it says, in Heb. 9:2626For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:26), " Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared." The cross was morally the end of man; but at the same time, and by the same fact in the death of Christ, was laid the foundation of the new creation according to the righteousness of God. The same fact which on God's part has made an end of the first Adam, inasmuch as his race rejected the Son of God, has also laid the foundation of the new condition of man in the second Adam. Christ was made sin on the cross; sin was there judged, and the old man forever set aside. Now access to God through faith has been made possible; in the resurrection, the new life, even for the body, has been actually brought to light, and the second Man has taken His place in glory. Just as the first man was driven out of the garden, to become the root of a sinful and lost race, so the second Man has entered the heavenly paradise as root and head of the saved race, as the righteousness of God which is valid for man; and so life and righteousness have become inseparable. Forgiveness through the blood of Christ is the most powerful motive for an upright walk; the resurrection of Christ in itself unites righteousness and life; it is a " justification of life " (chap. 5: 18).
The truth that we are risen with Christ is not further developed in the Epistle to the Romans. As to the part we have in His death and resurrection, it only says that by faith we reckon ourselves dead to sin, that the glorified Christ is our life, and the Holy Spirit is given to us.
If, then, by the obedience of the One we are constituted righteous, and if there, where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, " shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? " " Far be the thought," says the apostle. But in his answer to this question, he does not place us again under law. That would be nothing short of recognizing the old man, the flesh, and, when we are already lost, to introduce afresh responsibility and condemnation; for the flesh is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. The answer of the Spirit points, on the contrary, to the death of Christ; but all that He has done is valid for us. The old man has proved itself irremediably bad, and this was, in fact, shown in the death of Christ. It is impossible for me now, who am crucified with Him, to recognize the very man that put Christ to death- I am come to Christ, because man (I myself in my old condition) was such-and because I have now received a new life, Christ risen from amongst the dead. But we must consider this somewhat more closely.
In having been baptized unto Christ Jesus (our true confession of faith), we were not baptized to a Christ whom the world has received, or who found a connecting link with the first Adam. On the contrary, the world, man, rejected Him, and drove Him out of the earth; and in this way, as already said, it was shown that a union between God and man as a child of Adam was perfectly impossible. Therefore God has begun afresh; we are born anew; Christ has, thanks be to God, as the rejected One, accomplished the work of atonement; He has acquired for those who believe on Him, justification, forgiveness, and glory. But He is the second Man, and in Him man is found in an entirely new position before God, as well as in an entirely new condition. A risen Christ is our life, a risen Christ our righteousness; the old man is forever condemned. He who possesses Christ as his life shares in all this, because he has part in His death and resurrection. In Romans the first part only is developed-we are dead with Him, have died with Him. He is indeed presented also as our life; but our resurrection with Him is not treated of, because the Holy Spirit here looks at Christians as men living on the earth. Christ is dead and risen; we are baptized unto His death. We have part in His death, inasmuch as He is our life. He, who is my life, died, and He died to sin. I recognize Him alone as my " I," and as this new " I," I reckon my old " I " as dead. According to this new life I am alive to God; but as regards my old man I have died with Christ. How could I still live the life of the old man, if as such I have died? Therefore, buried with Christ by baptism unto death, it behooves us to walk in newness of life. If we have part in His position, as dead to sin, we shall also have part in His resurrection. The apostle does not say that we have part in it, but that we shall have part in it. This resurrection life will be perfect in glory; but it expresses itself now already in a new walk; just as the power of the life of Christ, which, in a positive way, came out in His resurrection, was also actually manifested in His walk on earth. " Knowing this," says the apostle, " that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed " (that is to say, that sin in us as a whole might be annulled), " that henceforth we should not serve sin " (ver. 6); " for he that is dead is freed [or justified] from sin." But this requires fuller explanation.
First it is important to seize clearly that the Christian has not yet to die to sin, but that he has died inasmuch as he is crucified with Christ; now that he has received Christ as his life, he reckons the old man dead. It is not only particular sins or lusts from which he has been delivered, but the old man as a whole is set aside, dead, and to be held for dead by faith which acts according to the new man. It is true that the nature of the old man is still present in us; our having died with Christ does not result in its having no longer any existence in us, but it has no more dominion-" that henceforth we should not serve sin." There is no necessity to have even a single evil thought, although the nature which produces them still exists; but we do not in any way serve this nature, not even in thought, when the new life and the power of the Holy Spirit are active in us. The Christian is made free, not because his sins are forever pardoned, but because he is dead to sin, crucified with Christ. As dead with Christ he is justified from sin, just because he is dead; but he is also alive in Christ. It is not only true that sin has no longer dominion, but the Christian is also free to yield himself up; he possesses a new nature, a new holy life. But to whom shall he now yield himself? -to righteousness and to God. This yielding of oneself is not the act of the sinner, as is very often falsely affirmed, but that of the delivered soul. The Christian, because he is purified, justified, assured of the love and favor of God, and in possession of a conscience made perfect through the blood of Christ, in that no sin can any more be reckoned to him, is free, has boldness before God. The same blow that rent the veil removed also all his sin. Now through the rent veil the light of God shines openly upon him, to show that his garments are white as snow. He is set free from the power of sin, because Christ is his life, and, crucified with Christ, and now living by Him alone, he reckons himself dead as regards the flesh. He is free before God, and also freed from sin. In this liberty he yields himself to God.
Thus the new life, walking with God, gains already something along the way. We have fruits, even before we reach the glory, and this fruit is holiness. Blessed fruit! Beginning with being made partakers of the divine nature, we grow also in practical communion with God, by the growth of holiness in us. This growth does not set aside the truth that the new nature which we have received is perfect in itself. We belong absolutely to God, are bought with a price, separated from sin and the world. We belong to God, according to the value of the sacrifice of Christ, according to the new nature, and the power of the Holy Spirit. After the inward man we already belong to the new creation, although " we have this treasure in earthen vessels." We are in Christ, and in Him we are perfectly accepted. He is our righteousness, a righteousness which is fit for the glory; for He is in the glory according to this righteousness. But He is also in us as our life, and according to the power of the Spirit. This life in itself is perfect, and cannot sin; but we must also have a sanctifying object before us. Therefore the Holy Spirit takes what is in Christ and reveals it to us; yea, He reveals to us all that is up there where Christ is, and where the Father is also. By this we grow objectively in that which is heavenly; we are weaned from the world, live in spirit in the heavenly places, enjoy the Father's love, and become thus holy in practical ways.
We are sanctified according to the counsels of God the Father, through the sacrifice of Christ, by His blood; we are so, as to our being, because we possess a new nature, a new life; we are so by the presence and operation of the Holy Spirit; and we may add, by the word of God. The sanctification of the Spirit is brought about by our being born of God. But we must, as I have said, have an object, and the divine nature, the life which we have received, is capable of enjoying this object, God Himself. By the word the Holy Spirit communicates to us the objects that are holy and divine. We are first born anew by the word through faith; then we are nourished by the same, and the heart is purified also by faith; and, indeed the one as well as the other by the revelation of Christ in the heart-" Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.... And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth," John 17:17-1917Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (John 17:17‑19).
If we would be accurate, we could not say that the new man, the life which we have received from God, is being sanctified; for the new life itself is holy, and inasmuch as we have received it, we are sanctified for God; therefore it is that in the apostolic epistles believers are called saints. But holiness in us is relative; that is to say, it refers to God, because we cannot be independent. No doubt an actual condition is thereby produced in us; but we are not holy as independent; for it is sin for a creature to be independent, nor is it possible to be really independent. Thus holiness in us is objective; this is an important principle. All that the Holy Spirit has revealed to us-the love of the Father and of Christ, the holiness of God, the perfection of Christ, His Person which has been given to us and delivered up for us, His being glorified now in heaven- all this operates in us, and forms the heart, the thoughts, the inward and thereby also the outward man, according to the object that we contemplate. All that Christ has done and suffered is concerned in it, not only because His walk and His ways are a pattern for us, but because they engage the heart with Him. The affections of the heart are occupied with Christ and with His perfection, and He fills our hearts. That is sanctification; for this also fills the Father's heart. " Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life," John 10: 17. The Father appreciates what Christ has done, and what He was in doing it, and it was done for us. We have holy thoughts in loving and appreciating what He has done, and what He was. Thus we have in us the mind which was in Christ. It is one side of the Christian character.
But the power of sanctification is wrought in us especially by the contemplation of the glory of Christ. The heart is indeed nourished by all that He was down here; we eat His flesh and drink His blood, enjoy also the bread which came down from heaven; but what transforms us into His image (2 Cor. 3:1818But 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. (2 Corinthians 3:18); 1 John 3:2, 32Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:2‑3)) is the glory in which He now dwells. Beholding this glory we are changed into the same image. The glory of Christ produces in us the energy of life, because we count all else for loss. The life and the sufferings of Christ engage the heart with Him. (See Phil. 2 and 3.)
He has for our sakes sanctified Himself, so that we might be sanctified by the word. Wondrous grace! wondrous association! This separates us from the world, associates us with what is heavenly, and conforms us to the heavenly. The end is eternal life in this very glory, when our earthly vessels also shall have been transformed into the likeness of this glory.
With regard to holiness we learn further, in Heb. 12:1010For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. (Hebrews 12:10), that the discipline of God has for its object to make us partakers of His holiness. In this passage we discover not only the unceasing care of God, but we learn also the precious character of this holiness. We have deserved death as the mournful wages of our sad work; eternal life, the gift of God, has become ours through Jesus Christ our Lord; and this is pure grace. Who else could give us life-eternal life, divine life, but God Himself? Christ Himself is this life, sent from the Father into the world, and here revealed in manhood. Now " he that hath the Son hath life "; " he that believeth on him hath everlasting life," 1 John 1:22(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) (1 John 1:2); ch. 5: 12; John 3:3636He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36).
Although in the last verse (of our chapter) the reference is more to the result in glory, because in the counsels of God eternal life means perfect conformity to Christ in glory; yet it is none the less given to us now as life, although we are not yet in the glory. It is important for us to remark that it is the gift of God. Man had through sin earned death for himself; life, eternal life, in which we are capable of having fellowship with God, must be given of God. This life is Christ Himself;
John 1. He is the life which was with the Father, and came down here. In Him was life; he that hath the Son hath life, and this life will be fully manifested in glory. That is the principle of the new standing. We have died with Christ to the old standing, and Christ is become our life.