The Final Stage of Restoration–The Crucified Body
We now turn our attention to the area of our daily living. It has been wonderful to have the disturbing questions of our past and future settled, for, however the world may try to hide it, until we have that settled, it is true of all men that “through fear of death we are all our lifetime subject to bondage.” However, we live not in the past or future, but in the present. Have we an answer for its immediate needs? Yes we have, we are boldly asserting, or we would not now be talking it over.
Paul puts it quite simply as he directs our attention from past to present needs. He asks the question, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” In other words, what about our present condition? Let us get down to brass tacks about our daily lives. Have we a genuine one-hundred-percent life-level which matches the kind of statements scattered throughout the New Testament: “joy unspeakable and full of glory”; “peace that passeth understanding”; “having all sufficiency in all things that we may abound unto every good work”; “reigning in life”; “more than conquerors”; “out of our innermost being flow rivers of living water”; “perfect love”? Or is there only a hit-and-miss attempt at such standards, with more miss than hit? (And we all know there is more miss than hit.) Paul does not shrink from a face-to-face tackling of such questions. He provides us with both a total answer and the basis for that answer. It is best given in his famous Romans 6-8 chapters, into which I personally have never tired of digging further and further until I have at last come up with what I believe is the right understanding and application of what he is saying. It has taken me a long time to be simple enough to let into my head and heart what Paul is really saying, and not what I might think he is saying. The very fact that he adds these chapters to his completed new-birth presentation in chapters 3-5 shows that he realized the matter of full, present “total living” in our new Christ-relationship needed some more thorough examination and explanation—a further turning of the key in the lock–to establish us solidly in Christ as the new person we are.
He again hangs his answer round the final completion of the operations of Moses’ law on us. He explains how in our newfound sincerity, with a zeal to live consistently (as we should) on totally holy and righteous standards—walking as He walked, loving as He loved—we find ourselves in a struggle between flesh and spirit. We know the law and its commandments; we aspire and we strive; but we largely and disgustingly fail. What we should do, we don’t do; and what we hate, we do!
That, as Paul says, is because we have by no means yet been enlightened and experienced the “total exchange” which has taken place in our identification with Christ in His death and resurrection. First of all, we never had it clear about the totality of our former identification with that false deity who had stolen us as his dwelling place—that we were never anything but individual expressions of him, manifesting his nature, not our own. So our present confusion and ineffective living stems right back to that as its source. We have always felt at home with the idea that we are “self-running selves”: that we ourselves are responsible for the good and evil in our lives.
Because we were blind to our condition, God in His grace first sent the law through Moses to expose our bondage and reveal to us the nature of the false deity expressing himself through us. In this first exposure, however, we saw no more than the sins we had committed—the breaking of outer laws—and by no means did we penetrate within ourselves to note the sin nature—Satan’s nature expressed by us. Therefore our first response to the greatness of grace shown in our Lord Jesus Christ was simply to recognize our outer sinfulness, to believe that our guilt and curse had been removed by His shed blood, and to rejoice that God would remember our sins against us no more, as guaranteed by His resurrection.
But what we did not know then (and were not within reach of understanding) was that this was no real salvation if it delivered us merely from the outer penalty of our sins but left us as “vessels of wrath”—still containers of the inner sin-person, that old serpent the devil, still reproducing his evil fruit by us. Complete salvation must rid us of producer as well as product, cause as well as effect, sin as well as sins.
This total salvation—the totality of Christ’s cross-redemption–is the deeper discovery which Paul himself didn’t see in its full implication until he lived three years in Arabia. This is what he speaks of in his Galatian letter as the gospel which “I neither received of man, nor was I taught it, but [I received it] by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” That revelation was centered around not the blood but the physical body of Jesus on the cross. And what is the importance of that? It is because a living body is the dwelling place of the spirit, and therefore when a body dies, the spirit is no longer in it.
Therefore Paul (when writing to the Corinthians for whom he was an intercessor, and thus having insight into the full meaning of the Savior’s intercession for the world) opened up its total significance as no other did. “We are convinced,” he in effect wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, “that when the Savior died on our behalf it was a body death, and this means that if He died for all, then we all died.”And what did His body represent before God? Paul tells us in verse 21 that “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us.” Please note: sin is not sins. By His shed blood He “bore away our sins,” but in His crucified body He “was made sin.” This is fantastically deeper than “bearing our sins,” wonderful though that was. “Made sin” is almost unthinkable; for sin is Satan’s label, just as we might say love is God’s. Satan is, as it were, Mr. Sin, the spirit of error. Where does the spirit of error live? In human bodies, ever since Adam and Eve partook of that forbidden fruit. So when Jesus in His body hung on the cross, “made sin,” that body represented all the bodies of humanity, which are all containers of sin. Yes, He in His body on the cross was made the representative for all the bodies of the human race having Satan, sin’s originator, living within.
There that body died and was buried. When a body dies, the burial is to make it plain that no spirit remains in it. And so it is that Paul can so authoritatively state in Romans 6: “…in that He died, He died unto sin once”—not, in this context, died for our sins, but died unto sin. (That is why the blood is not mentioned by Paul after Romans chapter 5. From there onward the subject is His body death.) Christ’s burial was to signify in plainest terms that no spirit remained in it.
So now Paul just as boldly states that we believers, being buried with Him, are “dead to sin”–a truth way beyond being only cleansed from sins. We are no longer containers of sin (the same thought as being containers of Satan), and we are to state this truth and affirm it as completely as we state and affirm that we are justified from our sins. “The body of sin” is “done away with” (Rom. 6:6 NASV) meaning that our bodies are no longer sin’s dwelling place. And we are to reckon this as fact (Rom. 6:11).
Many of us commonly use “reckon” to imply uncertainty. If, with a book in his hand, someone says to you “I reckon I have a book in my hand,” he is likely implying to you that though he believes it is a book, yet he is not absolutely sure. Were he sure, he would just say “I have a book.” But in the Bible, reckoning means considering as actual. To reckon a thing to be so, to count on it as fact, is the first stage of faith that affirms. And “reckoning” will later become “realizing”– which is faith confirmed. But we must start with the reckoning!
But to consider myself dead to sin is no light thing, especially when I do not yet appear to experience it. We hesitate to declare “I am dead to sin,” because we are thinking about how often sin still seems to turn up in us. But the issue is plain. Will we obey God’s Word? In this same chapter, Paul says that we have “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto us.” Have we, really? So let us “go to it” and be sure we boldly affirm and declare what His Word says we are. Let us not compromise (as many folks do–even teachers of the Bible) and seek to get around this by saying it is our “position” but not yet our “condition”—a lovely little evangelical wriggle. Let us rather obey, and declare what we are told to recognize, attend to, and say. Then let us go further, after our word of faith and obedience, and find out how this is a present fact in condition as well as position.
But if it is a fact that we are dead to sin, then it is also a fact that we are “alive unto God through our Lord Jesus” (6:11b). As the spirit of error (Jesus “made sin”–2 Cor. 5:21) went out of that representative body when Jesus died, so also the Spirit of truth entered in three days later—and therefore the Spirit has entered us through Christ’s bodily resurrection. We see the vastness of the implication of that because, for that reason, we who were called the “old man” because of the “old” spirit of sin in us, now are called the “new man” because of the “new” Spirit of the living God in us.
The man, our human self, has not changed. But the old indwelling deity, of whom the man was but the expression, has been totally replaced by Another. And thus–with our whole self totally and solely at His disposal–we joyfully recognize our new Owner. Because of His new management within us, the old owner, Satan, has no control over us. He can shout at us from without, but he has no further place within. We have changed bosses! We are in the employment of a new Firm!