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Union with Christ in Death and Resurrection.
By Mrs Jessie Penn-Lewis
My theme is the ‘Deeper aspect of the Death of Christ, in its bearing upon the present hour’. It does intensely bear upon the present hour, for unless we get down to the bed-rock meaning of the Cross in actual, living experience, we shall be unable to stand against the pressure of the world, the flesh, and the devil in the present state of things in the world.
There are three main aspects of the death of Christ, which it is important clearly to recognize as being distinct the one from the other.
1. The first is the objective fact of our identification with Christ in His death, so that we are said to have utterly and entirely died in Him as our substitute. We find this set forth in Romans 6v1-6.
2. The second is the subjective, or experimental, outworking of the first - the ‘making to die’ the ‘doings of the body’, which means the
application of the death of Christ to the believer ‘through the Spirit’ (Romans 8v13).
3. Then we have the third aspect which follows when the life of Christ imparted to us on the basis of our death union with Him, is brought into full maturity. This we find referred to in Philippians 3v 10, where, in ‘the power of His resurrection’, we enter into the ‘fellowship of His sufferings’ for the Church, and are made ‘conformable to His death’. ‘For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be made like to the pattern of His Son, that many brethren might be joined to Him, the firstborn’ (Romans 8v29). ‘Like in suffering’ is the footnote to Conybeare’s rendering, with a reference to Philippians 3v10.
Identification with His death.
Let us turn to Romans 6 for the basic fact of our identification with Christ in His death. Note the words ‘His death’. ‘How shall we that are dead’(v2); ‘Baptized into His Death’(v3) ‘He that is dead’(v7); ‘If we be dead’(v8). The Lexicon says that here the word ‘to die’, in the Greek, has a prefix rendering the verb vivid and intense, representing an action that is consummated and finished. The same word is used in 2 Corinthians 5v14, ‘If one died for all, then were all dead’. Again in Colossians 2v20, ‘If ye be dead with Christ’, and Colossians 3v3, ‘For ye are dead’.
Let us face again what this means. Plainly and clearly that the believer is so identified with Christ in His death that when Christ died, in the eye of God he died. In brief, ‘when He went to Calvary, He took the sinner too!’ The language of the Greek original is quite plain, and in every passage repeated, ‘If we be dead’, ‘for ye are dead’ at least six times. (See Romans 6v2, 7 & 8; 2Corinthians 5v14; Colossians 2v20 & 3v3; 2Timothy 2v11.)
This makes the objective fact of our identification with Christ in His death quite clear. There is no ‘process of death’ referred to in these passages. Nothing of the ‘subjective’. That comes in elsewhere. My concern now is to stress the objective fact to be as plainly stated as the substitionary meaning of the Cross, where we understand that Christ was made sin for us, and bore our sins in His own body on the tree.
But you say, ‘I have known and seen this for years but it does not appear to make any difference in my life’. Here comes in the need of recognising the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit of Revelation. There are a large number of God’s children in these last years who have been accepting the ‘truth’ of death with Christ, but it has not come to them in the power of the Holy Spirit. They say that they are ‘crucified with Christ’, but they know that for some cause they cannot fathom, the acceptance of this truth has not made the difference to them in practical life which they had expected. One reason is that, in some cases, the truth has been received only by the mind, apart from that deep surrender to God which is necessary for the working of the Holy Spirit in the life, as well as for His unveiling of the ‘eyes of the heart’(Ephesians 1v18) of the believer of all that the death and resurrection of Christ meant in the purposes of God.
Another reason why many have not realized the power of the truth is that they confuse the objective fact of their death with Christ with the subjective outworking of it. The Scripture tells you to ‘work out your own salvation’, but those of you who are properly instructed know that we ‘work out our own salvation’ only after we have received it through the blood of Christ. Exactly in the same way, we must first apprehend, through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, that we have died together with Christ when He hung on the Cross, and on the basis of that fact, proceed to ‘work it out’. Not understanding this subjective ‘working out’, many let go the objective fact they have really apprehended, saying ‘it doesn’t work’.