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THE CROSS IN EXPERIENCE.
When Christ lives within, He enables us to reckon ourselves dead to sin. Here the teaching of Romans 6 comes to the fore. In Romans 6 v4, Paul speaks of our death to sin in the person of Christ as a positive historical fact, “We died to sin: how can we live in it any longer”, and in 2 Cor. 5 v14 he says, “One died for all, and therefore all died”. Peter says, “He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2 v24), and in 1 Peter 4 v1, he combines the doctrine of judicial death to sin with practical death in one marvellous sentence, “he who has suffered in his body is done with sin”. The Lord Jesus not only died for sin, but on behalf of His sinful people, He died to it. ‘‘In that He died, He died to sin once”. He charged Himself with indwelling sin as well as with actual sin on the Cross. The wrath of God fell on both the root and the branch of evil. In that hour God finally and utterly condemned that one thing that distracts believers, sin.
When Satan tempts you to commit sin say, ‘I have once suffered for sin. I died to the power of my own indwelling sin, when Christ died to it in my stead, and I am now born of God’. These answers are scriptural and conclusive. A dead man cannot be brought into court to be tried and punished for his iniquity, neither can a dead man practise iniquity. Identified with Jesus on the Cross and in the grave, we must regard ourselves as dead to sin in Him.
In Romans 4, Paul writes that when God told Abraham that he would have a son, Abraham “faced the fact that his body was as good as dead’’ (Rom. 4 v19), that is, he believed God contrary to fact, believing that God would rearrange the fact at His own time. We are awfully alive to sin, but God comes to tell us that we are dead to it (Rom. 6 v2). This is contrary to fact, but we believe God contrary to fact, and while we are believing, the fact that is true of our Substitute and His death to sin, becomes true in our experience. The sooner we humbly and thankfully receive it as a positive fact, “that our-old self was crucified with Christ” (Rom. 6 v6) the better it will be for us. Real progress dates from our giving God credit for speaking the truth.
We must be careful not to confuse our death to sin, because of union to Christ on His Cross, with dying to sin. There is no such thing as dying to sin spoken of in all the Bible. Our glory is that we HAVE died to it. What the Holy Spirit does command is a decisive dealing, not with the old self for it is done with, but with the products of indwelling sin. Colossians 3 confirms this, “for you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God . . . put to death, THEREFORE, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Col. 3 v3, 5), (see also Rom. 8. v13). The Christian who struggles to die to sin is in a false position, and cannot triumphantly deal with sin. God’s way is just the reverse. He begins by putting us to death with Christ, and making us alive in Christ, so that we are dead to sin but are alive to God.
Now, from this most glorious vantage ground, we can more easily fight the good fight of faith against the world, the flesh and the devil. We fight as freed-men to defeat the enemy. We refuse to yield to sin and cheerfully yield to God, because we are “brought from death to life’’ (Rom. 6 v13). With the new Divine nature, with the Holy Spirit and with Jesus as our Deliverer, we are well defended and powerfully strong to face the enemy. We are clothed with over-coming power against all that is of “sin in the flesh”. It matters comparatively little that sin is in our nature, so long as we “are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit” (Rom. 8 v9). Paul writes, “you have taken off your old self . . . and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Col. 3 v9-10). As a heaven-born child of God we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, who lives out His victorious life in us.
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