Why Did Christ Die?
A Message Given on August 10, 1902 at Northfield.
Probably almost as many different answers might be given to this question as there are different Christian hearts in the world.
But there are three statements in the epistles of Paul to the Romans, to the Corinthians, and to the Thessalonians, which give us three answers to this supreme question.
Romans xiv. 7-9: "None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord, both of the dead and living."
LORD OF THE DEAD AND LIVING.
This fact is stated as a reason for a certain sort of life and course of conduct in us. Christ died that He might be absolute Lord of our lives, so that we might belong to Him so completely that whether we live or die, we are His. In every breath, in every act, in every movement of our life, in death, we no longer belong to ourselves, but to the Lord; He died that this might be so. Some years ago, I visited in the home of Dr. Handley Moule, the present Bishop of Durham, at Cambridge, England, and in his library, I noticed a little illuminated card on the wall that impressed me quite a good deal. It was a very simple card in a very simple frame, with these four words illumined in beautiful letters, "I believe and I belong." The connection is very deep and wonderful. Because we believe, we belong, belong to Him; and because we belong to Him, He belongs to us.
There are different ways of belonging. A child belongs to the father because its very life is his. The slave belongs to his master because he has been purchased. But there is a deeper way of belonging than either of these. The friend belongs to the friend, and the wife belongs to the husband because of a voluntary surrender, of a voluntary choice and reciprocation of love that has made the union possible. This is the belonging of one life to another based upon love and the free choice of the will. In all these ways, we belong to Jesus Christ. We belong to Him because we are His by creation; all that we are and have is from Him. We belong to Him by the purchase of His precious blood; He is our absolute Lord and Master. But more than that, we belong to Him because we have given ourselves to Him in love and by the voluntary act of our own will.
But look for a moment upon the other side. The child belongs to the father, but the father also belongs to the child. The slave belongs to the master, but the master also belongs to the slave. There is responsibility there. The father is bound to provide for the child, and to love and nurture the child, because the child belongs to him. The master is responsible to care for the slave because the slave belongs to him. The wife belongs to the husband because of having given herself freely to him, and he belongs to her. So, all the fullness of the infinite God is ours in Christ because He died to make it so. The moment we belong to Him, He belongs to us.
That is a very simple truth, but I wonder whether we are all living as those who belong to Jesus Christ, and to whom He belongs? Are we living as men and women to-day possessed of the infinite fullness of Jesus Christ? "In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and in Him ye are made full." Is that true to-day in our experience? Is there no sense of emptiness or weakness, failure or shortcoming, in our lives? The moment we put ourselves absolutely into His hands without reserve, without calculation, simply recognizing this fact, that He died that we might belong to Him, that moment, He becomes unreservedly ours, and all that He is and has is ours to draw upon continuously all the time. Draw upon it; make it real in practical experience.
LIVE UNTO HIM.
Another answer to this question is found in II. Cor. v. 15: " The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead, and that He died for all, that they which live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again."
Here is something further. He died not only that we might belong to Him, but that we might live unto Him. Are we fulfilling the desire of the great heart of Jesus Christ? Are we living unto Him, not merely passively, but as those who actively and earnestly devote every moment to Him Who died that they should live unto Him?
In the seventeenth verse, we find a wonderful expression: ''Therefore,"—because He died to make this so—"if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.'' In a new light, old things are continually transformed by the radiance from His presence; we live unto Him. Living, to most of us, means one little activity after another with a few great thoughts and deeds put in here and there. One of the deeper reasons for the infinite sacrifice of Christ was this: that in all those little things of every day, we should live unto Him.
There are a good many young Christians who are living in a whirl of social Iife and business, and meeting with a great many temptations. What is it for them to live unto Him? It means that in their engagements, no engagement shall be made that is not made for His glory; no pleasure is entered into in which we cannot glorify Him. We read no book that we cannot read unto Him, as though He were reading it with us. We write no letter that we cannot write unto Him. In our money expenditure, it is all unto Him, for it is all His. He died that we might live like this. How much we overlook the practical application of these things. It means that our children do not belong to us, but to Him, and that we are to train them unto Him. It means that our business belongs to Him. and that we enter into no enterprises that we cannot carry out as unto Him. It means that we go nowhere that we cannot go with Him, and undertake nothing in which He cannot work with us. It includes everything in every detail of every hour of every day.
LIVE TOGETHER WITH HIM.
Let us now turn to the third passage. In I Thessalonians v. 10, we find another reason why He died, perhaps the deepest of all:—"Our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him."
Are you satisfied with anything less than that? Is your life, is mine, a constant living together with Him, every moment, whether we wake or sleep? How often we go on from day to day, pretty well satisfied with very much less than that; perhaps meeting the Lord Jesus in conventions or on Sunday, perhaps even for an hour or half an hour each day, but all the rest of the time, we are not together with Him. But He never can be satisfied with that. One of the great compelling motives that led the infinite God to the cross was that He might win to Himself our lives so completely that, whether waking or sleeping, we should live all the time together with Him. His infinite heart in some wonderful way, yearned so for the love and the constant companionship of your heart and of mine, that He died to win that fellowship, that we should live all the time, waking or sleeping, together with Him.
In the great intercessory prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ for His people, there are only four petitions. Think of that. When He was just about to leave His people to all the temptations and dangers of a long interval before He should return again, when He was going back to the Father, never more to be with them face to face as He had been all those years, He prayed only four petitions for them. Do you not think that they must be the four most essential things? May I bring to your recollection, the last of those four petitions? Going to the cross, with His face steadlfastly set toward Calvary, and the shadow of it upon Him already, He prayed, "Father, I will that those whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am." That was the hope that shone brightly in that hour upon the Saviour's heart. We cannot understand it; we do not know why He should want the companionship of our hearts every day, but He does, He does; and that was one of the great reasons why He died. Hear it again, "Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.''
If that is His desire, shall it not be ours? If He sacrificed so much to win that end, shall we not be prepared to make the little constant daily sacrifice involved; the sacrifice of a little time, of a little thought, of a definite giving ourselves to Him? It takes a little time for drawing to the Lord every day for prayer, for fellowship, for coming together with Him.
A few verses before this, speak about the time when the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, and we shall be caught up together with those that have been raised from the dead, to meet the Lord in the air, and "so shall we ever be with the Lord." That is the end to which we are all moving. That is heaven, to be together with Him forever. That experience may come to us every hour of every day. I want to waken every morning with the sense of another day in which to meet the Lord, and to go out into the experiences of that new day, definitely to meet the Lord, and in every hour of that day, in every fresh duty, pleasure, or engagement, in every detail of life, to go to meet the Lord, as we shall at last he caught up to be with Him forever. This is possible. This is that for which He died. This is what the Holy Spirit has come to bring about. Shall we not seek this life, seek it more than anything else? Shall we not seek it in our joys and in our sorrows, in our work, in everything that comes to us? Shall we not seek it to-day and now, so that all our life may be spent together with Him, and that last great change, as we call it sometimes, will be no change at all; only the full completion of what has been the experience of every day and every hour?
"Northfield Echoes" 1902