The Death of Christ and the Life of the Believer.
by W. J. Grant
I was never more impressed than I have been of late with the present object of the death of Christ; and I would ask you to turn to seven scriptures, all of which bring that object before us.
First.—As to the object of God in giving His Son.
Second.—As to the object of the Son of God in giving Himself.
Third.—As to the object of the Spirit-moved child of God, in response to the heart of both the Father and of the Son.
1. John 3. 16: There you have the object of God in the giving of His Son—"that whosoever believeth in Him should . . . have everlasting life." "Eternal life"—not the mere "forgiveness" of our sins, not "justification," not "not perishing;" but something positive, tremendously positive, tremendously personal, tremendously experimental, tremendously sensible: LIFE, present life, spiritual life, heavenly life, divine life.
2. 1 John 4. 9: There again the purpose of God in the giving of His Son comes before us—"that we might live through Him"—life, present life through Him, the given One. The next verse gives us the marvellous display of love, God sending His Son as "propitiation for our sins." The Apostle first presents to us the object of the Cross before he presents to us the Cross itself. The Spirit of God would thus fix that end indelibly upon our consciences and hearts—"that we might live through Him." And mark, that is the end of God "giving," and God "gave" long before He "gave up.” He "gave" His Son in the past eternity, in the counsel of His heart; and all down the preceding ages, He was giving His Son, in all the types of Israel, in every sacrifice placed on the altar, He was giving His Son; and then when the hour at last came, He "gave up" His Son—"He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up" (Rom. 8. 32). The word in the original is the same—in its simple form it expresses the intensified idea of "giving up." The Revisers have well looked at the difference between the two: "Who loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Gal. 2. 20); "Christ loved the Church, and He gave Himself up for it" (Eph. 5. 25). Thus then, God has "given" and "given up" His Son, "that we might live through Him" is the object to be realized, or is it not? What shall the answer be?
3. Gal. 1. 3-4: This brings before us the object of Christ in the giving of Himself—"Who gave Himself"—not "gave up"—He simply "gave Himself for our sins." O beloved, we are very costly! We have been estimated in the office of the great valuer and we are valued thus—"Who gave Himself for our sins." O, how costly the sins of God's people have been! Am I going to love one indulgent habit, one flesh-pleasing habit, one flesh-pleasing thought or desire—am I to love one that cost my Substitute so much? "Who gave Himself for our sins." But for what? "That He might deliver us (take us out for Himself, for His own possession) from this present evil age"—"evil" in every sense of the word, for its principles and practices and pursuits are evil. What have we to do with this present evil age? We live in It, but we are not of it; we are sons of a coming age, and we must bring the character and walk of that future age into the present; and that will make us "foreigners" indeed, in feeling, in desire, in speech, in conduct—a foreign element recognizable by the children of this age. And all this, adds the Apostle, "according to the will of God and our Father."
4. Titus 2. 13-14: In this scripture, we have the object of Christ in the giving of Himself, still more fully expressed—"Our Saviour Jesus Christ Who gave”—not "gave up"—"Himself for us." Notice this now: "our Saviour Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself"—not for our sins—but now "for us," for us the sinners, that we might be sinners no longer. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5. 8), but now we are to be sinners practically no longer. "Who gave Himself for us that He might" accomplish two objects—the one, a judicial object, and the other, a moral or spiritual one; and notice that the judicial and the moral ever go together, like coal and iron in the same geological formation. First comes the legal or judicial object—"that He might redeem us from all iniquity.” We are the legal bondservants of "all iniquity;" just as in Rom. 6., so here. We needed "redemption;" we needed the legal price, the ransom price, paid down fully to “all lawlessness"—lawlessness, whether in the world, in the church, in the family, or in the individual heart. We had better begin with the individual; and if the lawlessness is overthrown in the individual, its overthrow will soon follow in the family, in the world, in the church of God. "That He might buy us back from all lawlessness;'' that is the legal object and that is the first one. But then the Spirit does not leave us there; He leads us to the experimental, the moral object also—"and purify unto Himself, a people for His own possession." Ah! my brother, "You are not your own:" the house is bought, and the new proprietor wants to occupy it Himself; He is not going to "let" it; He never bought a house to let it yet. Ah! no! wherever our Lord Jesus Christ makes an investment of that kind, it is always for self-occupation. "Zealous of good works." Oh! I tell you the "good works" will soon follow if this second object be realized; we shall soon have plenty of worship and praise and thanksgiving, plenty of prayer and supplication and intercession, plenty of reading of the Word of God, of meditation, of individual private ministry, one to another, plenty of godly ministry in the assembly, plenty of real communion with the Father and with the Son and with one another, plenty of testimony to the world,—plenty of "good works." Now comes the purifying One,—the HOLY SPIRIT present in us. Shall we allow Him to carry out the purpose of the Son? In this scripture, there is the "appearing of the grace" and the "appearing of the glory;" and we are shut up to living this life of faith in the Son of God right between the two "appearings,” between the appearing of the grace and the appearing of the glory.
5. 2 Cor. 5. 14-15: Now we are brought to ourselves. "The love of Christ constraineth us"—it leads us to "judge thus"—it keeps as taking this view; and here the believer is seen as coinciding with the object of God, with the object of Christ, in the sacrifice of the Cross, in forming the same judgment as God has formed, the same judgment as Christ has formed. And what is it? That “One died for all" It has been said, and said rightly too, "for all His people." I believe we might carry it still further and say that one Man died for all men, and that in a sense, God looks upon all men as dead in Christ; hence there is salvation for all if they would only have it, because there is One Who has made atonement for all. But O, how few of the millions of the human race for whom the one Man died, respond to the love of His heart as He hung on the Cross! Indeed, there are only a few among God's people who are "constrained with the love of Christ" To take this view of it—"I see I am a dead man, I never saw it before; whatever I was as a sinner, I died in the death of that one Man. This is my opinion of the subject, a divinely given opinion, a Spirit-imparted opinion. I judge that if "One died for all" I am among the "all," and I died in the death of that one Man." But more—"That they which live, should not henceforth live unto themselves"—that is, as the object of their life—"but unto Him who for their sakes, died and rose again." Up to the moment that you and I were linked with Christ, self was the object of our life; we felt, thought, spoke and acted for self. "But (now) unto Him." Have we reached that point? Have we as much response to the heart of God and the desire of His Son, that we take this view, that the very object for which Christ died was that I should no longer live to myself, but to Him who died for me and rose again?
6. 1 Peter 4. 1-2: This brings us further—to the point of divine determination, so that, so far as I am concerned, this object shall be carried into effect. Please notice this wonderful scripture: "Forasmuch then . . . same mind." What mind? what purpose? what determination? the determination to "suffer." Oh! brethren, our blessed One armed Himself with the determination to do the will of God to the very uttermost, to the very death, the death of a cross. Was not He so clad in heavenly armour of holy invincible determination, that when, through the lips of His own disciple Peter, "That be far from Thee, Lord," the great adversary would turn Him aside from the will of Him that sent Him? He said, "Get thee behind me Satan"—"I know who it is that is addressing Me, you are a stumbling block in my way;" and so He "set His face as a flint" to go to Jerusalem—to Gethsemane—to Calvary; and thither He went, till He could say "It Is finished." Now, says the apostle Peter, if you are going to respond to the purpose of Christ in His marvellous sacrifice, you must be armed with the same determination, "Arm yourselves with the same mind,” the mind to suffer, the mind to go to the Cross with Christ, the mind personally and practically to suffer for Him, to die unto sin, that you may live unto God. Is it possible, that in the Word of God, any are said "to cease to sin"? You and I may and must say "no" to self, however pressing, urgent, clamorous the desire of nature may be, if that desire Is contrary to the will of God. Self-denial always means experimental "suffering'' and "self-denial," be observed, is the very first foundation stone of true "discipleship;" for, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matt. 16. 24). And what is to be the object of this arming? That I should "no longer live the rest of my time in the flesh (in this sinful mortal body) to the lusts of men but to the will of God." There we have the believer brought not only to the judgment that I died with Christ as my representative, but more than this, to a positive determination that I will go and die with Him.
7. Gal. 2. 20: This, the last passage, gives us the case of one in whom this purpose was actually fulfilled. Wonderful scripture! "I am crucified with Christ." Here Paul tells us, not as an Apostle but as a Christian, what his position, what his experience is; for I take it that when he says, "I am crucified with Christ," he sets before you and me, not merely his judicial position as executed with Christ, but also his experimental condition as crucified practically with Him, faithfully suffering this death unto sin moment by moment, that "dying daily" of which he speaks in 1 Cor., 15. 31. Oh! it is as much as to say, "If you Galatians want to find Saul of Tarsus, you will find him on the cross." Ah! brethren, we often pray to be kept "near the cross" and speak about being "near the cross"; but I do not think Paul ever speaks about being near the cross; but always speaks about being on the cross—"I have been crucified with Christ; there is my place in judgment, my place representatively and my place in present experience, too." "Our old man was crucified with Him"—that is history (Rom. 6); "I am crucified"—that is present experience. “I have been crucified." And what is the issue? "It is no longer I, it Is no longer I Saul that lives, but Christ that liveth in me." What a beautiful definition of the Christian life; for the Christian life is simply the life of Christ reproduced in us by the power of the Spirit of Christ! It is not you or I trying to imitate Christ. That word "try" is a Satanic intrusion into the vocabulary of many Christians, we must have it struck out; it is not found in the vocabulary of God; it belongs to Egypt. I cannot live the life of one fellow saint, for each one must live his own life, and there is only one that can live the Christ-life and that is Christ Himself; but He undertakes to live it in you and me. Let Him do His own work in the power of the Spirit that dwelleth in us. "The life that I now live, I live through faith, in faith, that is, in the Son of God." Blessed title! Not faith in Jesus, nor even faith in the Lord Jesus, but faith in the Son of God raised from the dead. The power that raised Him from the dead can impart the same divine life to us and keep us alive in the midst of surrounding death. If I want any assurance or guarantee that He will continue to supply this divine life, I find it in this, that He "gave Himself up for me;" and as I look at Calvary and see Him giving Himself up to die for me, can I doubt for one moment that the same heart of love will now lead Him to give Himself up to live in me in the power of the indwelling Spirit?
In all these seven scriptures, we see that the one present object of the grace of God and the gift of Christ, is that you and I should respond thereto with a Christ-like life even now. While so much is said in Scripture on the present object of the death of Christ, very little comparatively is said in the Word of God as to the full and ultimate object in a coming day; that will be all right if the present object be graciously and faithfully fulfilled in us. Remember beloved, that for this, Christ has died, and for this, the Spirit of God has come to indwell you and me; and now, if we are only wise and simple enough to give ourselves over to the power and faithfulness of that indwelling Spirit, He will, through the Word read, meditated on and obeyed, through fellowship with God at the throne, through fellowship with Spirit-led saints, and through the furnace of affliction, He will, I say, work out this present, spiritual, moral, glorious purpose of God to the praise of God and the gratification of the heart that suffered once for us, and to our own and others' present and eternal blessing. God grant that this may be so in us all!
"The Believer's Magazine" 1946