In mountain climbing it is a good thing to rest occasionally and look back over the land that lies below and try to catch a glimpse of the height that looms beyond. So in our ascent of the pathway to victory let us pause now for a review and an outlook.
At the outset we saw that Christianity is inseparable from the person of Christ; that He is the sum of all the doctrines of grace and the substance of all the fruit of the Spirit. Then we saw that salvation begins in deliverance from the penalty and guilt of sin and in receiving a new heart and a new spirit. Next we saw that after the birth from above comes the wilderness experience with its ceaseless struggle and inevitable defeat. Inquiring diligently for the cause of this mixed experience, we saw that it was the poison of sin. And finally, having seen what sin is, we found the antidote to be Divine holiness.
This is the review. What, now, is the outlook? Well, it is one thing to diagnose a disease and analyze the properties of its specific remedy. It is quite another thing, however, to apply the remedy and cure the disease. In other words, it is one thing to know what sin is and understand the teaching of the Scriptures concerning holiness. But it is quite another thing to conquer sin and enter upon a life of practical victory. We have seen the need and nature of sanctification: this is the land that lies below. We are now to inquire into the process whereby sanctification may become a present possession: this is the height that looms beyond. All along, however, we have been catching occasional glimpses of the "higher ground."
We have seen that the holiness of the Christian flows from vital contact with God. This contact has both a Divine and a human side. On the Divine side there are two points of contact, namely: the cross of Christ, and the work of the Spirit.
The first point of Divine contact, whereby holiness is received, is the cross of Christ; and the first step in the pathway of victory is a vision of the cross.
In Christian experience the apprehension of Divine truth comes before its appropriation and realization. Vision precedes victory. The child of God must see his spiritual inheritance before he can enter upon its actual possession. In sanctification the highlands of deliverance loom up while the believer is struggling along on the lowlands of defeat. It was thus in the typical history of the Israelites. While they were making their weary and dreary marches in the wilderness of Sinai, spies were sent over into Canaan. Twelve chosen men walked to and fro throughout the Land of Promise and brought back the grapes of Eschol as a sample of the fruitfulness of the country and as a witness to the faithfulness of Jehovah. It was thus with the man in the seventh chapter of Romans. The star of hope appeared in the midnight of despair. It was while he was struggling for deliverance from the dominion of sin that his eye caught by faith a vision of the cross with its promise and potency of victory. Triumphantly, he shouted, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
This shout of triumph gives us the keynote of deliverance. Let us try to see clearly just what the vision of victory is. It is all wrapped up in the simple phrase: "through Jesus Christ our Lord." This expression means three things: First, our identification with Christ in His crucifixion; second, our identification with Christ in His resurrection; and third, Christ's identification with us through His personal indwelling.
I. Our identification with Christ in His crucifixion.
There are two aspects in which the believer stands related to the cross of Christ, viz. substitution and identification.
Of these truths perhaps substitution is the more familiar. Christ died for us. He bore our sins on the cross. He took our place under wrath and endured the penalty which we deserved. This is the vision of the cross which comes to the helpless sinner; and when he appropriates it by faith it brings salvation from the guilt of sin. This is the meaning of "Christ our Saviour." This substitutional aspect of the cross is typified in the Old Testament by the scapegoat in the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus. Aaron laid both his hands upon the head of the scapegoat and confessed over it all the iniquities of the Children of Israel. In symbol all the transgressions of the people were put upon the head of the goat, which was afterwards led away into the wilderness to die. It was regarded as an unclean thing and its whole body was counted a mass of corruption. This was the picture which Isaiah had in mind when he exclaimed: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him (literally, caused to meet on Him) the iniquity of us all." (liii. 6.)
"Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate." (Hebrews xiii. 12.)
The second aspect of our relation to the cross-identification-needs special emphasis, because it is not well understood by all Christians. Christ died for us-that is true; but it is only half the truth. We died in Christ-that is the other half of the truth. The statement is only partially true that Christ died for us that we might escape punishment. It requires also to be said that God regards us as having been punished in Christ. To make the truth individual, in the person of my Substitute I bore the penalty of sin. In Him the law exhausted its power of death upon me. When Christ died, I died too. With reference to the claim of the law and the power of sin, I am, in the sight of God, counted as a dead man. This is what Paul meant, when he declared, "I am crucified with Christ." (Galatians ii. 20.) This also is the clear teaching of such passages as the following:
"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ, were baptised into His death?
"Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism unto death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans vi. 4, 5.)
"For he that is dead is freed (literally, justified) from sin.
"Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall live with Him." (Romans vi. 8.)
"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans vi. II.)
"Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him Who is raised from the dead, that ye should bring forth fruit unto God." (Romans vii. 4.)
"For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead. (II. Corinthians v. 14.)
"For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." (Colossians iii. 3.) "Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, Who raised Him from the dead." (Colossians ii. 12.)
II. Our indentification with Christ in His resurrection.
This is the second part of the vision of victory. In the same two aspects in which the believer stands related to the crucifixion of Christ he also stands related to His resurrection, substitution, and identification. Christ was our Substitute both in His crucifixion and in His resurrection; not only did He die for us on the cross; for us also He arose from the grave.
"Who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification." (Romans iv. 25.)
"And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain; and your faith is vain."
"And if Christ be not risen, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins."
"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept." (I. Corinthians xv. 14, 17, 20.)
Thus, the death of Christ alone would not have saved; His resurrection was necessary to complete our redemption.
Now, in His resurrection, as well as in His crucifixion, the believer is identified with Christ. This is what Paul meant when he said, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live." (Galatians ii. 20.) To make the truth personal, I died with Christ; but I also rose with Him. I was in Him when He hung on the cross and when He lay in the grave; but I was also in Him when He burst the bands of death on the morning of the resurrection. Indeed, the Apostle Paul carries the identification still farther: "Even when we were dead in sins, (God) hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace are ye saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians ii. 5, 6.) "Crucified with Christ"-this expresses the death-side of our union with the Lord. "Risen with Christ"-this expresses the life-side of our union with Him. Let us take a few verses which bring out this life-side of our union with Christ-our identification with Him in His resurrection:
"Therefore, we are buried with Him by baptism unto death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans vi. 42)
"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans vi. 11.)
"For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead (literally, all died):
"And that He died for all, that they which live should not live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again." (II. Corinthians v. 14, 15.)
"Buried with Him in baptism, wherein ye also are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, Who hath raised Him from the dead." (Colossians ii. 12.)
"If ye then be risen, with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.
"For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." (Colossians iii. 1, 3.)
III. Christ's identification with us through His personal indwelling.
This is the last part of the vision of victory and the most glorious of all. Christ Himself by the Holy Ghost, will come and dwell in our hearts and live out His own life within us. This is what Paul meant, when he said, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." (Galatians ii. 20.) This also is the clear teaching of such passages as the following:
"At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.
"He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me; and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him." (John xiv. 20, 21.)
"To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians i. 27.)
It is a glorious revelation that Christ will live in us and manifest Himself to us. Can we take in this sublime truth with its stupendous significance? The Christ Who was born as a Babe in Bethlehem; Who grew to manhood in the humble home in Nazareth; Who lived a life of holy obedience to His Father's will; Who died on the cross as a sacrifice for sin; Who ascended to heaven and seated Himself at the right hand of God as our Advocate and High Priest; and Who is coming back again to this dark and sin-cursed earth to transform it into Edenic beauty and reign in righteousness and peace-this blessed Christ of God will come into my poor heart and make His home there and live out His own life within me by the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Ghost. Surely this must be "the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ," of which the great apostle to the Gentiles speaks. (Romans xv. 29.)
This, then, is the first step in the pathway to victory. The Christian who is struggling with sin and helpless in defeat must come to see that in the thought of God he was identified with Christ in His crucifixion and in His resurrection. Indeed, the transaction on Calvary was as real as if the child of God had himself actually died and been restored to life. Paul declares that not merely a part of himself--"the carnal mind," "the flesh," or "the old man"-but rather the whole of himself, so to speak, had passed through the mysterious and mystical experience of the cross. He uses personal pronouns. Thus, of himself he says, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live." (Galatians ii. 20.) Likewise of believers he asserts, "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." (Colossians iii. 3.) Yet there is no loss of individuality. Personal identity and moral responsibility are not destroyed. Just as it is the same seed which corrupts in the ground, yet germinates in beauty and fruitfulness; so it is the same believer who is crucified with Christ, yet is also risen with Him, evermore to "walk in newness of life." (Romans vi. 4.) Not to His own death and resurrection alone, but as well to the death and resurrection of His people in Him, our Lord applied the wonderful principle of corruption and germination in nature in these words:
"Except a corn of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit.
"He that loveth his life shall lose it; but he that loseth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." (John xii. 24, 25.)
Thus, the crucifixion and resurrection of the believer with Christ are not the extinction of his individual existence, but rather its reproduction and multiplication. Moreover, the use of the personal pronoun marks the continuity of conscious life. Thus, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." (Galatians ii. 20.) Again, "If we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall live with Him." (Romans vi. 8.)
But now, if the identification of the believer with Christ in crucifixion and resurrection does not involve the loss of individuality or the destruction of personal identity and moral responsibility, what does take place? Ah! herein is one of the miracles and mysteries of redemption. The cross has a separating power. It separates us from the world, from our sins, from our sin, and from self. When by faith we identify ourselves with Christ in His death, we are released from "the carnal mind;" we are separated from "the flesh;" we are detached from the self-life; in short, we "put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts." (Ephesians iv. 22.) But the cross has a power of attachment as well as a power of detachment. While it detaches us from the old life of nature, it attaches us to the new life of grace. When by faith we identify ourselves with Christ in His resurrection, we become "renewed in the spirit of our minds;" we "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness;" and, highest of all, we "put on the Lord Jesus Christ," Who is thus "made unto us sanctification." (I. Corinthians i. 30.)
Thus, through the cross of Christ, God has made provision whereby, without the loss of individuality or the destruction of personal identity and moral responsibility, believers are detached from the old life of the flesh, and attached to the new life of the Spirit. "He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit." (I. Corinthians vi. 17.) The cross destroys the dominion of sin and the power of the flesh. Self is dethroned, and Christ is enthroned. The process is indeed mysterious and mystical, but the result is very real and practical.
Far more sublime and glorious than either eradication or suppression is the truth of the indwelling Christ. Eradication would take out of the heart the principle of sin, while suppression would keep the principle of sin bound down and in subjection in the heart. But sanctification through the indwelling Christ means that not only the principle of sin, but the heart itself in which the principle of sin resides; yea more-the very person himself in his entire being is nailed to the cross and is raised again in vital and inseparable union with the Lord. So that we may now say with Paul, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith in the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 11. 20.)
Once there lived another man within
Child of earth and slave of Satan he;
But I nailed him to the cross of Jesus,
And that man is nothing now to me.
Now Another Man is living in me,
And I count His blessed life as mine;
I have died with Him to all my own life;
I have ris'n to all His life divine.
-Rev. A. B. Simpson.
Of this two-fold identification of the believer with Christ in His death and resurrection baptism is an impressive symbolical representation. The popular conception of the ordinance of baptism is that it is a sort of badge of Christianity. Just as a member of a lodge or fraternal order receives a badge or medal as evidence of his initiation, so baptism is regarded as a sign of membership in a Christian Church. There is of course a measure of truth in this view, inasmuch as baptism is one of the marks of distinction between a believer and an unbeliever. But Christian baptism has a far deeper significance than this. Of the two ordinances of the New Testament baptism is the sign and seal of our union with Christ, and the Lord's Supper is a sign and seal of our communion with Christ.
Baptism has a two-fold significance. In the first place, it is the outward sign and visible seal of the inner work of grace wrought by the Spirit of God in regeneration. It is the testimony before the world of the fact of conversion. It is a personal confession of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord and of the decision to follow His footsteps in holy obedience. The candidate is not only baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, but he is made partaker of the Divine nature. In the New Testament the rite of baptism is connected with the grace of forgiveness. Indeed, so close is this relationship that many mistake the outward ceremony for the inward experience. But while baptism and the forgiveness of sins go together, yet the remission of sins or regeneration comes first. In fact, the rite of baptism pre-supposes that the one who is baptized has already been forgiven and been begotten from above. The relationship is similar to that between betrothal and marriage. The wedding ceremony presupposes that the two hearts have been made one by the plighted troth; otherwise, there is a wedding only in name. So the ordinance of baptism apart from the vital union of the soul with Christ becomes a mere form. But, in the second place, baptism in its deeper spiritual meaning is a symbol of death. It is not a rite of cleansing, but a type of crucifixion. Thus the Apostle Paul says:
"Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into His death?
"Therefore, we are buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans vi. 3, 4.)
"Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, Who raised Him from the dead." (Colossians ii. 12.)
Thus, baptism is a symbolical representation of the believer's death, burial, and resurrection with Christ. It is, as someone has graphically expressed it, "the funeral service of the old life." On the one hand, we are "buried with Him by baptism into death:" and on the other hand, we are "risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God," in order that "like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
Many Christians do not see this deeper meaning of baptism. Others, like the Roman disciples, come to see it subsequent to the administration of the ordinance. But some children of God see it and enter into it at the very time of their baptism. In fact, in many instances it is the desire to follow their Lord in holy obedience that leads believers to be baptized. It is, indeed, of the very highest importance to see that baptism means death and resurrection; since to the mind and heart that are thus spiritually illuminated, this fact becomes an aid to practical holiness. The believer who enters by faith, either at the time or at a later season, into the deeper significance of baptism is enabled thereby the better to realize experimentally the sanctifying power of the truth of his union with Christ in His death and resurrection.
Discouraged and despairing heart, this is the pathway to victory. Do you catch the vision? On that dark day of the crucifixion, nearly nineteen hundred years ago, you died with your Lord on Calvary and with Him were laid away in Joseph's tomb. But on that bright and glorious morning of the resurrection you stepped forth with your Lord from the open grave, evermore to "walk in newness of life." Beloved, do you not see the truth? Look! Like Moses on Nebo's lofty height the Land of Promise even now is spread out before your fainting eyes. It is true that Moses died outside the land; but it is your glorious privilege to enter in. If you have seen the vision, God will make it real. He does not mock His children with vain hopes. He does not, like the mirage of the desert, lure on the thirsting soul to disappointment and disaster. Your feet are yet to tread the Land of Promise. You are to enter into rest. You are to be set free from the law of sin and death by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. But you must see your inheritance before you can possess it. Apprehension comes first, and then appropriation. The vision precedes the victory.
It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the Christian life is a Christ-life. It is not an imitation, but an incarnation. We do not copy Christ, we reproduce Him; or, rather, He reproduces His own life within us by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost.
A young American student sat in a National Art Gallery in Europe, trying to copy a famous painting by one of the old masters. Patiently he toiled at his easel, but with unsatisfactory results. His work was a poor imitation of the original. One day he fell asleep over his canvas and as he slept he dreamed. He dreamed that the spirit of the old master took possession of his brain and hand. Eagerly he seized his brush, and rapidly reproduced the masterpiece before him. His work received the highest praise. It had the artistic finish and touch of genius of the original. At once his picture took its place among the famous paintings of the world, and the young artist himself was acclaimed as a new master. But the poor student awoke to find it all a dream, and in bitter disappointment applied himself to his fruitless task.
But, beloved, spiritually the young artist's dream may be gloriously true. We study the character of Christ as portrayed in the Gospels. We recognize that His spotless purity and perfect obedience constitute the only standard of character and conduct acceptable to God. Then we try to imitate Christ. We struggle for His spotless purity and strive after His perfect obedience. But at every turn we fail. Finally, in our discouragement and despair, God gives us the vision of the indwelling Christ. The Divine Master will live in His disciples. Inseparably He will unite Himself to us, blending His life with ours and our lives with His. Christ will think through our minds. Christ will love through our hearts. Christ will act through our wills. Christ will keep the law within us. Christ will please His Father within us. Christ will destroy the dominion of sin and the power of the flesh, dethrone self, and reign supreme in our lives. In a word, all we cannot be and all we cannot do of ourselves Christ Himself will be within us and do within us. May we not make these lines from a poem by France Ridley Havergal our prayer:
"Live out Thy life within me,
0 Jesus, King of kings;
Be Thou Thyself the answer
To all my questionings."