22. Like Christ: In The Likeness Of His Death.
"For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of resurrection.óFor in that He died, He died unto sin once.óLikewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead onto sin, but alive unto God in Jesus Christ our Lord."óRom. 6:5, 10, 11.
It is to the death of Christ we owe our salvation. The better we understand the meaning of that death, the richer will be our experience of its power. In these words we are taught what it is to be one with Christ in the likeness of His death. Let every one who truly longs to be like Christ in his life, seek to understand aright what the likeness of His death means.
Christ had a double work to accomplish in His death. The one was, to work out righteousness for us, the other to obtain life for us. When Scripture speaks of the first part of this work, it uses the expression, Christ died for our sin: He took sin upon Himself, bore its punishment; so He made atonement, and brought in a righteousness in which we could stand before God. When Scripture speaks of the second part of this work, it uses the expression: He died to sin. Dying for sin has reference to the judicial relation between Him and sin: God laid our sin upon Him: through His death atonement is made for im before God. Dying to sin has reference to a personal relation: through His death the connection in which He stood to sin was entirely dissolved. During His life had great power to cause Him conflict and suffering: His death made an end of this. Sin had now no more power to tempt or to hurt Him. He was beyond its reach. Death had completely separated between Him and sin. Christ died to sin.
Like Christ, the believer too has died to sin; he is one with Him, in the likeness of His death. And as the knowledge that Christ died for sin as our atonement is indispensable to our justification so the knowledge that Christ, and we with Him in the likeness of His death, are dead to sin, is indispensable to our sanctification. Let us endeavour to understand this.
It was as the second Adam that Christ died. With the first Adam we had been planted together in the likeness of his death: he died, and we with him, and the power of his death works in us; we have in very deed died in him, as truly as he himself died . We understand this. Just so we are one plant with Christ in the likeness of His death: He died to sin, and we in Him; and now the power of His death works in us. We are indeed dead to sin, as truly so as He Himself is.
Through our first birth we were made partakers in Adamís death; through our second birth we become partakers in the death of the second Adam. Every believer who accepts of Christ is partaker of the power of His death, and is dead to sin. But a believer may have much of which he is ignorant. Most believers are in their conversion so occupied with Christís death for sin as their justification, that they do not seek to know what it means, that in Him they are dead to sin. When they first learn to feel their need of Him as their sanctification, then the desire is awakened to understand this likeness of His death. They find the secret of holiness in it: that as Christ, so they also have died to sin.
The Christian who does not understand this always imagines that sin is too strong for Him, that sin has still power over him, and that he must sometimes obey it. But he thinks this because he does not know that he, like Christ, is dead to sin. If he but believed and understood what this means, his language would be, "Christ has died to sin. Sin has nothing more to say to Him. In His life and death sin had power over Him: it was sin that caused Him the sufferings of the cross, and the humiliation of the grave. But He is dead to sin: it has lost all claim over Him, He is entirely and for ever freed from its power. Even so I as a believer. The new life that is in me, is the life of Christ from the dead, a life that has been begotten through death, a life that is entirely dead to sin." The believer as a new creature in Christ Jesus can glory and say: "like Christ I am dead to sin. Sin has no right or power over me whatever. I am freed from it, therefore I need not sin."
And if the believer still sins, it is because he does not use his privilege to live as one who is dead to sin. Through ignorance or unwatchfulness or unbelief, he forgets the meaning and the power of this likeness of Christís death, and sins. But if he holds fast what his participation with Christís death signifies, he has the power to overcome sin. He marks well that it is not said, "sin is dead." No, sin is not dead; sin lives and works still in the flesh. But he himself is dead to sin, and alive to God; and so sin cannot for a single moment, without his consent, have dominion over him. If he sin, it is because he allows it to reign, and submits himself to obey it.
Beloved Christian, who seekest to be like Christ, take the likeness of His death as one of the most glorious parts of the life you covet. Appropriate it first of all in faith. Reckon that you are indeed dead to sin. Let it be a settled thing; God says it to every one of His children, even the weakest; say it before Him too: "Like Christ I am dead to sin." Fear not to say it; it is the truth. Ask the Holy Spirit earnestly to enlighten you with regard to this part of your union with Christ, so that it may not only be a doctrine, but power and truth.
Endeavour to understand more deeply what it says to live as dead to sin, as one who, in dying, has been freed from its dominion, and who can now reign in life through Jesus Christ over it. Then there will follow upon the likeness of His death, accepted in faith, the conformity to His death (Phil. 3.),
And in order to have the full benefit of this likeness of Christís death, notice particularly two things. The one is the obligation under which it brings you, "How shall we who are dead to sin live any longer therein?" Endeavour to enter more deeply into the meaning of this death of Christ into which you have been baptized. His death meant: Rather die than sin: willing to die in order to overcome sin: dead, and therefore released from the power of sin. Let this also be your position: "Know ye not, that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?" Let the Holy Spirit baptize you continually deeper into His death, until the power of Godís Word, dead to sin until the conformity to Christís death, is discernible in all your walk and conversation.
The other lesson is this: The likeness of Christís death is not only an obligation but a power. O Christian longing to be Christ-like, if there be one thing you need more than and above all else, it is this: to know the exceeding greatness of Godís power that worketh in you. It was in the power of eternity that Christ in His death wrestled with the powers of hell and conquered. You have part with Christ in His death; you have part in all the powers by which He conquered. Yield yourself joyfully and believingly to be led more deeply into the conformity to Christís death, then you cannot but become like Him.
O my Lord! how little I have understood Thy grace. I have often read the words, "planted into the likeness of His death," and seen that as Thou didst die to sin, so it is said to Thy believing people, "Likewise also ye." But I have not understood its power. And so it came that, not knowing the likeness of Thy death, I knew not that I was free from the power of sin, and as a conqueror could have dominion over it. Lord, Thou hast indeed opened to me a glorious prospect. The man who believingly accepts the likeness of Thy death, and according to Thy Word reckons himself dead to sinósin shall not have dominion over him; he has power to live for God.
Lord, let Thy Holy Spirit reveal this to me more perfectly. I wish to take Thy word in simple faith, to take the position Thou assignest me as one who in Thee is dead to sin. Lord, in Thee I am dead to sin. Teach me to hold it fast, or rather to hold Thee fast in faith, until my whole life is a proof of it. O Lord, take me up and keep me in communion with Thyself, that, abiding in Thee, I may find in Thee the death unto sin and the life unto God. Amen.
At a meeting of ministers, where these words in Rom. 6:11 were being discussed, the question was asked by the reader, which of the five different thoughts of the verse was the most important. He pointed out what these thoughts were. The first, likewise also ye, suggesting the complete likeness to Him of whom it had just been said, "In that He died, He died unto sin once; in that He liveth, He liveth unto God." The second, reckon yourselves, the command in which the duty of a large but simple faith is laid upon us. Then, dead indeed to sin, the truth in which the teaching of the previous verses is summed up. Next, alive unto God, the never-failing accompaniment and the blessing of the death to sin. And then, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in Him who is ever root and centre of all Scripture teaching. Which of these clauses must be considered as that the right understanding of which is most essential to the full experience of the whole?
The first answer was at once given, "dead unto sin." It is certainly this expression, the leader remarked, that above all has created such deep interest in this verse, and stirred so much earnest striving to realize what it implies. And yet it does not appear to me the most important.
"Alive unto God," was the answer of a second. For it is the life of Jesus given to us in regeneration that makes its partakers of His death and its power over sin. "Dead unto sin" is only the negative aspect of what we have as a positive reality in being alive unto God, If we looked more at the "I alive unto God," the "dead unto sin" would be better understood.
"Reckon yourselves" was suggested by a third. Is not this command to act faith in what has been prepared us of God the chief thought of the verse, and that, therefore, to which our chief attention must be given?
Another brother now said, "Through Jesus Christ our Lord." Our leader said: I think I have lately been taught that this is indeed that on the right apprehension of which the power of the whole verse depends.
How many have been looking most earnestly for the full insight into the blessedness of being dead unto sin and alive unto God, and yet have failed! How often we have heard them pray, "Lord, we are not yet utterly dead, but we long to be so"! many others, who have better understood the text. and have seen that everything depends upon the "Reckon yourselves to be dead," upon the faith that accepts Godís statement of what is already true and sure, yet confess that their faith is not followed by the power and the blessing they hoped for!
The mistake has been this: they have been more occupied with the blessings to be had in Jesus, "dead unto sin," "alive unto God," and the question as to their experience of them, or even with the effort to exercise a strong abiding faith in these blessings as theirs, than with JESUS HIMSELF, IN WHOM both the blessings, and the faith that sees them are ours. The death unto sin, the life unto God, are His (see ver. 10), are IN HIM, accomplished, living, actual, mighty realities; it is as we are IN HIM, and know ourselves to be in Him, and so come away out of ourselves to be and abide in Him only and always, that the blessings which there are in Him will, in the most simple and natural way possible, spontaneously become ours in experience, and that we shall be strengthened in faith to claim and enjoy them. It must be Christ Jesus first and Christ Jesus last. He must be all.
See how clearly this comes out in the third verse of the chapter: "Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into His death?" The baptism into Jesus Christ was the first thingóthat they had understood and accepted; the baptism into His death followed from itóthis they were now yet to learn the meaning of. The Lord Jesus had been baptized with water and with the Holy Spirit, and yet He spoke of a baptism yet to come; the full outcome of His first baptism was to be the death of the cross. Even so it is with us. When baptized unto Christ we "put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27), we are made partakers of Him and all He is and was, of His death too. But it is only in course of time that we got to understand this, and really to claim the power of His death unto sin and His living unto God. But we can do this successfully only as we hold fast the initial all-comprehensive blessing, baptized INTO CHRIST. It is the faith that goes away out to take its abode consciously and permanently in Jesus that will have the power to say, "IN CHRIST JESUS" we are dead unto sin, and alive unto God; "I in Christ Jesus," we do boldly reckon ourselves dead unto sin and alive unto God.
"Baptized into His death:" what a word! The death of our Lord Jesus was the chief thing about Him; it gives Him His beauty, His glory, His victory, His power. In the complete conformity to this, the highest privilege of the Christian consists. To be immersed, plunged into, steeped in the death of Christ, the whole being penetrated with the spirit of that death, its obedience, its self-sacrifice, its utter giving up of everything that is of nature, that has been in contact with sin, to pass through the death into the new life that God gives: this must be the highest longing of the Christian.
He has been baptized into the death: He yields himself to the Holy Spirit to have all that it contains unfolded and applied. And he does this in simple faith: he knows that in Christ Jesus he is dead unto sin and alive unto God. Just as the life unto God is a complete and perfect thing, and yet subject to the law of growth and increase, so that he goes on to life more abundant, so with the death to sin. In Christ he is dead unto sin, completely and entirely, and yet the full enjoyment of what that death means and works in all its extent is matter of growing intelligence and experience.
But let us beware of wearying ourselvesóhow often we have done so!ówith trying more to comprehend exactly, and to realize feelingly, what this death to sin is, and what the conscious reckoning ourselves dead is, than to remember that all this comes only as we are and abide IN CHRIST JESUS, IN WHOM alone these blessings are ours. I may be so occupied with the blessings and their pursuit, that I lose sight and hold of Him in whom I must be abiding most entirely if I am to enjoy them. Let my first aim be in wholehearted faith and obedience to dwell in Jesus, in whom are the death unto sin and the life unto God: the whole state of being which is implied in these words is HisóHe lives it, it is His aloneóas I lose myself in Him, I may rest assured that the blessing I long for will come, or rather, I shall know that in Him I have the thing itself, that Divine life out of death working in me, even when I know not exactly to describe it in words. And I shall see how the whole power and blessedness of the command gathers itself into the closing clause, "Likewise also ye, reckon yourselves to be indeed dead unto sin, and alive unto God, IN CHRIST JESUS." IN CHRIST is the root of LIKE CHRIST.