"...We thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead [all died]: 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."—2 Corinthians v. 14 and 15
The Word of God is full of little gospels or brief presentations of the great leading truths of redemption in a very few words. These two verses form one of the most remarkable of these brief statements which we may call epitomes of gospel truth. No one can read these two verses without being struck at once with the great prominence that is here given to what is known as substitutionary sacrifice. Here, in a very brief compass, we have three times the expression used "died for." "We thus judge, that if One died for all," then again "that He died for all," and then again "Him which died for them." Such repetition as this certainly means emphasis. It holds up Jesus Christ to us in the compass of these two verses three times, as a substitute for sinners, and not only so, but as dying as such a substitute.
Then, again, I would have you notice the difference in the way in which this truth is put in the two conspicuous members of this sentence. In the first case He is represented as dying for all, and we are represented as dying in Him. Not a word is said about resurrection; not a word is said about life again from the dead. But in the latter portion of this statement we seem almost to lose sight of the death feature altogether in the feature of life. "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."
Now the question arises at once before we can go any farther into the depth of the subject. Why did the apostle, under the guidance of the Spirit, so construct this statement of truth as to leave out of the first part of it entirely all reference to Christ's resurrection or the life of believers in Him, and in the second part to emphasize particularly His resurrection and the life of the believer in Him? It only shows us how the whole Word of God is intimately bound together, and how one part of Scripture helps to illuminate and illustrate another. There are some people who never look into the Old Testament. They feel as though the Old Testament belonged to a past dispensation; but the New Testament which rings with the sound of grace, they delight in, though how you are ever going to understand the New Testament if you do not understand the Old is a mystery to me, for if it be true, as it is, that the New Testament is latent in the Old—lies there like a hidden germ—it is also true that the Old Testament is patent in the New—lies on the surface.
You cannot understand a passage like this without understanding Leviticus, that much-disputed book that some people would make us believe, if they could, hardly belongs at all among the inspired portions of the Word of God. In the opening chapters of Leviticus you have the great law of sacrifice and offerings. I cannot go now into detail with regard to it, but carefully notice and keep always in mind the distinction between the sin offering and the trespass offering which were, properly speaking, sacrifices, and the burnt offering and the thank offering which were more especially designated as offerings. The great difference between these two classes lies in this—that the first one mentioned, the sin offering and the trespass offerings were regarded as so identified with sin that they represented something that was abhorrent in the eyes of God and upon which God looked, as it were, with a look of indignation. The victims that represented the sin offering and the trespass offering were taken without the camp. They were regarded as unclean, and the word which is applied to them, which is translated "burn," means to burn to ashes. The idea is that the victim was wholly consumed, nothing left of it but ashes, and even the ashes represented that which was unclean. But in the whole burnt offering where the victim was presented to God as an emblem and symbol of the consecration of the offerer, the word "burn" which is applied to it is a different Hebrew word, and it means to ascend in flame; and there is a beautiful suggestion about this—that, while God's indignation rested on the sin offering as the representation of sin, and the offering went to ashes, with no suggestion of an ascending sacrifice, no sweet savour going up to God but an unpleasant scent, as it were, in His nostrils, in the burnt offering there is no suggestion whatever of being turned to ashes merely. The offering is represented as going up in the flame of fire, and being accepted in the sense of a sweet savour to God. Now you see that while, in the first class of offerings mentioned, there is no suggestion of a life that comes out of death, in the second there is a suggestion of life that comes out of death. While the first class of offerings mentioned makes no suggestion of resurrection, you cannot get rid of the idea of resurrection when you think of the burnt sacrifice, the whole burnt offering.
I mention this now because it is a help in the understanding of a great many passages of Scripture outside of Leviticus; and it is impossible, in my judgment, to understand the passage now before us if we do not grasp this conception; and because I want it to be in your mind all the way through; let me repeat once more the substance of it. The sin offering and trespass offering regarded as unclean went to ashes, and the word "burnt" signifies nothing more than to burn them, to burn them to ashes. But the burnt offering was regarded as a symbol of the accepted service of a believing child of God; and, therefore, though it was consumed on the altar, the word "burnt" means to ascend in flame as a sweet savour, and so suggests the idea that out of the death represented in the burnt offering there comes a life of service to God, a resurrection out of ashes.
Now, if we understand that the first statement in this text, "He died for all," represents Christ as the sin offering and the trespass offering, and the second statement, "He died for all," represents Him as the burnt offering, we can readily understand why, in the first statement, no reference is made to life, and why, in the second part of the statement, the emphasis is upon "rose again" and living unto God.
This is so important that I shall dwell upon it for a few moments before passing to the practical thoughts which are here suggested.
There are two things which Jesus Christ has done for the believer. The first is that He has been made sin for us though He knew no sin; and the second is that in Him we are made the righteousness of God.
The first is expiation, the second is consecration. The first is putting away penalty; the second is putting away the power of sin, and finally the presence of sin. The first is getting iniquity out of our hearts, and the second is preparing us to take an active part in the service of our glorified Lord.
He died for us all, and "we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead [all died]." That is to say, if Christ was your representative and mine, if He bore up our sins in His own body on the Cross—not His own sins, for He had none to atone for, but the weight of a world's sin—then when He died as the sin offering and the trespass offering your sin and my sin was consumed. The body of sin that had held us in dominion, in bondage, was turned to ashes. Henceforth there is no longer penalty of the law that overhangs us, for the penalty was expiated. Henceforth there is no longer the tyranny of sin to be exercised in us, for the arms of sin have been broken, and the very body of sin has been burnt to ashes. There is no longer the curse of sin on us, for that curse without the camp has been expiated, and the wrath of God has been endured for our sins.
But if Jesus Christ presented Himself as a willing sacrifice to God as the type of the very believers He had redeemed, if on the cross there hung not only an offering for sin but a representation of saved believers, then there must come out of His grave a risen Christ, and in Him we emerge out of our graves, rising to newness of life. Now, a child can understand that. It is perfectly simple and perfectly intelligible, and the whole heart of the gospel is right here.
Now that I have made this brief word of explanation about this text, our thoughts will naturally be drawn now for a few moments to speak, first, of our death, and second, of our life.
First, our death. It is a threefold death, and the life is a threefold life. It is a death, first of all, unto sin; second, a death unto the world; and third, a death unto self. It is, first, a life in the Spirit; second, a life unto God, and, third, a life for man. Just a few words about each of these departments of thought.
First, a death unto sin. He died for all, and in Him all died. Not only penalty put away, but power put away too, for there is no perfect salvation that delivers from penalty only. A perfect salvation must deliver us from the dominion of sin also. The tyrant must be burnt to ashes so that he can no longer sway his sceptre over you and me. That is the force of what the Apostle Paul says in this sixth chapter of Romans. He says: "He that is dead is freed from sin." "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin." That is, in Christ you judicially die. Now, be actually dead even as you are judicially dead. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, in God's eyes every believer that trusts in Him also died. Now, inasmuch as God, as your judge, reckons you to be dead, count yourselves to be dead, and, therefore, do not reckon on a life of sin. If you are a dead man how are you going to act? If you are a dead man how can your former tyrant expect to find in you a living servant? Now, let the devil understand this: "I am a dead man henceforth; therefore thou hast no claim over me for obedience. Sin is dead to me and I am dead to sin, and as God counts me dead I will count myself dead." You are judicially dead, then be dead.
Do you think that this is strange language? Not at all. Perfectly apprehensible and perfectly comprehensible. God accounts you as no longer a sinner, because Christ died for you. He counts you a saint. Now, as in the book of God's remembrance your sins have been blotted out, and they are no longer represented against you, inasmuch as Jesus Christ, in breaking the power of the devil has broken his sceptre so that you are no longer in terror of it, you must think of yourself as a dead man so far as sin is concerned, and as, therefore, no longer finding in yourself the possibility of yielding service to him who is dead to you and to whom you are dead—the devil. In other words, I must regard myself as henceforth set apart unto God, the old man dead and no longer to be thought of, no longer to be reckoned on, no longer to have a place made for him in the economy of my life. I am to think of him as a dead tyrant who can no longer exercise power over me, and before whom I am no longer to bow. And to think of sin as dead, and to think of myself as dead to sin and only alive unto God through Jesus Christ my Lord, turns my thoughts into the new channel of service and makes the whole life to be treated as a past life, renounced and denounced and for ever put away.
In the second place, we are to die unto the world. There is a very remarkable expression used by the Apostle Paul in the 6th chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto to the world." It is the double crucifixion that I call attention to—that in Jesus Christ the world is crucified to me and I am crucified unto the world. I am on the cross and the world is beholding. Crucifixion was a painful and ignominious death. It was mainly a death to which slaves and traitors and conspirators were subject. "Cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree" was the old proverb. They did not crucify a Roman general if they wanted to put him to death. Nobody would have thought of crucifying Caesar. Some method of taking away such distinguished men as they were must be less ignominious than crucifixion. But when they wanted to make a slave and a malefactor of Christ and hold Him to derision, they hung Him by hands and by feet with nails to the cross. The cross was connected with shame. To be crucified unto the world means to be made hateful and to be a derision to the world. And to have the world crucified to me implies that the world becomes an object of hatred and derision to me. And there is this double death. The world is dead to me, and I am dead to the world. We are mutually made detestable and abhorrent to each other. The world is crucified to me when I no longer can see attractions in it. The things I used to love I no longer love. The pleasures I used to follow have lost their charm. The treasures I used to seek to amass have been resigned for the treasure that has been laid up in heaven where moth nor dust corrupts not and thieves do not break in and steal. The old things are passed away, and all things have become new. New tastes have been developed so that the old dainties now are sickening to me, and the things I once revolted from are my meat and drink. So the world has been put on the cross and nailed there, and I look at it and deride it, and I hate it and I abhor it, and I wonder that it ever had any charms for me, the ugly thing that crucified my Lord, and that I have now hung on His cross as an object of my sneers and my hatred. And I am crucified to the world because I am a new man in Christ Jesus, and not after the worldly pattern. The world cannot find in me the charm it once found, or the attractions it once found, or the sympathy it once found, or the service it once found. I do not now yield myself to the world, and the world hates me because I am not of the world. The world loves its own, but the world crucifies those that are not its own; and if I am no longer the world's, it has nailed me to the cross as a malefactor, and it passes by and wags its head in hateful and malicious derision.
Does that description correspond to you? I think I have known a great many nominal disciples that the world did not seem to hate particularly, and that did not seem to hate the world particularly. I think there might be some who called themselves Christians, who might rather say, if they told the truth, "The world is courted by me, and I am courted by the world. We walk up and down arm-in-arm, like friends, and we have a good time in each other's society." Not so Paul. "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." And he says in 2 Cor. 5:17, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [creation]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." If you can say the one thing with regard to yourself, you surely can say the other, and if you cannot say the one you cannot say the other.
In the third place, we die to self. That is the hardest death of all and the last death of all. You think that you have killed sin, but you find that self lives nine lives if it does not live ninety; and when you think that you have struck a fatal blow at self it comes up again in another form. For instance, you are a very proud man, and you do all you can to humble yourself, or, if you would use the correct expression, humiliate yourself, for it is very much easier to humiliate yourself than it is to humble yourself. When Lyman Beecher was coming home from a service at which his son had preached in his own pulpit, the son, walking along with his father, said, "Father, I made a miserable failure this morning. I am very much humbled." "Oh, fudge, fudge," said Dr. Beecher, "you are only humiliated." The discrimination was a true discrimination. To be humble means to become humble. To be humiliated means only to get down in prostration. And many a man is more proud in his prostration while he is humiliating himself than he was before. He thinks, "Why, what great things I am doing to make myself humble." Yes, self keeps coming up all the time. You are proud; you try to become humble; and then you become proud of your humility. You were selfish and you try to become unselfish, and now you become selfishly unselfish. That is to say, the very things that you do in an apparently unselfish spirit you have a selfish motive in doing, just as a great many people will give a man money for the sake of reputation. Why, I can remember when people used to go round begging money for benevolent charities of different sorts, and they would tell you, "Now, if you give £20 we will put your name on a published list of donors at the end, and if you will give the largest sum of all your name will stand at the head of the list of donors. That is "Be unselfish, and you will get a selfish reward." There are thousands of forms of selfishness. You appear to put it down, and it rises up again, and it rises up stronger for the very apparent humiliation it has undergone; and so, down beneath all our apparent sacrifice, down beneath all our apparent sanctification, there lies this last element, the most difficult of all to reach, and the most difficult of all to approach—self, love of self, self-aggrandisement, self-advancement, self-glorying, self-seeking, self in some one of its myriad forms. All your sins you may cut away, apparently, as you cut away the branches from a tree, but as long as the love of self is left it is like a root out of which, after you have cut the branches off, a thousand branches may spring to take the place of what you cut off. And so the Apostle Paul here says, speaking by the Spirit, that "Christ died for all, that we who live should not henceforth live unto ourselves." The difference between the worldly man and the disciple is that the one lives to himself and the other lives unto God.
Finally, let us notice the other part of the subject—our life. We are dead to sin, dead to the world, dead to self, if we are truly Christ's. But how about your threefold life?
In the first place, it is to be a life by the Spirit and in the Spirit. The Spirit of God is a new element in which we are to live. You know there is what is called a metamorphosis in insect life. A great change or transformation takes place. For instance, you go round in the summer season, and you will see a caterpillar living on the surface of a leaf or on the grass, the sward, picking up refuse matter, decayed matter, or sucking the juices of leaves. By and by that caterpillar takes up a position on a tree or on the bark of a tree, or perhaps wraps itself in a leaf and weaves about itself a curious envelope known as a cocoon. He abides there in an absolutely dormant condition, apparently lifeless, for a certain time, and then some day you will hear a sound on the top of this cocoon—something picking away at it, trying to force its way out, and, if you notice carefully, there emerges from this envelope a winged moth or butterfly. It stands on the top of the cocoon, and spreads its wings perhaps six or seven inches across. Now, henceforth it is going to live an entirely different life. It used to crawl. Now it is going to fly. It used to live on decayed matter. Now it is going to live on honey. It used to drag its length along on the ground. Now it is going to wing its way in the sunshine and the air. It has got a new element and is living a new life. It is transformed. Now, a disciple of Jesus Christ used to be a caterpillar. He is going to be a butterfly. He used to live down on the earth; now he is going to live in the sunshine and live altogether in the air. He used to live on old decayed matter; now he is going to live on honey. New life in the Spirit, new tastes, new faculties, new powers, new privileges, new appetites, and new affinities. The old things are left below. The new things are from above. And, just as that butterfly is going to have in himself the air of heaven, and going to move in the air, this disciple is going to have now the Spirit of God in him, and he is going to move in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is going to be his element henceforth. He is going to live in the Spirit. He is going to find [in] the Spirit the very means by which he floats and moves and wings his way Godward, and the very power by which he goes from blossom to blossom of the world and gets the sweets of the nectarine.
Now, in the second place, we are to live unto God; that is, as the Spirit of God in us becomes the source of life, God becomes the object of life. We have got an eye on another centre now, and we are moving round another centre. There are some people that try to live very intimately in fellowship with God, and other people call them eccentric. A blessed thing to be called eccentric if it is because you differ from the world round about you and even worldly Christians. It is a very easy and common and cheap way of sneering at devoted saints to say that they are very peculiar. Well, God means to have a "peculiar people." A pity that more of us are not peculiar. "Oh, but then they are unpractical." Well, a blessed thing to be unpractical if that means that I cannot conform myself to the practice of a great many nominal disciples. "Oh, well it is theoretical." A blessed thing to be theoretical if the theory is found in the Word of God, and under the teaching of the Spirit, and if I reach after a nobler life. "Oh, but then he is an ideal Christian." I wish that there were a great many more that have the divine ideal before them trying to reach up towards it. "Well, he is trying to be perfect." Would to God that you all would. There is no danger of your ever being perfect here. But it is a blessed thing to put perfection before you and strive towards the absolute sinlessness of a holy life.
We may sneer as we please at those who live in the fellowship of God day by day, and who have lost their hold upon this world because they have got a hold on God. Oh, that is the most precious life to lead, and, as I said before, would to God a great many more were living that same life. I have used the word "eccentric." It means out of centre. A mechanic will understand that where, in a piece of machinery, most of the parts seem to move and do move round a single centre, as though they were all poised on one pivot, here is a portion of the machinery that is out of the centre and has another pivot of its own. Now, Keith Falconer, that noble young man who died in Arabia in starting a mission among the Mohammedans, said, "Let people call you eccentric. Eccentric means nothing more than out of centre, and if you have got a new centre in God of course you are out of the old centre of the world. Let the world's machinery move round the old centre. You have begun to move by that eccentric movement about quite another pivot than that around which the world moves." Yes, let us live unto God. Put Him before us, set Him in the front of our being, God first in everything, God always first in everything, God cheerfully first in everything. That is what makes us stalwart and mighty Christians.
My third remark is that we must live for man. That is to say, here is the sphere of service. We are in the world to do the world good. We are in the Church to do the Church good. We are among the human family to be a blessing to the human family. And the man who has got the Spirit of God in him and moves in that Spirit is in a new element. A man that has got that before him, and who lives unto God, is the man that is prepared to live for humanity in the very largest and best sense. I like that expression, "for humanity." A man does not understand what service is as long as he allows discriminations to be between man and man. Ben Jonson, on one occasion, received a present of a crown piece (five shillings) from King James. He said to the person that brought it to him, "King James sends Ben Jonson, the poet, five shillings, because the poor poet lives in an alley, and the king lives in a palace. Go back and tell the king that his soul lives in an alley." There are a great many people who live in palaces, but whose souls live in alleys and there are a great many people living in alleys, but whose souls live in the palace of the King.
Now, I tell you, that you can never be largely used for service in the kingdom of God till you get these notions of aristocracy out of you—until you learn not to call any man common or unclean—until you learn to think of souls as immortal souls, and the very lowest of them all down in the mire of this world, like a diamond in the filth, worth Christ's stooping down from heaven to pluck up the diamond out of the mud. It is for man you want to live and not for rich people, not for cultured people, not for people in high positions, not for kings on thrones. You want to have such a love for man as man that the beggar in his hut or hovel is just as precious to you as the king on his throne or the prince in his palace.
And so we are not to live unto ourselves but unto God, living for the whole race of man. The Hottentot, the lowest possible specimen of humanity, ought to attract the child of God more, if possible, than the highest specimen. Why? Because it is the lowest specimen of humanity that needs lifting the most and that is in most danger because in most degradation, and the love of God goes out to those that need it most, and the love that is like God's goes out to those that need it most. Elizabeth Fry, who made herself famous in London by her interposition for degraded women in Newgate, and who went, refined woman as she was, and put herself in the midst of filth and misery, and temptation, and who taught these women, and established schools, and reformed the whole prison discipline as well as the whole prison manners—Elizabeth Fry left it on record as the result of her whole life-work: "Never since I was seventeen years old have I ever woke up night or day without asking first of all this question: 'How can I, in the time before me, more perfectly serve my Master and uplift the fallen?'"
If every one of us would ask that question with every waking hour, with every new morning, what glorious triumphs might be achieved by some of us who have never known service hitherto. When Jerome of Prague was in the midst of the fires of martyrdom he was heard to say, as he lifted up his face and looked in the heaven so soon to receive him, "My soul in flames I offer up, O Christ, to Thee." And Miss Willard, on her birthday, the leader of the great temperance host of women in America, and one of the noblest women that American civilisation ever produced, wrote solemnly in her diary: "This day I undertake, in the strength of the Holy Ghost, to realize what it means to lay my body, soul, and spirit on God's altar, a living sacrifice unto Him."
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