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OUR DEATH WITH CHRIST - A HISTORIC FACT
Romans Chapter 6 verses 1-11 (in the Bible) is the passage before us now. In these verses it is made clear that the death of the Lord Jesus is representative and inclusive. In His death we all died. None of us can progress spiritually without seeing this. Just as we cannot have justification if we have not seen Him bearing our sins on the Cross, so we cannot have sanctification if we have not seen Him bearing us on the Cross. Not only have our sins been laid on Him but we ourselves have been put into Him.
How did you receive forgiveness? You realized that the Lord Jesus died as your Substitute and bore your sins upon Himself, and that His Blood was shed to cleanse away your defilement. When you saw your sins all taken away on the Cross what did you do? Did you say, 'Lord Jesus, please come and die for my sins'? No, you did not pray at all; you only thanked the Lord You did not beseech Him to come and die for you, for you realized that He had already done it.
But what is true of your forgiveness is also true of your deliverance. The work is done. There is no need to pray but only to praise. God has put us all in Christ, so that when Christ was crucified we were crucified also. Thus there is no need to pray: 'I am a very wicked person; Lord, please crucify me'. That is all wrong. You did not pray about your sins; why pray now about yourself? Your sins were dealt with by His Blood, and you were dealt with by His Cross. It is an accomplished fact. All that is left for you to do is to praise the Lord that when Christ died you died also; you died in Him. Praise Him for it and live in the light of it. "Then believed they his words: they sang his praise" (Psalm 106:12).
Do you believe in the death of Christ? Of course you do. Well, the same Scripture that says He died for us says also that we died with Him. Look at it again: "Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). That is the first statement, and that is clear enough; but is this any less clear? "Our old man was crucified with him" (Romans 6:6). "We died with Christ" (Romans 6:8).
When are we crucified with Him? What is the date of our old man's crucifixion? Is it tomorrow? Yesterday? Today? In order to answer this it may help us if for a moment I turn Paul's statement round and say, 'Christ was crucified with (i.e. at the same time as) our old man'. Some of you came here in twos. You traveled to this place together. You might say, My friend came here with me', but you might just as truly say, 'I came here with my friend'. Had one of you come three days ago and the other only today you could not possibly say that; but having come together you can make either statement with equal truth, because both are statements of fact. So also in historic fact we can say, reverently but with equal accuracy, 'I was crucified when Christ was crucified' or 'Christ was crucified when I was crucified', for they are not two historical events, but one. My crucifixion was "with him". Has Christ been crucified? Then can I be otherwise? And if He was crucified nearly two thousand years ago, and I with Him, can my crucifixion be said to take place tomorrow? Can His be past and mine be present or future? Praise the Lord, when He died in my stead, but He bore me with Him to the Cross, so that when He died I died. And if I believe in the death of the Lord Jesus, then I can believe in my own death just as surely as I believe in His.
Why do you believe that the Lord Jesus died? What is your ground for that belief? Is it that you feel He has died? No, you have never felt it. You believe it because the Word of God tells you so. When the Lord was crucified, two thieves were crucified at the same time. You do not doubt that they were crucified with Him, either, because the Scripture says so quite plainly.
You believe in the death of the Lord Jesus and you believe in the death of the thieves with Him. Now what about your own death? Your crucifixion is more intimate than theirs. They were crucified at the same time as the Lord but on different crosses, whereas you were crucified on the self same cross as He, for you were in Him when He died. How can you know? You can know for the one sufficient reason that God has said so. It does not depend on your feelings. If you feel that Christ has died, He has died; and if you do not feel that he died, He has died. If you feel that you have died, you have died; and if you do not feel that you have died, you have nevertheless just as surely died. These are Divine facts. That Christ has died is a fact, that the two thieves have died is a fact, and that you have died is a fact also. Let me tell you, You have died! You are done with! You are ruled out! The self you loathe is on the Cross in Christ. And "he that is dead is freed from sin" (Romans 6:7, A.V.). This is the Gospel for Christians.
Our crucifixion can never be made effective by will or by effort, but only be accepting what the Lord Jesus did on the Cross. Our eyes must be opened to see the finished work of Calvary. Some of you, prior to your salvation, may have tried to save yourselves. You read the Bible, prayed, went to Church, gave alms. Then one day your eyes were opened and you saw that a full salvation had already been provided for you on the Cross. You just accepted that and thanked God, and peace and joy flowed into your heart. Now salvation and sanctification are on exactly the same basis. You receive deliverance from sin in the same way as you receive forgiveness of sins.
For God's way of deliverance is altogether different from man's way. Man's way is to try to suppress sin by seeking to overcome it; God's way is to remove the sinner. Many Christians mourn over their weakness, thinking that if only they were stronger all would be well. The idea that, because failure to lead a holy life is due to our impotence, something more is therefore demanded of us, leads naturally to this false conception of the way of deliverance. If we are preoccupied with the power of sin and with our inability to meet it, then we naturally conclude that to gain the victory over sin we must have more power. 'If only I were stronger', we say, 'I could overcome my violent outbursts of temper', and so we plead with the Lord to strengthen us that we may exercise more self-control.
But this is altogether wrong; this is not Christianity. God's means of delivering us from sin is not by making us stronger and stronger, but by making us weaker and weaker. That is surely rather a peculiar way of victory, you say; but it is the Divine way. God sets us free from the dominion of sin, not by strengthening our old man but by crucifying him; not by helping him to do anything but by removing him from the scene of action.
For years, maybe, you have tried fruitlessly to exercise control over yourself, and perhaps this is still your experience; but when once you see the truth you will recognize that you are indeed powerless to do anything, but that in setting you aside altogether God has done it all. Such a revelation brings human self-effort to an end.
Watchman Nee (1903-1972) was an apostolic worker among the Churches of China. He was arrested for his faith and spent the last twenty years of his life in a Communist prison camp.
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