9. Upon counting self to be what God says it is.
In the roots of a tree lies its strength — of which its fruit is the result. Pluck off all the fruit, yet another crop will grow, and of the same nature as before; but cut off the roots, and the tree withers away and dies. Our actions are the outcome of our nature — the fruit, not the root, of our being. Self, “I,” is the source of what we do. Bitter waters flow from a bitter spring, bad actions from a bad nature. A fountain does not send forth both sweet and bitter water; a tree does not bring forth good and corrupt fruit. Our nature, ruined and alienated from God, is incapable of pleasing Him, and, because it is our nature, cannot be altered. God forgives our sins, but He has condemned our nature. The blood shed upon Calvary cleanses us from all sin, but the death of Christ does not change our nature — it is God's judgment of it, and, in His sight, its judicial end. It frequently happens that the believer, after being assured of the forgiveness of his sins, is distressed and burdened, because he finds that in himself he is only evil. Resolutions to become different result in disappointment, and all the efforts put forth to be holy tend to the practical discovery that, “in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” This experience is for future blessing, and since the gospel of God shows more than the forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit will not allow His people to rest short of its full blessing.
We say God does not forgive or improve the nature which bears the fruit of sin, neither does the blood of Christ cleanse it, nor the Holy Ghost sanctify it, and thus it is clear that our pathway to blessing and deliverance lies in believing God's word upon the matter. We should
Take God's side against ourselves:
And since God has shown that the very spring of our being is corrupt in His sight, and that He has passed sentence upon it, and condemned it by the cross of His Son, when “He was made sin for us,” what we have to do is, to bow to the divine fact, and to deal with ourselves accordingly.
It was when we believed God's word about the blood of Jesus and our sins, that we obtained peace respecting our sins before God; and when we believe what God says concerning the death of Christ in connection with our nature, we have peace with God about ourselves. God declares that our old nature is condemned in His sight, and we hate to treat it as such. No one would seek to educate or to nourish a corpse, neither should the believer endeavour to reform or improve; to pander to or to flatter self. We should not preach sobriety to the dead body of a drunkard, or humility to that of a proud person, neither should we eulogize the lifeless frame of the most amiable or wise. The dead body is a grievous thing which must of necessity be put out of sight. God has, in His grace, enabled us to treat ourselves, children of fallen Adam, as dead, and thus to take His side, by faith, respecting self, that self which He condemned eighteen hundred years ago when His Son died upon the cross; for He has declared that
“Our old man is crucified with Christ.” (Rom. 6:6.)
It is comparatively simple to believe what Christ did for us: “Christ died for our sins,” He paid our debt of sins for us, He bore the punishment we deserved; but more, we have a part with Christ through His cross. Our “old man,” our fallen nature, “sin in the flesh,” the tree which bears the fruit, “is crucified with Christ.” God so regarded us when Christ was made sin for us, that in His mind, we were judicially associated with Christ when He was crucified. A prisoner might obtain a substitute to take his place, and to die for him; and then the law would accept the death of the substitute as the death of the prisoner, so that in a sense it might be said the prisoner died with the substitute. In the mind of God we have been crucified with Christ; and now God looks upon us in Christ, Who dies no more — in Christ, who is risen out of death and from among the dead. Therefore we have to believe God's word about our “old man,” and to count it to be crucified with Christ. Power enters the soul wherever faith opens the door.
The love of sin in a man, and the rule of sin over him are broken when death comes. How can a dead man long for the evil he once followed, or how can sin be longer his ruler? And
“We have died (or are dead) unto sin.” (Rom. 6:2.)
It is not said that as progress is made in holiness we shall die unto sin, because the dying unto sin relates solely to our having been crucified with Christ. The glorious doctrines of deliverance taught in the latter portion of the Romans were in danger of being turned by a licentious spirit into an occasion for fleshly liberty. The answer to such a spirit is — “How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?” The sinner alive to sin, but dead to God, might practice sinning at his list; not so he, who was alive to God, but dead to sin by the cross of Christ. We have to believe this great first truth of the 6th of Romans, which is really the starting-point of practical victory over self.
And this first principle the Apostle illustrates by the first practice in christianity. He reminds us that we took up the profession of Christ by baptism — “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized to Jesus Christ were
“Baptized to His DEATH.” (Rom. 6:3.)
Our starting-point as christians is Christ's death. We begin christianity with a crucified Christ. We were not baptized to His incarnation, which was the beginning of the holy life of Jesus upon earth; but to His death — the end of our sinful life in judgment. We were not baptized to become followers of Messiah, as were those baptized by John and the Lord's disciples before the cross, but to become followers of the risen Lord, who died that we might live.
Goodness or badness ends at death, and in Christ's death faith sees the end of man, as man, before God, and by baptism, owns that the only way of becoming Christ's is by Christ's death, for
“We have been buried with Him by baptism unto death.” (Rom. 6:4.)
“With Him!” Here is an association with Christ; with Him “unto death.” In burial, the body is put out of sight; it is hidden to be seen no more. And God has done this for our “old man” which was crucified with Christ. God has hidden it from His view. The body is placed beneath the water in baptism, symbolizing the hiding in the grave of Christ of what we are in self and by nature. No place of any kind is thus allowed for self — our old Adam — but in the death of Christ, hence
“We have been planted together in the likeness of His death.” (Rom. 6:5.)
There has been a like place for us, and for the dead body of our crucified Lord and Saviour. Faith should and does love to accept the place for self which Christ took in grace for us. We are identified with Christ in His death. Nothing teaches us our badness like the death of Christ for us, and when we fully realize what the need was, that He should die for us, it is not difficult to bow to the fact that our place is the place He took for us, and that we have been planted together in death. Our power is in Christ risen from the dead; but a risen Christ cannot be known until we apprehend the meaning of a dead Christ, neither can we know, morally, our power in Him risen until we have accepted our place with Him dead.
The christian has two natures; his own fallen nature, and the divinely given nature. He is like those creatures whose early existence is beneath the water in the mud of a river, which, after a while, receive a new force, that draws them up to the surface of the stream. This enables them to shake off their old coil and rise into the air beautiful and bright-winged, to delight in the sunshine and atmosphere above the water. Henceforth the air is their home, and their former element would be to them destruction. But with the christian, alas, there is always the tendency to return to the mud of the stream. It is only as we bear in our minds Christ's death, His going down beneath the deep waters of judgment in order to bring us up into resurrection-life and blessing, that we have the practical enjoyment of the place which is ours in Christ.
Christ having passed through judgment and beyond death, and being our life, we are not only told to believe these truths, but to count the facts of His death and of His resurrection as realities in our selves.
“Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:11.)
Faith counts things that are not as though they were. If our “old man,” our fallen nature, were actually gone, we should not have to reckon ourselves to be dead, for the old nature would not exist; but because Christ died unto sin once, and liveth unto God for ever, we are to count ourselves to be what Christ was and is for us. We are not told that there is no sin in us, nor that the flesh is not in us, nor that “our old man” is taken out of us, but we are told that we are in Christ, and are bidden live as those that are alive unto God in Him.
Our “old man” is crucified with Him, for a practical end —
(1) “That the body of sin might be destroyed,” or annulled.
That it might have its power taken away. That self should not be the asserting force within us, which it is its nature to be. The power and force of self are annulled, the Spirit applying to our hearts what the cross of Christ for us and what our being crucified with Christ is.
(2) “That henceforth we should not serve sin.”
The mastership of sin is frustrated by death. Sin ruled over us when we were alive in the energy of our fallen wills. But who rules dead men? We obtained our discharge from the old ruler by death. He that is dead is freed, or discharged, from sin. He is out of the dominion of his former master. We are not said to be free from sin, as if the longing after sin, and the tendency to sin, were not in us; but we are said to be freed from the dominion of sin, and, consequently, it is our shame to practise sin to commit it. There is no license left for the christian to say “I cannot help practising evil ways, I am so weak and sin is so strong in me that I cannot help it.” God has given us a place of liberty.
Hence, because we are freed from the rule of sin, it is said —
(1) “Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body.” (Rom. 6:12.)
(2) “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin.” (Rom. 6:13.)
(3) “Sin shall not have dominion over you.” (Rom. 6:14.)
This, then, was the form of doctrine delivered to the believers in Rome, and which they obeyed from the heart, as the Apostle thanked God. (Rom. 6:17.) The doctrine related to deliverance from self by the death of Christ, and His resurrection power; and faith therein, mingled with obedience, gave them liberty from the mastership of sin. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey.” (Rom. 6:16.) Let us “then yield ourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead” (Rom. 6:13); let us surrender ourselves to Him as those whom He has given eternal life in Christ.
The practical issues of the past and the present service in daily life are summarized in the following table: —
THE PAST SERVICE.
Ye were the servants of sin. (Rom. 6:17.) Ye yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity. (Rom. 6:19.) When ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. (Rom. 6:20.)
The fruit of the past service: Shame and the end, death. (Rom. 6:21.) The wages of sin is death. (Rom. 6:23.)
THE PRESENT SERVICE.
Ye are the servants of righteousness. (Rom. 6:18.) Now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. (Rom. 6:19.) Now being made free from sin, ye became servants to God. (Rom. 6:22.)
The fruit of the present service: Holiness, and the end, everlasting life. (Rom. 6:23.) The gift of God is eternal life. (Rom. 6:23.)
And in the following table of truths of doctrine and practice, from the 6th of Romans, the fact of Christ's death and resurrection, and the practical issues therefrom to our faith and obedience, are set out: —
“We have died, or are dead, unto sin.” (Rom. 6:2.)
“We were baptized unto His death.” (Rom. 6:3.)
“We were buried with Him by baptism unto death.” (Rom. 6:4.)
“We have been planted together in the likeness of His death.” (Rom. 6:5.)
“Our old man is crucified with Him.” (Rom. 6:6.)
“He that is dead (or has died) is freed from sin.” (Rom. 6:7).
“Dead with Christ.” (Rom. 6:8.)
The above statements of the divine word, it must be remembered, are not put forth as attainment, but given as facts. Therefore what we have to do is simply to believe God's word about ourselves, and our part with Christ in His death for us.
“If we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” (Rom. 6:8.)
“Knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead,
Dieth no more;
Death hath dominion over Him no more.
He died unto sin once: He liveth unto God.” (Rom. 6:9, 10.)
Here again both our living with Christ and our being “alive from the dead” (Rom. 6:13) are determined by Christ's resurrection for us. It is the common privilege of all who believe.
“Reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:11)
This is not standing or place, but is distinctly the obedience of faith respecting the great facts of Christ's death and resurrection. Here then we may and we do fail. But our failure does not affect God's facts. Our failure to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God through. Christ (and instead thereof our trying to improve and curb self, and evolve a life out of self) cannot touch the accomplished results of Christ's death and resurrection, and what that death and resurrection have effected for all believers. Yet, failure to believe and obey this form of doctrine does result in dishonour to God, and in sin having the rule over us.