13. The Resurrection and the Life.
Our endeavour hitherto has been chiefly to show God's grace to man in his ruin, to lead the heart to God's forgiveness, and to establish it in God's peace, to take away every hope in self, and to fix faith upon Christ alone. We have hardly touched upon our possessions in Christ; but let us not think that christianity consists merely in forgiveness of sins and deliverance from self: for, as the pot of oil met the widow's need, so does grace meet us. First, that pot of oil gave her enough to pay all her debts, and thus saved her children from bondage; next, it gave her a lifelong sufficiency. And God delivers us from the terrible burden under which we groaned, so that we may live the life of faith of a now risen Christ, and thus rejoice in His fulness.
Let us now endeavour to point out some of our wealth, or, rather, to point to the treasury where the wealth is stored. The power of practical christianity lies in what we have. The religious man without Christ is constantly trying to obtain something out of himself to give to God; the sceptic is ever telling us that he has done with religion; but the christian lives in the enjoyment of the blessings wherewith he is blessed — he possesses. The gospel comes to the weary and needy heart with positive good. It brings blessings to man, it fills the soul with satisfaction, it removes want by pouring in exceeding riches. The satisfied sheep lies down when she wants nothing more. The abundance which is ours occasions our rest; “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”
The gospel of our salvation first answers every need which the Spirit of God, by showing us our real condition, awakens within us; next it satisfies all the longings which God Himself, by His Spirit, creates in our souls. Brought, as we are, into a new relationship with our God, we know Him in a new way; we know Christ in a new way. All things are become new to us, and we are made new to enjoy the new things.
Of our blessings, Christ's resurrection is the foundation. Resurrection,which each seed sown in the earth and rising up in new life, and which each waking spring teaches, is the very essence of the gospel of God. Our dull hearts too often travel no further than the benefits of Christ's death; we reach the cross and there sit down. Sometimes the sluggish spirit, having found forgiveness by the blood of Jesus, returns to earthly things, resting in forgiveness, not rising above the circumstances around us in the vigour of resurrection-life. The believer is, indeed, a forgiven man, but he is also delivered from the power of Satan, and the world, and death, and himself, in the resurrection of Christ. The blood of the sacrifice has cleansed away his guilt, but he is not only cleansed, he is risen with Christ. He lives already in the life of the eternal spring.
Resurrection is the guarantee of our blessings for “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15:17) If Christ be not raised, the christian's hope in God is utterly vain. But by Christ's resurrection we are established in a standing of absolute liberty before God — a standing upon the other side of death, the bright side, where Christ is. He is the “Resurrection and the Life;” first the resurrection, then the life. He first overcomes death, and then gives life to them for whom He died. After having borne the judgment and death due to their sins, He imparts, to man dead in sins, eternal life in the power of His resurrection. Death precedes judgment, “After death the judgment,” and from death the sinner cannot escape. The Lord has destroyed the power of death, and has taken us out of our state of death in trespasses and sins, and has given us a life which is beyond death and free from judgment.
We are, alas, so occupied with this world and its vanity that we are dull to discover and slow to receive the fulness of our resurrection blessings! Besides which, many of God's people are, in spirit, trembling upon the Egyptian side of the Red Sea, they are not, in faith, upon resurrection ground. Israel was safe in Egypt when under the shelter of the blood of the slain lamb, but Israel, though equally safe, was in despair when hedged up between the pursuing enemy and the Red Sea. Then came the third, day the day typical of resurrection and Israel proved God's power in opening a way for them through the waters. When standing upon the opposite side of the Red Sea, they knew God's salvation. And, though we are safe the moment we trust Him Who shed His blood for us, yet we know not God's salvation until we lay hold, by faith, of God's power in raising Him from the dead, and in bringing us through His death and by His resurrection into perfect deliverance.
Should there be a reader of this page, still wanting the full assurance of the knowledge of his acceptance before God, let him turn his eye of faith to Christ in the glory of God. The Sin Bearer upon the cross, is the Crown Wearer upon the throne; the Forsaken of God upon Calvary is now glorified by God in heaven. Our sins, which nailed Him to the tree, our judgment, which brought Him to death, are gone in His sufferings. Our very selves, like fruitless trees, are cut down and hidden in His grave. His cross and His crown are linked together. There is no separation between haying been crucified with Christ and being glorified with Christ. The new life which is ours in our risen Christ should assert itself in our daily walk and ways; it should, like the freshness of spring, hide the death and efface the very memory of the winter of our unconverted days.
From among the numerous blessings which God declares we have by virtue of Christ's resurrection, we will make mention of the following: —
1. We are justified because the Lord is risen.
He was “raised again for our justification.” (Rom. 4:25.) God judicially “made Him to be sin for us,” but having “died unto sin once,” (Rom. 6:10), having finished the work given Him to do, the Lord could not be holden of death. The righteous God could not allow that He should be held a captive in the grave, and, therefore, “He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father.” (Rom. 6:4.) And those, who believe on the Lord, those for whom He died and rose again, are regarded, judicially, as occupying the same freedom with Christ from the judgment of sin. God has “justified them from all things.” (Acts 13:39.) Who then shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect (Rom. 8:33) since our judicial standing established by God is perfect?
And more: As the life which we receive through Adam is sinful, and the sentence against man as possessor of it is, “Thou shalt surely die,” so we have in Christ, life which is holy, and the possessors of this life are justified persons, connected with Him, who lives to die no more. God imparts to those who believe, the new life in the condition of resurrection, for Christ has passed through death and judgment on man's account.
Before the fall, man's was innocent life.
After the fall, man's was sinful life.
In Christ, those who believe, have a holy life.
2. Our security is based upon, the power of Christ's resurrection.
Here we have an immovable foundation for faith, a divine security. Its measure is nothing less than “the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead.” (Eph. 1:19, 20.) God put out His divine energy to raise His Son from the grave, and the same character of power is used by Him to give resurrection-life to us “even when we were dead in sins.” And now the secure place which Christ has in resurrection is that which His people occupy spiritually before God and the life of Christ on high is theirs, though they are still in mortal bodies. An illustration amongst others of Christ and His people having one and the same resurrection place before God, is to be found in the ancient ordinance of Jehovah for Israel. When the harvest was ripe, Israel waved before Jehovah a sheaf as first-fruits, and having presented to Him the sample of that which was about to be ingathered, they reaped their fields, and garnered their grain. The sheaf was part of the harvest. The same quickening power which raised from the bare grain the ears of corn in the wave-sheaf, raised also the ears of corn in all the other sheaves of the harvest. Christ is the first-fruits. He has presented Himself to God, the first-born from among the dead. He is our life, and what He is before God that also, as associated with Him, His people are. We are “risen with Christ.” (Col. 3:1.)
3. We are united to Christ, not in incarnation, but to Him risen.
“Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 12:24.) The Lord being risen out of the grave, has brought “much fruit,” even His people to God. There was no union of man with Christ till after Christ died for man. Had He gone back to glory without dying, He had ever continued in the solitary holiness of His humanity. We should have remained sinful, for our fallen humanity could not be joined to His sinless humanity. But His death for us has separated our sins from us, and us from the judgment due to them; it has separated us from our old standing as guilty before God, and from all the consequences due to that standing. There is no union with Him save in the new life and by the Spirit.
From the earliest times, God foreshadowed the truths of death, resurrection, and life. When Jehovah set the first man in the earthly paradise, and there was no help meet for him in the creation over which he was the head, “the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam,” and, while he slept, took from him that out of which woman was formed; so that, seeing her, Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” (Gen. 2:21-23.) The Lord passed through the deep sleep of death, in order to bring us into life. Life for us arises out of His death. We are risen with Him. “We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.” (Eph. 5:30.) We are united to Him, and “This is a great mystery.” (Eph. 5:32.)
Thus we are justified by God in the risen Christ; secured by God in the risen Christ; and united to the risen Christ. In the presence of these three blessings, there is one scripture to which we do well to take heed.
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above . . . set your affection (or mind) on things above.” (Col. 3:1, 2.)
By these words, God challenges His people to earnest and diligent search after heavenly blessings, and bids them give their minds to these things. A man who seeks after a definite object in life, who makes that one thing his business, is sure [likely] to succeed. Such diligence should characterize the christian in devoting his soul to the things above, where Christ is. “Seek those things,” implies no weak or languid action, but eager and intense purpose. If the mind be set upon the things, the whole life will be formed by the things on which the mind is set.
The Colossian believers, to whom the exhortation was originally addressed, were in danger of sinking down into an earthly religiousness. They were upon the brink of the morass of Judaized-Heathenized-Christianity into which so many are now plunged. “Worshipping of angels,” being “subject to ordinances,” such as “Touch not, Taste not, Handle not,” threatened to engulf them. These things have now become so vast a system that the minds of thousands are enveloped in them, and by these things the essence of the christian faith — a risen Christ — is blotted out from the spiritual perceptions of the greater part of Christendom. But, in the same truths, which were given by God to save the Colossians from the threatened loss of christianity, lies its recovery to the soul. Christ is the same today as He was in the days of His apostles; christianity has not changed, and the way back to its blessings will be found by those who “seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God;” who set their minds on things above, and not on things on the earth, and who ever remember “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”