Much has been lately said on this verse, and stress has been laid on the word "our." The inference drawn therefrom is that the phrase, "our old man," refers solely to the evil nature in us. Accompanying this is an effort to separate the nature from the man in whom the nature is. A few words as to the bearing of this verse may be helpful to souls.
The Holy Spirit is dealing with the question of sin, that evil nature which is inherent in the whole race of Adam. Now it is not in part that we are affected by sin, but "the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it." (Isa. 1:5, 6.) This has been fully brought to light in the cross. Before the cross the Lord could give the law its full moral force as forbidding certain acts, and say that if either of the members became a cause of stumbling, it were better that it should perish than the whole body be cast into hell (Matt. 5); but the cross has demonstrated the entirely sinful condition of man. Who can read such words as, "Away with this Man!" "Crucify Him!" "Crucify Him!" and not feel that the true character of sin was developed as law could not do. "Now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father." Consequently it is not now the question of this member or that being affected, but of the whole man. Hence Christians can say, "Our old man has been crucified with Him." It is the man - what they were, looked at as of Adam's race - which has been crucified with Christ; that the body of sin, not sin in this member or in that, but as a whole "the body of sin might be annulled, that henceforth we should not serve sin." Note, it is the person ("we") who does not serve sin. The members can now be presented as instruments of righteousness, and no longer of sin, to God. The old man - what we were as of the first Adam - is put off with his deeds, the fruit of deceitful lusts. It is not this deed or that which is put off, but the man; and the new man is put on, that is, Christ. To use the words of a beloved servant of God, "I acknowledge Him alone as my 'I,' and as this new 'I' I reckon myself dead to the old 'I' (Christian Friend, 1885, p. 60.) This leads to one more point of great importance - that practical freedom from sin is by our having the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:2.) It is only as we live the life of this new "I" (Gal. 2:20) that we see the hatefulness of the old "I," and approve God's sentence of condemnation upon it, executed as it has been in the cross. For believers there is no condemnation. Delivered from the old "I," they are in Christ, and in the power of His life they live to God. It is Christ in them. The pulses of His life in us must beat towards His God and Father, and delight in His righteousness and holy love, to enjoy which unhinderedly will be our eternal portion. Nothing of the old "I" could ever be there. Thank God, our old man has been crucified with Christ! T. H. Reynolds.
Every one has read this beautiful scripture, and noted its striking fulfilment in the gospels, but not all have remarked the characteristic differences in its citation in Matthew and John. Turning first to Matthew, we read, "Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass." (Matt. 21:5.) Passing by the expressive change from "Rejoice greatly" to "Tell ye the daughter of Sion," we ask the reader to notice the omission of the words, "just, and having salvation." Why are they not quoted? Because they would not apply to the Saviour's then circumstances. He was going to certain and known rejection, and thus while it was ever true that He had salvation for them that put their trust in Him, He was not at that time going to bring salvation to the daughter of Zion. Nor did He present Himself to her then as the "just," or righteous One; for had He at that time entered her gates in righteousness (as He will do when He establishes the kingdom), it would have been for her destruction. The Holy Spirit therefore led the evangelist to omit these words, and to retain "meek" or "lowly," because it was descriptive of the spirit (although it is His abiding character) in which He was about to present Himself for the last time, before the cross, to His beloved people. Taking now the citation, as it appears in John, it runs, "Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt." (John 12:15.) Here, in addition to the omissions of Matthew, the word "meek," or "lowly," is also wanting. The reason of this is to be found in the character of John's Gospel. He exhibits Jesus as the Son of God, and thus, consistently with this presentation of our blessed Lord, he does not use the word "meek." What perfect wisdom is displayed in these differences in the scriptures! And differences so profound, that the devout reader cannot fail to discern their divine origin. But a remark may be added on the fulfilment of Zechariah's prediction. One part of it has been accomplished. Zion's King did come, lowly, and sitting upon an ass; the rest will be fulfilled when He returns to Zion in glory. Then He will be seen as "just, and having salvation," and then, too, the daughter of Zion will "rejoice greatly," and the daughter of Jerusalem will "shout." The whole church period therefore must be interposed between these two parts of the prophecy. Both would have been fulfilled at His first coming had He been received by the Jewish nation as their Messiah; and this teaches that His lowliness or meekness is expressive of moral character, and therefore abiding; not a feature merely of His earthly sojourn, when He was a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, but a trait of His perfect nature as Man; and hence He is as much the meek or lowly One, now that He sits at the right hand of God in the glory, as when down here He had not where to lay His head. Blessed Lord, how the knowledge of this endears Thee to the hearts of Thine own while waiting for Thy return! E. D.