In Christ (1)

Substance of an address on Romans 8:1, 39

By natural generation we are all in Adam, for we all derive from him, and from him in his fallen, not in his innocent, condition. We have our moral nature from him, and are a race of sinful beings obnoxious to the judgment of God. By that one man sin entered into this world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all; for that all have sinned. To this it may be replied that infants die, and that overt acts of sin can scarcely be put down to their account. Quite true. But leave them alone for a very little time, and you will find that in every one of them a very strong will quickly manifests itself. And what is that? Nothing else than sin. Sin is lawlessness: it is doing one’s own will. Nothing but one will, and that the will of God, should be done in the universe. You and I should do His will, and so should every intelligent being. But in this world people think it quite right to do their own will, and as far as ever they can do it. What worldling is there who for one moment thinks he is here to do God’s will? He may, if be is of a generous turn of mind, think that he ought to do all the good he can for those about him, but the good that he supposes he is doing has its origin in his own natural inclination, and not in the will of God, though if he is religiously inclined he may hope that in the day of judgment it will go down to his credit. It is thought that if one is only kind to one’s neighbours, does all he can for the good of humanity, and leads a moral life, all will be well with him in the day of judgment.

Surely if we all acted thus we should lead happier lives than we do at present in this hard, selfish, grasping, cruel world. But what about God? While we think upon our neighbour, is He to be ignored? What is the first and great commandment? Is it not, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind”? The second is, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” But men make the second first, last, and only commandment, because in this world there are but few who have any respect for God. People are ready to assume that they have done all that is required of them, when they act fair and square with their neighbours, and abstain from trespassing upon what may be supposed to be their rights. But in most instances the reason this principle is in measure carried out, is because a man’s neighbour will not allow his rights to be infringed. He will carelessly trample upon the rights of God, and expect God to take no notice of all that he is doing. Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men are set to do evil. God’s day of judgment is long delayed, but man’s comes the day he finds you have trespassed upon him. But the “Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that does evil” is sure to come, and then it shall be woe to those that imagined that God thought as little about lawlessness as they themselves did.

Perhaps you will say to me, What would your own works merit in that day? I can only say this, that if God took me up and dealt with me on the ground of the works done by me in my fallen nature, I could get nothing but the lowest place in the lake of fire, because I have sinned against Him in numberless ways, doing my own will when I should have been doing His, and closing my ear against the gospel of His grace. If any of us got what we deserved, what an eternity of unutterable anguish that would be!

In the Son of God I see that which man ought to be, with respect to his behaviour upon earth. Coming into the world, in His servant character, He said, “Lo, I come (in the volume of the Book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God.” Having taken the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He went to the utmost limit in His obedience. In the garden when the cup in all its bitterness was before His mind He said, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” There I get perfect Man under the eye of God, and I say, That is what I ought to be in obedience.

But in my natural state I am not that. I am a rebel against the authority of God, and without the intervention of God in grace I shall perish for ever. For those in the first Adam—after the old order—after the flesh—there is nothing but condemnation, for that race is a race of God-hating sinners. Death puts a period to man’s existence here on earth, and after this comes the resurrection and the judgment, and after that the lake of fire. What else can be done with creatures who refuse to allow their Creator to regulate their behaviour according as He thinks right, and who will not have His interference in their councils, plans, and projects, which are not only destructive to themselves but ruinous to His creation? A God who loves righteousness could not allow such a state of things to continue. He must bring it to an end in judgment. But this is the state and condition of all in the first Adam, the disobedient and fallen head, from whom we all, by nature, have our origin.

But the obedient Man, the Man of whom I have been speaking, is the last Adam, the One who took flesh and blood in order that He might be last Adam, and life-giving Spirit to all who welcome the salvation that is in Him. In Him are found righteousness, life, salvation, and all else that the sinner can need. There is no condemnation to them that are in Him. If we believe in Him who raised our Lord Jesus from the dead, who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification, these blessings, that we so much need, shall all be ours.

He died for our sins. Having suffered the judgment due to them, He gave up the life in which He bore them, and with the giving up of that life the sins of all who believe the Gospel are gone out of existence. Our sins that would have come up against us in the day of judgment are gone as completely as is the life of flesh and blood in which Christ bore them. Our sins can no more be found than can a Christ in flesh and blood be found.

And now we are held by God to be righteous on the principle of faith, just as Abraham was. He believed God, and God reckoned it to him as righteousness. No man’s works can justify him before God, for all men are sinners; but all can be justified by faith, and therefore is repentance and forgiveness of sins preached to all men under heaven.

Perhaps you say, I do things I should not do every day. But all the sins you speak of were laid to the charge of our Saviour on the cross, and the shedding of His blood was the end of them all in the judgment of God. Perhaps you say, I know I am forgiven the past, but what troubles me is the sins I have committed since I was converted. Yes, but I am speaking of the ground laid in the cross, whereby you could be righteously forgiven. It was in the cross of Christ, centuries before they were committed, that God dealt in judgment with them. You were forgiven when you believed; but the work, on the ground of which you were forgiven, was done in the death of your Saviour.

But turn with me to Romans 6:6. I read there, “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him.” Here it is not merely that our sins have been dealt with, but the man that committed the sins has come under the judgment of the cross It is not only the fruit of the tree that has been condemned, but the axe that has been applied to the tree itself, it has been condemned—root, branch, fruit, and all. Do away with the evil fruit of a bad tree, and there will be another crop of evil fruit in the next season. Our old man is all that we were as in the life of the first Adam. Paul could say “I am crucified with Christ.” This is more than the putting away of sins: the sinner has received his judgment. And what else does he say? He says, “Christ liveth in me.” All of us, looked at as after the old order, are in the life of the fallen head. But now the believer is in the life of the risen and glorified Head, the last Adam. He is a life-giving Spirit. Having suffered for us, and having made propitiation for our sins, He now can communicate His own life to those who believe on Him. And in that life I live to God.

I come to chapter 7:4 of Romans, and there I read, “Ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him that is raised from the dead, that ye should bring forth fruit unto God.” Oh, then, I see, I am not only dead to sin, but I am dead to the law also. But how have I become dead to the law? Why just as I have become dead to sin—by the body of Christ. Not by my death, but by the death of Christ who died in my stead. He has made me to live by the power of the life that is in Himself. The life that is in the risen Christ is the life that is in every believer. I partake of the life that is in Him who is dead to both sin and the law, and therefore it is my privilege to reckon, that all that He is dead to, to that am I also dead. When He suffered upon the cross that death of shame and abandonment of God, it was not a death that He deserved, but a death that I deserved. I appropriate that death as mine. I say that death that He died was my death: it was my desert, not His.

Perhaps you will say, You have no right to say that that death was yours. It was for everyone else as well as for you. True, but you will find no salvation in it unless you appropriate it; that is, make it your own. I have not only a God-given right to make that death my own, but I should lose my soul for ever if I did not make it mine. It is no use your saying He died for us all. The living Bread is for us all, but it is like your natural bread, no one can eat for you; you must eat for yourself, or starve. You cannot appropriate Christ for your neighbour, your neighbour must take Christ for himself. You cannot blame me if I lay hold of Christ for my own individual salvation. I need Him, and God has brought Him within the reach of all, and though all might reject Him, I stretch forth the hand of faith and lay hold of Him as my own personal Saviour. I shall not blame you if you lay hold of Him, and claim Him as your own; indeed it is just the thing I desire you to do; and I assure you, that if you do not lay hold of Him thus by faith, you will assuredly perish.

Perhaps you say, There is a great deal said about faith, but can you tell us what it is? Faith is just the consciousness in your soul that God has spoken. Have you not heard His voice in the Glad Tidings of His grace? Is the Gospel not the Gospel of God? Is it not addressed to you? Is it not the Word He wishes you to hear, and to submit to? Do you not need the blessings set before you by its means? Why then hesitate? It is for you, and the desire of God is that you might have it.

Do not seek to hinder me from making Him my own. I need Him. I cannot do without Him. I will have no other substitute. I will listen to no other voice. I will have no other name. There is no salvation in any other. His blood cleanseth from all sin. If you believe in Him you come under the cleansing power of that blood. If you reject Him, that blood will stain your garments in the day of judgment with the guilt of murder.

In His death your sins are gone, and you are justified by faith, and the love of God is shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit given to you. You have also justification of life; that is, you have a life to which sin can never be attached (Rom. 3:4-5). The man that committed the sins is also gone in the judgment of that cross (Rom. 6). You are now in Christ, in the last Adam, where condemnation can never be.

This is very sweeping, is it not? The sins, the nature that committed them, and all else that was offensive to God—the whole ground is cleared in the judgment of the cross. Not a remnant of the old order left. The flesh may be still in me, and it is, and ready to assert itself, but it is not what I am in my relationship with God. It does not come in there. I am what I am as in Christ, and I am alive to God in Him. It is not what Adam was I am, but it is what Christ is I am.

We have been occupied with the first verse of Romans 8. Now look at the two verses at the end of the same chapter. The apostle says, “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The love of God came into this world in the person of Christ, and came to light in all its power in His cross, and now rests in Him in resurrection, and that is where God has placed the believer, in Christ there is no condemnation, but that is what there is not there. What is there then? You are there, and the love of God is there, and you are both there together. Do you think that Christ can ever be separated from the love of God? Oh no, you say; that would be impossible. But do you not see that if you are in Christ, where the love of God is, He would have to be separated from that love before you could? Perhaps you are saying to yourself, in the language of the doubting soul, “Oft it gives me anxious thought: Do I love my Lord, or no? am I His? or am I not?” But for the moment I do not want you to trouble yourself about your love to Him, I want you to occupy yourself with His love to you. As I have said, He has placed you in Christ, where His love has found its everlasting dwelling-place, and you are to sit down in His presence with a thankful heart, and bask in the sunshine of that love.

I will refer to another Scripture, and then I have done. Turn to 2 Corinthians 12. Paul says there, “I knew a man in Christ.” He speaks of that man as having been caught up into heaven. Now do you not think he must have been fit for heaven, if he was caught up into it? And it was into the third heaven, the immediate presence of God. And he seems to have been quite at home there. Let me ask you a question: Do you think that Christ is fit for that place? Oh, yes, you say, He is perfectly fit for it. But I am in Him, and I have His life; and what is in me that is not fit for that place is that which I was in my natural condition, and that has come under the judgment of God in the cross, and it forms no part of me as in Christ, and in relationship with God.

This evil principle I have to count not myself, and in the power of His Spirit to bring upon it the sentence of death, so that nothing but the new man may be in activity. I may become careless, and then the flesh will surely assert itself. But I should never become careless, but should ever be on the alert to see that it is not allowed in any of its movements.

In Christ is a very abstract term. Paul makes a distinction between the man in Christ and himself as the Corinthians saw him. To know what a man in Christ is I must know what Christ is, for what He is the man in Him is. In Christ is new creation. There is nothing of the old there. We have a new life, new nature, new relationships with God, with Christ, and with one another. Old things have passed away, and all things are become new. In Christ there is not Jew and Gentile, bond and free, male and’ female, but all are one in Him. But as long as we are down here these distinctions exist. In Christ there is none of them. And if we are in Christ, Christ is in us as life, and the world should see nothing else coming out of us but Christ.

Well, I must close. I want you to think of these things that lie at the foundation of our relationships with God, because we are face to face with a terrible state of things in the Christian profession. The Bible is of no value to the present generation. It has had its day, but that day is past. So they tell us. Well, John says, “Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us, eternal life.” May God bless His own Word.