Unrevised Notes of Lecture by J. N. Darby.
William St., January 18th, 1866.
The more the Christian reads the Word of God the more assured he becomes of its Divine origin. I am not supposing that he has any doubts to remove, but its perfection unfolds itself as he learns its contents. He finds in it truth complete and fitted in all its parts; and in this perfection he sees the Master's hand. The way the apostle takes up the question of sin here led me to these remarks. He does not enter upon Ephesian truth, but we find what is exactly fitted to the subject he is treating. He does not speak of being quickened together with Christ, or of being raised up and seated in Him in heavenly places, but he says, "If we are planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection."
He does not speak either of Christ dying for sin or of bearing our sins. What the apostle speaks of here is the power of sin met by the death of Christ. He died unto sin once. "Likewise reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin." First, we are occupied with our sins, and these are met by the propitiation (Rom. 3); but after this, he takes up sin, and this is a much larger and fuller word. It is our condition. And mark! we could not say, Christ was made sins. He bore sins, but He was made sin for us. "Once in the end of the world He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" - not merely sins, but He took up the whole condition and state of the world, of everything, and before God everything was changed. He was "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin [not sins] of the world." Christ's work took up this principle of total alienation from the life of God and totally did away with it.
160 All the dealings of God with the world proceeded upon this principle of sin, of man being away from God, for when sin came into the world man was turned out from God. He could have forgiven a particular act by the death of Christ, but the whole condition of sin He could not. He must condemn it and put it away. We could not speak of God forgiving the old nature, but of condemning it and putting it away. Now this condition of man under sin is the fact upon which God had hitherto always dealt, however varied His acts may have been. Why was the seed of the woman promised but because of sin being in the world? Again, a law given which prohibited lusts and supposes sin? In fact, all God's dealings in the world, whether in mercy or in judgment, proceed on the fact of sin being the condition of man before God. Now the work of Christ has changed this state of things altogether. I speak of what the work is to faith. The final result is not yet fulfilled, but through the cross the whole thing is changed, and there will be in result a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. By faith we anticipate this. It is not merely that our sins are put away, but the whole of God's glory is concerned in it. The creation is ruined by sin. If an angel look on it, what is he to think of the world? or if a saint contemplates the world, what a scene of lusts, passions, sin! All is in confusion. How is God to be glorified in it? Here Christ comes in. God is glorified in all His perfect walk in His suffering; obedience in everything, in spite of Satan. And when we come to the cross we see that all that God was was glorified in Christ made sin. My soul anticipates the great result of this obedience of Christ, in that new creation where sin can never enter.
161 Practically, in our souls we must go through all that sin is before getting into the full consciousness of the blessing of its being put away. It is not only the forgiveness of my sins which I want, but I must get the question concerning the root of these sins settled, and this we find in Romans 5:12-21. The question treated of there is the sin of one man met by the obedience of another. By one man sin entered into the world. By one, death passed upon all men. Adam is looked upon here as the head of a race. It is not the question of your and my particular sins, but of the sin of one man; and as by one man death came, so by one Man came righteousness. We get the remarkable fact that by one man came in sin, and by one Man righteousness.
The law is introduced that the offence might abound. Mark, not sin, but the offence. But the law came in afterwards. Here the great fact is that by one man sin entered into the world. Each has to answer for his own sins, of course, but here it is sin come by one man. It is the condition into which I have been brought. And so also by one Man righteousness is come. In both cases it is an individual's act which involves not only himself, but all connected with him. It does not deny my sins, but I am made righteous according to this work of Christ and by it; and I can anticipate the result by faith and say, I am the righteousness of God.
The flesh objects to this, and says, If it is entirely by the work of another that you are made righteous, and if it is all of grace, then you can continue in sin that grace may abound. The flesh always objects thus to sovereign grace. Not that the world is very careful about the matter, as if sin were really a trouble to it, but the objection is raised only to oppose the gospel, just as it was with those who brought the woman taken in adultery to Christ, simply to find fault with Him.
162 The apostle therefore raises this question of continuing in sin, and shows it is an absurdity in itself. Sin is the condition in which I was. The question, then, is this, Am I to continue in that from which I am saved? Two points are taken up as regards the condition of soul, and we shall see the apostle argues on each from different grounds. The first is, "Shall we continue in sin?" and then in v. 15, "Shall we sin?" The first question takes up the condition of sin in which we were; the second with being under grace and not under law.
Now, as to continuing in sin, the apostle shows the thing is an impossibility and a contradiction, for no one can be alive and dead at the same time. If you have died with Christ you can't talk of being alive in sin. When you were baptised what were you brought to? You had a part in Christ's death, and you want to live in sin. In saying so you deny the whole thing. Christ has died to sin. Not that He ever had sin, but He was in circumstances where He had to meet temptations, and at last to be made sin upon the cross, though He never knew sin. But now He has died out of that whole condition. He died unto sin once. He once came into the midst of this evil scene, displaying righteousness and holiness in all His ways, and now He has died out of it. If you have been brought unto Christ you are dead, and are out of the other condition. The apostle speaks here of dying unto sin. We know from other scriptures that He also died for sin, and that He bore our sins; but here it is deliverance from sin, and not forgiveness that is spoken of.
163 Faith has judged this state of the flesh. It is not a question of the fruit being bad, but the tree itself is bad. It is the root of sin and not the fruit only.
God says, "What could I have done more in My vineyard than I have done in it?" And yet when He looked for fruit it brought forth sour grapes. He cared for His vineyard perfectly, but the tree was bad, and the culture only brought forth a larger crop of sour fruit. As we have often said, Man was lawless without law and a law-breaker under law. The tree was always the same. Its only expression has been that the mind of the flesh is enmity against God.
I come then to Christ, and with Him I have died to sin and out of that condition altogether, and get my life elsewhere, and that too by a work done for me. I say, seeing what the flesh is - what I am - I must die and take a life elsewhere. "Know ye not that as many as were baptised unto Jesus Christ were baptised unto His death?" The apostle says you have taken your place with Him in death, so that you also should walk in newness of life.
He does not speak of our being quickened with Christ. He is bringing out here the source and power of the life. It brings out all the glory of the Father - this raising Christ from the dead. All that God was in His majesty, glory, righteousness, and love was, for faith, engaged in the raising of Christ. His love to Christ, His delight in His obedience, His righteousness and all that He was, was for faith involved in bringing Him up from the grave. Christ had devoted Himself, in blessed perfect obedience, unto death, to His Father; and so the Father must come in in power and take Christ out of the condition of death. Therefore I am to walk in newness of life - not merely not to do wrong things, but to walk in newness of life. If I have died with Christ I shall be in the likeness of His resurrection. Faith gets hold of this place which Christ has taken, and that we live through Him.
164 All that I was in Adam, to faith, is annulled. I have died out of that condition. And mark! the apostle does not say here, We do live with Him, but "We shall live with Him." We have not here our sitting in heavenly places in Him - the apostle is pressing truth for practice. We are planted in the likeness of His death and shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.
Christ has died unto sin once. It is not a question of what He was morally, for the more He was tried the more His perfection came out. But He has died out of that condition in which He had to say to sin, and now He lives to God. There I take my ground; I reckon myself also "to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord." I am alive unto God, and nothing else. If alive at all, I am alive through Christ unto God. He lived, it is true, to God when in this world, but He has gone out of that state altogether and now lives to God where sin is not. Glory will be by-and-by, but now I am to live to God.
He that is dead is free or justified from sin. When a man is dead I cannot charge him with the evil of his past life, for by death he is right out of it altogether. We are thus free from sin. Death is the starting-point for practice. Being set free as dead to sin, now, says the apostle, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof." If you are alive with Christ don't let sin reign as if you were still under its dominion. "Neither yield ye your members," etc. I can say to sin now, I am no longer your slave, I belong to somebody else now; I've been set free from sin, and I have a life given me to yield to God. Here it is not that we are dead only, but we have been made alive in being set free from sin's service.
165 What are we going to do in this new life? Unto what are you going to give yourself? I am going to yield my members as servants to righteousness and to God. I can do this, for I am set in true blessed liberty. I can yield myself up to God. I was a slave of sin, but I am set free and become a slave of righteousness.
The apostle says he uses the word "slave" to explain, speaking after the manner of men. We are to walk and speak now as those who are to be judged by the perfect law of liberty. We are bought with a price: we belong to God. And we have, as those who have died and are alive, the privilege to give ourselves to God and to yield our members as instruments of righteousness unto God. As delivered by death from the power of sin, we have a life to yield. To whom, then, are we going to live? To God; and all our members, which were once yielded to sin, are now to be yielded as instruments of righteousness to God.
What a place the Christian has!
166 Law can never get the better of sin. But if we have now no law to call us to account about sin, are we to sin then? He does not say here, Shall we continue in sin? He answered that by showing we were dead, and therefore could not go on as if we were alive in sin. But now he is looking upon us as free men. It is, then, a question where our hearts go. "Ye were slaves of sin"; ye are now slaves of righteousness. Once we were no servants of righteousness, for when following sin we were far from God. What fruit had we then? None: the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, we have become servants to God, and we have our fruit unto holiness.
There is positive fruit in the path of righteousness. As with Moses, when God revealed His grace to him he said, "Lord, shew me Thy way, that I may know Thee, and that I may find grace in Thy sight." If I am in Thy favour Thou must show me Thy own way through the wilderness. When in the path of obedience and the will is not at work, thus walking in God's way I know what delights Him and I get practically separate from evil. I get fruit. It is the way to grow up into the knowledge of God. As in John 14, "If a man love Me he will keep My words," etc. Thus we have fruit in following Christ. The soul grows up into God's revelation of what Christ is. Alas! we are often dull and need to get our senses exercised to discern good and evil.
But, dear friends, it is important to see where the grace of God has placed us by the work of Christ. You have by faith as entirely done with the world for fellowship as Christ has in fact. You are set free to live to God, and you will be judged according to the perfect law of liberty. If my will is to go just where God's will is for me, that is liberty. This is more than obedience to a command by which I surrender my will. If my child wanted to go to the city, and I forbade it, and the child obeyed, that would be the law of restraint. But suppose the next day I told my child I wished it to go to the city, that would be the law of liberty to it, because it wished to go there.
167 Now the Lord has set us free and He is saying to us, Where are you going to walk? In that which God has freed you from? It is not merely doing right, but obedience to God and fruit unto holiness in a more thorough acquaintance with God and an understanding of what Christ is in God's thoughts - our delight His delight.
Before the great results of this work of Christ are produced in the world, it is given to us to anticipate these results and to walk in the power of the new place into which we are brought. We are alive to God, and our privilege is not to give up only our time and money to Him, but to give up ourselves.