Exploring God's Amazing Word
18 Bible Studies on Positive Living in Christ.
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From the book In Christ
by A.J. Gordon, first published in 1872.
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This page Copyright © 1999 Peter Wade
In Christ by Dr. A.J. Gordon
3. Resurrection In Christ
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1).
God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:4-6).
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses (Colossians 2:13).
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One with Christ in His dying, we must be one with Him also in His resurrection, for the bands of this mystic union are not dissolved or weakened while the Saviour lies in the tomb. Joined to His people, that He might carry them with Him through the pains and penalties of death, He now in the same gracious partnership of being brings them up again from the dead. And so "He spreads the mighty miracles of His own regeneration from the dead, along the whole line of history. He repeats it in every true believer. The Church's is an everlasting Easter" (Archer Butler).|
There is doubtless the same theoretical difficulty in conceiving of the believer as having been raised in Christ's resurrection, as there is in conceiving of Him as having died in His crucifixion. And hence, as some read that very striking and explicit word of the Spirit, "If then ye were raised together with Christ" (Colossians 3:1), they find it much easier to remand the expression to the realm of metaphor, than to accept it literally and without condition.
But we are to remember that the resurrection is not merely a historical fact, the transcendent miracle and mystery of the apostolic age. Certainly it is all that. But it is more. It is a moral event, a principle of spiritual energy, as well as a fact of human history. While to those, therefore, who see Christ only from the outer court of knowledge, and whose faith ends in the bare belief that "he died and rose again according to the scriptures," the mystery may remain: to those who press into the inner sanctuary of fellowship, praying that they may "know him and the power of his resurrection," it will be more and more laid open to them as they advance. What the power of Christ's resurrection is, we may infer from the closeness of its relation in the Gospel to spiritual renewal and justification, as well as to physical reanimation.
It is a judicial power, and it is a regenerative power, the first only as crowning and sealing the judgment of the cross, so that whereas Christ's death was our justification procured, His rising was our justification justified. And the second only as related to the Spirit, so that while it is the Holy Ghost that renews, it is clearly only from the risen Christ that the soul derives its life in renewal. "Because I live, ye shall live also."
Let us trace these two thoughts into their details. How clearly our resurrection is linked with Christ's, for the assurance of pardon, in this passage: "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Colossians 2:13)! That forgiveness was fully accomplished when He had pronounced the, "It is finished," on the cross. For then had He blotted out the dark score of disobedience that was against us, having nailed it to the cross. And this verily was decisive and final, "a nail fastened in a sure place." But the pardon thus written in His blood waited to be sealed and attested by His resurrection. For though He had spoiled principalities and powers by His death, only by bursting the bars of the grave could He "make a show of them, openly triumphing over them in himself."
And so, while in the blood of the dying Christ we see the title of our pardon, we wait for a luminous glance from the risen Christ to bring it out into full distinctness and significance. An inheritance may be ours and yet not ours; ours in effect, because the deed of it has been executed; but not ours to certain knowledge and apprehension, since we have not received it. The heritage of peace which became ours by the death of the Testator, faith cannot take while He lies in the grave.
We must see our Eliakim, who openeth and no man shutteth, returning from the tomb with the key of the house of David laid upon His shoulder (Isaiah 22:22), before we can enter with Him into our purchased possession. So vital is this to our assurance of faith that Paul says, "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (I Corinthians 15:17). You died with Christ, you in Him and He in your sins that were upon Him; you were buried with Christ, you in Him still, and He in your sins still.
If He lies yet in that dark unopened grave, you lie there yet, in your sins, because you are in Him who went down into the tomb with those sins upon Him. Faith cannot place the disciple above his Master. It can only make him to be as his Master, a sharer in His condition, a partner in His destiny.
Now while our Lord's sufferings in the flesh were completed when He yielded up the ghost, He was not disentangled from our guilt so long as He lay in the tomb. How then shall our faith outrun Him, and reach the vantage ground of the resurrection, while the grave still holds Him in its grim imprisonment? How shall we break the bands of condemnation and cast away its cords from us, if it be possible for Him to be "holden of death"? And yet He is so holden, if a single item of the debt of sin is left uncancelled. "The wages of sin is death"; and that wages must be paid to the full. "Thou shalt by no means come out thence till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing," says an inexorable law; and if He is holden, we are holden with Him, because of that faith that has linked us into indissoluble partnership with His destiny. Such is the certain inference from that dreary hypothesis, "If Christ be not raised."
"But now is Christ risen from the dead." And since we are risen with Him, we are not in our sins. In his renewal from the dead, we were lifted forever from their dark enfolding condemnation. They cannot bind a single fetter on us now; they cannot remand us for a single instant to the prison-house of despair. Because "the God of peace has brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, that great shepherd of the sheep," all the flock folded in Him by faith are safe. "They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of his hands."
That the remains of sin are still clinging to us, we are only too painfully conscious. Not like the sinless Lord have we put off all the cerements of our body of death. Walking with Him in the same resurrection, we are as yet like Lazarus bound hand and foot with the graveclothes the habits of sin that still cling to us, the power of evil that enthrals us; and we wait in eager expectancy the last resurrection word that shall say, "Loose him, and let him go." But not the less truly are we alive with Christ from the dead, and death, the penalty of sin, can have no more dominion over us.
This truth is most strikingly told again in those words of the apostle, "Who was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification" -- literally, "delivered because of our offenses, and raised because of our justification.'' So enwrapped was He in our sins that were upon Him that He could not escape from death. But when the justification of us who are in Him had been accomplished, He could not be detained by death. And so because our justification was completed, He was raised again. What an affecting emphasis is here again laid upon the doctrine of our Lord's union with His people! Their cause is so thoroughly His own that He cannot outstrip them a single step in the path of redemption.
Opener of the prison doors to them that are bound, He yet waits till the last demand of justice has been satisfied before He comes through the gate of the grave to lead them out. The members must be with their Head. They are His fullness, and without them He cannot be made perfect. He waits till the weary hours of their prison service are completed in their surety. He cannot accept deliverance while they are under condemnation. But when the full acquittal has been secured, the glorious promise is fulfilled, "The third day I shall be perfected." Yes, Thou mighty Captain of our salvation, Thou first-begotten from the dead, because Thou wilt then have "perfected forever them that are sanctified."
I am aware of a certain holy jealousy for the honor of the cross that restrains some from ascribing justifying efficacy to the resurrection of Christ. But let it be marked that it is not atoning justification which we attribute to it, but "manifestive justification," as Edwards so exactly names it. And a guilty conscience needs this as well as the other. The prisoner does not know himself free, though he has served out to its last day and hour his term of sentence, if the prison doors still remain shut upon him. Prisoners of hope, bound with Christ under the law, we are not fully assured of our deliverance, when we can reckon ourselves dead with Him, though justice is thereby satisfied. We wait for the angel to descend from Heaven -- messenger of peace to us because deputy of justice to Him -- to roll back the stone from the door of the sepulcher. The wounded hands and feet, the dying cry that yields up the Spirit, and the lifeless body at last lying in the tomb are the tokens of the price paid. But the empty tomb, the folded napkin, and the linen clothes laid by themselves, these are the tokens of the price accepted, of the prisoner's discharge, and of the loosing of the pains of death forever, from all who died in Christ. And so to all questionings of a timid or doubting conscience, the answer now is, "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Romans 8:34).
But not only does our resurrection in Christ raise us out of condemnation, it also lifts us into a new life in Him. In Christ crucified we put off the old man, in Christ risen we put on the new man. The cross was for the destruction of the body of sin; the resurrection was for imparting to us the principle of divine life. By His crucifixion, our Redeemer accomplished a twofold death for us. He condemned sin in the flesh (Romans 8:3), exhausting at once the eternal penalties that were menacing the soul of man, and inflicting on the body that death sentence which will be fully consummated for every believer when he lies down in the grave. By His resurrection He makes us the subjects of a twofold regeneration -- the regeneration of the soul in this life, and that of the body in the life to come, both of which are expressly said to make us sons of God, because the one only completes and consummates the other; and in both of which we are "the children of God, being children of the resurrection."
For the renewed body we still wait with all saints in eager longing till we be clothed upon at the resurrection. The renewed soul we already have in Christ. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (I Peter 1:3). Wonderful words! It is not merely a potential renewal that is here indicated, the laying of a basis for a possible but still future regeneration. We that believe are already "risen with him, through the faith of the operation of God." The old life, with its kindredship to Adam, with its heritage of his curse, with its clinging incubus of his death, is put off at his grave. In the second Adam we now live. And "as he is, so are we in this world." He is "the firstfruits of them that slept" (I Corinthians 15:20). "And if the firstfruits be holy, so also is the lump." He is "declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead." In the same divine recognition do we likewise receive the adoption of sons. Willingly as He endured the cross, despising the shame, did He say, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" making no mention of us for whom He was forsaken. But now, as He is about to sit down at the right hand of the throne of God, bringing all the members of His mystical Body to be seated with Him in the heavenly places, we hear Him saying, "I ascend unto my Father and your Father, unto my God and your God," thus suggesting with the most exquisite tenderness their oneness with Him in His now recovered fellowship.
What a place then does the sepulcher of Jesus occupy! It is the border line and meeting place of law and grace. It is the solemn pause, "the divine ellipsis" in the work of redemption, whence we look back upon the old nature, the old sin, and the old curse, and forward upon the "all things" that "are become new." Standing here and looking either way, we see how Christ's work divides itself into what He did as the Sinbearer, and what He did as the Lifegiver.
By His death, He became the "end of the law to every one that believeth"; by His resurrection, He became "the beginning, the firstborn from the dead." There the root of the first Adam was wounded unto death. Here humanity springs up anew, and from a new and incorruptible seed. "I am the true vine," says Christ. All the culture and pruning of Judaism had failed to bring the stock of the first Adam to any satisfying fruitfulness. "I had planted thee a noble vine," says Jehovah, "wholly a right seed; how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?" (Jeremiah 2:21). Christ risen from the dead was given to be a new stock, the elect and best of all the vineyard of Heaven.
|In His crucifixion,
He was --
"Delivered for our offenses."
"Put to death in the flesh."
"In that he died, he died unto sin once."
"He was crucified through weakness."
|In His resurrection,|
He was --
"Raised again for our justification" (Romans 4: 25).
"Quickened in the Spirit" (I Peter 3:18).
"In that he liveth, he liveth unto God" (Romans 6:10).
"Yet he liveth by the power of God" (II Corinthians 13:4).
The crucifixion was the uprooting of the old, the crushing of its very roots as well as the clusters of its grapes in the wine press of the wrath of God. The resurrection was the up springing of the new, the true vine. And all who are truly renewed are shoots and branches of that. To be incorporated upon that vine -- to abide in it -- this is the only way of life, because the only way to become a partaker of the divine nature. And yet how many are trying today to revive the old, digging about that scathed and unfruitful stump of Adam's nature, hoping to restore it; the sacramentarian, sprinkling it with the "baptismal dew," thinking that "through the scent of water it may bud and bring forth boughs like a plant"; not remembering that by the death and burial of our Lord, the "root thereof has waxed old in the earth, and the stock thereof has died in the ground"; the moralist, lopping off dead branches and pruning away excrescences, hoping to make it nobly productive; not remembering that by the crucifixion of Christ, "the axe has been laid at the root of the tree."
To be in Christ the risen Man, then, is to have eternal life. We no longer trace our genealogy back to Adam now. That registry has been annulled for those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. The night that covered Joseph's tomb was the last of the old dispensation. The resurrection light that broke at length upon that tomb was the day dawn of the new. Only from that day does the Church of the redeemed begin. "Date it rather from the day of Pentecost," does someone say? But resurrection, ascension, and Pentecost would seem to be only successive stages of the same great transaction, the bringing of the Church into the fullness of the divine life. For Christ's ascent bodily marks His descent spiritually; His taking our nature up unto God the bringing down of God's life to us, and the commencement of His dwelling in us by his Spirit.
And this is our risen life, however we conceive or speak of it, that we are in Him and He in us. It is a life as far removed from that of Adam as the Heaven is from the earth, the constant partaking of Christ who is the Life. And this is our righteousness, not the name or the credit of holiness merely, but the righteousness of God perpetually upon us, because of our identification with Him who is made unto us righteousness.
The resurrection of our Lord, then, is not merely a pledge of our own; it is our own if we are His. And our unbelief is naught else than a guilty forfeiture of what has been graciously bequeathed to us by Christ, a refusal to be embraced in that resurrection which has already in the intention and provision of God embraced us. George Herbert touches this thought very delicately in these lines:
Arise sad heart; if thou dost not withstand,
All that it did for Him, we may boldly say it did for us if we are in Him. True, in experience much of its blessing is yet future and embryonic to us, as it is not to Him. But because of our perfect identity with Him, with Him to whom the possible and the actual are ever the same, all is counted as present to us. With Him we are "not in the flesh, but in the Spirit." With Him we are "seated in the heavenly places." Hence, that same strenuous demand which the Scriptures lay upon us for realizing our death in Christ: "Reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed," they lay upon us for realizing our resurrection in Him: "Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God."
Christ's resurrection thine may be;
Do not by hanging down break from the hand,
Which, as it riseth, raiseth thee.
And can we conceive of any more effective motive to Christian attainment than this? In Christ Jesus we work no longer for life, but from life. Our high endeavor is not to shape our actual life in the flesh into conformity to an ideal life that is set before us in Him. It is rather to reduce our true life now hid in Christ to an actual life in ourself. And so the summons of the Gospel is not that we behold what is possible for us in Christ, and reach forth to it; but rather that we behold what is accomplished for us in Christ, and appropriate it and live in it. Risen with Christ, the firstfruits of our spirits already carried up with Him into glory, our life hid with Him in God, how shall not our heart be where our treasure is? How shall not our love be ever kindling and burning upwards, purging itself of all earthly dross, till it is wholly intent on Him? Why hang the damps and corruptions of the grave about us still, earthliness and sinful affections, and all these clinging accompaniments of moral death, from which our Lord has ransomed us? It is ours even now to walk with Him in white, and to be ever "breathing with Him the freshness of the morning of the resurrection and of endless life."
Risen with Him, how shall we not more and more recognize our life as in Heaven, and be waiting for Him who is our life to appear? Not as the sorrowing Man of Nazareth, not as the sinless sufferer of Calvary, do we wait to see Him now. "The root and the offspring of David," for awhile "cut off, though not for himself," He comes again to sit upon the throne of His father David. "The bright and morning star," hidden now behind that cloud that has for a little time received Him out of our sight, He soon shall startle the world by the "brightness of his coming." And because we are seated with Him now in the heavenly places, we shall be seated with him in the earthly, because our life is one with His now, His manifestation shall be our manifestation. "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory."
And so we wait patiently till the "day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts."
This page Copyright © 1999 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the King James Version. This article appears on the site: http://www.peterwade.com/.
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