If in the structure of the apostle
a. THE PROVISION ANNOUNCED
In another of his epistles Paul declared that the
will of God for His people is that of their sanctification, and it must
ever be remembered that the immediate purpose of justification is
sanctification, as its ultimate purpose is glorification. Turning to the
discussion then of this most important subject, the apostle dealt with
it as to its experimental possibility, and as to our corresponding
responsibility. The section thus falls into two parts; the first dealing
with the deliverance of grace; and the second with the obligation of
1. The Deliverance of Grace
The introductory question and answer follow
immediately upon the completed argument concerning justification, and
are vitally connected therewith. The last words in the argument were,
"As sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through
righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." The
opposing principles of action recognized are those of faith in Jesus,
and continuity in sin. The question now is as to whether both of these
can govern life. By emphasizing the "we" in this inquiry, "Shall we
continue in sin?" the force of the apostle's question is at once
revealed. We have believed, and by such belief have come into
relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Can we continue in sin, and so
retain our relationship with the first man? Emphatically the apostle
answers, "God forbid"; and his next question illustrated and emphasized
his conclusion. "We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live
"We . . . died to sin"; in that act of faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ, which was at once a confession of our sense of
condemnation, and of our confidence in the perfection of God's
provision, and in that act of faith, we were set free from our
relationship to sin. With that the apostle dealt more fully
subsequently. Upon the basis of that assumption, however, he asked his
question, How can we live in that to which we have died?
In the use of the words "dead" and "alive,'' there is
evidence of the merging of the thought of the apostle into the great
subject of sanctification. Justification is the value provided through
His death, and appropriated by our identification with Him therein by
faith. Sanctification is wrought out in the sphere of His life, into
which we are introduced through the gateway of His death. To this
positive aspect of salvation, the apostle next directed the attention of
those to whom he wrote.
Sanctification results directly from identification
with Christ in death and resurrection; and the argument deals with the
subject of union with Christ as to the purpose of God; and as to the
practice of the saints.
The apostle took the figure of baptism as the symbol
of death and resurrection. In the rite of baptism there are two
movements which may be described as immersion and emergence. Immersion
is the symbol of death and burial. Emergence is the symbol of
resurrection and life. When the apostle declared, "We were buried with
Him through baptism unto death," he of course referred to that work of
the Spirit whereby in answer to faith men enter into actual relationship
with Christ. Of that work of the Spirit there is no symbol so perfect as
that of water baptism. The individual placed within its embrace is
absolutely in the place of death. The same person emerging therefrom
comes actually into the region of life. While the figure is eloquent,
the fact is profounder.
It is of importance that we should bear in mind the
reflexive character of the work of Christ and that of the Holy Spirit.
Christ came to make possible the baptism of the Spirit. This His
forerunner distinctly declared. This He claimed Himself unequivocally.
The Spirit into Whom man, believing on Jesus, is baptized, becomes to
that man the power of death with regard to all the life of sin, because
He admits him into identification with the values of the work Christ
accomplished in order that He might make possible this very baptism of
the Spirit. In brief, Jesus came to bestow the Spirit upon men in order
to bring them into union with Himself.
The essential baptism therefore is that great act of
God, in which justification through the death of Christ is made the
possession of the believer, as the believer is placed in the position of
identification with that death.
It is yet more. It is the act of God whereby the
resurrection life of Jesus is made the possession of the believer for
Following his use of the figure of baptism the
apostle dealt carefully with the fact of union, which the figure
illustrates; first by the simple and yet inclusive statement, "If we
have become united with Him by the likeness of His death, we shall be
also by the likeness of His resurrection''; and then by the elaboration
of that statement, both on the side of crucifixion and of resurrection;
finally applying the truth, as he declared that in Christ's death He
ended the dominion of sin, and entered into the life unto God; and
charging upon believers the responsibility of reckoning themselves as
sharing with Christ both the death unto sin and the life unto God.
This naturally led to a more careful statement as to
what this union with Christ meant as to the practice of the believer. In
this argument everything depends upon that which had been already
stated; the initial "Therefore," of the passage indicating this fact.
Because the believer is identified with Christ in
death and in life, a double responsibility rests upon him.
The negative side of that responsibility is first
stated. Sin is to be entirely disowned. It is not to be permitted to
reign, even in the mortal body. Sin does so reign when the lusts of the
mortal body are obeyed. These lusts are not in themselves sinful. They
are the proper and natural desires of the material life. When, however,
they become the dominant factors, instead of the ministering servants,
then sin reigns. The mastery of the life by the desires of the body is
no longer necessary because of the new life possessed in Christ. To
allow sin therefore to reign is at once contrary to the purpose of God,
and unnecessary, because of the power possessed by the believer.
The positive side of the responsibility is then dealt
with. God is to be enthroned. The whole new man is to be yielded to Him,
and the members are to become instruments of righteousness unto Him.
This is a matter which needs the most careful statement, as an
understanding of it is of vital importance to all true Christian life.
The dedication enjoined to the will of God is not that of a sinning man,
in order that he may procure salvation. It is rather that of the saved
man, in order that he may serve. We are called to present ourselves not
in order to obtain life, but "as alive from the dead." Sin is not to be
permitted to reign. God alone is now King. The members of the body are
therefore to be the instruments of accomplishing His purposes of
righteousness. They must never be used simply in obedience to their own
desire, and without reference to the glory of God.
This is the distinctive excellence of the Christian
position. Grace reigns triumphantly. The believer is not a sinner under
law, proving his weakness by perpetual failure; he is rather a saint
under grace, proving Christ's power in constant victory.