"Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God." (Romans 6:9,10)
THERE are few chapters in the New Testament that have affected my mind, that I am aware of, more than this, as regards the variety of feelings of which I have been the subject in reading it; sometimes as if I could not understand it, and at other times as if I could. Do you say, "If occasionally you feel to understand it, why do you not always retain it?" My dear friends, if the Spirit of God is teaching you, you will not speak so foolishly as that. You will know from your own experience that it is only in God's light we can see light, and directly that is withdrawn, nature cannot supply its place. So that we understand no more and no longer than God is graciously pleased to lead and teach us by His Spirit. "The natural man" (and without His Spirit we are but natural) "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; neither can he know them" (God says so) "because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2:14) Then it is only as people are walking in the Spirit, that they can be expected to discern spiritual things in any healthful and profitable way to their soul. You may have a notion of them, but God's people find that what is the only state of those who have no grace at all, is what they are liable to have to feel if they grieve the Spirit of God; and though underneath they have something that is incorruptible, and that will not perish, nor join with the evil on the surface, yet we cannot draw it into the leading place and enjoy freedom till the Spirit of God returns. There are some people who look upon it as most offensive to pray for the Spirit of God, when we have Him already; but it is no more offensive than for people who are breathing to want a little more air, when the life of what they have gets exhausted; they then want fresh living air, without which they cannot enjoy life.
Now, I believe the great drift of this chapter is to point out the conclusion of the previous chapter, and to draw out the remarks of people on it. "Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound." What a vast proportion of our fellow mortals have a Bible under their roof, who live and die without law or gospel entering into them! They are neither killed nor made alive; they live a natural life, and can enter into natural subjects. The world is their field in which they are laboring and employed, and there they stop; beyond that their poor minds are never lively.
Some of you may now be, perhaps, with a measure of God-given faith in the law of God as the law--you are cut to the quick, lying down in pain and distress. Why so? Because you cannot love God, and no religion will satisfy your heart without you can love God, and you have not that love, to your consciousness. You may have a good deal to do with earthly things, but all the while you are uncomfortable, disquieted, inwardly unhappy; you feel a poor, fallen creature. I thank God for any who are in that state, for it will not stop there. I have no fear that God will let you die in that state, if you have reached there. When you go to God's holy law you need not go far. The late Mrs. Hoblyn, when a child, thought she knew a great deal. Her godly uncle feared God; she could not understand his being a sinner. He said, "I did not love God." She replied, "Was that all?" The root of all was, "I did not love God."
Now, my dear friends, we are not born into this world with the love of God in our hearts; we have to be born again for that. We are born into this world under condemnation, without power to love God. We need the Holy Ghost to shed abroad that love in our hearts, and He cannot do that unless He can show us a Surety for our sin and guilt, and that God the Father has received a perfect satisfaction, a full propitiation for all the sins of all who are saved; that the Lord Jesus has made an end of sin. He said, "Shall I say, Save Me from this hour? but for this cause came I unto this hour." For what cause? To be a sacrifice for sin; to die, the just for the unjust; then, "Not My will, but Thine be done."
"Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound." Now if it be from the Spirit of God making that blessed use of the law (for I heartily believe a law work is an act of wonderful grace), it curses us, but only curses what needs to be cursed; He makes sore, He binds up; He wounds, He heals. The same gracious God that gives the law gives the gospel. He that spake from Mount Sinai spake also from Mount Zion; then, O what a mercy to be the subject of Divine dealings! If you are ready to say, "Every day I am an offender in God's sight; every day I am guilty; every day I come short of the glory of God;" then He says, "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound."
He does not say, "In some cases, but not in all; "but where sin abounded." It need not be so in man's esteem. Your neighbors may think you very goodhearted, very sound, very good and godly, whilst all the while you are feeling your depravity, sin, and vileness. "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." O how anxiously I have looked at words like that--"Much more abound." That were the sin, and wound, and misery are, for the grace much more to abound there. We have a beautiful illustration of this in the case of the Apostle Paul. "God knows I was a blasphemer; I compelled the Lord's people to blaspheme. I persecuted to the death; no one could go beyond me;" but "the grace of our God was exceeding abundant;" there is the "much more." More in Christ to save than in all that blasphemy to damn. Oh, well might he speak of his own experience, and say so blessedly, "I am crucified with Christ!" If you say, Where is the end of my sin? I can only point you to Christ crucified. I was crucified in Him, I rose in Him, I ascended to heaven in Him; and though here I am persecuted, and treated as the offscouring of all things, yet I have a home in heaven; I have committed my soul to the Lord Jesus Christ, who redeemed it. Oh, my dear friends, how poor is our love to the Lord! how poor is our gratitude! When I look at it I feel uncomfortable. I beg for ease and for relief, but how little overflow of gratitude.
"That as sin hath reigned unto death." And any one into whom the law enters will find sin reigns unto death. As surely as you see light in the Lord's light--see the spirituality of the law of God--it goes down to the thoughts and intents of the heart. Who can stand before it? Not one. "The law was given that every mouth might be stopped." Then what a loss it is for all those of the human race who never have the law enter! and what a blessing for all those of the human race who have the law enter as the law, who are killed by it, and who cry with poor Peter, "Lord, save or I perish!" Oh, happy publican with his "God be merciful to me a sinner!" Oh, pitiful the case of that poor Pharisee who was not even like this publican!
"That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord." Where is there a richer vein to be found? I am not aware of it. Oh, the Scripture is very full of rich veins!
"What shall we say then?" What will nature say about this? What will our reasoning mind say? What will our natural mind with all its terrible ignorance say? "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" evidently meaning not inward sin only, but to walk on as the world in general; "fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind." "God forbid," says the Holy Ghost by Paul. "How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?" Dead in Christ's death; mind that. You will never find a safe issue from your own consciousness of sin and sinfulness but in Christ's death. He died to make an end of sin--the only end that God will regard. Therefore, my dear friends, if any of us have a good hope through grace it is entirely founded on the death of Christ. "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live." Christ did not remain crucified very long. He was laid in the grave, a crucified corpse, three days, "but God raised Him from the dead." "God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" Then he says, "Know ye not" (he often uses that expression about knowing or not knowing), "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?" Those of us who have been baptized were baptized into Christ's death. We might have had, at the time, very little understanding of it. We might have looked upon it as our duty to follow Christ's example; but the Spirit of God teaches us that in God's purpose, and in His appointing that ordinance, and in our observance of it, we were baptized into the death of Christ; and then those who are laid under the water are immediately after lifted out, other persons to what they were before. They have put on a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ--that His life, His death, His resurrection has become the whole and entire ground of their hope. It is so to me. I have no other hope than Christ having died. His life was a spotless one, and then He died with sin laid to His charge! My dear friends, what a wonderful salvation is this!
"Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him." Crucifixion is a certain death, though often a lingering death; yet from the very time of the crucifixion beginning it is a death. When a person is tried, and condemned, and sentenced to death, he is dead in the eyes of the Law. Though he is still living till the execution takes place, all his acts are not allowed, nor acknowledged.
"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin." Do you remember that beautiful passage in the Hebrews: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." (Heb. 2:14) Now the devil is in a sense destroyed, and in another sense not so. As regards his dominion over the Church of God, that is gone, because atonement has been made for the sin of the Church of God, and it was that sin that gave him his power over them. But when redemption took place, and we were bought with the blood of Christ, Satan lost his power. "And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Heb. 2:15) Have you ever lost bondage through a sight of a lifted up Christ? through a consciousness of interest in a risen and ascended Saviour? Have you ever been able to look upon Christ as your life? "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." (Col. 3:3) Now you have to "fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ"--to bear the trials of this natural life--this earth-bound state; but you have a pledge--an earnest of being with the Lord for ever.
"Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him." That is just what Paul so believed that it gave him all his strength, and made him to be the wonderful man that he was. All that Christ died for were dead in His death; God having transferred their sin to Him, and His righteousness to them; so that now we are clothed upon by the Son of God, as a risen Saviour, who once had sin imputed to Him; but sin lost its dominion when He shed His precious blood. There are awful things said of the blood of Christ. Some have dared to say they are tired of a religion founded in blood! What are they looking to instead? To their own ability, and their influence over their poor fellow mortals. Oh these awful characters in our poor country! May the Lord deliver you from any thing so blasphemous as that. Remember what I quoted before: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." (Gal. 2:20) I am thankful he did not stop there. What does he say at the conclusion of that passage? "And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." Does His love ever wear out? Does it run out like the emptying of a tank that will only hold a certain quantity? Oh no! My dear friends, it is an inexhaustible fullness; it is everlasting love; it was from everlasting, and it is to everlasting. "Who loved me, and gave Himself for me." That is where the Apostle Paul got his strength when, poor dear man, sin would plague him, and he feels the consequences of it making him unhappy. "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 7:24,25) It is but for a time; it is a battlefield now, but I have a sure victory--the conquest by Christ is the assurance of victory. With all your distress about sin, you have never sweat great drops of blood yet; but the Son of God did. Look at Him in the garden of Gethsemane, having received His load: all the sins of all that had been, and that ever would be saved; for the ransom price must cover all the sins that ever will be committed for all those who are saved. Oh the dying of that Just One in the room of the unjust to bring us unto God!
"Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him." One offering was sufficient: "For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (Heb. 10:14) That is a very important passage. If it had been an incomplete death, an insufficient death, there must have been another; but the one was complete; and then came in the entire remission of every sin of all the Church, of all that ever will be saved, of all that will ever come to glory. How fully Christ consented unto death! He said, "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?" "One of My apostles once asked Me to spare Myself, and I said to him, 'Get thee behind Me, Satan.' Did I not come into the world purposely to die? Was I not made a little lower than the angels that I might die? And was this all to be frustrated? all to come to nothing?" No. What God does He does with such infinite wisdom, majesty, power, and grace, and with such a determination; there is no variableness or shadow of turning with Him. "The cup that My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it? Did He not tell Me in prophecy long before I came into this world, in human nature, that I should have the sword of justice to awake against Me? Did He not say, 'Awake, O sword, against My shepherd?' (Zech. 13:7) and these are My sheep. My sheep hear My voice." The greatest happiness I could enjoy would be the hearing of that voice of the Shepherd. The little I do know is very sweet, but how little compared with what I believe may be known, and with what some have known, and particularly in times of great persecution, when the support God gave them at those times was great indeed.
There was a godly man preaching forty miles away from where a John Brown lived. He suddenly stopped and said, "John Brown is dead," and it was so; he was killed by the dragoons. What knowledge God gave to some in those days! There was a man named Peden, who was often exposed; on one occasion, when pursued by the persecuting dragoons, he prayed, "Lord, cover Sandy with Thy mantle!" and a great thick mist enveloped him at once, so that his enemies lost sight of him. The Lord has ordered that all times shall be in His hand, and He gives out suited to the times in which we live. I believe some of these things are greatly withheld now, because we are in these last times, because many are ensnared with the world, and are lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. Many are so occupied with self, and with natural bodily ease and self-indulgence; and what is one of the consequences? The Lord withholds from us those visitations of His Spirit that are essential for the healthiness of our soul, for the keenness of our appetite in the things of God. Everything gets blunted, and as if the power of it is taken out of it. Oh how we mourn about it! I do occasionally; and when I would try to pray about it. Oh the opposition I find to secret prayer! I have not the same when trying to pray in your presence, but when there is no human eye to see, nor human ear to hear, it is as if all hell is stirred up to hinder prayer. I do not know how you succeed, how you prevail, or what victories you obtain.
"Death hath no more dominion over Him." Then what do we want if He will not die again? We need communications from His right hand. "And He gave, some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." (Eph. 4:11,12) In a little while you may need the Lord to give you a minister that may hold the truth and love the truth. My dear friends, I do not want you to be left as sheep without a shepherd; may the Lord raise up and qualify whom He will. Remember this, the government of all is in the hand of Christ; He opens, and none can shut. I look at those churches in the Revelation, and how He watches over the history of each, and sends suitable messages to each. It is His judgment we have to consider.
"For in that He died, He died unto sin once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God." What view does the Father take of it? That it cannot be exceeded; that it is beyond price. "Therefore doth My Father love me"--why?--"because I lay down My life, that I might take it again." (John 10:17) My Father has a number of poor, unhappy children; they need a Redeemer, they need a righteousness, they need inward sanctification; they are poor, sinful, polluted creatures. Now the Lord Jesus contains all we need; "of God He is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." (1 Cor. 1:30,31) "In the Lord"--in God the Father and in God the Son by the power of God the Holy Ghost. To glory in God the Father as the giver of His dear Son; to glory in God the Son, the perfection of obedience, even unto death, who drank that cup of the Father's wrath to the very dregs; who had the sword bathed in His blood, the soldier to pierce His side, but before this He had given up His breath. "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit." And will not the Father reward Him? does not the Father reward Him? Is not the Lord Jesus Christ a life-giving power among the children of men? Are not poor people in different neighborhoods being quickened, born again? All salvation comes out of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is the true God and eternal life. "But in that He liveth, He liveth unto God." "Because I live," said Christ, "ye shall live also." (John 14:19) Are you quite sure that He lives unto God? that He is the Shepherd? the Redeemer? that He is Zion's Prophet, Priest, and King? that He is the Father's dearly beloved Son? the Father's delight? Does He live unto God? Then, as nothing need be done again of what He has perfectly done and finished, what we want is the living Son of God to be putting forth His power to lead us up and down in all this wonderful field of His sufferings--of His path in the days of His humiliation, in which He showed the power of His mercy, and His power over all evil spirits--now to meditate therein, to feed therein.
Beware, my dear friends, of excess in reading newspapers. If there is no just occasion for it, and you get into the habit of reading these cheap papers, you will find your taste and relish for spiritual things are sure to decline. People in certain businesses may have just occasion; but if you read for the sake of keeping up an interest in all that is going on in the world at large, the editors of these papers being worldly-minded men, you will drink into their spirit, though they may be bodily far away from you. The papers may be printed in London, and you may have the whole of London here; and you may drink into the spirit of them without being aware of any danger. Oh to be alive in a risen Saviour, and for His delight to be our delight, and His honor that in which we delight! "How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?" (John 5:44) Remember these solemn warnings in God's Word.
"Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God." And you may say, all true believers may say, "I live unto God in His dear Son; Christ is my life; my life is hid with Christ in God." I am waiting for His second coming "without sin unto salvation." The first time He came to have sin imputed to Him, and to make an end of it; and to prove that He had done this, He rose from the dead, after He had sanctified the grave, and made it a bed for the saints of God to fall asleep in, and He became a conqueror on His Father's throne. When He comes again, He will come "without sin unto salvation." This is what I am looking--waiting for. "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin; but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."