IN CHRIST JESUS
The Sphere of the Believer's Life
Arthur Tappan Pierson,
The Epistle to the Galatians
Of this epistle, both chapter one and chapter two, as far as verse 14, are historical and introductory, and the proper argument of the epistle is not fully entered upon until this preliminary or prefatory portion is passed. But, so soon as we touch the body of the epistle proper, we find the phrase in Christ or its equivalent, with Christ, abounding. See 2:15-20.
["15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the Law: for by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified. 17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. 18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the Law am dead to the Law, that I might live unto God. 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: 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" (Galatians 2:15-20).]
Not only does the relation of
the believer to Christ, as the sphere of his being, again appear here, as the
controlling thought of this epistle, but in no equal number of words found
anywhere else is the subject presented with such completeness and
comprehensiveness. Every variety of expression is here found, such as "by the
faith of Christ," "crucified with Christ," [Galatians 2:20] et cetera, but the
most striking words which arrest the eye are these: "I live, yet not I, but
Christ liveth in me."[2:20].
Here is the key to the Epistle to the Galatians: "In Christ Crucified, yet living unto God. "As a believer I am in Christ, and therefore I am dead to the law and to its penalty; I am in Christ, and therefore alive unto God, and dead to the world (6:14)
["But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our LORD Jesus Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Galatians 6:14).]
and to the old self-life, and to the power of the flesh (5:24).
["And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Galatians 5:24).]
There are thus four aspects of the crucifixion―in a sense a four-fold crucifixion of the believer:
he dies to the law both as a justifier and an accuser;
he dies to the world with its fascination and domination;
he dies to the flesh with its affections and lusts; and
he dies to himself that Christ may live in him.
The full significance of this teaching will be seen only when the exact language is carefully noted, even to the changes of voice, mood, and tense in the verb, and of prepositions which here are to be found in great variety. To begin with the prepositions: in verses 19-20 of chapter two,
["19 For I through the Law am dead to the Law, that I might live unto God. 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: 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" (Galatians 2:19-20).]
we have in the English version
seven prepositions: through, to, unto, with, in, by, for; and in the Greek three
dia, en, huper; others being suggested by the case of nouns and by the
construction of the sentence, and which the English translation admirably
renders by the seven prepositions there found. But let us notice also the
changes of verbs: "I am dead," or, "I died" (RV); "I am crucified," or, "I have
been crucified (RV); "the world is crucified," or "hath been crucified unto me"
(RV); and, "have crucified the flesh." One cannot but observe the marked change
in the last case, where we have not the passive but active voice; and not
without reason. For in part our crucifixion with Christ is judicial,
constructive, passive, belonging wholly to the past and completed work of the
cross; but in part it is practical, actual, destructive of a present power and
enemy; and active, as something in which we take active part.
So far as the law is concerned, I have nothing to do as a believer but to accept Christ's satisfaction of its claims by His death, and His purchase of my justification by His obedience. The whole transaction is as much a past one as a canceled debt or a ransom paid. I, through the law, which brought Him to the cross as the sinner's satisfaction and surety, died, in Him, to the law, both as my vindicator and accuser. And so, in His death, with which by faith I am identified, the world is forevermore made my enemy because it was His, and I am in Him exposed to its derision as was He. To be in Christ implies that I am no more in the world as the sphere of my true life, love, and satisfaction. This again is a past transaction, though it may become more and more a practical reality as I come more under the power of that transaction. But, as to the flesh with its affections and lusts, is not that a daily dying to which I consent as a present fact, and which implies present pain?
The faith whereby I am made one with Christ as the sinbearer implies no participation in His vicarious agony. He suffered for me, the just for the unjust, that He might bring me unto God. But I did not suffer with Him on the cross, nor in any sense share that vicarious death, save as He was my Substitute that I might not come into judgment. He bore my sins that I might not bear them; and from the moment of my full acceptance of Him as my Saviour and Substitute and Surety, my penalty is borne and my judgment is past.
Not so of this flesh crucifixion. It is something to which I consent as a present experience. It has to do, not with a justification which He bought for me and which I afterward accepted, without participation in the process; but with a sanctification that is wrought in me by the indwelling Spirit and which I am now to participate in, working out my own salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that it is God that worketh in me both to will and to do. This is the mortifying of our members which are upon the earth, referred to in Romans 8:13
["For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Romans 8:13).]
and in Colossians 3:5:
"Mortify therefore your members." Mortify does not mean to reckon dead but to
make dead. Here is a daily, practical, painful death which by the Spirit we in a
sense inflict on ourselves, not in any meritorious sort, but as a matter of
choice, that we may be actually identified with Christ in holy living and
serving, as we are judicially one with Him in the justifying efficacy and effect
of His crucifixion.
Thus the Epistle to the Galatians meets the believer where the epistles to the Romans and to the Corinthians leave him, and urges him forward. It is the epistle of "newness of life," corresponding to His forty days' walk after His resurrection. How beautiful, and how significant! In Romans, we saw the believer in Christ expiating the law's penalty and satisfying its claims, dying, buried, and then rising by the power of the Spirit, prepared to live unto God. In Corinthians, we saw him inbreathed and indwelt of the Spirit and finding in the Spirit his divine element, the source and secret of continuous life and permanent and indissoluble union with Christ. And now the Epistle to the Galatians opens up before the believer a complete life walk, corresponding to the path which the risen Christ pursued between the sepulcher and the ascension. That walk of His in newness of life covered forty days, the period of completeness, and it stands for the rounded-out life of the believer, after he is risen with Christ and has received the Holy Spirit, whose indwelling makes such a "walk" with God, in the Spirit, possible.
For this reason it is that nowhere else but in this epistle do we find the three foes of the holy life, all put before us in their relations to Christ's cross.
There is our first foe―the world―and what shall I do to meet that and overcome it? "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (I John 5:4). He has overcome the world, and He bids us be of good cheer (John 16:33).
["These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).]
We have only to accept our
justified standing in Him and reckon on His death for us and His life in us, and
the power of the world is broken. Because it was and is His enemy, it is also
ours; but because it was and is His vanquished foe, it is also our subdued,
defeated, overcome foe. The powers of the age to come we have tasted, and the
powers of the present evil age are driven back, and so a second foe is defeated.
We look at the unseen and eternal, rather than the seen and temporal, and walk
by faith, not by sight.
But there is a second foe of our spiritual life and holy walk, and how shall we meet it? It is the flesh, with its affections and lusts warring against the Spirit with the aspirations and affinities for God which the Spirit makes possible. Here again we are crucified with Christ. We take our stand at the cross and consent to be nailed to it, voluntarily, actually; to submit to the pain whereby the flesh dies; the hands are pierced that carnal work may no longer be done in the energy of the flesh; the feet are pierced that no longer we may walk according to the flesh; the brow is pierced with the thorn crown that our head may not any longer be held up for human diadems and fading laurel wreaths; the side is pierced that the heart may relinquish its fleshly energy and preference, and be occupied with God. This is (let us not deny it!) a painful process. It is the voluntary and daily crucifixion of the fleshly affections and lusts. And so, but only so, is a third foe defeated by the cross, which we take up daily, that we may follow Him.
Another foe remains, subtlest of all―the self-life. What a host of foes in one: the self-trust that prevents trust only in Him, the self-help that turns us from our only true Help, the self-love that makes our own advantage an idolatrous object, the self-pride that absorbs us in our own supposed excellence, the self-defense that makes us our own champions and promotes endless strife, the self glory that puts even the glory of God in the background.
What shall be done with the self-life? Let us learn here that the only hope again is in being crucified with Christ. On the cross His self-life, though never corrupted by sin, was given up for others. He gave Himself for us. And He says to us, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself―not his self-indulgences, which may only change their form, but himself. Much that we call self-denial is not self-denial at all. We cut off some branch of our selfish enjoyments, but the only effect is to throw back the sap into the other branches to make them more vigorous and fruitful. The ax must be laid at the root of the tree; that is denial of self. And then, as Dr. Moule beautifully says, the great gigantic, arrogant, nominative "I" is "inflected into the prostrate, humble, objective me"―"I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." [Galatians 2:20].
There remains but one more foe―the devil―and we shall see that his defeat is presented to us, not in this epistle, but in the Epistle to the Ephesians; and for the obvious reason that that victory is connected not so much with the death of Christ as with His ascension to the heavenlies. Here we have to do with those foes of holy living whose defeat is particularly associated with His cross. I am crucified with Christ, and hence I am dead to the law, I am crucified to the world, I have crucified the flesh, and the self-life is nailed to the cross that the I might no longer be active but passive―the me in whom He dwells and works. I cannot be crucified to the devil, nor can I crucify him; even to the crucified disciple he appears as a wily foe, constantly on the alert, and we need to mount with Christ to the heavenlies before Satan is beneath our feet.
What wonder, then, that in Galatians 6:15,
["For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature" (Galatians 6:15).]
as in II Corinthians 5:17,
["Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2Corinthians 5:17).]
we have Christ presented as
the sphere of the new creation. In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor
uncircumcision availeth anything, but a new creation; no forms,
ceremonies, rites, regulations of the outer life can effect or affect the new
position in Christ. We enter into Him by faith, and find that we are in a sphere
where all things are new.
No law thunders its alarms there: we are on Zion, not underneath Sinai. The world makes no appeal there, for its gold would be trodden under feet as refuse, and its crowns are all seen to be withered and worthless. The flesh has no control there, for the law of the Spirit of life controls the whole being. The old self sways us no longer, for what used to exalt itself against God and usurp authority, is content to be servant of servants to Him. We are in Christ, in a new world of privilege and possession. Like Him in His forty days' walk we are living a supernatural life, a life more in heaven than on earth, a life in the power of the Spirit, a life which defies all the old forces that swayed us, as He was no longer under the limitations of the human and the natural. The new walk with God in Christ is a walk in an essentially new world of dependence on God and of power in God. Of course, no rites will avail to introduce us into such a new world―renewal alone would suffice.
Here, then, we have found Christ the sphere of a new life which comes to us by the surrender of the old. We cease from all dependence on the law that we may know the power of grace. We cease from all dependence on the flesh that we may walk in the Spirit, and no longer fulfill its lusts. We cease from walking with the world that we may walk with God, and we resign the self-life that the Christ-life may be fully regnant in us.
This epistle suggests a possible and practical walk with God. But its secret is a new atmosphere of life. There is a displacement of a hostile element, that once made holy living impossible, by another element which, so far as it prevails, renders deliberate sinning quite as impossible.
"Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would" (Galatians 5:16-17 RV).
To one who walks in the Spirit, the lusts of the flesh become impotent to control, until the spiritual man comes at last to marvel that he ever felt certain inclinations and passions swaying him. Let us once more hear the old Eastern story:
The haughty favorite of an Oriental monarch threw a stone at a poor priest. The dervish did not dare to throw it back, for the favorite was very powerful. So he picked up the stone and put it carefully in his pocket, saying to himself: "The time for revenge will come by and by, and then I will repay him." Not long afterward, walking in one of the streets, he saw a great crowd, and found to his astonishment, that his enemy, the favorite, who had fallen into disgrace with the king, was being paraded through the principal streets on a camel, exposed to the jests and insults of the populace. The dervish seeing all this, hastily grasped at the stone which he carried in his pocket, saying to himself: "The time for my revenge has come, and I will repay him for his insulting conduct." But after considering a moment, he threw the stone away, saying: "The time for revenge never comes; for if our enemy is powerful, revenge is dangerous as well as foolish, and if he is weak and wretched, then revenge is worse than foolish, it is mean and cruel. And in all cases it is forbidden and wicked."
Not only for revenge, but for
all voluntary sin, the time should never come to a regenerated child of God. The
believer, having received the Spirit of God as the indwelling Spirit, must
accept Him practically as the inworking Spirit, and follow His gentlest and
faintest motions and leadings. There is something higher than even to be taught
by the Spirit, namely, to be led of the Spirit. We fear many have been taught
who have not been led; and failure to be led makes us more and more incapable of
being taught, for the disobedient soul becomes callous to divine impression. He
who is risen with Christ, and has the Breath of God in him, should live as a
risen, quickened, breathing son of God, and walk in the Spirit in newness of
This expression, first found in Romans 6:4, is one of singular meaning, and the whole Epistle to the Galatians is a commentary upon it. Let us, therefore, tarry to examine it more carefully. "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."
Two things here are very noticeable. First, there is to be a walk in newness of life, and, second, it is to find its type and likeness in the resurrection life of the Lord Himself.
This phrase, "newness of life," occurs only here, and itself opens up an immense territory of thought. Even in the life of the God-man there was, after His rising from the dead, a newness of life manifested, which is the type and pattern of what our life may be and ought to be in Him.
We observe apparently new conditions in our Lord's post-resurrection life on earth. Up to this time Christ had a mortal body, born of a woman, made under the law, and subject to human limitations, identified with the condition of humanity. Death was possible to that body, and actually endured by Him as part of His humiliation. But, after the resurrection, when He rose to die no more, and death had no more dominion over Him, He was, indeed, the "Prince of Life." [Acts 3:15].
His life was now and henceforth a resurrection life. He was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4) .
It was a supernatural life. His rising was a miracle. If the Scriptures are very minutely examined, it will be found that He appears to have come forth without human or even angelic aid. Though the angel rolled back the stone from the door of the sepulcher, it is never once intimated that Christ waited for that before He left the sealed tomb; it would rather appear that He emerged from that closed tomb as One who could not be thus holden. And so there is more than an intimation that He sloughed off those grave wrappings, and left them in their original convolutions, undisturbed, as they were wrapped or rolled about Him.This was what convinced John that the resurrection was miraculous. He saw the long linen cloths―which, with a hundred pounds of spices, had been tightly wrapped about the Lord's body and head―lying on the floor of the rock tomb, exactly as He had been enveloped in them. His body, endowed with resurrection power, had slipped out from these tight and heavy cerements of the grave (John 20:5-7).
["5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. 6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, 7 and the napkin, that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself" (John 20:5-7).]
They could not hold Him fast.
All through those forty days Christ seems to have been independent of former
conditions and limitations. He entered with in closed doors, He assumed
different forms, He appeared instantly and as instantly vanished; and finally
ascended as one whom even gravitation no more controlled.
All this suggests what is meant by our walking in newness of life, and why such a simile is connected with it, "that, like as Christ was raised from the dead," [Romans 6:4], etc. Our life in Him should be a life subject to entirely new conditions―essentially a resurrection life: a life supernatural in power, possible only by the Spirit of Holiness; a life no longer under the dominion of former lusts, fleshly bondage; essentially a divine life, in which celestial forces prevail; a life of heavenly knowledge, and strength, and peace, and patience, and power; a life of heavenly frames, having the lamb-like, dove like quality. Our resurrection life may be and should be like His, more of heaven than of earth, a mysterious life that no worldly man or worldly minded disciple can understand or explain.
This epistle contains an instructive allegory or parable, that of Hagar and Ishmael, the pertinency of which is not seen by every reader. Let us close this chapter by a reference to it.
In Genesis chapter 4:22-31, this history is presented as having a deeper allegorical meaning than the mere surface reveals. This Hagar is Mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage. Sarah represents grace, and Isaac, her son, the liberty of faith. Hagar represents law, and Ishmael, who is her son, represents the bondage which unbelief engenders. The territory in which both for a time sought to live is the believer's own experience. But the two are incompatible and irreconcilable. Faith and unbelief, liberty and slavery, love and fear, hope and despair, cannot abide together. And God says to every child of His, "cast out the bondwoman and her son, for there can be no common inheritance for the son of the bondwoman and the son of the freewoman. Give your heart wholly to the dominion of grace and faith."
The same lesson is taught in Hebrews 12:18-29,
["18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet, and the Voice of Words; which Voice they that heard intreated that the Word should not be spoken to them any more: 20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, and if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: 21 and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) 22 but ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the Living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn, which are written in Heaven, and to God the Judge of All, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the Blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. 25 See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on Earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from Heaven: 26 whose Voice then shook the Earth: but now He hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the Earth only, but also Heaven. 27 And this Word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 for our God is a Consuming Fire" (Hebrews 12:18-29).]
in that other parable of Sinai
and Sion. Leave the mount that quakes and burns, with its blackness and darkness
and tempest and trumpet and awful voice of law; and live on Mount Sion, the
place of the King's palace, with its holy memories, experiences, and prospects.
There you look back to Calvary's cross, up to heaven's daily blessing, and
forward to the far but near horizon of the blessed hope. Faith reconciles; faith
saves, not only from hell, but from the inward slough of despond and the
torments of fear. Faith makes real the encampment of God's holy angels about the
believer and the fellowship of all redeemed souls in heaven and earth. Faith
makes you conscious and confident of your heavenly citizenship, and your
interest in atoning blood, which calls not for vengeance but for mercy.
All these lessons are summed up in that one verse: "That, like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." [Romans 6:4].
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