Thursday, April 13, 2017

Who is on that cross?

I listened to a few messages on Romans 6 from Voices for Christ last week. One of them fueled my growing conviction that preachers hate to read Romans 6 before preaching on it.

At one point the speaker talked about how the believer was once a slave to sin, but now the old man has been crucified, we no longer have to obey him – he's hanging on the Cross, and has no power over us.

Here's my inexpert transcript:

And so he says, to the Christians, In the light of the fact that you need to reckon yourselves to death indeed to sin, uh, verse 11, alive to God through Jesus Christ... Then he says, OK if you've reckoned on that to be true, do not allow sin to reign as a king in your mortal body that you should obey it in the lusts thereof.

You don't have to obey it anymore.

So here's the picture: here's the... my old man and he's, he's crucified, he's hanging on a cross, right? There he is. And he's, he's saying to me, "Come on, you served me for all these years, serve me again today."

And, and he, he can't force me to do anything, right? Because he can't punish me, he's nailed to a cross, he ain't going anywhere, right? He, he has no authority over me anymore. And so I don't have to respond to him.

Of course it's all nonsense.

The root problem is sloppy exposition: Romans 6–8 carefully distinguishes between "the old man", "sin," and "the flesh." Scripture doesn't use those words interchangeably, but many preachers do.

So what does Romans 6 actually say? Romans 6:6 tells us about five "actors". I've marked them in bold:

knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin
There's a story in this verse: our old man was a servant of sin, and he obeyed with his body, "the body of sin". God has intervened by removing the middle man in this chain. By removing the old man via crucifixion, He broke the connection between sin and the body it used. The result is that the body of sin is annulled, and as a result we no longer serve sin.

Scripture doesn't talk about obeying the old man, and it doesn't contemplate sin being crucified.

Scripture doesn't say sin has died, it says I have died. Romans 8:3 says sin in the flesh has been condemned, but there's not a hint that sin has died. On the contrary, Romans 6–8 consistently speaks of sin as an active, ruling principle. In Romans 6:12 talks about sin reigning in our mortal bodies; Romans 7:23 talks about "the law of sin... in my members."

We're not just spitting hairs here: there are huge consequences to carelessness when it comes to these chapters. Confusing something Scripture claims has been put to death with something that absolutely has not been put to death is a recipe for disbelief.

Once we head down that path, we end up adding caveats to Scripture – "that's true positionally". Eventually we get to the stage where we start telling people they should reckon themselves to have died while insisting to them that they have not.

The remedy is simple: just carefully use the language Scripture uses. The old man has been crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6), sin in the flesh has been condemned (Romans 8:3), the body is dead because of sin, (Romans 8:10) but we are awaiting its redemption (Romans 8:23). I have died with Christ (Romans 6:11), but I still have the law of sin in my members (Romans 7:23). These are the plain statements of Scripture.

Romans 6 talks about the old man, Romans 7 talks about the flesh. Romans 8 talks about the practical effects of the Spirit of God in us as we're living in fallen bodies. These are distinct things, and we have no trouble if we just pay attention to what the Scripture actually says.

There is a great deal more to be said, but we'll save it for another time.


Susan said...

Well said, Mark. There certainly is a lot of confusion and misguided teaching on this subject.

HandWrittenWord said...

One of your best, Mark.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely;
and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

clumsy ox said...

"People have talked about dying to the flesh, and of its being a slow death, etc., which is all nonsense. It is a simple fact that is true already. And if I died with Him, I shall live with Him. It is the power of this that works in my soul. The root of all Paul's doctrine is that we have been crucified with Him, and have died with Him; and it is not now we who live, but Christ that lives in us."
J. N. Darby, Dead and Risen with Christ

HandWrittenWord said...

But God forbid that I should glory
except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by whom the world has been crucified to me,
and I to the world.
(Galatians 6:14)

Susan said...

"it is not now we who live, but Christ that lives in us."
That statement confuses me because - yes, Christ lives in us and yes, we died, but we are not dead and gone but risen and born again new creations in Christ. Who we were in Adam is dead and gone. Who we are in Christ is alive, and in Him we live and move and have our being.

clumsy ox said...

It's Galatians 2:20, right?

It confuses me too. I accept that it's scripture, but I don't think I understand it.

Susan said...

Galatians 2:20 does not confuse me.....There's the old I (who I was in Adam) and the new I (the new creation me in Christ).....It's Darby's quote that confuses me: "it is not now we who live, but Christ that lives in us.":....which seems to say that I no longer live but Christ lives in me instead of me. I'm sure he didn't mean that though.

"In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him." 1 John 4:9

Robert said...

Paul spoke of a time he became a wretched man. Count the number of personal pronouns in Romans 7 - me, myself, I. No wonder he was wretched ! 'I' cannot live the Christian life. But he found the answer - who shall deliver me? Not 'I' but 'who'. The only person who can live the Christian life is Christ! 'Not I but Christ liveth in me'.

HandWrittenWord said...

Notice the King James translation of Galatians 2:20 ---

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.

Compare the New American Standard translation:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Susan and Mark --

This verse contains a great mystery certainly, and illustrates the fundamental principle that the spiritual truths of the Word of God can never be "understood" in the sense that we understand everyday concepts --

"...I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me..." followed by "...the life which I now live in the flesh..." (KJV)

" is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me..." followed by "...the life which I now live in the flesh..." (NASB)

In my humble opinion, the mystery is brought into a bit sharper relief in the King James. At any rate, 1 Corinthians 2:14 establishes a truth that applies throughout the totality of the Word:

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (King James Version)

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised. (New American Standard)

It is helpful to realize that, among other things, this verse is speaking of the inability of the natural MIND, unaided by the Spirit, to grasp spiritual truths of the Word in any meaningful sense.

Susan said...

Thank you, Robert and HandWrittenWord! I agree and understand what you're saying. 'I' cannot live the Christian life..... The only person who can live the Christian life is Christ! 'Not I but Christ liveth in me'

Rodger said...

Hopefully this won't muddy the waters at all on such a vital question. One of the most helpful comments I have found on the derivative nature of man is in the first part of JND's Dialogues on the Essays and Reviews (Collected Writings, volume 9). I attach an already lengthy extract, but strongly recommend reading what precedes and follows:

"...a dependent being (and a creature is a dependent being or a revolted one, perhaps a revolted dependent one) is elevated by its wants, not by its powers. Its powers may develop it, but cannot elevate it. But if I have a want, which is not power, and there is that which meets my want outside myself, I become acquainted with it. I appreciate it, not by power, but by dependence on the quality by which my want is supplied. Hunger is not power; but it enjoys and appropriates food which gives power. Weakness is not power; but if my languid body leans on kindly and supporting strength, my felt weakness makes me know what strength is. But I learn more by it. I learn the kindness, patience, goodness, readiness, help, and perseverance in helping which sustain me. I have the experience of independent strength, adapted, suited to my weakness. I know its capacity to sustain what is beyond itself, which is not my power elevating itself in internal development — self-filling power. There is love.
Now this relationship of wants to that which supplies them in another is the link between my nature and all the qualities of the nature I lean on, and which supplies these wants. I know its qualities by the way it meets my not having them — my want of power. It is a moral link too. I know love by it, and all the unfolding of goodness; self-power never does. The exaltation of what is human in itself is the positive loss of what is divine, that is, infinite positive loss. There is immense moral depth in the apostle's word: When I am weak, then am I strong. And the more I have of God, and the more absolutely it is so, the more I gain. All is appropriated, but self is destroyed. It is not that I cease to exist, or to enjoy. It is not a Buddhist or stoical pantheistic absorption into God. I am always the conscious I for ever; yet an I which does not think of I, but of God in whom its delight is. It is a wonderful perfection — an absolute delight in what is perfect, but in what is perfect out of ourselves, so that self is morally annihilated, though it always is there personally to enjoy. This is partly now in the form of thirst, though there be enjoyment — hereafter, for those who have it, perfect enjoyment face to face. God alone is sufficient for Himself, is αὐταρχες, and hence not self-seeking, for that comes from not being satisfied, not sufficient for self. Out of Him the αὐταρχεια is pride, satisfaction with misery, and itself a sin; dependence is the right, holy, loving, excellent place. To be independent, if we are not God, is folly, stupidity, and a lie, living in a lie. If we are God, we must be the only one, or we are not it at all. Yet in Christianity we are made partakers of the divine nature, in order to our having the fullest capacity of enjoyment; but for that very reason we have (He being perfectly revealed) such a knowledge of Him as makes us undividedly delight in His infinite excellence, and makes our dependence to be our deriving in love from infinite excellence, and in our normal state unmingled delight in it."

Susan said...

Thanks Rodger - I sure don't want to complicate a complicated matter - "There is immense moral depth in the apostle's word: When I am weak, then am I strong. And the more I have of God, and the more absolutely it is so, the more I gain. All is appropriated, but self is destroyed. It is not that I cease to exist, or to enjoy. It is not a Buddhist or stoical pantheistic absorption into God. I am always the conscious I for ever; yet an I which does not think of I, but of God in whom its delight is. It is a wonderful perfection — an absolute delight in what is perfect, but in what is perfect out of ourselves, so that self is morally annihilated, though it always is there personally to enjoy."
Perhaps I'm the only one that finds Darby difficult to understand at times. What is the meaning of "self" when Darby says "self is destroyed - self is morally annihilated"? The same as "I" in the earlier Darby quote?
My understanding is that "old self" is the person the Christian was before God united him or her with Christ and "new self" is who the Christian is after his or her union with Christ. The "new self" is not to be destroyed and annihilated but to look to Christ who is "The only person who can live the Christian life"

HandWrittenWord said...

Susan -

Here is another angle on the mystery: As one of the redeemed, there is not "my life" and "the life of Christ". He IS my life.

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Jesus our Lord, the risen and glorified Christ, IS our life. And that is a very, very good thing.

Can I "explain" the revelation granted to the Apostle Paul, and cited above in the sense that we usually consider an "explanation"? No. Can God grant revelation to ME regarding the Word that He revealed to His servant Paul? Yes, emphatically yes. But that involves WAITING on Him, for some reason an incredibly difficult affair for many, if not most of us. And here is a great irony: when I prayerfully read a passage such as this, meditate on and linger over it, BELIEVING that God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), He will open my spiritual eyes to see, and my spiritual ears to hear. And, wonder of wonders, I find that this passage "means" just what it said all the time! But now I see it if from a higher perspective, as it were.

Susan -- Cling to what the Spirit reveals to YOU from His Word.

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
(Proverbs 3:5)

clumsy ox said...

I think you're pretty much in agreement with the quote Rodger posted. The old man has died, the new doesn't have to.

When JND talks about moral annihilation, he's not meaning that we cease to exist (which is Buddhism), but that we disappear from God's sight.

In a sense, that's the main point of Romans 8: even a man who has died with Christ is powerless to serve God, because God is really only pleased with Christ Himself. That powerlessness ought to draw us closer to Christ as our Life. All too often we mistake the deliverance of Romans 6 for power, and we get into trouble.

I'm hoping that clarifies, rather than obscures...

Darby isn't easy to read. It's not just you.

Susan said...

Exactly HWW! Our understanding grows in proportion to our spiritual growth.
The Holy Spirit is our Teacher and promises to teach us all things. God also uses other Believers, and you are all greatly appreciated.

Susan said...

Agreed, Mark, Darby is a hard read!
When JND talks about moral annihilation, he's not meaning that we cease to exist (which is Buddhism),(EXACTLY) but that we disappear from God's sight. (DO WE DISAPPEAR FROM GOD'S SIGHT THOUGH?)

Sometimes Darby even called the "old man" the "flesh" didn't he?

HandWrittenWord said...

Mark, when the Holy Spirit moves upon you, be neither hesitant nor afraid.

Robert said...

I find this helpful.

Romans Verse-by-Verse William R. Newell

"Our old man was crucified — The matter of which we are told to take note here is the great
federal fact that our old man was crucified with Christ. Perhaps no more difficult task, no task requiring such constant vigilant attention, is assigned by God to the believer. It is a stupendous thing, this matter of taking note of and keeping in mind what goes so completely against consciousness, — that our old man was crucified. These words are addressed to faith, to faith only. Emotions, feelings, deny them. To reason, they are foolishness. But ah, what stormy seas has faith walked over! What mountains has faith cast into the sea! How many impossible things has faith done!

Let us never forget, that this crucifixion was a thing definitely done by God at the cross, just as really as our sins were there laid upon Christ. It is addressed' to faith as a revelation from God. Reason is blind. The "word of the cross" is "foolishness" to it. All the work consummated at the cross seems folly, if we attempt to subject it to man's understanding. But, just as the great wonder of creation is understood only by faith: ("By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the Word of God," — Heb. 11:3) so the eternal results accomplished at the cross are entered into by simple faith in the testimony of God about them.

No, it is no easy or light thing that is announced to you and me, that all we were and are from Adam has been rejected of God. Scripture is not now dealing with what we have done, but with what we are.

And really to enter spiritually into the meaning of this awful word, Our old man was crucified, involves, with all of us, deep exercise of soul. For no one by nature will be ready to count himself so incorrigibly bad as to have to be crucified! But when the Spirit of God turns the light upon what we are, from Adam, these will be blessed words of relief: "Our old man was crucified."

Now here is the very opposite of the teaching of false Christianity about a holy life. For these legalists set you to crucifying yourself! You must "die out" to this, and to that. But God says our old man, all that we were, has been already dealt with, — and that by crucifixion with Christ. And the very words "with Him" show that it was done back at the cross; and that our task is to believe the good news, rather than to seek to bring about this crucifixion ourselves."

Susan said...

Our old man was crucified.....AND good riddance!!!

HandWrittenWord said...

Show me Thy ways, O LORD; teach me Thy paths.
Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me:
for Thou art the God of my salvation;
on Thee do I wait all the day.
(Psalm 25:4-5)

When the Holy Spirit moves upon you, be neither hesitant nor afraid.

clumsy ox said...

Scripture contains many "lines of truth", and they are sometimes almost opposite. For example, in Ephesians and Colossians we were once dead in trespasses and sins, but in Romans we were very much alive in sins (and sin). In fact, in Romans it's the believer who is dead and the sinner who is very much alive. We don't see that as contradictory, we understand those are different aspects of the truth.

When I say we are hidden from God's sight, of course I don't mean God can't see us. I mean He sees neither my sins nor my righteousness nor my sin because He sees me in Christ.

Most Christians accept that God doesn't see my sins because I'm in Christ, but it's rarer someone accepts God doesn't see my righteousness either. It's is true nevertheless - Philippians 3:9-10.

In another sense God sees every sin, and He deals with us in discipline and chastening as a Father. In fact, I dimly recall Darby saying one of our biggest problems is confusing the work of Christ for us with the work of the Spirit in us... Christ put away our sins once for all, the Spirit discerns the slightest hint of sin and deals with us (as children, not as sinners) with respect to them.

They are opposite in a sense, but both true.

As far as my place before God, I am accepted in Christ. Everything that I am - good and bad - is out of His sight and He sees only Christ.

Not that God loses sight of me, but He sees me entirely in His Son.

That's what I meant when I said we are hidden out of God's sight.

Susan said...

Thank you...thank you....thank you for clearing that up. I knew that's what you meant, but it didn't sound that way.
"He who has died for us is risen. He took our place and burden on Calvary's cross, and has taken for us another place, in the presence and glory of God. There, love rests, satisfied. There He sits, because His work is accomplished. The eye of God, which dwells with unchanging delight upon His Beloved, sees us there in Him, linked in the bundle of life with Him for ever. "Because I live, ye shall live also." FWG

HandWrittenWord said...

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
(Romans 15:13)

Susan said...

Robert - I find Newell's Romans Verse by Verse to be very helpful too! In fact, I arrived at Mark's blog years ago doing a google search on Newell! How about you guys? How did you arrive here?

HandWrittenWord said...

Susan -
I also arrived here several years ago, but I was doing a Google search on "dispensationalism".

Susan said...

That's very interesting HWW. A google search on dispensationalism around the year 2000 brought me to Miles J. Stanford's site and from there I discovered Newell and Darby and the early PB's. So thankful!

Robert said...

I bought JND Synopsis when I was on holiday in London at 19. Someone told me about Stem Publishing around 2010 and a Google search brought up this blog as relevant. I liked Mark's honesty in describing his quest for an assembly and have stayed here since.

Robert said...

One of the great helps on Stem is the Christian Friend Magazine. I cam across this from JB Stoney:

"Often a believer, though tasting of peace with God, when he finds the working of sin in him, tries to correct it as if he could alter himself, overlooking the great and stupendous fact that God Himself has removed the man in judgement in the death of His own Son; He has laid help upon One that is mighty - His own arm brought salvation - and if a believer is really at peace with God, it is because his old man has been crucified with Christ, and altogether set aside in judgement on the cross. If he were clear as to the fact of our old man being crucified with Christ, instead of trying to correct himself, he would look to Christ to set him free from the intrusion of the flesh "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord." What becomes us now is to have Christ before us, and not the correction of the old man. The snare of trying to improve oneself is very common, and it is important to see that, however well-meaning it may be, it is really a denial that our old man has been crucified, and a revival of that which has been set aside in the cross. It is plain that if you are clear of the old man you can have no man before you but Christ."

Susan said...

Love JB Stoney!

I found F W Grant to be helpful on deliverance truths:
Deliverance, What Is It?

Rodger said...

I was brought here a number of times via various Google searches (Google seems to have worked good for you, Mark), but it was after enjoying Mark's article on reading the Collected Writings of JND, and beginning to correspond with him, that I started to frequent the blog with some regularity.

To bring a Mark's earlier comment together with Stoney's, God sees only Christ, and would have me see Him only as well. God finds all His delight in His Beloved Son, and would have me find all my delight there as well.

"This blessed One was raised up and planted by God at His own right hand, to be the center of all, and of every heart. Oh, have we got self as our center, or this One who is the center of all God's dealings, and is all His delight. A living Man in heaven, making all new. If you were to pick out the best down here to be a center, you would only find in him the first Adam. What a different center to bind things round is this Christ of God! If He made Himself the center round which to bind a man like Paul, everything of sorrow and difficulty which Paul went through, became the means of binding him more and more closely round Christ." (GVW)

Rodger said...

I think this actually better represents what I meant: "Then in Ephesians 3, he takes up the mystery God had revealed; and in the end of chapter 3, we get that blessed prayer that brings us to this — *that Christ may be in our hearts the centre and pivot of everything, as He is the centre and pivot of all God's thoughts;* that we may not only rest in Christ, but that He may really have that place in our hearts, as he says, "Filled unto all the fulness of God;" so that everything connected with us, everything, that flows forth from us, may flow forth through Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith. This Christ, who in this way is revealed to us, is the centre of all God's plans and counsels. In Eph. 4:1-16, he shows the provision God had made for the development of this blessed truth down to the end of time in apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers — persons able to carry on the work to the end, not in the power of human nature, but in the power of Christ, that there might always be a testimony in this scene, something sure to be displayed because it was secured in Christ. Verse 17 gives not only what is secure for us in Christ (and this fountain open and unsealed is sure to pour forth its waters, and the people sure to receive it), but he takes up the portion of those that are to receive it in detail. I have no doubt there is a connection between Eph. 2:8-10, and the beginning of this 17th verse. He is speaking of something that in man down here he can call and calls God's workmanship."