by Arthur W. Pink
Philologos Religious Online Books
Studies in the Scriptures
by Arthur W. Pink
The title of this article will probably suggest to most of our readers that we shall treat therein exclusively with the future condition of the believer's body. Really it is deplorable that such a circumscribed view should obtain so widely in this twentieth century—that “resurrection” should connote nothing more than physical resuscitation. Surely little more than a glance at the Epistles is needed to discover that in the New Testament “death” and “life” are used with a much broader and higher signification than merely physical—that “resurrection” is connected with other things than the body—that it has a present, yea a past, bearing upon the Christian as well as a future, that it has a forensic application as well as a literal. Believers are greatly the losers if they confine the resurrection to a mere emergence from the grave. The New Testament treats first of the Christian's legal or representative resurrection; second of his spiritual or regenerative one and finally of his corporeal. As the first is now so little apprehended by God's people we shall devote most space to it.
Resurrection presupposes death and to understand what death is we must go back to the Fall. “In Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22): that is the basic fact, death being the wages of sin, the penalty of the broken law (Rom. 5:12). In Adam all died: what is meant by that? This: their relationship with God was radically altered and they experienced a fearful change in themselves. More specifically: first, they ceased to be well-pleasing in the sight of their Maker, they were no longer favourably regarded by Him. Positively, they fell under His curse and became “the children of wrath.” Second, they forfeited the Holy Spirit, became “alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18). His image and likeness in them was greatly marred, communion with Him was severed. Third, corruption entered their bodies, the seeds of mortality obtained lodgment, disease invaded their earthly tabernacles. And, unless they are recovered from these calamities the “second death” or everlasting separation from God in endless torment in the Lake of Fire, will be the final consummation of that death which is the wages of sin.
In the sovereign grace of God it pleased Him that His chosen people should be recovered from those dreadful calamities and be spared the second death, not by revoking His sentence nor by modifying its severity but by exacting the same upon a sinless Sponsor and Substitute so that legally they died in and with Him. Christ came to earth as the Head and Representative of His people. His obedience unto death was no mere vague expedient through which mercy may be shown to all who choose to take advantage of it. The Good Shepherd gave His life for the sheep: from Bethlehem to Calvary He was acting and suffering for them. His obedience in all its perfections was theirs, just as their sin in all its aggravations was made His by imputation. As in Adam all the elect died, so also in Christ they all died. All the condemnation under which they lay was executed upon them in Christ. In Him they have met and satisfied every claim of Divine justice, so that “there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
In Romans 5:14 it is affirmed that Adam was “the figure of Him that was to come,” upon which it has been well remarked: “These are the two men, type and Antitype, in whom human history centers. Their relations to the one and to the other ultimately divide all men into two classes, each receiving nature and destiny from its head. All the individuals who comprise either class have been so represented by these heads that it has been justly said, 'there have been but two men in the world and two facts in human history.' The two men are Adam and Christ; the two facts are the disobedience of the former and the obedience of the latter by which many are made righteous. By the former came ruin, by the latter came redemption; and neither ruin nor redemption can be Scripturally apprehended except as it is seen to be accomplished by these representatives and except as we apprehend the relationships expressed by being 'in Adam' or 'in Christ' ” (James Inglis, 1871).
What has been just quoted above is only another way of saying that God has dealt with men throughout on the principle of one for many: true alike in the relations of nature and in the relations of grace—the many are included and represented by the one (see Rom. 5:18, 19). In the sight of God, in the accounting of His Law, every Christian has died twice—in Adam and in Christ, the former of which is more readily understood by the believer than is the other. Because Christ was their federal Head, what He did and suffered was regarded by God as His people doing and suffering. Since they were in Christ by federal constitution His death was their death, they bearing the wages of sin in the Person of their Surety. Christians could not have more really suffered the penalty than if they had been personally cast into Hell. The broken Law can no longer denounce any believer, for in the Person of Christ he has suffered its vengeance and from its threatening he can claim complete exemption by pointing to the Surety in whom he has already died.
In view of what has been pointed out above Christian readers should now have less difficulty in perceiving the force of that exhortation, “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin” (Rom. 6:11), though for a clearer and fuller understanding thereof it will be necessary for us to give a brief exposition of its context. The chapter opens with two questions. First, “What shall we say then?” that is, what inference shall we draw from the blessed doctrine propounded in Romans 4 and 5? Second, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” In that query the Apostle anticipates an objection: “If the ungodly are justified by faith without any works of their own and if where sin has abounded grace has much more abounded (5:20), then may we not continue sinning without restraint so that grace may more and more abound?” Such has ever been the favourite, though unfounded objection, made by opposers of the Gospel. In what follows the Apostle shows that such is the believer's Union with Christ that his living in sin would be as great a contradiction in terms as to speak of a living corpse or a holy degenerate. Union with Christ is the source of purity and not of uncleanness.
“God forbid, How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:2). This “God forbid” is Paul's usual mode of expressing denial and abhorrence. We that are “dead to sin” is literally “that died to sin,” the Greek denoting a specific act of our past history. Formerly Christians were dead in sin, now they are dead to it, delivered from it. To many this may seem a startling statement for they are painfully conscious that sin is very much alive in them. Then exactly what is the meaning of this expression? Certainly it does not signify that Christians are dead to the power of sin—this verse speaks not of an exceptional attainment of a favoured and matured few, but of a fact which is true of all believers alike. It should also be carefully noted that this verse is in the form of a doctrinal statement and not an exhortation setting forth an experience to which we should aspire and after which we should strive. Nor is it something which God promises to make good unto us in the future: it is affirmed as an accomplished fact. The same may be remarked of all parallel passages containing similar statements.
“We that died to sin.” If we carry with us into Romans 6 the truth set forth in the representative characters of the two Adams in the previous chapter, we have the key for interpreting the expressions used in this. The suretyship of Christ and the federal nature of His atonement as the act of one for the many is brought forward into Romans 6, only with this difference: here we are described as doing what our Representative did; that is, the one corporate act is described from our sharing in its transaction. As we were condemned to death in the first Adam, so we endured the penalty in the last Adam. The judgment which came upon us to condemnation was once and for all executed, for “we died to sin” in the one man Christ Jesus. And how shall we live any longer therein? His first answer is we shall not, we cannot, for in the constitution which God appointed we are one with Christ and having in Him suffered the penalty of the Law we died to the guilt of sin, to its condemnation, to its power to separate us from God. “Died to sin” has no reference to any change wrought within Christians but relates only to their standing before God because of their oneness with Christ.
The force of “died to sin” is made unmistakably manifest in the verses that follow. “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we were (not “are”) buried with Him by baptism into death: 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” (vv. 3, 4). It is quite needless for our present purpose to enter into a critical discussion upon the nature of the “baptism” here alluded to, whether the baptism by the Spirit which effectually joins to the Lord (1 Cor. 12:13) or water baptism to symbolize our oneness with Christ in His death—suffice it now to point out that in Scripture baptism always signifies the removing of its subject out of one condition, relation or standing, into another. Here it is affirmed that all believers have been taken out of the first Adam into Christ and were “baptized into His death.”
“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection” (Rom. 6:5). This amplifies the preceding statement, for in this and the next two verses the Apostle shows that such is the nature of the Christian's union with Christ that if he is one with Him in His death he must be equally so in His resurrection. We agree with Charles Hodge that the “we shall be” does not express futurity: “the reference is not to what is to happen hereafter, but to the certainty of sequence or causal connection: if the one thing happens, the other shall certainly follow.” The opening “For if” indicates that the Apostle is showing what logically and inevitably follows from his previous statements. The “planted together” signifies the closest union of any kind, as being incorporated or joined with. The “likeness of His resurrection” does not here (as in Phil. 3:21) signify that there is an analogy between Christ's resurrection body and that of believers, but that they were as truly one with Him when He rose from the dead as when He died on the tree.
“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him” (Rom. 6:6), or as it may be more literally and tersely rendered “our old man was co-crucified.” Here we have a direct answer to the question when and how Christians “died to sin.” It was when Christ was crucified. Here, too, is conclusive proof that this death to sin is not a subjective one but an objective and historical fact. There is nothing here which savours of monkish mortification or self-mutilation, for of all forms of death, crucifixion is the most impossible for one to inflict upon himself. When Paul declared, “I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20), or as the Greek signifies and as the R.V. and Bagster's Interlinear renders it, “I have been crucified with Christ,” he gave utterance to that which is equally true of all genuine Christians—it was a past transaction and not a process now being experienced. It is also worthy of note that the verb “was crucified” in verse 5 is in the passive voice, denoting that it was accomplished wholly outside of themselves in the Person of their Head.
It is important that we define aright “our old man,” especially since the views of the older and best writers were confused thereon. Even Hodge and Haldane understood by this expression “our carnal” and “our old nature”—their experience should have taught them better, for neither the work of Christ for them nor the work of the Spirit in them has effected any change in the “flesh” or sinful nature that we all inherit from Adam. Unless we distinguish sharply between the person and his nature—as the Apostle does so emphatically in “I myself,” etc. (Rom. 7:25)—we are bound to err. That distinction was maintained and broadly asserted by Paul in another passage where he speaks of “the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22). The “old man,” then, is our old personality or standing in Adam, as may be seen yet further from the “body of sin” being distinguished from it in this very verse.
“That the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6). In those words is expressed the design of our old man being crucified with Christ: it is not that at some later date the body of sin will be destroyed and that we shall be delivered from serving sin but that this purpose was accomplished at Calvary. The “body of sin” is synonymous with “the body of this death” in Romans 7:24, the reference being not to our physical body but to the corruptions of the old man. The “flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:24) is termed a “body” because it is viewed as an organized entity—in Colossians 3:5 allusion is made to its “members.” In what sense was it “destroyed”? Judicially. It was not merely weakened, nor was it annihilated. The Greek word may be rendered “annulled.” It is used again in Hebrews 2:14 of the Devil: that tyrant has been dethroned, his power or right by virtue of conquest (at the Fall) has been rendered void. Consequently Christians are delivered from the service or slavery of sin. Death cancels all obligations. The believer is “the Lord's freeman” (1 Cor. 7:22).
“For He that died hath been justified from sin” (Rom. 6:7). Observe the change in number here: it is no longer “we” as in each of the preceding verses, but “He.” The reference is to Christ the Head, just as the “He” in Romans 6:10 also contemplates Him. Again the tense is in the aorist and should be rendered (as Bagster's Interlinear) “has been justified.” That the marginal “justified” is to be used rather than “freed” is clear from the fact that the Greek word occurs fifteen times in this Epistle and twenty-five times in other parts of the New Testament and excepting this verse and one other where it is translated “righteous” it is uniformly rendered “justified.” Nor should we deem such a statement strange or difficult because it is made of Christ, for to be “justified” refers not to any subjective change or work, being strictly a legal term, a judicial pronouncement, meaning to “declare righteous.” “In justification, which is a judicial and irrevocable sentence pronounced by God there are two parts: the one includes absolution from the guilt of the breach of the law: the other, the possession of that obedience to its precepts which the law demands. These being inseparable, they are both included in the expression 'justified from sin' ” (Robert Haldane).
“For He that died hath been justified from sin.” Those words express most forcibly the reality of Christ's substitution for His people and testify to the completeness of their representation by Him. He died in their place and put away sin, their sin—their sin imputed to and borne by Him in the sacrifice of Himself. And assuredly He who was their Sin-bearer must be justified from sin if His death achieved its end. When the Lord Jesus Christ stood in Herod's judgment hall and was about to be brutally dealt with by them, when He gave His back to the smiters and His cheeks to them that plucked out the hair, He consoled Himself thus: “For the Lord God will help Me . . . He is near that justifieth Me” (Isa. 50:6-8). We know that His expectation was realized—“God was manifest in flesh, justified in spirit” (1 Tim. 3:16). Both Pilate and the centurion who crucified Him could justify Him from man's accusations but because He had taken our guilt and was made sin for us, so from our sin and guilt He could only be justified through the death which atoned for them. His justification could be declared by none other than the One to whom He offered Himself a propitiation. God's raising Him from the dead demonstrated that Christ was “justified from sin.”
“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him” (Rom. 6:8). It should be clear to all who have followed closely our exposition above that the resurrection here postulated is not a subjective one as is regeneration, nor is it a promise of bodily triumph over the grave, though both of these follow as necessary consequences. Rather is the life here mentioned an objective one, something outside of ourselves. Three details are to be carefully noted. First, as the “died with Christ” is an external and legal transaction and not an inward experience, so also is the “live with Him.” Second, the plural pronoun connotes that this predication is made of all those whom Christ represented: it is a corporate life and not merely individual. Third, it is not a life “through” Christ, derived from Him, but by virtue of our identification and judicial oneness “with Him.” When Christ was made alive from the dead all the elect rose with Him. When the Head was “justified from sin” so were all His members (though application thereof is not made till they believe: Acts 13:39). The righteousness of Christ secures “justification of life” (Rom. 5:18).
It seems a pity we should now have to break off in the middle of our exposition of this most interesting and important passage, but the exhaustion of present space obliges us to do so: however we will resume (D.V.) in the following issue at the point where we here leave off. Meanwhile it is pertinent to ask, How far does this argument of the Apostle's answer the question raised in verse 1? Does the doctrinal affirmation of the believer's oneness with Christ in His death and resurrection effectually dispose of the practical objection that justification by grace through faith without any works of ours tends to moral laxity and encourages a course of sinning? Answer, we frankly aver that so far from such a reply satisfying the natural man, it will appear “foolishness” unto him. Yet it is far otherwise with the spiritual mind, so we hope to show in the sequel. Motives inspire the believer which have no effect upon the unbeliever. Arguments and incentives move the regenerate which do not and cannot affect the unregenerate.—A.W.P.