by Arthur W. Pink
Philologos Religious Online Books
Studies in the Scriptures
by Arthur W. Pink
Resuming at the point where we left off in last month, the Apostle next declares, “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over Him” (Rom. 6:9). First let us point out this opening “knowing that” clearly fixes the meaning of “knowing this” in verse 6 and shows that the commentators quite missed the point there. How, in what manner, do Christians know that death has no more dominion over Christ? Answer, solely by the testimony of God. It is not by virtue of any inward experience of which they are the subjects but by the infallible declarations of the Word of Truth. In like manner, it is by the witness of Holy Writ and by that alone, believers know their old man was crucified with Christ—that their standing in Adam then came to an end before God. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14). Why is love for the brethren an infallible evidence and assurance of regeneration? Because God says so, because He declares it to be such.
“Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him” (Rom. 6:9). This is both unspeakably solemn and inexpressibly blessed. The inescapable implication of these words is that death once had “dominion over” Christ. He was its lawful captive because He took the place of His guilty people and bore their sins. But having received sin's wages in full, having completely discharged the awful debt of His people, the Law had no further claim upon Him—its penalty had been enforced, justice was satisfied. Christ can die no more: “whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be holden of it” (Acts 2:24). A truly remarkable word is that: righteousness had been outraged if the sepulcher continued to hold the One who had earned a complete discharge from death's exactions. The object of His voluntary death having been accomplished, Christ lives forever more. How emphatically, then, does this verse intimate that Christ has “made an end of (the) sin” of His people (Dan. 9:24)!
“For in that He died, He died unto sin once but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God” (Rom. 6:10). This is explanatory of that which immediately precedes. Death derives its “dominion” from the reigning power or authority of sin, and when sin is destroyed its dominion ceases. Christ not only died “for sin” (Rom. 8:3) but “unto sin.” Sin had “reigned unto death” (Rom. 5:21), and having put Himself in the place of sinners, Christ came under the legal sway or dominion of sin—the power which it derived from the Law. But by expiating sin Christ fully satisfied the Law and therefore the Law supplies no more “strength” to sin (1 Cor. 15:56) to reign over Him unto death. Such was the efficacy of His sacrifice that it need not be repeated (Heb. 7:27; 10:10), for by it He “finished transgression” (Dan. 9:24). The Law having no further penalty to inflict, Christ is forever beyond the reach of death. The death of Christ was the death of death as the wages of sin, not only for Himself as the mediator but for all those on whose behalf He transacted.
“In that He liveth, He liveth unto God.” There are two separate things here, and unless we distinguish carefully between them we shall miss the principal point of this passage. “In that He liveth” concerns the judicial side of things—“He liveth unto God” the practical. The breaking of the Law involves death, the keeping of it life. The commandment was “unto life” (Rom. 7:10); “the man which doeth these things shall live by them” (10:5) was the original promise of the Law. The Divine Law is vested with sanctions: a penalty for disobedience, a reward for perfect obedience. Perhaps we can better grasp the force of these terms by remembering that the “death” and the “life” which is the sentence of the Law, is first and foremost a relationship—a relationship to God involving a state of experience corresponding therewith. When Adam died he forfeited God's favourable regard and fell under His curse. When Christ had received the wages of sin, because He had previously rendered unto the Law a perfect obedience, He was entitled to God's favourable regard and worthy of His blessing. “In His favour is life” (Psa. 30:5)—the two things are inseparable.
When God raised our Surety from the dead it was not an act of grace or mercy unto Him but one of bare justice, such as the Law required. “Righteousness delivereth from death” (Prov. 10:2) and Christ was the Righteous One. Concerning Him it is written, “He asked life of Thee” and the Father gave Him, “length of days, forever and ever” (Psa. 21:4). He Himself declared, “I have set the LORD always before Me . . . therefore My heart is glad . . . My flesh also shall rest in hope. For Thou wilt not leave My soul in Hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show Me the path of life” (Psa. 16:8-11). When Christ asks it is not for a favour, but a suing of His legitimate right. “Ask of Me,” says God, “and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession” (Psa. 2:8)—because He had purchased them. “Father I will (not “request”) that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am” (John 17:24)—because such is His due. Thus it was when He asked for “life.”
“He liveth” (Rom. 6:10). Is that a reference to the reunion of spirit and soul and body in the person of Christ and His emerging from the sepulcher? No, rather does it contemplate the cause and ground thereof. The grave could not retain the One upon whom the Law announced the reward of “life.” Or, to express the same idea in more personal yet equivalent terms, the Father could not leave in the disembodied (and so, imperfect) state, the One on whom He now looked with complacency. Christ had gloriously overcome sin and death: not only so, He had magnified the Law and made it honourable by His obedience to it. Therefore God was honour-bound to own Him as His righteous Servant. As such He was entitled to and become possessed of a life forever beyond the reach of sin and death. That “life” of Christ is “eternal life” because it is based on and is the reward of the “everlasting righteousness” which He brought in (Dan. 9:24). Life (instated to the approbation of God) is as truly the reward of righteousness as death (the judicial disapprobation of God) is the penalty of sin. “He liveth unto God” is the consequence of the former.
“In that He liveth, He liveth unto God” (Rom. 6:10). This is predicated of Christ not as a private person, but as the Head of His people. It was as their Representative He had satisfied both the precept and the penalty of the Law. And representation involves identification: if the One acted on behalf of the many, it is equally true that the many acted in the One. Christ and the Church together form one body and God never views the one apart from the other. Accordingly we read, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4, 5). The reference there is not to regeneration (though it involves and requires it), for it is not an individual experience (as the new birth is ) but a corporate transaction which is in view. The following words prove this: “and hath raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ” (v. 6). The life to which the Law pronounced Christ entitled is also conferred upon all His people.
“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:11). “Likewise”: just as Christ died unto sin—unto its penalty—and now lives unto God in the enjoyment of the Law's reward, so regard yourselves as participants of the same. “Reckon ye”: what is true in itself, make true in your convictions and consciousness. “Reckon” does not mean “suppose” or “fancy yourselves” to be something you are not. It is not try and persuade yourselves to be “dead indeed unto sin,” but because God declares you are so, set to your seal that He is true—receive His testimony without doubting. In Romans 2:26 the word for “reckon” is rendered “counted,” that is, “accounted.” In 3:28 “conclude” and in 2:3 “thinkest.” Christians are to think of themselves as God has described them in His Word, namely, as one with Christ, as the actual participants of His death and of His life; to conclude themselves to be what God affirms they are.
In point of truth Christians are partakers legally of Christ's death and life and therefore they should so regard themselves: this is not a fiction but a fact. They are therefore enjoined to look upon themselves as God sees them: forever freed from the penalty and doom of sin, entitled to and possessors of the Law's reward. When Abram was bidden to offer up his beloved Isaac, he obeyed, “accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (Heb. 11:19): the word for “reckon” in Romans 6:11 is here rendered “accounting,” and it was a true accounting. Believers are “dead to sin,” not to its power, not to its activities within them but to its guilt and wages. They are so because in the Person of their Substitute they have already borne and exhausted its penalty. Furthermore, they live in Christ and stand before God in all His acceptableness. In God's sight they are completely justified, spotlessly righteous. In God's reckoning they have passed out of death into the realm of life and faith is to lay hold of God's testimony thereto.
“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God in Jesus Christ” (Rom. 6:11). Here is the initial resurrection, the foundation of the spiritual (regeneration) and the bodily. And it is one of which we are to enjoy the blessedness and comfort even now. This verse is in the form of a positive command. It is the Christian's duty as well as privilege to be fully assured of his identification with and participation in all that Christ is and has done. This is not a matter of feeling but of faith. It is the will of God that His children should be convinced of their interest in Christ and perfect standing before Him. So far from its being presumptuous for them to do so, it is rank disobedience not to! And this command is binding upon all believers alike. This injunction to “reckon,” to believe and account, is not made only unto those of strong faith and deep experience, but to babes in Christ equally as to full-grown Christians. We are to view ourselves as God sees us—dead to sin, alive unto Him in Christ.
Now Christians are not only to reckon themselves to be what God declares they are as to their standing or status before Him but are to regulate their lives and order their conduct accordingly. Hence we find the Apostle immediately adds, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead” (vv. 12, 13). That exhortation is founded upon and flows from all that has been before us. The doctrinal fact is we died to sin in Christ; the practical lesson is, live not in subjection to the sin which slew Him. Legal union with Christ calls for practical holiness, His wondrous love supplying the motive power. Live agreeably to the good news announced by the Gospel. Let your behaviour correspond to your standing. Christians “are alive unto God,” then let them abandon all which characterized them in their unregenerate state. Let your judicial identification with Christ furnish the motive for practical conformity to Him. Since you are “alive unto God,” do all you do for His glory.
A similar exhortation, based upon the same doctrinal fact, is found in Colossians 3:1-5. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (v. 1). A better rendering would be, “Since then ye were raised with Christ.” The “if” of the A.V. is not designed to express a doubt, but draws an inference. Because the Colossian saints were raised with their Surety: upon that is based the “seek those things which are above.” It is the same form of speech as when it is said, “If you are citizens of the country, you ought to obey the laws of the country.” No doubt or uncertainty is expressed, any more than in the “if” of John 14:3. Since, then, you were raised with Christ: that is, when He was raised, His resurrection as the Head of His Church being virtually the resurrection of all His people.
That the resurrection here referred to cannot be a moral one—a raising of the thoughts, desires and affections of believers—is evident from the exhortation which follows. The Apostle would not say, since then you are heavenly minded, be heavenly minded, but since you were really raised with Christ, then live accordingly. “Seek those things which are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1)—if you are united to Him, it becomes you to be tending to Him—and He is in Heaven, and not upon earth. “For,” continues the Apostle, “ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God.” It is to be regretted that the present tense “ye are dead” is found in our version, for it not only contradicts the previous verse but hides from the reader the scope and meaning of the whole passage. They “died” when Christ died, as they rose with Him, and now their life is hidden with Him in God, to be openly manifested one day for, “When He who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (v. 4).
Thus continual and eternal is the believer's union with the Lord. He is so joined to Christ, so truly a member of His body both legally and vitally, that what is true of Christ is true of him also. The whole merit and virtue of Christ's work passes over to him as his present and rightful heritage. The Lord Jesus has passed through death and resurrection in triumph to the skies and His triumph is equally the triumph of His people. The anchor of the soul which is the security of the saints “entereth into that within the veil, whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus” (Heb. 6:19, 20). Christ has entered Heaven in our name, on our behalf. One by one His purchased people are passing there and when they are all gathered then shall the opened heavens reveal their oneness with Christ. What a glorious consummation to His work—the Bridegroom and the Bride one in heavenly glory! This is a future thing in actuality but faith makes it present and real. It is faith which regards our union with Christ in His death and resurrection as effectually our own.
In Romans, as we have seen, the death of Christ is presented as the Christian's death unto sin, but in Colossians 3 that death is seen separating him from the world. Christ tabernacled on earth but at the grave His earthly life ended. He passed through death and resurrection away from this terrestrial sphere into a new and heavenly country where He now lives and reigns. The earth as well as its inhabitants lie under the curse. The world is a Divinely condemned place. Christ could not stay here and His people cannot. They have been delivered “from this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4) as well as from their sins. Even now their “conversation (citizenship) is in Heaven” (Phil. 3:20) and Heaven is their Home. The more faith lays hold of that fact, the more will they realize that they are “strangers and pilgrims” (1 Peter 2:11) in this scene. And the more their affections are set upon things above, the more of Heaven will they enjoy in their souls and not only will the Holy Spirit be witnessing with their spirit—that they are sons of God—but He will grant them increased earnests and foretastes of heavenly blessedness.
Here, then, is the real secret of heavenly-mindedness: not through a forced aversion from the world while we are yet in love with it, not by the power of ecclesiastical vows or monastic mortifications, nor the proud rigour of the Pharisee or the sulky seclusion of the ascetic, but by faith—by a faith which has attained to heavenly things and which drops the earthly because they are so poor and perishing. It is life drawing us away from death, riches from poverty, celestial rest and blessing from worldly confusion and disorder. “This is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). It has always been so. It was so with the early Christians in their bitter persecution: “ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in Heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Heb. 10:34). It was so when the Puritans scorned the honors and wealth of this world. It is so still. Why covet material riches when God is saying to us, All things in Christ are yours? Why lust after mundane dignity when called by God His sons, made His kings and priests forevermore? Every reason have we to set our affection upon things above.
Thus we see again the true relation of sound doctrine and godly practice—the effect which the former should produce upon the latter—and which it does produce when “mixed with faith.” Where doctrine is only received intellectually it has no influence on the life, but when laid hold of by a living faith it acts as a powerful dynamic upon the affections and issues in a godly walk.—A.W.P.