THE CHRISTIAN doctrine of righteousness by faith is
frequently described theologically in terms of justification and
sanctification, or in other words, imputed and imparted righteousness.
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is
made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and
redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).
But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye
are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our
God (chap. 6:11).
A perfect righteousness has been provided by God in one
Man, Jesus Christ. He is the God who shares Himself with men. He invites a
relationship with Himself. God has great concern to relate with men and to
share His life with them. Therefore it is important to ask, In what way
and to what extent does God share His righteousness with us? Does God only
impute His righteousness to the believer, or does He actually impart it?
Imputed righteousness means the reckoning of Christís
own perfect righteousness to the believer whereby he stands justified,
acquitted before God. The believerís sins are no longer imputed to him
because Christ has borne them. Christís righteousness is put to the
believerís account before God, solely on the basis of faith and
commitment. All this is predicted on an objective righteousness found only
in Christ. At the same time the believer is born again and restored to all
the rights as a redeemed son of God.
Salvation is from the guilt, the condemnation, and the
power of sin. Man is delivered from the guilt and the condemnation when he
is justified. Sanctification deals with the power of sin.
Freedom from condemnation is the first step. Without
such freedom the Christian has no assurance that he can be delivered from
the power of sin. The man who knows himself forgiven and acquitted before
God is the man who can also believe that Christ will save him from the
power of sin. The first is the pledge of the second.
What are we to say, then? Shall we persist in sin,
so that there may be all the more grace? No, no! We died to sin: how
can we live in it any longer? Have you forgotten that when we were
baptized into union with Christ Jesus we were baptized into his death?
By baptism we were buried with him, and lay dead, in order that, as
Christ was raised from the dead in the splendour of the Father, so
also we might set our feet upon the new path of life (Rom. 6:1-4,
Justification and sanctification belong together. The
usual doctrinal approach has been to keep them distinct from each other
and maintain a clear division between imputed and imparted righteousness.
This division is not supported by Scripture. The gift of justification
based on imputed righteousness is the commencement of a life led by the
Spirit. From beginning to end the whole of the Christian life is by faith
alone. Justification, regeneration, and sanctification are all part of the
ongoing Christian experience.
Can we say at the point of justification and
regeneration that we are already saved, or must we assert that so long as
life lasts we cannot make this claim? The Scriptures clearly state that
unless we experience salvation here and now, we cannot be saved in the
hereafter. Christ said to Mary Magdalene in the house of Simon the
Pharisee: "Your faith has saved you; go in peace" (Luke
Paul declared: "By his grace you have been
saved" (Eph. 2:8, N.E.B.). In the Greek the perfect tense of the verb
is used, indicating salvation already realized. Jesus said to Zacchaeus,
"Salvation has come to this house today" (Luke 19:9, N.E.B.).
"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (John
3:36). "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me,
hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed
from death unto life" (chap. 5:24). "He that hath the Son hath
life. . .. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name
of the Son of God" (1 John 5:12, 13).
These scriptures speak of experiencing salvation now,
of having eternal life now. This does not mean, however, once saved always
saved. Salvation is a continuing experience. Salvation from the guilt and
condemnation comes with the believerís acceptance of Christ. This is the
present right of the believer who is in Christ. At the same time salvation
is from the power of sin. This is a lifetime experience. Regeneration and
justification are not ends in themselves. We as Christians undergo a
lifelong saving process from the power of sin. At any point along the way
we may depart from the faith. Only as we abide in Christ does salvation
abide in us. Final salvation is realized with the coming of the Lord.
The Scriptures also speak clearly of salvation as a
process that continues so long as life lasts. The present continuous tense
is used in the following texts:
I declare unto you the gospel . . . wherein ye
stand; by which also ye are saved [being saved] if ye keep in memory
what I preached unto you, unless ye have beIieve(d in vain 1 Cor.
Ye shall be hated of all men for my nameís sake:
but he that endureth to the end shall be saved (Matt. 10:22; see also
chap. 24:13; Heb. 5:7).
We are continually being saved. Salvation is not
something that occurs once and for all. The experience of eternal life
here and now does not lead to spiritual laxity. Wherever the claim is made
to be once saved always saved, there the gospel of salvation has not been
properly presented or understood.
It is unfortunate that men have often emphasized once
saved always saved with the shallow and easygoing attitude toward sin that
has followed from it. The experience of salvation at conversion is in
order to be saved at last. This does not mean that we must live without
assurance and in uncertainty as to our standing with God. So long as we
are in Christ, we can have certainty of a present salvation. But this
initial experience must not be taken for granted.
How then shall we interpret the phrase "imparted
righteousness"? Does God not only impute Christís righteousness to
us but also impart it? Is Christís righteousness actually transferred to
us in some way? Is there an actual extension of Christís righteousness
into the life of the Christian?
There are two possible interpretations of the phrase
"imparted righteousness." First, an entity called righteousness
is actually imparted so that we become more and more intrinsically
righteous in our own person. This means that the more we have of this
imparted righteousness within ourselves, the less we need of Christís
imputed righteousness put to our account. Obviously, if we become
ourselves intrinsically more righteous, we do not need the righteousness
of another. The weakness and sinfulness of the growing Christian would
finally end in an intrinsic personal righteousness before Christ comes.
This would make the progressing Christian increasingly independent of
Christís objective righteousness. Sanctification as the work of a
lifetime would mean progress toward personal perfection; given enough time
and Christian effort the believer would reach a state of perfection
comparable to that of Christ.
The second interpretation of the phrase "imparted
righteousness" means increased participation in the very life of
Christ through faith. We become increasingly dependent on Christ.
Regeneration brings us into the new life, united with Christ.
Sanctification grants us a fuller share in Christís own life. What is
imparted to us is the Holy Spiritís control. Christís righteousness is
never ours in any sense apart from or independent of the Son of God. It
always belongs to Christ in a way that it never belongs to us. Daily
surrender and commitment is the measure of the Spiritís control in the
life. We increasingly confess: "I can of mine own self do
The actuality of an intrinsic righteousness, or an
imparted righteousness, that God gives apart from Himself is never found
in Scripture. The problem of the sanctified life is not solved by saying
that imputed righteousness is something outside of us put to our account,
and imparted righteousness is something that intrinsically belongs to us
as Christians. Adamís primal sin was choosing life apart from God.
Sanctification as imparted righteousness can never mean that in any form.
The believer who apostatizes from the faith after fifty years of being a
Christian is not left with fifty per cent of his righteousness. He has
none at all, for he is outside of Christ. The Holy Spirit is no longer in
control of his life.
The fact that Christ is our sanctification is not
exclusive of, but inclusive of, a faith which clings to him alone in
all of life. Faith is the pivot on which everything revolves. Faith,
though not itself creative, preserves us from autonomous
self-sanctification and moralism Ė G. C.. BERKOUWER, Faith
and Sanctification, p. 93.
Biblical Meaning of Sanctification
In the Bible the children of God are commanded to be
holy, to be a sanctified people unto God (see Ex. 19:14; 28:41). The
Hebrew word kadosh or kadhesh is translated into English by
the words "holy, holiness, sanctify." They all have the same
root word in the Hebrew, which occurs in its various forms over 800 times.
The Greek word for "sanctify" is hagiazo or hagios, and
is translated by the words "holy, holiness, sanctify, sanctification,
saints." Again all have the same Greek root, found 243 times in the
The root meaning of the Hebrew word is to be set apart,
separated from sin unto God. Those who are sanctified now belong to God.
Whatever is set aside or set apart for Godís use and service is said to
be holy or sanctified. A thing or a person becomes sanctified by
dedication or consecration to God. Neither is intrinsically holy or
sanctified in itself. Sanctification is a quality of life by virtue of oneís
nearness to God. This belonging, this dependence on God, is of the
greatest importance in understanding what sanctification means.
The idea of holiness or sanctification is used of both
things and persons. The place where God manifests His presence is
"holy ground" (Ex. 3:5). The tabernacle and the Temple with all
the furniture and the vessels were holy because they were set apart for
Godís use. They belonged to Him. The Sabbath is holy (see chap. 20:8-1
1), a day set apart for God. No other day has this designation. The tithe
is holy or sanctified because one tenth of manís wealth and income
belongs to God.
"Sanctify unto me all the first-born, it is
mine" (chap. 13:2). This did not mean that the first-born was morally
or spiritually superior to the rest of the family. Always sanctification
expresses a relationship to God. The children of Israel were said to be
holy because they were Godís people. God redeemed them from bondage in
Egypt. From thenceforth they were to be set apart from all the nations and
the idols around them (see chap. 19:6; Lev. 20:24). They were to recognize
His sovereign love and lordship over them. Godís right to their
allegiance was based on their belonging to Him and His belonging to them.
Christ said of Himself: "For their sakes I
sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the
truth" (John 17:19). Christ is not speaking of His own moral
improvement, for He was sinless. But He set Himself apart, consecrated
Himself for His sacred mission. He dedicated Himself to His Fatherís
purpose for the salvation of the world.
The same is true of the church of God. She has been
redeemed and purchased by the blood of Christ. God claims her full
allegiance. As Christians we acknowledge this divine ownership with all
our hearts and lives. In the New Testament, Christians are called
"saints" for the same reason. The word saint is the
designation most frequently used of Christians because its basic meaning
is that of dedication to God.
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them
that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints (1 Cor. 1:2;
see also Rom. 1:7).
This claim of Christ upon all Christians to belong to
God surpasses every other claim that can be made. If God had failed to
redeem man at the cross, He could have made no claim to ownership. Man
could never be sanctified or holy, for man would still be alienated from
God. If man fails to acknowledge the claim of Godís ownership of all he
is and has, he cannot be sanctified regardless of how morally good he may
The apostle John in the book of Revelation writes of
Godís "sealing the servants of God in their foreheads," of
"having the Fatherís name written in their foreheads" (Rev.
7:3; 14:1). We write our names in books and on things that belong to us.
So Christ writes His name on those who have come to belong to Him. The
Sabbath is the "sign . . . that I am the Lord that doth sanctify
you" (Ex. 31:13), that is, of Godís ownership. The text does not
say that Sabbathkeeping sanctifies a person, but it is a sign that God
does it. Obedience to the fourth commandment will ultimately provide the
test for those who truly come to belong wholly to Christ. So crucial will
be the test, that only those who are prepared to make that kind of
commitment with the whole of their lives will obey that commandment.
The sanctified life brings everything into a right
relation with God. It follows naturally and spontaneously that people who
give this total allegiance will live in harmony with Christ. What can be
more transforming morally and spiritually than the control of God and the
Holy Spirit in the life? The sanctified Christian never elbows Christ or
the Spirit out of control in his life. What is invincible is Godís hold
on us, not our hold on God.
Sanctification is never something worked up by man. It
is not a quality that man possesses in and of himself, but a certain
quality of life derived from God. Consequently, the longer we live as
Christians, the more we become dependent on Christ. Sanctification depends
upon the same source as does justification, participation in the life of
Christ by faith. Imparted righteousness is no more a quality of life given
apart from Christ than is imputed righteousness. The first speaks of
Christ s ownership and control; the second of Christís righteousness put
to our account. Both require us to look away from self to the living
Christ. There is a rising dependence on Christ.
Not one thread of selfishness must be drawn into
the fabric of character we are weavingóELLEN G. WHITE, Notebook
Leaflets, "A Deeper Experience."
In the Scriptures sanctification is both a completed
and a continuing work. There is no such thing as partial sanctification.
We belong to Christ entirely from the time we are born again and for the
rest of our lives. The use of the Greek aorist tense may speak of a
To the congregation of Godís people at Corinth, dedicated
[sanctified] to him in Christ Jesus, claimed by him as his own (1
Cor. 1:2, N.E.B.).
You are in Christ Jesus by Godís act, for God has
made him our wisdom; he is our righteousness; in him we are consecrated
[sanctified] and set free (verse 30).
But you have been through the purifying waters; you
have been dedicated [sanctified] to God and justified through
the name of the Lord Jesus and the Spirit of our God (chap. 6:11).
The use of the aorist tense affirms no partial
sanctification, a partial dedication, a partial belonging to God. In the
Bible sanctification is frequently illustrated by the marriage
relationship, a lifetime of belonging. There is no such thing as a partial
belonging in oneís relationship to God any more than there can be in
marriage. To belong to oneís husband or wife one day out of the week is
not marriage. To belong to God one day out of seven is not sanctification.
Sanctification always signifies a total experience of Godís ownership.
This ownership is complete at conversion and should continue this way.
This does not deny the need to grow. But growth is
always within the relationship and never outside of it. The use of the
present tense in the Greek verb speaks of a continuing work.
Consecrate (sanctify) them by the truth; thy word is
truth (John 17:17, N.E.B.).
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly (1 Thess.
"For their sakes I sanctify myself" (John
17:19); that is, my consecration is a continuous, lifelong experience.
There is no finality in sanctification in this life. There is no finality
in growing a garden. We cannot rest on the fact that we have planted
flowers and vegetables. Days or weeks of neglect will produce a crop of
It is not enough to find the door to salvation and
enter it. Justification is not an end in itself, but a means to an end,
the gateway to a lifetime of belonging to God. Repentance, conversion,
baptism: these experiences start us out on the Christian way. We begin as
babes in Christ. Growth requires constant nurture. If we rely on a past
conversion, we shall cease to grow. When an educated person imagines
himself to have mastered the areas of knowledge, he stops learning.
However, the more he studies the more he confesses that he knows so
So the continuing work is not toward sanctification but
in sanctification. This means that we are continually learning and
maintaining our allegiance, our commitment, and consecration to God. As we
draw nearer to Christ, we realize how far short we come of the ideal and
how much there is in Christ we wish we had. There is so much of the
likeness of Christ that we do not yet possess.
A spiritually stalled Christian is in a dangerous
position. He can get sidetracked by the discouragements and difficulties
that beset his path. He can become distracted by the enticements of the
world, the flesh, and the devil. It is serious business to consecrate
oneself daily to God. As Christ continues to extend the claim of ownership
in all aspects of living, the Christian acknowledges this and surrenders
to it. To grow in sanctification is to walk with Christ and to become
increasingly like Him.
When I speak of "growth in grace" I only
mean increase in the degree, size, strength, vigour, and power of the
graces which the Holy Spirit plants in a believerís heart. . . . I
hold that repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, zeal, courage, and
the like, may be little or great, strong or weak, vigorous or feeble,
and may vary greatly in the same man at different periods of his life.
When I speak of a man "growing in grace," I mean simply thisóthat
his sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope
brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual-mindedness more
marked. He feels more of the power of godliness in his own heart. He
manifests more of it in his life. He is going on from strength to
strength, from faith to faith, and from grace to grace.óJ. S.
RYLE, Holiness (Westwood, New Jersey: Fleming H.
Revell Co.), p. 85.
A life of sanctification is not a slavish obedience to
law. Only to the degree that we acknowledge this divine ownership and
sonship does the moral change have any Christian factor about it. Right
being exceeds right doing. The mark of the sanctified man is not only that
he does good things. Sanctification is participation by faith in the life
of Christ through the Holy Spirit. From this the Christian takes his
motivation, his purposes, and his life-style. All that our Lord needs is
our total availability. As the sick man who receives new life is now
capable of progress from sickness into health, so it is with
sanctification. We increasingly live out this new life from Christ in all
situations. He encompasses our path. We walk with God by setting Him
always before us. We cherish an habitual recollection, an active,
realizing sense of God. We perceive His hand in prosperity and in
adversity, in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow. We hear His
voice speaking to us in His Word.
We find happiness in communion with Him. We can say
from the heart: "It is good for me to draw nigh unto God. There is
none upon earth that I desire more than Thee." Christ is the supreme
object of our love and devotion.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things
which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set
your affections 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
To rely on the righteousness of Christ is the
beginning and the end. . . . Sanctification is . . . not a moral
process, but it is being holy in Christ and having a part, through
faith, in his righteousness. . . . All depends on Christ. "Once I
have Christ I need no longer worry about my sanctification, no, but I
press on and count all things to be loss for the excellency of the
knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord."óBERKOUWER, op. cit., p.
Throughout the Christian life there is increased
restoration to the image of God.
Being confident of this very thing, that he which
hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus
Christ (Phil. 1:6).
To grow in grace is to grow in Christ. We trust Him
more every day. We are grafted into Christ as the branch is to the vine.
We feed on Christ and live by Him. We are married to Christ and have our
lives molded by Him. Not by just attempting to conform our lives to any
set of rules, but by throwing open our lives to the influence of the
Life-giver we are to grow into His likeness. We receive His life as the
plant receives light from the sun. To desire our Lord, to seek Him, to
perceive Him, to trust Him, to open the heart and love Himóthis is
A progressive sanctification must keep the windows
of faith opened to the grace of God. . . . Any "striving,"
in this connection, receives its content from the fact of Grace. Not
activity as such is disqualified by Scripture but only the activity
which cannot be considered as growing in grace or as the perfection of
holiness in the fear of God. The progress that is here meant is like
the fruitbearing of branches in the vine. . . . All activity and
progress must bear this stampóIbid., pp. 107, 108.
We must give attention to the study of the Word and to
prayer. There must be an economy of time. Procrastination in the things of
God must be shunned as a plague. Many things impose a weight of care and
anxiety upon us. The temptation is to involve ourselves in so many secular
enterprises that we have scarcely a moment for a private life with God.
The great and heavenly blessing of sanctification
is the fruit of our union with Christ. . . . Without me, without vital
union with me, similar to that of a living branch to a flourishing
vine, ye can do nothing that is truly good and acceptable in the sight
of God. It is by the Spirit of truth and the word of grace, that any
sinner is, or can be sanctified. As it is written, "Ye have
purified your souls in obeying the truth, through the Spirit."
Hence we read of the "sancification of the Spirit; of the
holiness of truth; and of being sanctified by the truth" (1 Pet.
1:2; 2 Thess. 2:13; Eph. 4:24; john 17:19). By comparing these
passages together, it is evident that the Divine Spirit employs
evangelical truth as the appointed instrument, in producing that
holiness in the heart and life of a Christian.óABRAHAM BOOTH, The
Reign of Grace (Grand Rapids: Win. B. Eerdmans, 1949), p. 206.
Used by permission.
Letting God Be God
The root problem in sanctification is the difficulty of
letting God be God in our lives. Selfcenteredness is that function of man
that loves his own being supremely and seeks its own way to exalt itself.
Self-will is the mainspring of manís actions and the center of
But what things were gain to me, those I counted
loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for
the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I
have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that
I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own
righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the
faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith (Phil.
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 (Gal. 6:14).
God does not accept the most splendid service
unless self is laid upon the altar, a living, consuming sacrifice. The
root must be holy, else there can be no sound, healthy fruit, which
alone is acceptable to God.ó Gospel Workers, p. 371.
Those who have the deepest experience in the things
of God are the farthest removed from pride or selfexaltation.óIbid.,
The fear of looking to and depending upon self should
be the concern of every Christian. Unfortunately some professing
Christians have come to believe that they must go as far as possible under
their own steam. Beyond that, they feel, they can count on Christ.
It makes a great difference whether Christ is my
Sovereign Lord and my righteousness, or whether I have shifted the
emphasis to myself. Only by witnessing to the former can we convince the
world that we are a holy people. Only by attributing every outflow of
moral and spiritual goodness to its source in Christ can we give Him His
rightful place in our lives. It is time to have done with accounting for
the good we do and the exalted products of human attainment in comparison
with other creeds and churches. If we as a people profess to be Christians
partly because of our ability, so as to call attention to it, then is our
faith vain. Sanctification in Christ gives no credit to man for his
efforts. By human culture, education, and social pressure a man may be
morally good from his youth up, but this does not mean he has experienced
sanctification. Sanctification is a Biblical word that has meaning only in
terms of the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in the life. We are never
in less need of Christ and His righteousness. The abiding in Him never
lessens. It increases.
We are never independent agents. Transformation of the
life is due solely to control of the Holy Spirit. The closer one comes to
the power of God, the less credit he takes for it.
For if anything is clear in the message of
Scripture, it is that in sanctification there is never, under any
circumstances, any room for pride or self-praise.óBERKOUWER, op.
cit., p. 117.
The moment we think we can do anything in and of
ourselves, sin and self-will defeat us. To believe that we have arrived at
the place where we have a righteousness of our own can only be a delusion,
for it offers to man a greater measure of that independence from God that
is the primal sin of Adam. The truth must come home to us that every
aspect of salvation centers in Jesus Christ. We can only confess and give
glory to Him. Joyfully we hail Christ as Lord as well as Saviour.
The greatest praise that men can bring to God is to
become consecrated channels through whom He can work. . . . He asks
for a whole heart, give it to Hun; it is His both by creation and
redemption. He asks for your intellect; give it to Him. . . . God
requires the homage of a sanctified soul, which has prepared itself,
by the exercise of the faith that works by love, to serve Him. . . He
asks us to be absolutely and completely for Him in this world as He is
for us in the presence of God.óActs of the Apostles, p.
The error of making sanctification something attainable
by the unaided fierce efforts of the will can only in the end lead to an
insidious self-esteem. The word striving in the Christian life has
enough emotional color to indicate manís problem. The nature of
Christian striving needs to be understood. Sanctification is not simply a
moral process, but being holy in Christ. We must strive to abide in Christ
and not work out our own salvation under only our own wisdom and effort.
We must strive to depend entirely on Him.
We know that once we have been embraced by God, our
hearts are set on fire with the love of God. We do not keep this
experience by selfexamination. We are sure that God has created in us the
life of Christ. We know that the life we live by faith and love is from
Him. His unceasing love for us has involved us in His own recreative
power. Biblical sanctification is not mystical. It is the most intelligent
and meaningful reality in all the world, a life lived to His glory and
within His presence and power.
Crucified and Resurrected With Christ
The great question that presses upon the mind is
concerned with the genuine reality of the Christianís relationship to
Christ. In what way and to what extent do we share in the death and the
resurrection of Christ?
I have been crucified with Christ: the life I now
live is not my life, but the life which Christ lives in me; and my
present bodily life is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me
and sacrificed himself for me (Gal. 2:20, N.E.B.).
Have you forgotten that when we were baptized into
union with Christ Jesus we were baptized into his death? By baptism we
were buried with him, and lay dead, in order that, as Christ was
raised from the dead in the splendour of the Father, so also we might
set our feet upon the new path of life (Rom. 6:3, 4, N.E.B.).
The apostle Paul uses the terms "death" and
"resurrection" to describe the nature of our identification and
union with Christ. We are to die to the old life and be resurrected to the
new life in Christ. To die to our sinful nature and to be crucified with
Him does not mean there is some bad entity or essence in the body that
must be eradicated. Man is a whole person. In the Bible such terms as heart,
flesh, mind, and spirit are not separate parts like the
lifeless pieces of a machine. They refer to differing functions of the
whole man. When God asks for the heart, He is not asking for an emotional
response per se. He is calling for a response from the inner man in
contrast to mere external conformity. Always the whole person is involved,
whether the function is good or evil. The whole person surrenders or
refuses to surrender to God. The issue is the control of the whole man
either by God or by Satan.
What does it mean to be crucified with Christ? What do
we die to and to what are we resurrected? Manís prior condition is that
he is alive to sin. He lives under the dominion of sin. He is in slavery
to it. He lives and operates in that sphere where sin holds dominion. He
is subject to its power, its rule, and control. In this sphere he spends
his time and energy. This is where his hopes are. He is on the side that
is against Christ and His righteousness, the wrong side in the great
controversy between Christ and Satan. He lives at Satanís disposal as a
citizen of his kingdom.
Referring to this state Paul speaks of our being
"once slaves of sin," having yielded our bodies to the service
of impurity and lawlessness. Here is a sphere of servitude to sin that
destroys manís power to do right and to resist temptation. Here in the
devilís kingdom and sphere of operation man involves himself in a
constant repetition of wrong decisions, to destroy all desire for that
which belongs to Christ.
When we speak of this great controversy in the lives of
men, we are not talking theory or moving in a world of unreality. We
ourselves know clearly the nature of our own personal problems with self
and sin. All men in the world are enveloped and involved in those tragic
words "sin" and "Satan." All men outside of Christ are
"sold under sin" (Rom. 7:14).
You must regard yourselves as dead to sin and alive
to God, in union with Christ Jesus. So sin must no longer reign in
your mortal body. . . . You must no longer put its several parts at
sinís disposal. . . . Put yourselves at the disposal of God, as dead
men raised to life; yield your bodies to him as implements for doing
right; for sin shall no longer be your master. . . . God be thanked,
you, who once were slaves of sin, have yielded whole-hearted obedience
to the pattern of teaching to which you were made subject, and,
emancipated from sin, have become slaves of righteousness (Rom.
6:11-14, 17-19, N.E.B.).
Paul stresses the fact that there are two spheres in
which a man may live, two masters we can choose from. They are
diametrically opposed to each other. The end of one is eternal death. The
end of the other is eternal life. As far as man s destiny is concerned,
the issue is final. Not to choose Christ is to choose the devil. To side
with sin and Satan carries with it total impotence, helplessness, and
To be crucified arid die with Christ means to die to
sin and its rule over us. We no longer live our lives on the wrong side.
We have made a decision and a commitment by the power of God to move from
under the dominion of Satan and sin. To be resurrected with Christ is to
begin living on the side of Christ, under His power and life. We have
joined forces with the right side in the great controversy. We have
accepted the rule of Christ and His righteousness. This means
unconditional deliverance from the slavery of sin. We have changed
leaders. Satanís mastery is finished in our lives. From henceforth we
will not swerve in our loyalty to God and to His Word. We fight the good
fight under the banner of the Lord Jesus Christ. "This is my command:
be strong, be resolute; do not be fearful or dismayed, for the Lord your
God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9, N.E.B.).
|The Son of God goes forth to war,|
A kingly crown to gain;
His blood-red banner streams afar;
Who follows in His train?
Who best can drink His cup of woe,
Triumphant over pain,
Who patient bears His cross belowó
He follows in His train.
A noble army, men and boys,
The matron and the maid,
Around the Saviourís throne rejoice,
In robes of light arrayed;
They climbed the steep ascent of heaven
Through peril, toil, and painó
O God, to us may grace be given
To follow in their train.
Archimedes, the Greek mathematician, wrote, "Give
me a place to stand and I will move the earth." In this world Christ
is the only fixed point. He is the One who never changes. On Him alone we
can absolutely depend. "Thou, 0 Lord, remainest for ever" (Lam.
5:19). He is the one Lord our God, "the Way, the Truth, and the
Life." He is the Center around which all else turns. He alone can
chart our course into the eternity beyond. He alone is greater than all
our sins, our agony, our suffering, our failures, and death itself.
He alone can command Abraham, "Take now thy son,
thine only son Isaac, . . . and offer him there for a burnt offering"
(Gen. 22:2), for He alone can resurrect him. Christ will never be
overthrown by either sin or death. He has conquered them both. When we
have shifted our center onto Christ, all life takes on a new quality.
God waits for us to put the direction and control of
our lives in His hands. There must be no holding back, no divided heart.
God must have all of us. In this choice we cannot be forced. We can be
awakened by the Spirit and by the Word of God. God will not violate the
will of any man. God pursues a man with love and patience. He follows him
to the uttermost and never gives up.
Salvation and freedom come when we respond to God and
cry, "God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13).
Have mercy upon me, 0 God, according to thy
lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies
blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and
cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my
sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and
done this evil in thy sight. . . . Create in me a clean heart, 0 God;
and renew a right spirit within me (Ps. 51:1-4, 10).
Only as we see our utter helplessness and renounce
all self-trust, shall we lay hold on divine power. All our good works
are dependent on a power outside of ourselves; therefore there needs
to be a continual reaching out of the heart after God, a constant,
earnest confession of sin, and humbling of the soul before Him.... We
are safe only as we feel our weakness, and cling with the grasp of
faith to our mighty Deliverer.óThe Ministry of Healing, pp.
Our acceptance of the rule of Christ and dependence
upon Him must be made daily and in all situations. We must enter every
transaction and every pleasure in light of the fact that He is our Saviour
and Lord. We must not call a moratorium on the rule of Christ in any
isolated deed or desire and take our own way as did the prodigal son. We
have chosen life in Christ, life with Christ, a life like Christ, a life
under the Holy Spirit with all the fruits thereof. We seek not our own
will, but the will of God in all things.
Because we are identified with Christ, we are also
identifiable as Christians among our fellow men. There is nothing that we
engage in, be it business, education, pleasure, social relations, or a
life vocation, but what it is apparent that we are followers of Christ,
that Christ is the One we love and serve. We are part of Christís
church, Christís community, Christís kingdom. Everywhere we go we live
as citizens of the kingdom of God. There must be no doubt as to our
Here a man must take his stand. Here are the crossroads
for all men. What a man does with Christ is the most decisive issue he
We have now come to the hour of Godís judgment and
destiny for the world. The fulfillment of Godís final purposes and plans
is ripening fast. His movements are certain. In the remnant church are
united the streams of history and prophecy that pertain to the end of
time. We have not chosen this hour for the consummation of all things. God
has chosen it.
Elisha the prophet and his servant had encamped
overnight in the city of Dothan. The king of Syria had determined either
to capture or to kill the prophet, so during the night he sent his army
with horses and chariots and encompassed the city. The next morning the
servant of Elisha was alarmed at what he saw. There appeared no way of
escape. He did not have the faith that Elisha had. He said in fear,
"Alas, my master, how shall we do?" And Elisha answered,
"Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with
them." Thereupon Elisha prayed that his servantís eyes might be
opened. "And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw:
and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round
about Elisha" (2 Kings 6:15-17). "The angel of the Lord
encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them" (Ps.
What a contrast of poverty and riches, of weakness and
strength, between how Christ found us in sin and what He makes and offers
to us! What eternal security is ours! What we need is to abide in Christ
in total and joyful commitment. We need to be sufficiently possessed with
the reality that the divine powers of heaven, who are for us, are greater
than all the earthly forces against us. We must not carry in our hearts
and minds a distant, indifferent, and enfeebled image of a God who delays
His coming. We need to share in the inspiration of a great expectancy of
the soon-coming triumph of the church of Christ. Let our consecration and
confidence proclaim to the world that above all the weaknesses of men, God
will lead His children and His church to such spiritual victory that
multitudes of men and women will find redemption.
That I may know him and the power of his resurrection
I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me (Gal. 2:20).
"In Christ" is the phrase used in the New
Testament to express the nature of the Christian life. Christ is one with
us and we with Him. Within the Godhead the same oneness prevails (see John
1:10:30-33, 37, 38; 14:10, 20). To be buried with Christ does not mean a
loss of consciousness. To be resurrected with Christ does not refer to
some superhuman encounter that temporarily takes us out of our natural
sphere. The Holy Spirit produces in us the same life that Christ lived on
The Spirit does not displace us. He does not
destroy our integrity as real persons. Nor does He somehow keep a
still, silent vigil alongside our ego. Nor does He elevate our souls
to a new metaphysical level. He brings us Christ to enable us to live
the Christ lifeóto live in a way that is wise, holy, and righteous.
Christ within us brings us back to the image of Godóa life of action
in obedience to GodóL..B. SMEDES. All Things Made New,
God does not share His divinity with us. Christ in us
does not mean that we are deified. There can be no submerging of one
person into another. His action upon and in our lives is through our
intelligent cooperation and conscious rational commitment. Every day we
are colaborers with Christ, partners with Him as we are with our husband
or wife. We are in Him as branches are in the vine, as the head is related
to the various parts of the body, as the bride is to the bridegroom.
When we speak of Christ in the heart, we should not
ask where He is, but what He is doing. The important thing is not
location, but action. Christ is not in confinement at an address
labelled "my heart." He is operative, freely, as the Spirit
in my life where it really counts. óIbid., p. 183.
A life in harmony with Christ is a far more profound
and total experience than men deem it to be. To be in Christ does not mean
that we are able to make a few separate resolutions to correct some bad
habits. Nor does it consist in the possession of a few good thoughts mixed
with some sinful ones, or doing a few right acts alongside corrupt ones.
It means to have an undivided heart in relation to God. It involves living
within the very presence of God and to His glory, to obey God in all
aspects of life from the right motive, as an affectionate child does
within a loving household.
To be in Christ means that we can never find ourselves
in a situation where there is no hope and no meaning. There is no anxiety
or emotional failure that cannot be met and changed when we discover that
God so loves us that He never forsakes us. We may turn everything over to
the everlasting assurance of His love. We discover ourselves as a forgiven
and accepted person of supreme value to God. We can praise and thank Him
for what He is to us and what we are to Him. There are no limits to the
life that we can live.
As we daily consecrate our lives to Christ, we
increasingly sense the sinfulness and selfishness of what lies deep within
The closer you come to Jesus, the more faulty you
will appear in your own eyes; for your vision will be clearer, and
your imperfections will be seen in broad and distinct contrast to His
perfect nature. This is evidence that Satanís delusions have lost
their power; that the vivifying influence of the Spirit of God is
arousing you.... The less we see to esteem in ourselves, the more we
shall see to esteem in the infinite purity and loveliness of our
Saviour. A view of our sinfulness drives us to Him who can pardon. . .
. The more our sense of need drives us to Him and to the word of God,
the more exalted views we shall have of His character, and the more
fully we shall reflect His imageóSteps to Christ, pp.
The closer we come to Christ the more sharply we feel
the guilt of a sinful action. There should be no despair or consternation.
A calm, intelligent awareness of our sinfulness should prevail. The
presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit, when clearly understood and lived
by, increasingly overcomes anxiety and fear. To be faced with more of the
reality of our own sinful nature should not create panic. Nothing is more
wholesome for the Christian than the effect of the Spiritís presence
upon the life and the mind, for He causes the beauty of Christ and His
character to be seen and desired.
Always oneís sinfulness and selfishness bring
disquiet, but for a good reason: The Christian now finds himself in the
very presence of One who abhors sin. But let us not, in the hour of
discovery of our sinfulness, give way to discouragement and make rash
decisions that lead to further sin. On the contrary, let us cast ourselves
before the Lord, who loves us and who came to save us from sin. Let us
plead the merits and the righteousness of Christ. Let us continue to die
to self and to sin under the leading of the Spirit.
This admits of no delay and no doubt. For in the
presence of Christ our whole lives are seen in their right proportion and
perspective. Let us never fear to invite the searching scrutiny of the
Holy Spirit into our lives. To do this with sincerity of heart will
speedily bring victory and release from guilt and the power of sin. There
is always forgiveness with God. There is an everlasting mercy and love
exercised toward us. Here we are sure of pardon, of righteousness, of
acceptance, and of deliverance. "For as the heaven is high above the
earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him" (Ps. 103:11).
The Scandal of the Cross
To die to sin and self, to arise to a new life in
Christ, is not easily brought about and maintained. Self is always an
intruder, ready to assert itself and insist upon control. Self dies hard.
But Israel, which followed after the law of
righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the
works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; as it is
written, Behold, I lay in sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence:
and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed (Rom. 9:31-33).
The stone which the builders rejected, the same is
become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone
shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to
powder (Luke 20:17, 18).
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a
stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which
are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the
wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and
the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling,
brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty,
not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of
the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of
the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of
the world, ... to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh
should glory in his presence (1 Cor. 1:23-29).
It is very difficult for man to understand how
dangerously selfish he is. Manís self-sufficiency and pride discredit
offers of salvation by One who let Himself be nailed to a tree and who
called upon men to die with Him. Ours is an age of the exaggerated
consciousness of man and his ability.
The life Christ lived and the death He died appear to
man as an attack upon human independence. Jesus Christ is the most
disturbing person ever to enter our world. Knowing what egotism has done
to our world, Christ will give no recognition to manís self-esteem. The
center of sin is selfishness, and the center of selfishness is pride. To
accept the meaning of the cross for our lives does not occur easily. For
the majority the way of the cross is a stumbling block that makes faith
The great men and minds of the world would have easily
settled for a Christ who had proclaimed the most matchless teachings to
the exultation of the crowds, who would have established a school of
philosophy exceeding that of the Greeks, and who would have written the
worldís greatest literature for all generations. This men would have
understood. If only Christ had asserted His towering independence above
all men who ever lived. Men would have understood that. If only Christ had
trod our narrow world like a Colossus, believing that all the resources to
greatness resided in Himself, refusing to surrender His own will in
complete dependence upon another. If only He could be understood and seen
as the worldís supreme genius of the mind. If only He had tried
rationally to build out from Himself in the development of this beautiful
creature called man.
But to invite men to deny themselves, to take the way
of the cross with Christ and to die to self-will, self-esteem,
self-sufficiency, self -dependence, and human prideóthat is the scandal
of the cross. The cross is founded on the judgment of manís pride and
independence, on the road to human greatness without God. The way of the
cross begins in a surrender of self and a confession of sin, the end of
manís determination to master his own destiny and to save himself.
Because of menís pride, even in the church, through
the centuries, the triumph of Godís kingdom has been delayed. It is
always a serious problem when we promote ourselves more than Christ and as
a consequence worship men rather than God, when the struggle for position
and power leads to idolatrous loyalties that run competition with our
Lord. Nothing denies our Lord more and silences our witness to the truth.
The perils of self-praise and self-seeking are greater than the perils of
martyrdom. Any professed Christian life is a failure where the worship of
men suppresses the worship of God.
The way of self and the way of the cross represent two
worlds and two ways. However we may seek to build up ourselves by our own
accomplishments, pride now threatens the world with destruction. Because
of the sinfulness of men in all their pride and independence from God, the
world is now on its way to final disaster.
Life by manís wisdom can give the world no hope, no
basis for trust and allegiance, no inspiration that reaches beyond sin and
death. Within our dark world, man the sinner can never be healed of his
sickness from within himself. The great tragedy for man is not the tragedy
of the cross, but the moral and spiritual fall from righteousness and the
refusal to make Christ and His cross the way to life eternal. Man is
afraid of the subordination his own personality if he takes the way of the
There are multitudes of men and women who do not seem
to have the faintest understanding of what following Christ means. Christ
went to the cross to save men and to make men whole. Unless we live within
the victory of Christ and the experience of the cross in our own lives,
everything we do will be out of focus and off center.
Jesus Christ, who "made Himself of no reputation
and who "tasted death for every man on the cross," is soon to
invade our world with the armies of heaven. At that time every knee shall
bow and acknowledge Him King of kings and Lord of lords. It is folly to
assume that man will continue to be his own master. Christ is the rightful
ruler of this world and of our lives, whether we care to acknowledge it or
not. He alone will establish a millennium of peace and righteousness. He
alone will create new heavens and a new earth. No ages of progress by
sinful men, regardless of their brilliance, can possibly bring about that
kind of triumph and victory over sin and death.
We as Christians have at our disposal all the
unsearchable riches of Christ, upon which we can draw each day. Not one
thing has Christ withheld from us.