The Divine Way of Deliverance
God clearly intends that this consideration should lead to our practical deliverance from sin. Paul makes this quite plain when he opens chapter 6 of his letter with the question: “Shall we continue in sin?” His whole being recoils at the very suggestion. “God forbid!”, he exclaims. How could a holy God be satisfied to have unholy, sin-fettered children? And so “how shall we any longer live therein?” (Romans 6:1, 2). God has surely therefore made adequate provision that we should be set free from sin’s dominion.
But here is our problem. We were born sinners; how then can we cut off our sinful heredity? Seeing that we were born in Adam, how can we get out of Adam? Let me say at once, the Blood cannot take us out of Adam. There is only one way. Since we came in by birth we must go out by death. To do away with our sinfulness we must do away with our life. Bondage to sin came by birth; deliverance from sin comes by death—and it is just this way of escape that God has provided. Death is the secret of emancipation. “We... died to sin” (Romans 6:2).
But how can we die? Some of us have tried very hard to get rid of this sinful life, but we have found it most tenacious. What is the way out? It is not by trying to kill ourselves, but by recognizing that God has dealt with us in Christ. This is summed up in the apostle’s next statement: “All we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3).
But if God has dealt with us ‘in Christ Jesus’ then we have got to be in Him for this to become effective, and that now seems just as big a problem. How are we to ‘get into’ Christ? Here again God comes to our help. We have in fact no way of getting in, but, what is more important, we need not try to get in, for we are in. What we could not do for ourselves God has done for us. He has put us into Christ. Let me remind you of I Corinthians 1:30. I think that is one of the best verses of the whole New Testament: ‘Ye are in Christ’. How? “Of him (that is, ‘of God’) are ye in Christ.” Praise God! it is not left to us either to devise a way of entry or to work it out. We need not plan how to get in. God has planned it; and He has not only planned it but He has also performed it. ‘Of him are ye in Christ Jesus’. We are in; therefore we need not try to get in. It is a Divine act, and it is accomplished.
Now if this is true, certain things follow. In the illustration from Hebrews 7 which we considered above we saw that ‘in Abraham’ all Israel—and therefore Levi who was not yet born—offered tithes to Melchizedek. They did not offer separately and individually, but they were in Abraham when he offered, and his offering included all his seed. This, then, is a true figure of ourselves as ‘in Christ’. When the Lord Jesus was on the Cross all of us died—not individually, for we had not yet been born—but, being in Him, we died in Him. “One died for all, therefore all died” (2 Cor. 5:14). When He was crucified all of us were crucified.
Many a time when preaching in the villages of China one has to use very simple illustrations for deep Divine truth. I remember once I took up a small book and put a piece of paper into it, and I said to those very simple ones, ‘Now look carefully. I take a piece of paper. It has an identity of its own, quite separate from this book. Having no special purpose for it at the moment I put it into the book. Now I do something with the book. I post it to Shanghai. I do not post the paper, but the paper has been put into the book. Then where is the paper? Can the book go to Shanghai and the paper remain here? Can the paper have a separate destiny from the book? No! Where the book goes the paper goes. If I drop the book in the river the paper goes too, and if I quickly take it out again I recover the paper also. Whatever experience the book goes through the paper goes through with it, for it is in the book.’
“Of him are ye in Christ Jesus.” The Lord God Himself has put us in Christ, and in His dealing with Christ God has dealt with the whole race. Our destiny is bound up with His. What He has gone through we have gone through, for to be ‘in Christ’ is to have been identified with Him in both His death and resurrection. He was crucified: then what about us? Must we ask God to crucify us? Never! When Christ was crucified we were crucified; and His crucifixion is past, therefore ours cannot be future. I challenge you to find one text in the New Testament telling us that our crucifixion is in the future. All the references to it are in the Greek aorist, which is the ‘once-for-all’ tense, the ‘eternally past’ tense. (See: Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20; 5:24; 6:14). And just as no man could ever commit suicide by crucifixion, for it were a physical impossibility to do so, so also, in spiritual terms, God does not require us to crucify ourselves. We were crucified when He was crucified, for God put us there in Him. That we have died in Christ is not merely a doctrinal position, it is an eternal fact.