Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:…
I. THE LORD'S DEATH. We arrive most easily at what the apostle intends by his phrase, "He died unto sin," if we start from a familiar form of speech. Nothing is more impressive than the sudden and total stop which death puts to the relationships of life. Of him who died only an hour ago, we say that he is done with this world. Whatever interest he possessed in it is at an end. The ties which bound him to it are cut. From every obligation which it imposed on him he is discharged. Yesterday the man formed a busy unit in the complicated system of society, entangled by a thousand threads of family, trade, and public life. In the thick of it all, how has one swift scythe sweep cut him clear! Neither love, nor hate, nor desire, nor care, comes here to move him more. His world is elsewhere; his life is far away. When we apply this definition of the phrase to the case of Jesus, and inquire what is meant by affirming of Him, "The death that He died, He died unto sin (ver. 10, R.V.), two thoughts emerge."
1. The connection of the Lord Jesus with sin in His earthly life was the most complete possible for a sinless person to have. "He knew no sin" by that sad experimental knowledge which implies its entrance within the soul to stain and wreck it. When you have named this exception you have named all. What else have we to do with it which He had not? Ours, not His, is the doing of sin with the will's consent; whatever follows on the doing of it was His as well as ours — e.g.,
(1) In the constitution of His body, born with the same frailty and exposure to ill as we all share; in the curse of sweat for daily bread, when He wrought at the bench; in the endurance of fatigue and want.
(2) His soul shared the same curse; for if it is sin which turns the honey of affection into gall, He surely had His share of distrust, unkindness, misconstruction, treachery. If fear of death be born of sin, may we not compare with that the mysterious gloom which deepened over the Christ as His career drew towards its end?
(3) And then the awful experience of forsakenness on the Cross gives a hint of deeps of spiritual distress which we are unable to sound. Connection with sin! He was all sin's own; its prey, surrendered for some Divine necessity to the devourer; the choicest portion ever seized upon to be borne down to the keeping of sin's child, death, within sin's home, the grave.
2. The whole of this connection with sin is said to have terminated at death.
(1) It has not been so with any other man, Men who stand on the verge of the unseen world have no reason to look forward to the act of dying as an escape either from sinful habits, or from the judgment of heaven upon their misdeeds. So far from that, the instinctive voice of conscience confirms the declaration of Holy Writ that "after death comes the judgment." Nor is there the slightest ground for supposing that death can operate as a purifier. It is far more rational to apprehend that the human spirit, when set free from the restraints of the present state, and flung loose in all its abused but magnificent strength to do what it pleases, may indulge in the spiritual sins of pride, hatred, and defiance of God on a scale rarely if ever beheld on earth.
(2) But what no other man's death can be expected to do was done by the death of Jesus the sinless. It closed His connection with sin, for that had been outward, not inward; a guiltless submission to sin's penalty, not a guilty surrender to sin's power; that of a sufferer who owes a death to justice for imputed sins of other men. Once that death was paid, His Connection with imputed sin was of necessity dissolved.
II. FROM SUCH A DEATH AS THIS THERE COULD ISSUE ONLY LIFE UNTO GOD.
1. Jesus having ceased to be under the power of the world's sin could not but live anew. For to "die unto sin" must mean to die unto death. When the law's sentence has been endured, and the power of sin as guilt has been exhausted, the royalty of death is over. It was "not possible" that Jesus should be holden of death.
2. The life which emerges when sin and death have been died to, is a life "unto God." The new state of human existence is the negation of the old — its clear contrary. It is more; it is its counterpart. It is nothing which the old life was, as a life unto sin; it is everything which the former was not.
3. Thus, having seen how the earthly condition of Jesus involved a close contact with sin, we can readily trace the contrast which His risen life has to offer.
(1) Over against that body, alive to sin and consequently heir to infirmity, mortality, and pain; over against its exposure to waste and want and weariness, its mean necessities, its honourless condition when men tore it and marred it with shameful violence and insult, must be set a godlike organ for Divine life to inhabit, and now found fit to move amid celestial scenes with unfatigued strength, and to be the centre in its unwithering beauty of celestial homage as it sits upon the throne of God. O grave in Joseph's garden, where is thy victory?
(2) To this changed constitution of His body falls to be added a corresponding change also in Christ's manner of life. Lifted up far above the reach of sorrow, reproach, vexation, or wrong, He inhabits now the cloudless, passionless dwelling place of God. Within such a Divine home had dwelt the Everlasting Son before the days began when He lived unto sin. To it He has now borne back from earth a human nature — the body, soul, and spirit, which, living here below, lived unto sin, and dying, died unto it, but now that it liveth again, liveth forever unto God.
(J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)
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