Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:…
I. THE BASIS OF THE APOSTLE'S SENTIMENT.
1. Is laid in the past.
(1) The death of Christ. Christ died for our sins. Millions of deaths have passed unobserved as leaves fall from the trees in autumn. A few deaths have arrested attention and been a source of great benefit to the countries to which the dying belonged. Never a death like that of Jesus Christ — never one that has attracted such attention, never one from which such benefits have flowed.
(2) Christ died unto sin once, and when He thus died He had no more to do with sin, either as tempting Him, or as requiring to be atoned for. He had borne the sins: He bore them no longer when He had atoned for them. He had been surrounded by sin; but now He had passed away from that sphere in which He had been brought into contact with it, and henceforth and forevermore all was to be holy.
2. There is also a basis of prophecy. Respecting Christ and His people. Paul saw a grand future for Christ and the Church. Paul's earliest inspiration was as a prophetic author. The glowing hope which the apostle cherished was of Christ's coming again, and of the resurrection and the glorification of His people at the last day! The wonderful prophecy is sketched in Romans 8:18-24.
II. THE BEARING OF THE PAST AND THE FUTURE UPON THE PRESENT. History is not good for much if it be not connected with the present, and those who indulge in speculations as to prophecy without connecting them with the present, are not doing much that will be of avail for themselves or others. When we look at history and prophecy in the Bible we have not two islands separated from one another, but two continents Joined by an isthmus — the present. We stand, then, at the meeting point of the past and future; and the past and future have both to do with us, and our whole spiritual life is based upon the history of the past and the prophecies of the future.
1. Paul fixes upon the historical fact that Christ died for our sins, and he will not let that for an instant go. But without turning Christ's death into a myth, he gives it a spiritual meaning, and teaches that between us and Christ there comes an identification and sympathy, through which we feel like Him and act like Him and become one with Him, imitating His example and becoming conformed to His image.
2. With regard to Christ's resurrection, Paul spiritualises it and indicates its relation to our Christian holiness: "That we also should walk in newness of life." Without turning Christ's resurrection into a myth, he makes it a moral power working in us, so that we rise from the death of sin to the life of righteousness.
3. As it regards future and present, Paul says, "We shall live together with Him." Without losing sight of Christ's glorious reign, and of our resurrection through His power at the last day, the connection shows that he had in his mind the thought of a risen life, now enjoyed by the believer, of which the words just cited are the irresistible proofs. Thus he thinks of Christ's resurrection as repeated in the believer's life, and the believer's resurrection as antedated and as rehearsed in his present holy life.
4. Note the wonderful effect upon our morality and our religion of these ideas.
(1) Common morality, as it is recognised in the world, is just resistance to temptation to vice. But according to Paul, Christian morality consists in dying to sin. The idea is that of becoming insensible to sin, even as Christ was.
(2) Christian piety is living with Christ, rising to such a level of life that we become one with Christ, and there is a spirit of devotion, of patience, of activity, like that of Christ.
(3) So with regard to religion altogether. Religion now is in the estimation of some people rather degrading than otherwise. It is just the opposite. It is a rising in the spiritual universe: it is a getting nearer to heaven, through getting nearer to Christ — getting into fellowship with Christ.Conclusion: As we think of all this —
1. The first conviction that is produced in our minds is that of tremendous deficiency.
2. But we have at hand an immeasurable power of improvement in the truths and promises of the gospel, and in the promise of the Holy Spirit. Our aims as Christians should be very high, very noble. We shall never realise those ends and objects in our own strength, but God will help us.
(John Stoughton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: