The Golden Thread of Understanding
...Regarding Christ’s Identification with Us
and Our Identification with Him
THERE IS AN AMAZING THREAD OF INSIGHT RUNNING through Paul’s Epistles that is almost beyond the grasp of the human mind. I should say, it is difficult for a human mind to lay hold on what Paul says unless one is willing to believe, without reservation, that his writings are inspired by God. So, I am asking you, as we continue in this part of our adventure in Christ, to give your mind over to what we confess is God’s Word to us through Paul. Most of us are willing to receive it as such. The problem with some of us, however, may lie in not knowing exactly what his Word is saying to us.
With this in mind, we can let the Holy Spirit bring to us the understanding we need. He is ready to release into our minds and hearts a divine truth that will run like a river of life through the streams of our beings. This river will run through the streams of our lives that are hurt, confused and sealed off to any living hope.
Regarding believing the Scriptures, we have the good company of Paul. His conviction was very certain about this. We see it in a letter he wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (is “God-breathed”), and is profitable for doctrine (teaching), for reproof (bringing persuasion to doubters), for correction (reforming those out of line with what is right), for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect (mature), thoroughly furnished (proficient) unto all good works—II Tim 3:16,17. At the time of Paul’s writing this, the Scripture to which he had reference was the Scripture of the Old Covenant. We still receive its light, life and instruction, but there is more—oh, so much more!—ready to fill our hearts and minds with New Covenant truth.
What is taking our primary attention in these articles is what God revealed to Paul about our identification with Christ. We are willing to take and hold Paul’s writings as “God-breathed” because what we have from him carries with it a stamp of divine inspiration that ministers life and healing.
To Paul was given what he called the revelation of the mystery (Rom 16:25). In another place he said, For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ—Gal 1:12.
Revelation means the unveiling of what was before concealed. What Paul saw was beyond what the Prophets of old could tell in fullness. Peter said there was a salvation of which the prophets…inquired and searched diligently as they prophesied of the grace that should come... (I Pet 1:10). In their messages there remained some mystery, particularly about Jesus Christ. They longed to see Him and know His presence but He was veiled from their eyes.
For a brief thirty-three years Christ was known in the flesh. He was the Word made flesh Who dwelt among us... full of grace and truth (Jn 1:14). He lived, ministered and died as the Prophets had foretold. Then, after His death, burial, resurrection and ascension back to the Father, Paul came to know Him. He knew Him according to the spirit. Christ lived in him and he lived in Christ. To those outside of Christ this was a mystery. He could not be seen or touched by the flesh, nor would any receive ministry from Him as they had when He walked on earth. When He was in the flesh, He healed the blind and the deaf. Now He would live in them. Then He raised the dead. Now He would become the life of those who were dead in sin. Christ in us and His Word in us are nearly the same. Our yielding to His abiding presence and our confession of His Word serve to bring us forward in knowing we are in Him and He is in us.
PAUL LONGED FOR THE PEOPLE TO WHOM HE WAS WRITING to gain the same knowledge that was given to him regarding Christ. See what he said in Eph 3:3,4…By revelation He (that is, God) made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words [in Eph 1:9], whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge [you may grasp the same understanding given to me] in the mystery of Christ.
Perhaps the greatest revelation given to Paul was with regard to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He saw that His resurrection was our resurrection too. When the Lord came from the grave there came with Him a new kind of life out of which we now live and move in this present age. To see Christ in heaven is the expectation of many, but to know Him now—His living in us and our living in Him—is a hope that we also can embrace. This is our living hope. It is the unveiling of the mystery in us.
In I Pet 1:3 Peter gives a blessing to God for the living hope that is ours because of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. While Peter’s hope reaches in particular toward the end of the age and the salvation that will become manifest at that time, Paul presents us with a present hope. Both are right. In other Scripture Paul bears witness with Peter about the end-time salvation for which we wait. We can read what he says about our final victory in I Cor 15, beginning specifically with verse 51. Paul speaks here also of the mystery, this time about the final day. Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed …At the last trump….we shall be changed. But—we say it again—it is with Paul’s understanding about this present life and the hope that is ours now that we take our present concern.
WITH THIS SAID, WE’RE GOING TO EXAMINE some of the understanding that came to Paul about to our identification with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of His Father. The Lord Jesus Christ brings us with Him all the way. We will even see that what He inherits we inherit. This may be more than our minds can comprehend. But our spirits can receive that it is so.
With our faith in the Word of God, our understanding can follow. Our minds can become storehouses where truth can remain, available at any time for the use of the Holy Spirit when He would move in us and through us. God’s truth, stored in our minds, remains available for meditation, thinking, acting in stressful situations, and is useful for keeping us equipped for every encounter with the enemy. His attacks come often and unexpectedly. Thus, we need minds that feed daily on God’s Word. Keeping His Word in our minds will keep us mindful that Christ is living in us. When we learn to place the revelation and understanding of Scripture above the beliefs and ideas of the world, we are on our way to knowing who we are in Christ and Who He is in us.
As we allow the light of divine truth to overshadow our pain and confusion, we find the unveiling of the Word becomes the unveiling of Christ. Then the challenges of impossible situations become His challenges. This is our hope of glory (Col 1:27). This is when His light begins coming on like the dawning of a new day.
Paul was ever praising the Lord for what is ours in Christ. See this: Now thanks be unto God, Who always causes us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place, II Cor 2:14. Another translation has it thus: “Now thanks be to God Who leads us from triumph to triumph in the train of Christ’s triumph.” Another: “He makes our life a constant pageant of triumph in Christ.”
Having spoken of tribulation, ...distress, ...persecution, …famine, ...nakedness, …peril, and sword, Paul was able to say, ...In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us (Rom 8:35,37).
IN YEARS GONE BY WE TOOK NOTE OF A SET OF WORDS pertaining to what we are now seeing. We will look at them again. I am writing now with the inspiration of this present time, having come through my own darkness with the long descent of my dear wife through death’s door over into the glory of eternity. Months of grief and adjustment on my part have followed, sometimes with the doubt that I might ever minister again.
In this painful time I discovered new dimensions of my own weakness. But, now I see all of the pain has been preparing me for a new day in my walk with the Lord. My commitment to Him and my faith in His Word has been strengthened. As areas of weakness have surfaced in me, they have opened me to meet new dimensions of His strength. Thus, I have come into closer communion with the Lord. Whatever I say now can come with deeper and stronger conviction than ever. I am finding everyday He does indeed abide faithful (II Tim 2:13). And, He was true when He said, . . .Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Mt 28:20).
Literally, always means through “all the days.” There is never a day but that we can know the presence of Christ. The wonder of Paul’s revelation is that He is in us and we are in Him, here and now.
And let’s remember what Jesus said not long before He went to the cross. As He was teaching His disciples about the Holy Spirit Who would come, He said, At (“in”) that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you (Jn 14:20). Jesus was simply teaching that when the Holy Spirit had come His disciples would know a communion with the Father and Him. What a glorious communion this is! It is more than a trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. If we could come up with a word meaning the joining of four, we would use it. Yes, it is that we are brought into communion with the holy trinity. For those who oppose a designation of the trinity, preferring rather to speak of the oneness of the Godhead, this is all right. If we take the Word of Jesus, it means straightforward and simple that we become one with the Father, with Him and with the Holy Spirit. This is not for our minds to fathom. It’s for our hearts to know.
I WAS STUDYING ROMANS, AND THEN EPHESIANS, in the Greek New Testament when I first became aware of the words I before mentioned. I called them Paul’s “together words". I took note of the words he used that had the Greek preposition sun attached to them as a prefix. Sun means “together with.” It describes a togetherness that is very distinct. It is like that of one line drawn upon another so that you cannot tell two lines are in the same place—unless you were there when they were drawn. One is with the other in the very same place. Seeing these distinct words as they flow through Romans and then into Ephesians describing how we are with Christ may baffle our understanding. In them we see ourselves together with Christ, in the same place. If this is hard for our minds to grasp, we recall how we have committed ourselves to receive and believe the Word of God whether we understand it or not. We are ready to believe what it says about us and Christ. We are with Him and He is with us. The “together words" show us clearly how, and when, and where we are together with Him.
We find the beginning of these words in Rom 6 where Paul lays it out plainly that we have been crucified together with Christ. He begins his statement with knowing this. With little instruction leading to this statement, he simply expects us to start knowing. This is where our commitment to Scripture begins. We are willing to “know” it because we see it written there.
We find the first word of our identification with Christ in Rom 6:6. See this: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed (rendered powerless), that henceforth we should not serve sin (be in bondage to The Sin). I must say that before I grasped the importance of this in the Scriptures, I was influenced by two classic books: Born Crucified by L. B. Maxwell and The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. Through their pages my attention was drawn to the word knowing. It is from the Greek ginósko. This is not an instinctive kind of knowing, but rather a knowing that comes through instruction, or learning. Our instruction comes from the Scriptures. Thus, we are willing to know the revelation of the above verse says simply on the basis that we see it written in Scripture.
What is the revelation of this verse that we are to know? It is that our old man is crucified with Him. In the Greek text, is crucified with is one word. It’s the first of our “together words.” The Greek prefix sun is attached to the word stauróo which means “to crucify.” The two words joined mean “to crucify with.” It becomes one word defining one act.
Who understood what was happening when the Lord Jesus was hanging on the cross?
Only our Father knew.
No one else could see or know what was happening when He Who knew no sin was made to be sin for us. What did God see when Jesus was crucified? Did He see only His beloved Son? Or, did He see you and me there with Him?
THROUGH EYES OF LOVE GOD SAW BOTH JESUS AND ME—and you—on that cross. God’s Beloved took our sickness, our pain, our transgressions, our iniquities, our sin. If we wonder how far the love of God reached when His only begotten Son died, we find out in John’s first Epistle. He said, And He (the Lord Jesus in His death) is the propitiation (the full satisfaction of the ransom paid) for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world—I Jn 2:2.
But let us go on from here and see each of the “together” words. They show us how far the atonement does indeed reach. We list them in the order in which we find them in Romans and Ephesians. Paul was not laying out a technical discourse for us by making a skillful display of these words. It is we who have found them and placed them in order so we can soak in the light and life to which each one is pointing. I am taking the liberty of slightly rearranging them so we can gain some logical help.
Before we begin our list, let us see again this foundational statement describing Jesus Christ’s identification with us in our sin. For He made Him Who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (II Cor 5:21). Let us know this: before our identification with Christ Jesus in His crucifixion, He identified with us in our sin. Fix your heart and your mind on the above verse. See clearly what it says. Soak in it till your spirit knows it, till your heart knows it, till your mind is ready to receive it and say it is so. It was on the foundation of love and grace, as this verse lays it out, that Jesus went to the cross and died there with us.
Our Togetherness With Christ Jesus
1—Rom 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. When we are willing to know that our old nature was crucified together with Christ Jesus, we are on our way to freedom from The Sin that ruled us when we were once separate from Him. That the body of sin might be destroyed means that the sin which once ruled us is losing its power. We have the living hope that we need no longer live under its bondage. It is sad, but many continue under sin’s rule even after they have come to know Christ as their Savior. This is because they have not come to know that our old man is crucified with Him.
The specific step we can now take to experience our freedom from sin is laid out in Rom 6:10,11. It becomes clear in the word reckon. We took note of this in the last article, but we do well to see it again. For in that He (Christ Jesus) died, He died unto (the) sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth (continually) unto God. Likewise reckon ye (put it down to your account without ceasing) also yourselves to be dead indeed unto (the) sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Take careful note of the word likewise. He died once, but He lives on and on and on in a relationship with God. Likewise we are to put it down to our account—never ceasing to do so—that we also died once when He died, but we live on and on and on in a relationship with God—and the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. In our next article we intend to see how this becomes reality with us.
2—Rom 6:4 Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Our baptism is our confession that we have accepted the death of Christ Jesus as our death. Just going through the motions of a baptism is not enough. We must have had a change of heart also. This involves each of us confessing that we are a sinner and that Christ Jesus died for our sin.
David made a piercing statement touching upon this in Ps 32:5. Take note of the words sin, iniquity and transgressions in this verse. These are the Old Covenant equivalents of what we saw in the last issue as sins, sin and The Sin. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Paul adds to this with his statement about a confession in Rom 10:9. .. .If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. The words acknowledged and confess in these two verses are keys for us to use. They mean we are to say it is so. Confessing our sin means that we are to withhold nothing of our personal darkness.
An evangelist of generations gone by declared that no person knows how great a sinner he or she is on first coming to the Lord. I personally have found this to be so. Having known the Lord as my Savior over 57 years, I still see the unfolding of my inner man to reveal the effects of my connection with Adam and his sin. Thus I can see the necessity of the continual reckoning of Rom 6:11. But, with this, I praise the Lord the reckoning goes beyond my reckoning upon sin. I am also called to reckon that I am alive to God through Jesus Christ my Lord. What power comes into play when I put these two powerful confessions down to my account! From the time I first knew Paul’s revelation as my own personal truth till this day, I have not ceased to wonder at its amazement and reality.
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