DEAD AND ALIVE
“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col 3.3).
Many of God’s truths are wonderfully paradoxical. To the mere carnal reasoner they must appear absurd and impossible. For instance, Paul said, “When I am weak, then am I strong”; “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” So again the description of God’s people as dead and yet alive, looks strange, contradictory, impossible. But these remarkable paradoxes are made patent to the understanding of spiritual men, and their truth is fully discovered and attested in actual Christian experience.
In four different senses God’s people are “dead”.
They are dead with Christ. “For if One died for all, then these all died” (2 Cor 5.15). The death of Christ being substitutionary, is legally the death of all those for whom He died. Limiting Himself to His insolvent bride, Jesus took her nature and her place, paid her debts; giving her His nature, name, righteousness, and glory. (Rom 6.8; 2 Tim 2.11).
They are dead to sin – Not dead in sin; yet until quickened by the Holy Spirit they are thus dead, children of wrath by nature, even as others. It is the Spirit that quickens them, and unites them in love and faith to Jesus. Sin is consciously pardoned, and its power practically broken. It exists indeed, but shall not have the dominion. “Reckon ye yourselves to be dead to sin”; and “how shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?” Our deliverance from it has been effected meritoriously by Christ’s death, efficiently by the power of the Holy Ghost, and instrumentally by faith. Even now God enables us to put our feet upon the necks of our sins, and shall bruise Satan himself under our feet shortly.
They are also dead to the law. “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ” (Rom. 7.4). Under the law God’s people were under the rule of a husband whose claims for obedience in all things were inflexibly severe. From the nature of the case these rigorous demands could not be satisfied;
hence the law, in itself holy, and just and good, could only curse, condemn, and punish its offenders. But our Surety has fulfilled it;
He made perfect restitution and reparation. He has magnified the law and made it honourable. Thus God’s people are not only saved by grace, but are also legally acquitted and legally saved. Married to Christ, they live in Christ, on Christ, to Christ; and neither the law nor anything else can ever separate them from Christ.
They are dead to the world. “If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world . . .” (Col 2.20). The world has its trinity:
Â•’the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”
Those who are carnal and sensuous worship this trinity; their treasure, home, and hearts are here. The Lord’s people are tempted often by the glitter and glory of the world, and sometimes lulled to sleep in her deceitful lap; yet their calling is to separation from it, to victory over it. The flesh lives, works, and hinders; but the new man, strong in the Lord, living unto God, dead to the world, struggles upwards, and prevails, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt, and having respect unto the recompense of the reward. Mount Zion in prospect is far better than Mount Seir in possession.
God’s people are alive. “Their life is hid with Christ in God.” “Dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God.” Crucified with Christ, nevertheless they live; and yet not they, but Christ liveth in them. There are different kinds of life in the world, presented to us on a graduated scale. The lowest type of life is seen in the vegetable. A step higher, and there is animal life, with increased sensitivity and mobility. Another step higher we reach the level of rational and intellectual life, in which man’s great superiority is seen. These three kinds of life meet in man. But there is still a much higher life than any of these; and that life is the life of God, the life of grace, of holiness, and of eternal salvation. Of this life every natural man is entirely destitute; he is dead in sin until quickened. Such is the state of all God’s people. Respecting this life, notice:-
That God’s people are “ordained” to it (Acts 13.48).
That Christ has meritoriously secured it for them, and gives it to them (Jn 10.15, 28).
That Christ also maintains and perpetuates this life (Jn 6.51). That this life is “hidden with Christ in God”; but though hidden, its effects are seen. Moreover, being hidden, none can find it but those to whom it is revealed. Nor can any enemy take it away, as it is far out of his reach, so that those who have it can never perish, nor any one pluck them out of the hand of the Triune God.