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Beyond Humiliation: The Way of the Cross
The Victims of the Cross
O that the ﬁre from heaven might fall,
Our sins its ready victims ﬁnd,
Seize on our sins, and burn up all,
Nor leave the least remains behind!
“The great truth of Christianity, the great truth of Christ, is that sin is unnatural, and has no business in a human life. The birth of Christ proclaimed that in one tone: His cross proclaimed it in another! And that which is unnatural is not by any necessity permanent. The struggle of all nature is against the unnatural — to dislodge it and cast it out. That struggle pervades the world. It is going on in every clod of earth, in every tree, in every Star, and in the soul of man. Intensely sensitive to feel the presence of evil as he never felt it before, the Christian instantly and intensely knows that evil is a stranger and an intruder in his life. The wonder is not that it should some day be cast out: the wonder is that it should ever have come in.” — Phillips Brooks
"A very dear and intimate friend of mine related to me a dream which had been blesseed by God to the redemption of his own father. The father dreamed that he was a hare, and a hare he was. So real and so graphic was the consciousness of the dream, that he felt he could almost smell the dewy turnip-tops of the fields among which he moved. Suddenly he heard the cry of the hounds. He pricked his ears, listened, and bolted full pace across the fields. The hounds drew near and nearer, and came at last so close to him, that he could feel their hot breath. Then he found that he was leaving the green pastures and was reachng bare and rugged heights; and just when he had reached those bare rocky heights he became conscious that his pursuers were not hounds. They were his sins, and he was a flying soul! Away up, away up, away up toward the summit he saw a cave, and terrified beyond measure he made fo the cave and then turned round. The entrance to the cave was flooded with a most unearthly light, and just in the center of the opening there shone resplendently a Cross standing between him and the awful things that pursued him. He awoke, and behold, it was a dream. But by the power of the dream he was redeemed." — Dr. J. H. Jowett
We have already pointed out that the Cross means deliverance through death. It may mean a suffering, lingering, protracted deliverance through the faltering and failure of our faith; there may be many convulsive struggles, but, sooner or later, deliverance will follow continuous persistent faith. We use the words continuous and persistent advisedly, for they cannot expect a speedy deliverance, who, at the solicitations of the enemy, withdraw themselves, by drooping or intermittent faith from the power of the Cross. This playing at the cruciﬁxion of the ﬂesh, with its passions and lusts, explains the unsatisfactory experience of multitudes, who by this means frustrate the grace of God.
God designs us to share the life of the risen Christ in all its heavenly beauty. We can only do this on the conditions so clearly revealed in His Word, conditions which so completely harmonize with His character and working. What are they? “We were buried therefore with Him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness. of life. For if we have become united with Him by the likeness of His death, we shall be also by the likeness of His resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was cruciﬁed with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin; for He that hath died is justiﬁed from sin” (Rom. vi. 4-7).
The principal thing for us to know, is that “our old man” has been cruciﬁed with Christ, that he. is one of the victims of the Cross. A few expositions of the terms employed in these verses may be of value here. Dr. David Brown, in his admirable handbook on this Epistle, says “ ‘our old man’ means ‘our old selves,’ all that we were in our old unregenerate state before union with Christ. By ‘the body of sin’ the whole principle of sin in our fallen nature is meant — its most intellectual and spiritual, equally with its lower and more corporeal, features.” The word rendered “destroyed,” he reminds us, is a favorite one with Paul, used only once by any other New Testament writer, but twenty-ﬁve times by him. A reference to some of the passages in which it is so used may be helpful — I Cor. vi. 13; xv. 24, 26; 2 Cor. iii. 7, 11, 13, 14; Eph. ii. 15; 2 Thess. ii. 8. The common-sense uses of this same Greek word, though variously translated in these passages, points to one conclusion and to one only.
Marcus Rainsford says: “By our ‘old man’ the apostle means our natural self, with all its principles and motives, its outgoings, actions, corruptions, and belongings; not as God made, but as sin and Satan and self have marred it. The old Adam never changes; no medicine can heal the disease, no ointment can mollify the corruption; it can only be got rid of by death.”
Dean Alford deﬁnes our “old man” as our former self-personality before our new birth — opposed to the “new man” or “new creature.” He says, moreover, “that as the death of Christ was by cruciﬁxion, the apostle uses the same expression of our death to our former sinful self, which is not only put to death by virtue of, but also in the likeness of Christ’s death — as signal, as entire, as much a cutting off and putting to shame and pain.” When it is remembered that Christ’s was no ﬁctitious execution, that He really died; that when the soldier thrust in his spear there was no lingering life to respond, it will be seen how complete is the purchased and promised deliverance from the plague of sin, which a great preacher has called “a foul, slimy protrusion into God’s universe.”
This, then, is the victim, whether it be called “the body of sin,” or “the ﬂesh,” or “the carnal mind,” or “the sin that dwelleth in me,” or “the old man”; it may have many names, it has but one cure, and that is death. It is unmitigated enmity to God, “The carnal mind is enmity against God” (Rom. viii. 7). It is hateful to God, He can take no pleasure in any part of that nature which is under the curse, however pleasing and attractive it may be to man: “They that are of the ﬂesh cannot please God” (verse 8). It is unimprovable, incorrigible, incurable. Cultured, educated, and encouraged, or discouraged and threatened, its nature remains unchangeable. “It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (verse 7). There remains, then, no remedy but that which God has provided — condemnation, cruciﬁxion, death with Christ.
The Scriptures speak of the seed of the ﬂesh, the will of the ﬂesh, the mind of the ﬂesh, the wisdom of the ﬂesh, the purposes of the ﬂesh, the conﬁdence of the ﬂesh, the ﬁlthiness of the ﬂesh, the workings of the ﬂesh, the warring of the ﬂesh, glorying of the ﬂesh.
All man’s powers, reasonings, emotions, and will are naturally under the power of the ﬂesh. Whatever the ﬂeshly mind may devise or plan — however fair its show may be, and however much men may glory in it — has no value in the sight of God. The ﬂesh, with its thinking and willing and effort, is therefore a victim for the Cross. We see the necessity of deliverance from what are commonly called the sins of the ﬂesh, but how seldom do we include our powers to reason and think and plan. Alas! we often have conﬁdence in these, and we are woefully discouraged because the Spirit does not prosper what the ﬂesh has planned. Is not our worship of God often in the ﬂesh? Are not plans and devices resorted to for obtaining money for the empty treasury of the Church, which bear upon their very surface the marks of the ﬂesh, and which are so displeasing to God, that the workings of His Spirit are well-nigh quenched? It is little short of mockery, in many instances, to ask God’s blessing on what our own heart tells us is the planning and working of the ﬂesh, and which under the most beautiful and attractive guise can never be anything but offensive to Him.
“Our natural life, and all the faculties with which it is endowed, must be sacriﬁced, immolated, renounced. Otherwise, after having ﬂourished for a moment, with more or less of satisfaction, it perishes and withers for ever. This law applies to a pure being and to his lawful tastes. All that is not given to God by an act of voluntary immolation bears within it the germ of death.” — [Frederic Godet, John, Vol. iii., p. 70]
There is a subtle temptation, as in the case of Saul, to destroy the worthless and keep alive the best; in other words, to destroy the gross and spare the reﬁned manifestations of evil. But when we claim to have fulﬁlled the commandment of the Lord, the searching question comes to many of us with the same terrible power, as it must have come to the disobedient king: “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears; and the lowing of the oxen, which I hear?”
That which is utterly destroyed can neither low nor bleat. It means then, nothing less than death to every doomed thing. Death to vanity, pride, covetousness, unsympathetic coldness, ambition, temper, impatience, fear, and doubt; anything and everything that appertains to the old man, and which must be put off ere we can put on the new.
Have we consented to the nailing of this victim to the Cross? If we have, deliverance is certain, for the ﬂesh received its death-stroke on Calvary. “Sin is smitten with the lightning of His anger. What was then accomplished in principle when ‘One died for all,’ is realized in point of fact when faith makes His death ours, and its virtue passes into the soul. The scene of the Cross does its blessed inward work. The wounds which pierced the Redeemer’s ﬂesh and spirit now pierce our consciences. It is through cruciﬁxion with Christ the soul enters into communion with its risen Saviour, and learns to live His life. Nor is its sanctiﬁcation complete till it is ‘formed unto the likeness of His death’ (Phil. iii. 10). The ‘old man’ with all. his train of ‘passions and lusts,’ has been nailed upon the Cross of Calvary for every believing heart. The ﬂesh has no right to power for a single hour. De jure it is dead — dead in the reckoning of faith, and die it must in all who are of Christ Jesus.”
If Christ would live and reign in me,
I must die;
With Him I cruciﬁed must be;
I must die;
Lord, drive the nails, nor heed the groans,
My ﬂesh may writhe and make its moans,
But in this way, and this alone
I must die.
When I am dead, then, Lord, to Thee
I shall live;
My time, my strength, my all to Thee
I shall give.
O may the Son now make me free!
Here Lord I give my all to Thee;
For time and for eternity
I will live.