The Cross is both the offence and the Glory of the Christian religion. Attack compelled defense, and defense demanded explanation. Therefore the cross is central in all the controversial epistles. That is not remarkable. The remarkable thing in apostolic teaching is the way faith came so quickly to know the mystery of experience in the fellowship of the Cross. Its mystical value is much more wonderful than its theological interpretation. Each New Testament writer has his own way of expressing it, but they all set forth the mystery of being crucified with Him. As a rule they avoid the word. Paul is the only one that uses it in this connection and he uses it rarely, but in the Epistle to the Galatians interprets its relation to the experience of the believer. There the word occurs four times and in three of them it is concerned with its spiritual significance in personality, carnality and spirituality.
The Saving Power of the Cross
There is no saving efficacy in the cross apart from faith. The acknowledgment of the historical fact of Christ's death brings no redemption. Neither does an orthodox belief of its theological interpretation save. Faith is something more than accurate knowledge and correct belief. It is identification with Christ in His death and resurrection.
The general principle is stated in Corinthians V. 14. "For the Love of Christ constraineth; because we thus judge, that one died for all, therefore all died."
The personal application is: "For I, through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God. I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me; and Real Life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me." Gal. I. 19, 20.
That is the logic of faith. He died for all; He loved me and gave Himself for me; therefore I died with Him. The reference is to the Law and the death of Christ as the ground of a sinner's justification. It is judicial, because it is related to sin, and therefore related to Law. The Scriptures have no interpretation of the Cross that is not related to sin. Christ died to deliver sinners from the condemnation of the Law. Faith reasons that. His death was for me, and if He died for me, I died in Him. This is the vindication of the Cross as the ground of faith and Hope; and it explains how the saving power of the Cross depends upon personal faith. It is the power of God to them that believe; for faith accepts and appropriates by personal identification. Salvation is neither by the pity of God nor by the will of man, but by the Cross of Christ.
The Mystery of the New Life
Faith is not an assent of the mind, so much as it is an attitude of consent. The Cross is accepted as a principle of life, as well as a fact of redeeming grace. The historical facts of the Gospel are types of the experience of Grace. "He died that we might live." So do we. We are "conformed to His death." "As .... even so." That is the argument of Romans VI. "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 an old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away, that we should no longer be in bondage to sin—even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus."
The Galatians passage explains the experience by a death and quickening followed by an abiding indwelling of the Risen Lord. This is the mystery known only to them that believe. "Even the mystery which hath been hid from all ages and generations; but now bath it been manifested to His saints, to whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the Glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of Glory." (Colossians I. 26, 27.)
Christ in you! That is something more than a strong figure of speech to express the domination of Christ in the life of the believer. It is the statement of a living fact, realized vividly in the consciousness of tens of thousands. This is the testimony of countless witnesses whose sanity and integrity are beyond suspicion. It is this that makes a Christian. Nothing else can, for Christianity is unique in that it does not consist of systems of Truth, ordinances of religion, or codes of conduct, but in personal experience of fellowship with an indwelling Lord.
Christ Liveth in Me
St. Paul states his experience in a text of many pronouns. Count them. "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me, and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me." I—yet no longer I, Christ liveth in me—the life I now live in the flesh. What a paradox it all seems, but it is true to the experience of life in Christ . Personality is the central fact of life. In regeneration it is the person that is born again. It is not something that happens in the mind or the emotions or the will. It is the personality that is re-born. It is the personality that passes through the experience of crucifixion with Christ, in His death, and through His resurrection into newness of life.
The personality is re-born, but through all the changes the Identity of the personality remains the same. The Christ that rose, was the Christ that died, and it is "this same Jesus" that will come again in glory and in power. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. So are we. The experience of grace does not destroy, absorb, or disturb, our personal identity. This is repeatedly assured by our Lord. "For whosoever would save his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it." He shall find it Not another, not something different. The life found is the life that was lost.
"Christ liveth in me." The emphasis is on the Me. Though crucified, I shall live; yet no longer I, Christ liveth in me; and it is still I that live in the flesh. It is in me Christ lives. He duplicates the miracle of the incarnation, and lives again in personalities prepared for Him. The Bible nowhere speaks of personalities. Christ does ask for personalities. He seeks persons, and there is no respect of persons with Him. He turns persons into personalities, but it is for persons He cares.
Christ and Personality
This is not a subject easily explained, but it is worthwhile to try and understand. It is quite clear that no two persons are alike; and every sane person is sure that he is just himself and no one else. That is because God never duplicates personalities. Each is himself. and each has something that is given to no other. That conscious individuality is not lost in the experience of dying and rising again in Christ. There is a new creation, but it is of the same person. No quality of nature is lost; no gift of temperament is changed, no aptitude of capacity is taken away. The egos are still the same color. Musical people are still musical, and artistic people are still artistic. The Divine Person sanctifies all, and thereby perfects all. It is not so much subjection to the domination of another as the inspiration of fellowship. "I in you, and ye in me."
The best illustration is in a marginal reading of the revised version. In the story of Gideon it is said that, "The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon." (Judges VI. 34). The margin renders it: "The spirit of the Lord clothed itself with Gideon." The spirit did not come upon Gideon to strengthen him; the spirit got inside Gideon, and took possession of him. He clothed Himself with Gideon. "Clothed," is a significant word. It means more than to be covered. It implies fitting expression. The Spirit expressed Himself through Gideon. He took possession of Gideon's brains and thought through them, took his eyes and looked through them, took his lips and spoke with them, took his hands and wrought by them. It was not Gideon that was doing things anymore but the Holy Spirit of God. Gideon was still Gideon. It did not make him a Moses or a Joshua, a David or an Isaiah. It was with Gideon the Spirit of the Lord clothed Himself.
The gift of Pentecost is a gift of personality. They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and the fiery symbol sat upon each of them. The gift did not make them all alike. Peter was still Peter though wonderfully changed. He was not like Paul, and though both were filled with the same spirit they were not always of the same mind. Christ lives in each. Christ liveth in me. It is still me. His spirit dwells in my spirit. His mind is my mind. His life my life. For to me, to live, is Christ. At the Cross we die to self. The crucifixion is not our act, but it is with our consent and through our faith. It is an act with an abiding result. We have been crucified with Christ and are still crucified to all for which He died. The Cross stands between the dead and the living. Because He lives, we live. In the fellowship of His Risen Life our own life ascends. By His indwelling presence our personality is redeemed, sanctified, and perfected. Christ liveth in me, and I live in Him.