sermon: Knowing Christ (Part 1)
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 14-Dec-96; Sermon #268; 79 minutes
John Ritenbaugh explains the significance of "the fellowship of His sufferings" and "being conformed to His death" (Philippians 3:10). Christ's death had both a substitutionary and a representative aspect. The former pays for our sins, but the latter provides an example (He is the archegos) that we must emulate or imitate. When we obligate ourselves (something God cannot do for us) to mortify the flesh (Romans 8:13), refusing to feed the hungry beast of our carnal nature and killing the old man, we suffer the ravaging effects of sin. Experiencing suffering for righteousness' sake accelerates our spiritual growth and enables us to know Christ.
Addictive quality of sin Affliction (of Gospel) Archegos principle Asceticism Baptism Beast Crucifixion Dead unto sin Death Eternal life Feeding the Beast Fellowship of Christ's sufferings Follow the leader Gnostic fallacy Holiness Hopelessness Human nature Imputed righteousness Interpreter's Bible Listen Masochism Mc Claron, Alexander Mortify Nekroo Newness of life New man Obedience Obey Obligation Offer Old man Overcoming Pain Pin ball machine Play around with sin Sacrifice Sin as drug Suffering Spiritual effect of suffering Tribulation Urge to sin Walking with God Wa
I am going to begin a new series today and I want you to turn with me to I John:
I John 2:3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
Notice how the keeping of the commandments is tied to knowing God.
I John 2:4 He that says, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
Are you beginning to get the drift of this? It doesn't matter how much knowledge a person has—if they are not following through with that knowledge and using that knowledge and keeping the commands of God, then they don't know Him. They know a great deal about Him, but they don't know Him. There's a big difference between the two. You can read things about people in the newspaper, you can read about people in biographies and autobiographies, and also in encyclopedias and history books, and you can pile up an impressive amount of knowledge about somebody.But unless you experience life with them, you can't really claim that you know them. You just know about them. That's the principle we're talking about here.
I John 2:5 But whoso keeps his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
I'm going to begin this sermon by quoting rather lengthily from The Interpreter's Bible. The Interpreter's Bible is a Protestant commentary, and I think that this quote that I am going to give you is especially interesting because it's coming from a very liberal commentary, and it's on these verses that we just read—I John 2:3-5. It has to do with what their perception of knowing God is. I should say it has to do with what their perception of the effect [is] of people saying that they know God; but they don't really know God. That is a little bit more accurate description of what this quote is about. I especially cut this out because I believe that they have hit the nail right on the head, at least in a very narrow area.
Quoting The Interpreter's Bible on I John 2:3-5:
In terms of history and culture, these verses pronounced condemnation on our un-Christian society. [This is an American-British publication.] Western civilization is nominally Christian. We say we know Him, but in virtually every area of life we disobey His commandments. In war we kill. We dishonor marriage and parenthood. In our greed we covet and steal. In our manners and morals we falsely swear and blaspheme. We worship the scientific and materialistic god of our own hands. We secularize the Sabbath. We pay lip service to the love of God and man, but renounce it in our common life. We resent commandments and we reject the moral order. May it not be that pagan and atheistic movements in our world are actually the judgment that God is pronouncing through history upon a culture that pretends to know Him, but that in reality is a liar, and the truth knows not? In a wider sense our pathetic faith in knowledge as the maximum good is a contemporary form of the Gnostic fallacy. The new empires, it has been said, are empires of the mind. Knowledge is power. This nation's strength lies in knowing more, knowing it first, and knowing it fastest. Thus faith in education and science is our main reliance. ‘All the evils in the world could be cured if men would only think,' a prominent educator once said. The answer to the fallacy is the insight of Christianity, that love is sovereign over knowledge, and knowledge must be morally controlled. Unless life is conformed to moral order, the intrinsic lie that we know God, on which our culture is built, will destroy us.
Now I've spent the past four sermons trying to impress upon us the importance of coming to know God from the standpoint of making sure that we establish time in our life to get to know Him, because we live in a very hectic society in which things are happening so rapidly, and I think designed to happen so rapidly, that we don't have time to stop and think things through and plan out what we are going to do with our lives, and discipline ourselves to actually carry it out. Rather, we seem to be like one of these iron balls in a pinball machine, as getting bounced around from one thing to another, and our lives are virtually out of control. When are we ever going to bring it under control? It seems to me, from the things that God says in the Bible we ought to be able to control our lives a great deal more than what we do. Instead, we allow ourselves to be bounced from one thing to another without having the guts, or whatever it is, to say No, I will not. This I'm going to do. This I won't do—the reason being is that I want to know God, I want to please God, and I want to be in God's kingdom.
Now let's turn to Philippians 3, to a verse that I have read a couple of different times during this series, and let me say at this point that this sermon is going to be like a bridge. It's part of a new series, but it's also like a bridge that is leading into the new series; but at the same time I don't want it to get too far from the old thought from that Intimacy With God series.
Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
Now here comes verse 10 – this is one that I have read several times, but each time I read it, I read it out of the Amplified Bible.
Philippians 3:10-15 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead, not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing you be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
When I read that verse 10 before, as I said, I did it out of the Amplified Bible. Now I'm going to read you a less flowery translation of verse 10. It's less flowery and expansive, but it gets the job done.
Philippians 3:10 In order that I may personally know Him, . . .
Not know about Him, but personally know Him. How do you come to know somebody? By living with them as a major portion of your life.
Philippians 3:10 In order that I may personally know Him, that I might experience His resurrection power in sharing His suffering, and thus be more and more conformed to His death.
Let's begin to connect some of the verses in this context with verse 10. Paul says in verse 9 that he wanted the righteousness of God. The reason why he wanted the righteousness of God was so that he would have a personal day-to-day experience with Jesus Christ; that is, obtain a relationship with Him. The righteousness of God that Paul is referring to is something that God does. He imputes it to us upon our repentance, acceptance of the blood of Jesus Christ, and the receiving of His holy spirit. By so doing, God grants us access to Him, and therefore the beginning of a relationship takes place. Nobody has access to God, nobody has a relationship with Him until first the righteousness of God is granted to that person by God. Then we can come before the Father with the righteousness of Christ, as though we are Jesus Christ; otherwise we would never get into His presence.
That is something that God does. But the knowledge of Christ or the knowledge of God in the biblical sense comes to us by the experiencing of daily problems, in the carrying out of services, in the securing of our needs, and so forth, by the same power that raised Christ from the dead. That power is the power of God's Holy Spirit working in our lives. Now again he [Paul] wanted this in order that he might obtain the resurrection of the dead. You begin to see that he is putting things in order. We'll see a little bit later that the first thing that he had to do was scrap the old life, scrap all his pedigree; then in doing that, he was made eligible, as it were, for the righteousness of God, and that in turn made him eligible, as it were, to have access to God, and that in turn gave him a relationship with God in order that he might come to know God, in order that he might obtain the resurrection of the dead. You see a process that unfolds here.
We need to pay attention to this because we're involved in this process right now, and we're involved in a part that has to do with coming to know God—to really get to know Him. It ought to be clear now why Paul so strongly stated his desire to get to know Christ. That's the next step before there is a resurrection. So to know Christ is eternal life (John 17:3). "This is eternal life." So to know Christ is eternal life, and then there would be no doubt that he would be in the resurrection, and then he would apprehend that for which he was apprehended.
Now I'm going to throw you a little bit of a curve here. Paul also said that he wanted to know the fellowship of His sufferings in order that he might be made conformable unto His death. Now what did he mean by that? Does it mean that Paul desired to suffer a crucifixion? Does this mean that we too must go through a martyrdom? Not necessarily. Maybe yes. Maybe no. Don't know yet. But in verses 12 through 14 Paul makes it quite clear that at the time that he wrote the book of Philippians from prison, that at that time in his life he had not yet obtained to his objective of knowing Christ.
Notice in verse 12 he says that he "either were already perfect." In other words, he wasn't perfect yet. At least he was not perfect to the degree that he was yet satisfied with himself, and so he says that he followed Christ. Or we might say, to put it another way, that he imitated Christ, or he mimicked Christ.
When I was a boy, [you probably played the same game that I'm going to mention here] we played follow the leader. Everybody got into a line, and then if the leader jumped over a stream, you had to jump over the stream. If the leader climbed the tree, you had to climb the tree. If the leader swung from a branch, you had to do that. If he climbed over a wall, you had to do that. Well, that's basically what Paul meant. This may be a very childish illustration, but it's one that we can relate to. It's what I call the archegos principle. An archegos—that's what Christ was. It's translated author in Hebrews 2:10. Christ was the archegos. He was one who went before—a captain who went before in order that others following behind him would be able to do the same thing.
In verse 13 he says, "Forgetting those things which are behind"—those are the credentials that he mentioned in verses 5 through 7, and then he mentioned "those things which are before," and those things before are those things he mentioned in verse 10 about getting to know Christ and experience His sufferings and be conformed to His death. And then finally in verse 14 the mark is again the goals that he stated in verse 10, and the prize brethren, is God's commendation—his [Paul's] reward. I guess you might say the personal satisfaction of knowing that he did well. Wouldn't you like to hear God say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter you into My rest"? That would be great. That is the prize—to hear God's commendation and to have the personal satisfaction that one has done well and to receive a reward for the labors that he has put forth.
Now we still have a hole in this sermon about these verses, and that is, what, in practical application did Paul mean to participate in Christ's sufferings, and to be made conformable to His death? Well, that's part of this process. It does not end until the resurrection of the dead.
If you'll notice in verse 10 that the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto his death—those two phrases are not joined by a conjunction. There is no and in there indicating that they are separate things, but rather the translators chose, and I think rightly so, to separate them only by a comma. By so doing they are showing that the second phrase is the explanation for, or the result, of the first. That is, that if he achieved his goal of joining in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, then he would be made conformable to His death.
The remainder of this sermon, except for the very end of it, is going to be on What does it mean to be made conformable to Christ's death? It has very much to do with getting to know Christ. Now being conformed to Christ's death has two applications to it. The one is, that if we had a position of leadership in God's purpose like Christ did, and if we lived just like Him, we would very likely end up with a martyr's death just as Christ did. Paul did. Peter did. Of the original twelve I think only John is the one who is recorded to have lived out his life and died an old man, a peaceful death; at least relatively peaceful. But it's this second one that is going to concern this sermon, and it too is divided into two parts. It is mentioned very frequently, especially by the Apostle Paul.
II Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ constrains us; [it forces us, moves us, shapes us, motivates us] because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.
It is literally true that Christ was alone in enduring the crucifixion, and being buried, and being resurrected. But what He did in redeeming us is not viewed in the Bible as merely being substitutionary, but also representative. Again we're getting back to the archegos principle here – the leader. We are the followers. What He does, we have to do. This is why I said earlier, "Does this mean that we have to go through a martyr's death?" That's why I said, "Maybe." There is a possibility there. What this verse is showing us, not in very clear form yet, but Christ's redeeming work is not merely seen as substitutionary. In other words, He took our place. That is true. It was also representative. In other words, all Christians are identified by the Bible with His crucifixion, with His death, with His burial, and His resurrection.
I think all of you are familiar with each one of these applications as we go through them, but to go through each one is needful to get a good picture. Paul was explaining what took place in his own life. He said:
Romans 7:9 For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
Here is one form of the death that he is talking about. It is one that occurs dramatically in some peoples' lives—usually at the time of conversion. What this is saying in so many words is Paul was pretty much living his life in blissful ignorance of the deep moral demands of the law. This doesn't mean that he was not aware what the law was and what the law did, because he was aware. He may even have been a priest of some kind, because of things that we're able to see in the Bible by what he did. He went into synagogues, and when he went into those synagogues he seemed to be recognized immediately as someone who was worthy to speak before others. Maybe he wore some kind of a piece of clothing that sort of set him off from others. But Paul was not in total ignorance of the law. He had some knowledge of it, but like everyone of us, he was careless and self-deceived as to his own righteousness.
However, when God opened his mind, this is what he felt: Sin revived, and I died. He felt within himself the sentence of death because his self-satisfaction and his security disappeared and he became bogged down in self-condemnation, hopelessness and despair. "What am I going to do? I am as good as dead!" Paul understood now that the wages of sin is death, and he felt that hanging over his head, and unless there were somebody to redeem him, to take his place—he was going to die, and his blissful ignorance of the law disappeared. Now he wasn't sure of himself and his righteousness. Now he knew he wasn't near as good as he formerly thought he was. So he was as good as a dead man.
Let's go to another one:
Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Here we have the same concept of a representative death of Christ being applied to the individual Christian. If it applied to Paul, it applied to you and me. We too are crucified with Christ, if we've repented, if we've accepted the blood of Jesus Christ, that is. Death is sin's penalty, and when a person has died, his sins are paid for. So we begin to see that Christ's representative death applied to you and me, and God begins to see us as dead. And so Christ's death substitutes for ours, and so then the Bible concedes us as being crucified with Him, and the law of penalty therefore is satisfied. This aspect of death is sobering, and some people go through it to a very intense degree, almost feeling as though their insides are turned inside out. Now this is one aspect. We're not completely finished with it yet, but this is one aspect of the death that Paul was talking about there in Philippians 3.
Let's go back to the book of Romans, this time to chapter 6, and you will recognize these verses very quickly.
Romans 6:1-6 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 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. For if we have been planted [I like that word planted] together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. 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.
Now you begin to see this death turn a little bit here. There's a reason why we have to go through this death—and we're beginning to see that. So what this section does, it clarifies the concept that we're already speaking on, and so God, in order to emphasize what has happened legally, makes us go through a watery burial to enforce the concept of the end of one life—that is, a life that has been dominated by sin, to a life in which sin's influence must still be dealt with, but whose dominance is broken by the power of a new nature and the relationship with God through access to Him. Please understand that baptism does not accomplish this. It is only a ritual that God makes us go through in order to reinforce what He has legally done. We haven't literally died; but God considers us dead, because through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our sins which should have killed us, have been paid for, and therefore we are dead.
How is God going to get Himself out of this corner that He has backed Himself into, because He is looking at us as dead? Well, He does this by resurrecting us up out of the watery grave. The purpose of that is to teach us that even as Jesus Christ was raised to newness of life—from flesh and blood to spirit life, we too have been raised legally from the grave to newness of life, walking in the spirit. The purpose of this brethren, [I don't want you to let this get far from your mind]—the whole purpose of this is so that we might know God, because knowing God is eternal life. This is no little concept.
It is in this that we are brought to real holiness—walking with God, coming to know Him. The holiness that we have as a result of the receiving of His spirit is again only, [if I can put it this way] a minor setting apart to signify that we are now part of His family, and we are part of the creation that He is working out within us. But the process must go on, or God's purpose will not be completed. We are not in the image of God when we have repented and we've been baptized. That's only the beginning. Conception has occurred, but that's as far as it's gone. There is much more to come, and God is deadly serious about working this out, because He is doing what He does best, and that is creating someone in His image—the highest creation that our God can involve Himself in. And so this concept of death is exceedingly important; but that's only one part of it.
II Corinthians 5:14-15 For the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all [all Christians], then were all dead [a representative death, a legal death]: And that he died for all, that—[here comes the purpose] they which live [you and me] should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
Just compare that with Romans 6:6, and we'll see a little bit more there as well—a representative act. We are resurrected to newness of life, and in this new life Jesus Christ is the dynamic around which this life revolves. But in order to get to this position, we have to first die. And so Paul said that he wanted to be made conformable unto Christ's death; and of course also come to know the fellowship, the communion, the participation in His sufferings.
Romans 6:9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more: death has no more dominion over him.
Again, the representative thing. If things go well with us, death has no more dominion over us either.
Romans 6:10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he lives, he lives unto God.
That exactly compares with II Corinthians 5:15—and us.
II Corinthians 5:11 Likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin; but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
What is taking place here, I guess you might say, in the strongest doctrinal book in the entire New Testament, as Paul lays out the doctrines one by one in the book of Romans, he's gradually shifting the attention here from our union with Christ's death and its effect on the problem of sin in the life of the person who is resurrected, because sin is still a reality. We aren't in the Kingdom of God as Jesus is. He doesn't have to deal with sin personally any more; but we are resurrected out of this watery grave, and we still have to deal with sin. So it's clear that sin must be dealt with.
But because of the new nature and the union with Christ, sin's dominance is no longer a given. The power is there to choose not to sin, and defeat it. But, I think we all recognize from our personal experiences that this is not easy. It requires our intense and willing cooperation. Overcoming sin is not a matter of just going through the motions of being a nominal Christian. We have to cooperate with God by refusing to cooperate with sin's seductions, and this means in everyday experiences. It means on the job. It means at home. It means in our automobiles. It means in the way we dress. It means in the way we use our tongue. It means everything in every aspect of life. It has to be evaluated, screened, thought about, and if it happens to be a problem, strategy has to begin to be established to fight this thing.
Unless those strategies are entered into and they are fought, calling upon all the powers of God that are available to us, it is very likely that sin's dominion is going to continue, especially in some areas of life where we really have a weakness. This particularly requires taking advantage of access to God's grace. It means diligent study, persistent faithfulness in prayer, and an intense desire to maintain freedom from sin by resisting it courageously, and enduring until God intervenes.
Now from this arises the second aspect of death. Let's go back to verses 12 and 13.
Romans 6:12-13 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield you your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
See that word obey in verse 12? It's kind of interesting. This thing has a root you probably never would think of. It comes from the same root as the word listen. What Paul is saying, is that a major way to keep from sinning is to not listen to sin's enticement as it works on the mind, appealing to self-satisfaction. Think about that. Don't we get an idea to do something that we know is wrong? As long as we entertain that, we keep the possibility that we're going to sin alive. We're listening to it. What Paul is saying is that there is a direct connection to listening to it, and sin. So he says, Don't listen to it. That's a major way to overcome sin.
Here's a simple illustration: A person has a problem with a drug; alcohol, let's say. The yearning begins to call out saying, "Come to such and such a bar and grille, where all of my friends are." If you listen to that—listen to that appeal that is going out there, and you hop in your car and get on the street, the closer you get to that place, the more powerful the sound becomes to draw you right into it. Paul says the way you avoid the sin, is don't listen in the first place. Don't even get in the car. It's a simple concept, but it works. What did Joseph do when Potiphar's wife started whispering in his ear? He ran the other way. He didn't listen. Such a simple concept, but so powerful to overcoming sin, and so you attack sin before it gets too powerful and overpowers you. This is one way to keep the body mortified. I inject this word because it's the one that we're going to be dealing with here next, but just a little bit later.
In verse 13 the word yield—yet another interesting word. That's the way it appears in the King James Version, but it's more likely in a modern translation to be translated present or offer. "Yield yourself," or "Present yourself," or "Offer yourself." So Paul was saying we're not to hand over the members of our body to their old master, but rather to hand them over, offer them to God. Now we're beginning to come awfully close here to a word that's going to mean very much to this series. It's the word offer from which comes the word offering, from which comes the word or concepts sacrifice, burnt offering, meal offering, etc., etc. Now what God is dealing with here is the concept of surrender. Yield, surrender to God. Don't let sin's former dominance get the upper hand, but yield yourself to God.
Now a critical point in catching the essence and getting the most out of this series, is understanding this New Testament concept of death, of union with Christ, of entering into His sufferings, and knowing the power of His resurrection.
Now turn to Romans chapter 8 and in verses 12 and 13.
Romans 8:12-13 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.
Now verse 12 I think is rather weakly translated in the King James Version, at least for modern ears, and it's better read something like this: "Therefore brothers, we have an obligation; but it is not to live according to the standards of the flesh."
There is really only one word that is significantly changed—the word debtors, to the word obligation. That's much much closer to a modern English word. What Paul is stating there is, it is a duty, a requirement, that we must respond to something that someone else has done. That's what an obligation is. An obligation is something that comes upon us because somebody else has done something. It might be command us. It might have been a favor that they did for us—so we're obligated to say "Thank you." It's our duty to do that. We should do that. It is right in God's eyes that we should do something along that line.
So what he is saying, is we are obligated to go into action because someone else has done something. Now I think that you know who the someone else was. It was God who did something. He declared us righteous. As a result of that, we are obligated to respond, to surrender to Him, to yield to Him. But it goes much further than that. We are responsible to kill ourselves! That's what verse 13 said, "do mortify the deeds of the flesh"—put to death. Second aspect of dying. Now verse 13.
Romans 8:13 For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.
Now the word mortify . . . very interesting to you and me. Turn back to Romans chapter 7, verse 4.
Romans 7:4 Wherefore, my brethren, you also are become dead to the law.
That word dead there has the same root as the word mortify in Romans 8:13. There's only one significant difference between those two words, and that is, the case that it is in. In Romans 7:4 it is in the dative case. What this means, as far as grammar is concerned, is that in Romans 7:4, it shows that it was something that God did to or for us. The word incidentally in the Greek is thanatoo. In Romans 8:13 the tense is changed, or the case is changed, so that it must be read and therefore understood that the putting to death is something we must do.
Now we can put Romans 8:12-13 together. We are obligated to do what it says in verse 13 because of what it says that God did in Romans 7:4—He declared us dead to the law. The sins are paid for, and we are dead. And so it is our obligation, it is our duty, it is our responsibility in response to what God has done, and what He has done is that He forgave us. He declared us righteous. He gave us access to Him, and He gave us His spirit so that we could have a relationship with Him.
Now what He tells us to do in verse 13 is, there is nothing that He can do for us in this regard. It is something we have to do, because if God did something, He would take away our free moral agency, and thus there would be no chance of character building, there would be no writing of His laws in our heart and mind, there would be no image of God produced. This is something we have to do. We are obligated to do it. It means it's our turn now. It means the ball is in our court. It means that each person must exercise his faith and deny himself when he's faced with the choice of self-satisfaction that is wrong—or following God's righteousness.
Piece by piece brethren, we must put wrong conduct to death, and as we are finding, it is a very painful process. Suffering is beginning to come back into the picture. Not even God can make the choices for us, or His purpose will never be completed. The suffering—psychological, because of fears, of concerns about denying ourselves, of thinking about the discomfort it's going to cause us under the pressure of our various members of the body screaming for attention to sin. That's a lot of pressure in areas of weakness.
Let me hasten to add here that Paul is not talking about asceticism. He's not talking about masochism either. He's simply saying that we must deny ourselves within the framework of God's standards led by the spirit of God. The proof about this is right in Romans 8:13—"But if you through the spirit . . ." There is nowhere in God's word (and His word is spirit) . . . There is nowhere in God's word that God teaches or demands asceticism or masochism; but in the ordinary overcoming of life, it does require that we deny ourselves in order to cut sin off before it destroys us. There's a big difference between the two.
Asceticism demands suffering just for the sake of suffering to show that one can endure suffering. It's nothing but a show of pride, that's all. But this has a very good purpose to it. In Romans 8:14 he makes it again very clear. "For as many as are led by the spirit of God . . . ," just so we understand what he is saying. As I said just a little bit earlier, in overcoming and going through this death that we're talking about, it requires that we avail ourselves of every resource of God that we can. Primary among these are calling on Him in prayer constantly day and night, keeping contact with Him, asking Him for guidance, for deliverance, more of His spirit, whatever.
Now let's go to the second place where this word mortify appears, and this is in Colossians 3 and beginning in verse 1.
Colossians 3:1-3 If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
You see, that's stating the obligation. This is the reason why we have to do what he just previously stated. Now verse 4.
Colossians 3:4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory. . . [if we've done what it says in verses 1 and 2].
Now here comes a consequence.
Colossians 3:5-6 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscense, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience.
In this series of verses we can clearly see the two deaths: Colossians 3:3 - "For you are dead." That's the one we spent most of the time talking about—Christ's substitutionary, representative death we have gone through already when we repented and were baptized. We have gone through that. Then Colossians 3:5 - "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth." Now there's a difference between Romans 8:13 and Colossians 3:5. Romans 8:13 emphasizes obligation and duty to God's merciful act, i.e., His forgiveness.
Mortify here has the sense of decisive urgency to put to death, not merely to carry it out; but to do it quickly—right now, and not wait. You know how we like to play with sin. We convince ourselves that it's not so bad; other people are doing it; I'll get it tomorrow. We have that approach. We all do. Everyone of us does it. Now here the word is even different. It's a different word. It's not thanatoo as it was in Romans 8. Here the word is transliterated nekro. It is in the aorist imperative tense, and it suggests a vigorous painful act of personal determination. It also means to deprive a thing of its power. There is a way to deprive sin of its power, or to destroy its strength. We would say today, "Don't allow the beast to run away with the man," – the beast being human nature. Don't let it control. Don't let it dominate.
How how is it possible to do this? Well, the way that we gratify the desire to bring forth sin is to feed the beast. It's to sin. In other words, when it begins appealing for satisfaction, we follow through and allow it to have the satisfaction. You see, this is what causes sin to live now. There are a number of times in the Bible that God compares sin to drugs – "The wine of the wrath of her fornication," see. Drugs have an addictive quality to them. Sin has an addictive quality. The only way to break sin is to don't feed it. If it is not fed, it dies, because it is deprived of its power. It lives on habit, and the habit needs to be broken. That's where the pain begins to come back again. Sin only increases when it is indulged. When sin is denied, it begins to wither away. In some cases, if the urge to sin, the drive to sin, is very strong, the urge to sin will be very difficult to get away from. It will not die an easy death. Most of the time it will be prolonged and agonizing.
I don't know whether you've ever heard of Alexander McClarin. He was a very famous Baptist minister of about 100 years ago, and he came up with a very colorful description, illustration of this word nekro in the aorist imperative tense. He compared it to be like a man who's working in a mill somewhere, and his fingers begin to get drawn between the rollers and the belting. And so the man sees what is about to happen, that in another minute his whole body is going to be drawn into the rollers and he'll be squeezed into a bloody lifeless pulp, . . . and so his free hand reaches out, picks up an ax that's nearby, and he chops his hand off at the wrist. Now that may be a grizzly illustration, but it does follow Christ's instruction that "If your eye offend you, pluck it out; or if your hand offend you, cut it off." It's better to enter into life maimed, than not enter in at all.
Again, let me hasten to add that neither Christ or Paul is telling us that we should maim our bodies. It is a figure of speech that Paul is using here so that we will understand how important it is that we fight tooth and toenail against sin—that it is that deadly, and God is that serious about us overcoming it. Now Paul uses the word here member – "Mortify therefore your members..." Again it's another figure of speech that he's using in which he places the word member for the sins that are going to be committed through that member; that is, the sins seek to express themselves through the various members of our body. So what he is really urging in reality us to do, is to put the sins to death, and thus the phrase can read "Put to death therefore whatever belongs to your earthly nature."
Now drop down to verse 10. It's very good to see this in its context, right after this mortify thing.
Colossians 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.
Let me read this to you from the West Translation—the why Paul urged us that we take up this task out of obligation with the voice of urgency.
Colossians 3:10 Having clothed yourself with the new man who is constantly being renewed with a resulting full and perfect knowledge which is according to the image of the One who created Him.
Do you see what he's saying? That putting sin to death by doing that, we will come to know Christ. Are you beginning to see why Paul said that he wanted to enter into the fellowship of His suffering, and be conformed to His death?
Now you may recall in Philippians 3:10 that Paul used suffering and death in the same statement his goals of life. Both death and suffering are perceived in a number of ways in the Bible, and we've been looking at this thing about death. I'm going to spend just a little bit of time, actually quite a short explanation of how suffering is perceived in the Bible. Now very simply, the Bible perceives suffering as the fruit of evil, and evil exists because of sin. That's a very broad overview. Suffering, per se—that is, going through pain, in the Bible is not seen as either beneficial or harmful. It's like it's a neutral; but it's always seen as a very great challenge to one's faith. Now why would it be that way? Because we don't like to go through pain! Yet we're required to live by faith! If you live by faith, there's going to be a lot of pain! And so the Bible's concern with suffering is how it affects a person's faith.
In the Old Testament, suffering is generally viewed as punishment for sin, but not necessarily one's own sin. In other words, we do suffer because other people sin. The writers in the Old Testament puzzled over why the righteous suffer, but they always came to the conclusion that suffering was part of God's education of His children. The apostles . . . [this gets to be very interesting]—they saw it as mankind's rightful fate. In other words, we deserve it. Jesus, as I'm going to prove to you in just a little bit, clearly shows that suffering is a necessity. We have to go through it. The apostles also said, they taught this, that they didn't want to enter into any old suffering just for the sake of suffering.
In the New Testament the Bible is not interested in one's ability merely to endure suffering. There's more to it than that. Paul and the other apostles are interested in the effect of suffering – the spiritual effect beginning to draw faith and suffering together. Suffering is always seen as a test of faith, and they were interested in what suffering was going to produce; and if they were going to suffer, they made it very clear they wanted to enter into Christ's sufferings. Now why? Well the answer to that is that they knew, they understood that 1) Christ's sufferings had an extremely good purpose to them, and 2) that they were not caused by His sins, but rather they were caused by his righteousness, and the world's hatred of His righteousness.
John 15:20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
A divine necessity.
John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace; In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Again a divine necessity. Now Acts 14 and verse 22. Paul said this.
Acts 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
Now again Christ's representative acts. Gradually, as you read the story of suffering in the New Testament in the writing of the apostles, you begin to find very clearly that suffering comes upon Christ and His disciples because of their righteousness, and the world's sins.
Let's go back to the book of Hebrews. You can see why Paul wanted to enter into Christ's suffering. He didn't want to suffer because He was sinning. If he was going to suffer at all, he wanted to suffer because he was doing things like Christ did. He knew that if he was doing things like Christ did, he would suffer. It's inevitable. You cannot live like Christ without entering into His sufferings, because the world is going to react and it is going to persecute.
Let me give you an example. If what seems to be out of the clear blue sky, you decided to keep the Sabbath, [and] the family usually begins to react. It's very likely that you might lose your job, because your employer doesn't want you to do that. He wants you to work on the Sabbath. Then you throw in the Holy Days, you see, and things begin to become more difficult. You work for an employer who wants you to lie, . . . you're in trouble, see. That's entering into Christ's suffering. If things get hot enough, the world might just put you to death in reaction to your righteousness. And Paul says if that happens – Hurrah! That's a good reason to suffer. We were called to suffer for that.
Hebrews 12:3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself...
He never sinned. It seems contradictory. He does things right, and what does He do? He suffers.
Hebrews 12:3 Lest you be wearied and faint in your minds.
Listen! If you're doing things right, things are going to go wrong. Does that sound like an oxymoron or something?
Hebrews 12:4 You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
When the old body begins crying out in pain because you're denying to feed what it wants – satisfaction, you enter into Christ's suffering because you're resisting sin right in your own body. It might be part psychological, it might be material, – in your stomach, in your sex organs, whatever. I'm going to say here that we haven't faced much in the way of public persecution, because we live in such a liberal country that almost anything is acceptable. You people in California—maybe you'll never suffer! Anything goes out here! [There is laughter in the audience. John was in Anaheim, California when he was giving this sermon.] You can really be weird, and the people think you're normal; but the rest of us in the rest of the country—if you live down in the Bible belt, things are a little bit different down there. All the kinds of behavior you have out here aren't totally acceptable back there, and they let you know about it. That's neither here nor there, because if we do things right, we're going to attract the right kind of attention—but it may not be very favorable.
II Timothy 1:5-8 When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in you also. Wherefore I put you in remembrance that you stir up the gift of God, which is in you by the putting on of my hands, for God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not you therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be you partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God:
It comes with the package. When we were forgiven, we were then obligated to be a partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, and that means suffering, pain; pain in resisting temptation, pain in overcoming sin, pain from neighbors who no longer like you; you're no longer friends, you're no longer acceptable to them. You can't go along with what others are doing, and it begins to separate you away, see.
II Timothy 1:12-13 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day [his very life] Hold fast the form of sound words, which you have heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
Hebrews 2:9-10 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect [complete, fit for use] through sufferings.
Hebrews 2:17-18 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people, for in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
Suffering played a major role in bringing Christ to completion for His responsibility as our Savior and as our High Priest. At the same time it enabled Him to be fully identified with those that He was going to save. Thus it is with us—only we are the other side of the coin. Suffering wrongly can destroy a person; but with God watching over, suffering will play a major part of our preparation for our roles as kings and priests under Christ.
I checked the word tempted that appears in verse 18 in a number of commentaries. They are virtually unanimous in agreeing that this tempted here has to do with resisting sin, not with His crucifixion. His crucifixion does come into the picture, in that the crucifixion presented Him with the most powerful opportunity to accept the deliverance, and sin, in order to avoid the pain of the crucifixion and the pain that came with it. Now we face these things daily in trying to overcome sin; but you see, in this too we follow our archegos. Thus we can see why Paul wanted to know the fellowship of Christ's suffering and be conformable to His death, and by intensely striving to live by faith, he would be joined in fellowship, participating in the same suffering Christ endured, and those sufferings would produce the same results in him as they did in Christ. He would know Christ. He would be prepared for the Kingdom of God. He would be in Christ's image. He would be complete.
That ends the sermon for today, and God willing, the next time I speak we will continue on this subject.