8 April 2020
We know that the gospel includes both the death and resurrection of Jesus, for nothing would have been accomplished by His death if He had not been raised from it. However, the gospel emphasises the cross because it was at the cross that victory was accomplished! The resurrection did not achieve our deliverance from sin and death; it brought us an assurance of both. It is because of the resurrection that our ‘faith and hope are in God’ (1 Peter 1:3,21).
At the cross, the penalty of sin and the guilt of sin have been dealt with. In Christ, we who believe have forgiveness of sins and redemption through His blood – we are rescued from the dominion of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the Son. Moreover, our sinful nature was crucified when we were buried with Him in baptism, in which we were also raised with Him through faith in God’s mighty working. The legal charge of our indebtedness has been taken away and nailed to the cross.
Our union with Christ in our regeneration secured by the Holy Spirit means that we are no longer under the rule of Satan. We have ‘died’ with Christ, ‘buried’ with Christ and ‘risen’ with Christ; we now have a new master, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are now a new creation, ‘the old has passed, the new has come’. We no longer need to obey the devil; we now obey our Lord Jesus..
The Apostle Paul declared that ‘our old self was crucified with Him’ (Romans6:8), meaning that we have ‘died’ with Christ; ‘those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires’ (Gal.5:24), meaning that our fallen nature (the flesh), the “old self in Adam”, no longer has dominion over us; ‘the world had been crucified to me and I to the world’, meaning that believers are no longer under the tyranny of the world.
Also, through Christ we are no longer under the tyranny of the law. How is it that the law, God’s good gift to His people, in itself ‘holy, righteous and good’, could ever have become a tyrant which enslaves us? It is because the law condemns our disobedience and so brings us under its ‘curse’ or judgement; but Christ has redeemed us from the law’s curse by becoming a curse for us. This does not mean that there are now no moral absolutes except love or that we now have no obligation to obey God’s law. The law no longer enslaves us by its condemnation, for believers, by the enabling of the Holy Spirit, can now increasingly fulfil the righteous requirement of the law.
In outworking, the victory and freedom secured for us and in us by the cross are not as simple as that. Though the devil has been defeated, he has not yet conceded defeat. Although he has been overthrown, he has not yet been eliminated. In fact, he continues to wield great power; hence we are warned that we cannot stand against the principalities and power of evil unless we are strong in the Lord ‘s strength and clad in the armour of God (Ephesians 6). Nevertheless, although life spells conflict and spiritual warfare, it also spells victory, the victory of the Lord Jesus. The victory of christians consists of entering into the victory of Christ and enjoying its benefits. For believers, we now live in the ‘tension’ between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’. Although the kingdom of God has been inaugurated and is advancing, it has not yet been consummated. In a sense, we are saved, we are being saved and we will be saved. Although we are now sons and daughters of God, and no longer slaves, we have not yet entered into the glorious freedom of the children of God and into the new heaven and new earth.
Freedom from our fallen nature (the flesh) and its selfishness comes through the cross. If the flesh was crucified with Jesus, the body of sin is now rendered powerless and we no longer need to be slaves to sin. The power of sin has been broken at the cross – we are no longer under the dominion of sin. In other words, sin no longer is master over us; we can say ‘no’ to sin and ‘yes’ to God and His Holy Spirit. By the Spirit, we can put to death the deeds of the flesh – that is how the Bible describes it. It is no longer “I cannot overcome” but “by God’s Spirit and enabling, I can overcome” although it would be a continual conflict and struggle as ‘we put on the new man and put off the old man’.
If the flesh is the foothold the devil has within us, the world is the means through which he exerts pressure upon us from without. The ‘world’ in this context means godless human society whose hostility to the church is expressed now by open ridicule and persecution, now by subtle subversion, the infiltration of its values and standards. The Apostle John declares that love for the world and love for the Father are mutually incompatible. John emphasises that the characteristics of the world are its selfish desires, superficial judgements and its arrogant materialism (1 John 2:16).
It is when we believe in Jesus Christ that our values change. We no longer conforms to the world’s values, but find instead that we are being transformed by our renewed mind which grasps and approves the will of God (Romans 12:2).
Finally, through Christ we are no longer under the tyranny of death. Jesus Christ is able to set free even those who all their lives have been held in slavery to their fear of death. This is because by HIs own death He has ‘destroyed’ (deprived of power) ‘him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil’ (Heb. 2:14). Jesus has not only dethroned the devil but dealt with sin. In fact, it is by dealing with sin that He has dealt with death. For sin is the ‘sting’ of death, the main reason why death is painful and poisonous. It is sin which causes death, and which after death will bring the judgement. Hence our fear of it. But Christ has died for our sins and taken them away. Now that we are forgiven, death can harm us no longer. However, death is still an enemy, the last one to be destroyed. Yet, it is a defeated enemy. Because Christ has taken away our sins, death has lost its power to harm and therefore to terrify.
Jesus is the resurrection of believers who die, and the life of believers who live. His promise to the former is ‘you will live’ meaning not just that you will survive, but that you will be resurrected. His promise to the latter is ‘you will never die’l, meaning not that you will escape death, but that death will prove to be a trivial episode, a transition to fullness of life (John 11:25-26).
In summary, in the ‘old age’ in Adam, the law enslaves, the flesh dominates, the world beguiles and death reigns. The ‘new age’, inaugurated by Christ, is characterised by grace not law, the Spirit not the flesh, the will of God not the fashions of the world, and abundant life not death. This is the victory secured by Christ at the CROSS!