by Mike Ratliff
6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), 7 or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:6-10 (NASB)
Since God drew me into spiritual boot camp in 2004 I have read many of the Reformers. I have also read as much as I can of what are referred to as the Ante-Nicene Fathers such as Polycarp and Irenaeus. The Reformers were used by God to recover the Gospel which had become hidden and corrupted by the apostate Roman Catholic Church. The Reformers such as Luther and Calvin were good theologians, but also former Catholics. Their form of “religiosity” was highly effected by their years in the R.C.C. On the other hand, Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John while Irenaeus was his disciple. Reading them gives us a very different view of “church structure.” Nowhere in their writings do we see state churches or massive cathedrals or Christian leaders becoming national leaders, etc. No, they served the Lord during a time when Christians were persecuted, that is, during the time of the Roman Empire. Bishops had been appointed by the Apostles and these Bishops would appoint Bishops in other churches they planted and select their successors. Irenaeus said that way of doing things kept the church from pursuing false teachers and false doctrines because they had the Word from Apostles themselves (the New Testament) and their teachings passed down directly from them to their Bishops who passed it down and so forth. As I read about their focus during that time in Church History they talked a great deal about “The Resurrection.” Polycarp was martyred when he was in his late 80’s because he would not worship Caesar as lord. He told the Romans who were going to burn him that he was excited about his “better resurrection” because he was going to share in the sufferings of Christ. I’m sorry, but I don’t see or hear much preaching or teaching about the resurrection in our time that we should be excited about it like Polycarp was. Instead, we hear about Heaven.
During my spiritual boot camp in 2004 I found through it that I had made the mistake after my salvation in 1986 of attempting to be pleasing to God via obedience by my own will power (law keeping). After all, the Christian culture I was part of back then was that salvation was some sort of reward for believing and that believing was within one’s own faith and was manifest via one opening the heart to Christ or believing the Gospel by “making up one’s mind,” et cetera. It is no wonder that those in that form of Christianity struggle so with the true nature of Christ’s Resurrection and the true impact it has on believers. One of the key passages God opened up to me during all that which He used to line me up with His Word, His Truth, the true purpose of the Gospel, and how it works was Ephesians 2:1-10. Here are vv 8-10.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NASB)
Here we clearly see that we are not saved as a reward for believing, but our faith, through which we do believe, is part of the gift of God. We know this because in v9 Paul makes it clear that this is “not a result of works.” If we could look at our salvation and say we have it because we believed then it would be works. On the other hand, if we look at the Gospel and understand that we believed because of God’s resurrection work in us, then we have the scriptural sense right. In v10, Paul tells us that, in this resurrection from spiritual death to spiritual life, we are God’s workmanship, not our own. Also, in that verse, we see that this is a resurrection created in Christ Jesus for good words, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. What is this?
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:1-4 (NASB)
Our Lord’s death on the Cross atoned for our sins. He was our Propitiation. His death, burial and resurrection together is a picture of our salvation. When God saves us, we are new creations. Our old spiritually dead self dies and is resurrected unto newness of life. Paul tells us in these verses that our salvation is not license to walk according to the flesh. No, the fact that some Christian leaders and so many of their followers believe that is tragic. Paul isn’t comparing the Christian walk to law-keeping here. The key for us to understand this is to see the picture of our dying with Christ on that Cross, being buried with Him in that tomb, and being resurrected with Him on the 3rd Day. We see the magnitude of it. Our hearts become filled with gratitude expressed by a joyful surrender as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto Him. We devote our lives to being transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). Living sacrifices are those resurrected unto this new life in Christ to walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:5-11 (NASB)
Our Lord’s death on the Cross was purposeful. He died because He took our sin upon Himself as our Propitiation before the Father. His resurrection makes clear that He has defeated both sin and death. What does it mean for the Christian to be dead to sin? It means that we have died to our pervasive love for and ruling power of sin. The reality of its power being broken in my life came during that spiritual boot camp I mentioned above. When these truths became part of my understanding of the Gospel and who I am in Christ, I saw very clearly that the mastery of sin had been broken in my life by God’s work of resurrection there. Since then, I am saddened when I see professing Christians so patterning their lives after the world and its ways. It does not bode well for the health of the Church when this is so prevalent.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:12-14 (NASB)
This is talking about our sanctification which is primarily accomplished as God takes us through His cleansing regimen that includes the Mortification of Sin. We go through tests and trials. We learn to walk in repentance in the power of God. We never forget that we are in Christ by God’s grace, not by our works. He has saved us unto these good works, but they are for His glory and our sanctification. I love v13. This is dying to the desires of the flesh and, instead, seeking God for His glory. He will edify us if we do this as we present ourselves to God as instruments of righteousness.
These promises for the believer in no way promise perfection in this life. They do not remove the fact that we live in mortal bodies that age, get sick, and die. My dad was a good man, but, in God’s timing, he aged, got sick, and died in 2010. He was not under the dominion of death spiritually. In God’s timing his body will be resurrected as mine will. I so look forward to that and I can with confidence because both of us are in Christ by faith through God’s grace.
Soli Deo Gloria!