Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 5/18/08
"The death he died, he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God" (Rom. 6:10).
It has been ten years now since God uprooted us in California and moved us to Missouri. It was Lenny's "assignment" which brought us here, for the Spirit called him to be a witness of God's light, power, and unconditional love to a Baptist men's Sunday School Class. That seemed odd to us since we never have been Baptists, but God does what He does to reveal His eternal purpose. It didn't take long for us to realize how entrenched in sin consciousness people in the Bible Belt really are. Perhaps that's not so surprising when you factor in the sermons being preached on the blackness of sin, the eternal destination which they say hangs in the balance, and the need for complete surrender and repentance on the part of the sinner. However, so long as we remain in the pigpen of sin consciousness, we never see or taste God's grace, mercy and love; some apparently think Christ's death was simply inadequate to remove their sin, because they continue to hold on to the shame and memory of it. Why?
The easy answer is "terrible teaching, poor theology, misguided and uneducated church leaders." However, Lenny calls it, "God's fault," by which he means no disrespect to God, but simply a contemporary way to affirm that God bears all responsibility for everything since He is ultimately sovereign over ALL things and ALL men. The Apostle Paul named the One responsible for sin and grace in stark language: "GOD has all men penned together in the prison of disobedience, that he may have mercy upon them all" (Rom. 11:32, Phillips).
Paul had made it abundantly clear in Romans, Chapter Five, that death came into the world through sin. "Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Rom. 5:12). The question then is, "Was Christ's death on the cross meant to save us from our sins, or to save us from death? And how could the latter be true since men continue to die?" I "heard" the title. "The Death He died," a few days ago, and when I looked up the verse in Rom. 6:10, two little words jumped off the page at me. "The death he died, he died TO SIN, once for all..." I had never before focused on the prepositional phrase, "To Sin." This time, bells and whistles sounded and my spirit leapt within me because I saw that only Christ could have died to sin for us, because He knew no sin; only He could have died once for all, and only He could do it because "the life he lives, he lives to God." Through Him, we have that life also, a gift of God to us, which is the answer to how He could "have mercy upon all."
It always used to "bug me," as the kids say, that because of Adam's sin, I myself was held accountable and guilty as well. When I was a teenager and trying to be oh, such a good Christian, I would think, "Well, how is that fair? I wasn't even born when Adam ate the blasted fruit!" In last week's writing, "The Death of Death, Healing, Part 9," (See Link at End). I mentioned Karl Barth's concept of original sin as being "built in" to the human model. That struck me powerfully in many ways, and I thank John Gavazzoni for his comments about it:
"Paul taught that 'by one man sin entered the WORLD (the cosmic arrangement/order, the world-system), and death by sin.' But sin was already in the EARTH (most essentially in our human earthenness) before Adam sinned. It (sin) broke through from beneath the surface of our earthenness to become the systemic principle of 'the world.' .....It is not, as the Gnostics concluded, that earthenness/humanness itself is evil, but that its essential purity must pass through, and even, yes, suffer the penetration of all that is alien to its eternal 'Primal Origin' (Barth). The Divine Nature, by creating the above challenge to its immutability, being a non-static nature, draws forth out of the Well of Being (in which we have our being), greater and greater "riches of glory in Christ Jesus," a process that calls for the necessity of evil." End Quote.
John has pulled the veil aside for us to see why a Righteous Father would consign all men to sin. To paraphrase, human nature was and is the filter through which our "Primal Origin" must be screened in order to be revealed. I got a "picture" of a "spiritual sluice box," a device gold miners use. They put sand and gravel in a grooved trough, and run water over it. The debris is washed out, leaving only pure gold behind. To have left Adam and Eve in their pristine, just created state, would have been "child abuse." They were untested, untried, and unable to carry on the task God gave them to conquer the earth and beyond.
To make the human condition even stickier and thornier, God gave the Law through Moses, which as Paul put it, brought sin into their consciousness, "Apart from the law sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (Rom. 7:8-9). What a "briar patch" human kind had fallen into, and worse, they were now responsible for their actions. Before the law, they were unconscious; after the law, they were judged and condemned. Lenny believes that from Adam to Moses, men were locked in the physical realm; from Moses to Christ, they were struggling with the soul realm. Christ came to awaken our spirits, to deliver all of us from our struggles: "as in Adam A-L-L died, so in Christ shall A-L-L be made alive."
Remember that the Apostle John referred to Christ as, "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). Always in the heart of God, the cross was His antidote for sin's poison: "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (II Cor. 5:21). In one sense then, sin in the world was the spice by which the sauce was perfected. Without it, mankind would have remained bland, robotic type creatures who had never brought to consciousness either their flaws, or their true inheritance, or their need for and appreciation of the power of Almighty God.
This gives new meaning to the phrase, "The death he died, he died TO SIN once for all," for without His death, we would all still be accountable for all sin in the world, not just our own, but all of it. The judgment of God, Paul stated, came upon all men, for all men "have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). I know Christians who still judge others because they believe they themselves haven't sinned in such an awful way. That usually refers to sex sin, because according to our Puritanical standards, sexual misconduct is the worst sin of all, but there is no such classification or distinction in the scripture, for all sinned (Rom. 3:23). God did not leave us in the slime pits of sin and guilt: "They (we) are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24). Even as the power of death held mankind hostage since Adam, even so the power of the resurrection has set us free from death's strangle hold. In terms of why we still die, I defer to Karl Barth (Epistle to the Romans):
"That life of ours which is positively conformed to Jesus is the life which is hid with Christ in God, and which is only 'ours' here and now as the eternal future. This, however, is sufficient for us, for the grace of God sufficeth (II Cor. 1:9). Grace is the act of God by which the new man shall be and is, and by which also he is free from sin. Our negative, known, human existence, so little conformed to Jesus, is filled with hope by the positive and secret power of the resurrection."
Echoing Paul, Barth declares that we are freed from sin's steely grip by the grace of God. Baptism is the symbolic death, burial and resurrection by which we are gifted this freedom from sin. "For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his" (Rom. 6:5). This is what the Apostle Peter meant when he wrote that baptism "now saves you" (I Pet. 3:21). Reading scripture by the letter instead of by the Spirit, causes some to insist that baptism is what saves us and that no one can be saved without it. I grew up hearing hell fire and damnation sermons about that, but by the Spirit we understand that baptism is only a symbol to help us see and understand, "...that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin" (Rom. 6: 6).
About our forgiveness of sin, Barth said, "Conformed to Christ in the way of death, we perceive our status, as determined by sin, fallen away, withered, and nonexistent; and we perceive the preeminent power of the new man, we see the mercy of God, and ourselves as His children." Hallelujah!
So what's the pay off for us that Christ died to sin, once for all? The truth expressed in Romans 6:7, set me free from the law of sin and death. Here's the verse: "For he who has died is freed from sin." How simple, how plain and how magnificent is Paul's declaration. Dead men do not sin. They do not fornicate, or covet, or murder, or steal. Dead is dead. Undertakers do a swell job of making a corpse look better sometimes than the person did in life, especially if the person is old when he passes, but no matter how much puffing of the cheeks, or make up to the face, or lovely clothing on the body is added, dead is still dead. Stone, cold, dead and ready to be buried.
Therefore, if you are still wringing your hands over real or imagined sins, even if they are horrible and black as India Ink, you are trying to dress up a corpse, when you simply need to put him back in his coffin, close the lid, and walk away in resurrection life! For "..if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him" (Rom. 6:8). Here then, is another need for faith. We must have faith that we died with Christ, and faith that we shall also live with him and in him. How can we drum up the faith to believe? Simple answer, we cannot! Such faith as this is humanly impossible, but with God, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. It is, as we saw in "What does faith have to do with it?, Healing, Part 9" (See Link at End), God's faith, not ours, which allows us to believe this. Faith is a gift of God, lest any man boast, and I do pray for words to make this plain, and for God to shine His light on anyone reading them. We WERE dead in "primal sin," but now, by the blood of the lamb and the power of the resurrection, we ARE alive in Christ!
Barth is rich and deep regarding this faith, God's faith by which we believe:
"Faith is the divine revolution and upheaval by which the well-known equilibrium between 'Yes' and 'No,' grace and sin, good and evil, is disturbed and over-thrown... The believer sees the beginning of God in the end of man, and the light of His mercy in the tempest of His wrath. By faith the primal reality of human existence in God enters our horizon; by faith the incomparable step is taken; by faith the conversion from which there is no return occurs; to faith no looking backwards is permitted: to faith, in the light of the absolute 'Moment' and of the death of Christ, there is no supposition, but only reality... What then, we ask, is that in which we believe? We believe that Christ died in our place, and that therefore we died with him. We believe in our identity with the invisible new man who stands on the other side of the cross... Faith is the possibility which belongs to men in God, in God Himself, and only in God, when all human possibilities have been exhausted."
Here's the question: Are you exhausted enough in your trying to be perfect, to quit sinning, to make yourself righteous, to admit you can't do it on your own? Have you tried and failed, tried and failed, enough to now give up? If so, you have tasted and tested the reason for sin in the world. Everything which happens in our lives, the good, the bad, and the ugly, leads to our surrender, forcing us to lay our trophies down on the altar of God's righteousness. John Gavazzoni said to me once years ago, when I was wringing my hands over something I couldn't lay down, "Wrap it up in a bundle, place it at the foot of the cross, and walk on into resurrection." The Lord gave me the faith to do as John had suggested, and God came in with a flood of grace and washed away my guilt and shame, my tears and self recrimination, and set my feet on Mount Zion.
In His time, God will do that for all beleaguered Christians still beat down by sin, sometimes after a lifetime of trying to wriggle free. The scriptures attest to this and the Spirit bears witness with us, that in the fulness of time, God "will have mercy upon all" (Rom. 11:32).
About the resurrection power of Christ, Barth concluded, "Since then, sinlessness and righteousness are veritably observed in the death of Christ, the wholly OTHER has entered within my horizon once for all; in so far, that is, as in His death Christ veritably stands in my place, and I by faith (Rom. 6:8), veritably participate in His death in order that I may live with Him. So then, just as I am visibly one with the dying Christ, so I am invisibly one with this 'Other,' the risen Christ... Because the death of Christ is the end of that life which can and must die, and the final victory of sinlessness over the possibility of sin, it proclaims, 'Thy sins have been forgiven thee,' and because, since the order death-resurrection, sin-grace cannot be reversed, Christ dieth no more. There I, living to God in Christ, am as such DEAD TO SIN. I stand only within the sphere of conversion from sin to grace, a conversion which cannot be reversed." End Quote.
Now remains only the question of why men still die when Christ died "once for all." Most Christians would give the same answer Martha gave to Jesus when He told her that her brother would rise again: "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." That's the "good Christian" response, but to that question, Christ made the marvelous declaration that has thrilled us and kept us going through many a trial, tribulation, and temptation. He said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me WILL NEVER DIE. Do you believe this?" (John 11:24-26). Do we believe it? Only by God's faith is it possible to believe this.
When I first met Lenny, he told me that believes he will not pass through physical death, but will walk into resurrection life this side of Jordan. I couldn't believe it then, though it was clear to me that he unequivocally did believe it, but eventually some verses leaped off the page to show me that it is possible (of course, all things are POSSIBLE) with God. One verse was I Cor. 15:51: "Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." Paul places this event at the sounding of the last trumpet, but I've seen for decades that when someone dies, the last trumpet has sounded for him!
I just now asked Lenny if he still believes he will not pass through physical death. He answered, "Of course!" Some would call that foolish considering his current, debilitated physical condition, but to me, it is evidence of God's faith in him, bearing him up on eagle's wings, allowing him to soar over the desert of despair and the mountain of pain and weakness. Many of our friends and readers are suffering from chronic pain like Lenny, or terminal conditions such as cancer, and for us all, no matter what tribulation we bear, it is the GRACE of God which gets us through the day; it is the HOPE of the resurrection that carries us forward, when the flesh is weak and ready to quit. It took Adam 930 years to die because he was so close to the "Primal Origin" of God, and the breath of God still coursed through his life. We do it in a much shorter time.
Modern man has depended upon his brain, rather than God's Spirit to arrive at truth. This is possibly one of the main reasons Christians cannot believe they are FREED from sin! They are judging by appearances, by physical evidence their eyes can see, rather than by the Spirit, by the living, breathing, word of the Father. Physical appearance (it was "a delight to the eyes"), and the logic of Satan ("you will be like God, knowing good and evil") are what led to Adam and Eve's final act of disobedience. We've been eating the poisonous fruit ever since, but God is in the process of healing us all of our sin consciousness. Hallelujah!
Father, we ask You to open our eyes to see, our ears to hear, and our minds to receive the mind of Christ that we may see You as You are and be like You. Reveal who we are in Christ, not what we appear to be in flesh, and may we have Your faith to surrender all to Your eternal plan for us. In Christ, amen. Jan Antonsson
To Be Continued.....
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail Address)
Healing, or Stealing God's Glory?
Risky Business, Healing, Part II
The Royal Priesthood, Healing, Part III
Rest in the GIFT, Healing, Part IV
Restoring the Glory Land, Healing, Part V
Organizing the Church, Healing, Part VI
Victory Through Helplessness, Healing, Part VII
What Does Faith Have to do with It? Healing, Part VIII
The Death of Death, Healing, Part IX
Freed From Sin, Healing Part XI
Money, the Kingdom, and Bifocal Vision, Healing, Part XII
Flesh, Spirit, & the New Man, Healing, Part XIII
The Church, the Gospel, and God's Will, Healing, Part XIV
The End of the Law, Healing, Part XV
The Divine Possibility, Healing, Part XVI
What Shall We do? Healing, Part XVII
The Tyranny of the Vegetable Eaters, Healing, Part XVIII
The Epistle to the Romans by Karl Barth
The Glory Road
This writing was uploaded to the web 05/15/08,
by Jan Antonsson, webmeister,
and last updated 11/19/08.