The Cross of Calvary # 18
Crucified to the World - continued
The Elements of the World in the Christian Life
"If ye died with Christ from the elements of the world, why, as though living in the world ...?" (Galatians 2:20).
The Galatian believers were in danger of going back to reliance upon works of law for growth in their Christian experience, but the Colossians were being drawn aside from Christ in another way - through "philosophy" and "tradition of men" - which Paul plainly said was "after the elements of the world, and not after Christ."
To both Galatians and Colossians Paul had the same message - the message of Calvary.
He would not add one more voice to the clamour in Colosse, for the Colossians were already perplexed enough with "precepts and doctrines of men"; one and the other judging them in respect of "meat" and "drink" and feast days. All external things which, under the old law, were a "shadow of the things to come" in Christ, and are now of little importance. The Apostle takes them back to Calvary, and says "If ye died with Christ", "why" are you acting as if you were still "living in the world"?
Why do you go back to the "childish lessons of outward things", and submit yourselves to the rule of others, who are "taking [their] stand upon the things ... men, vainly puffed up by [the] fleshly mind", and not holding fast to Christ, Who is the Head of His body, the Church, and is the life of His members, so that His body increases from within, by a spontaneous life which is the very "increase of God"?
But if you have died with Christ, so that now you are joined to Him as your life, why go back to the ground of "Touch not" this or that? All these exterior things "perish with the using". "Meat will not commend us to God: neither if we eat not are we the worse; nor if we eat are we the better."
Paul owns that all ascetism has a "show of wisdom", but it is, as far as commands from God go, a "self-chosen worship". It has the appearance of "humility", and wise "severity to the body", but none of these things are "of any case against the indulgence of the flesh."
The Colossians had died with Christ from all these elements of the world - elements which were "after the tradition of men" - the outcome of "vain deceit" in men's minds, imagining that thus they could conquer themselves, but this was not following Christ. In Him was the true circumcision - the circumcision of the heart; they were buried with Him in His grave, and quickened with Him to a new life; therefore they were not to act as if they were now "living in the world".
Crucified with Christ, they were "raised together with Christ", and a heart belief of this would bring in a supernatural power - the power of Christ's resurrection. Instead of being occupied therefore with cutting off exterior things, and questioning whether they should do this or that, they should have been seeking the things above, and setting their mind on the heavenly fullness which was theirs in Christ.
"For ye died," repeats the Apostle, "and your life is hid with Christ in God." They were severed from the old life to share the life of Christ; and through this life from God they could "make dead" their "members", and learn the secret of deliverance from the indulgence of the flesh.
The dangers that assailed the Colossian believers are ours today, oftimes under the name of holiness, or consecration.
Worldly Christians (what a contradiction of terms!) are not so liable to these special snares, but those who long to follow the Lord, are quickly influenced by the "precepts of men", especially those of men whom they esteem very highly in love for their work's sake.
The Cross of Christ is the message, and the remedy for all. Let us truly consent with all our hearts to be crucified with Him, and it will not be long before we find that the world is crucified to us; it will have lost its power to attract; or in its religious aspect to influence us in our walk before the Lord.
All that is "in the world; the lust of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, and the vainglory of life" all that is "not of the Father, but is of the world", will be crucified to us, and we shall overcome the world; because greater is He that is in us, than "he that is in the world."
The Cross as the Basis of Unity
"Made nigh in the blood of Christ."
"He is our peace, Who made both one ... and ... reconcile them both in body unto God through the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby." (Ephesians 2:13, 14, 16).
If the Cross of Calvary is the severing power between the child of God and the world, it is equally the uniting power between all who draw nigh to God through the precious blood.
It is on the life-side of the Cross that the blood-bought children of God most clearly realize the oneness of all who are "in Christ Jesus". The message of Calvary is preached to the sinner as the ground of reconciliation with God, but emphatically should it be proclaimed as the ground of unity between man and man, even between the professing followers of Christ.
How sorely we need to see that all divisions between true children of God are of those "elements of the world" to which they have died with the crucified Lord; and so far as we tolerate aught in our lives from which Christ died to deliver us, so far is there a "practical denial of the efficacy of Christ's death."
Paul the Apostle, who had once been of the most exclusive caste of the Hebrews, clearly saw that the death of Christ had broken down all walls of partition between men who sought to worship the same Lord. And so with the same intensity that he once sought to stamp out the followers of the despised Nazarene, he abandoned himself to the claims of the crucified One, and with no uncertain sound preached "the faith which he once destroyed."
The word of the Cross revolutionized his life; swept away his pre-conceived ideas: his national prejudices; his pride of race; his exclusive caste.
The Cross as the gateway into a new life is Paul's constant theme, and writing to the Colossians he impresses upon them that they have died with Him Who died, henceforth to live in a new sphere where the distinction and divisions of earth have no place; where there "cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman: but Christ is all and in all."
"In one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free" he writes again to the Corinthians.
The Jews called the Gentiles the "uncircumcision", and the barrier between them consisted of an outward rite, as well as the Mosaic law, and the Levitical sacrifices; all ordained by God until Christ Himself should come as fulfillment of all, and as the one complete and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the people.
Paul says that Christ "abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances", and Himself became the peace,for out of Jew and Gentile He would create of the twain "one new man", for Jew and Gentile, as Jew and Gentile, died with Him. If they drew nigh to God through Him, Jew and Gentile were reconciled unto God in the body of Christ, therefore through the Cross He slew the enmity between them.
Oh glorious message of Calvary, out of which the Christian Church has sprung, and all the blessings of freedom which we enjoy; for through the Cross of Calvary, so marvelously illumined to Paul the Apostle by the Risen Lord Himself, and Paul's own faithful preaching of the Cross, we "Gentiles" have become "fellow-heirs", "fellow-members", "fellow-partakers", of the promise in Jesus Christ through the gospel.
And yet in the professing Christian Church, called by the name of Christ, is to be seen the same barriers between worshipers of God, as stood between Jew and Gentile in the days of Paul!
"He came and preached good tidings of peace", writes Paul to the Ephesians. The Risen One, with the marks of His passion in His hands; He Who died to create out of all the races of men "one new man", comes Himself with the message of peace. Oh that He may come again to His people today with the same glad tidings, showing to us His hands, and His side, and saying: "Peace be unto you", uniting all the sections of the living members of His Church, "Through the Cross!"
(continued with # 19)