The Christ Life

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth 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.” —Galatians 2:20

DO WE often reflect on the circumstances that brought us to the point of consecrating our lives to the Lord, and on the vast change that has taken place in us since first we believed? I am sure that we who are striving to walk in the steps of Jesus were drawn to the Lord in the first place by an appreciation of the fact that Christ died for our sins. We came to know that this was necessary if we were ever to come into God’s favor. Through the power of the Holy Spirit operating on our minds, we began to know and appreciate the fact that Adam was created perfect, that he had sinned willfully, and that therefore the sentence of death was pronounced upon him. We saw for the first time that this meant Adam’s extinction. We saw, also, that this sentence applied not only to Adam but to all his offspring, even to us.

How wonderful was the knowledge of the philosophy of the ransom: that since all were condemned in Adam, even so, because the perfect man Christ Jesus took Adam’s place in death, the condemnation was lifted from Adam and all his offspring. Then came the full realization that salvation was not just for us but for every human being that has ever drawn the breath of life and that this was to be accomplished by restitution—a restoration of mankind to perfection, to have communion with and be reestablished in the favor of God.

This is the truth. And this great truth is guaranteed by Christ’s death, as the ransom price.

It was after we realized this that the hope of being a part of the church became a real hope, with the real responsibility and opportunity of bringing blessings to all the families of the earth. Let us be assured of this, that it is restitution that makes the truth the truth. Without it we would have nothing. This beautiful gem of truth is held out before us just as it was held out before our Forerunner, Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2) We must never lose sight of this lofty and holy purpose of God, for it is really his eternal purpose, formed from the beginning, to have this earth filled with perfect human beings who will love God supremely and their neighbors as themselves.

It is through the kingdom that this eternal purpose is to be realized. (Eph. 3:10,11, Diaglott) And we were included in the structure of the original design and purpose, as instruments to help bring God’s objective to fruition. The Apostle Paul expresses the matter thus: “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace [favor] of God in vain.”—II Cor. 6:1

It is because of our appreciation of the wonderful provision of restitution in God’s plans and arrangements, and especially that we have been invited to share in this greatest of all creative works, that we are moved to endeavor to live the Christ life; that is, with Christ as our pattern, we endeavor to walk in his footsteps, experiencing the things that he experienced in order to be conformed to his image. We read in Romans 8:29: “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

The experiences we encounter in our Christian walk have a very definite purpose in the Christ life as expressed by the Apostle Paul. “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 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: 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 [the first resurrection]. … Let us therefore, as many as be perfect [mature], be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. … Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.” (Phil. 3:8-17) Then again in Galatians 4:19 the apostle states, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.”

As we contemplate these things, what question can we ask ourselves that will bring us face to face with the real issue? What is the Christ life? The Bible clearly indicates that we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Consider his admonition in Matthew 16:24: “If any man will come after me, let him deny [renounce] himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” So if we are going to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and pattern our lives after his, let us find out what Jesus did. How did he spend his life and strength as he served his Heavenly Father?

In the 61st chapter of Isaiah we have the prophecy concerning Jesus and his mission. He applied the prophecy to himself in Luke 4:18,19, and therefore we can be certain that he used it as a guide for his ministry. The prophecy reads: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”

As we analyze this wonderful prophecy, it becomes evident that Jesus was to spend his ministry—this most important part of his life—making a proclamation of the kingdom. And as we review the gospels, we find that this was the only thing that occupied his time and efforts. Even the miracles of raising the dead and healing the sick were illustrations of the kingdom and the great blessings that would come to the people when the kingdom was established. Preaching the gospel of the kingdom was the chief concern of Jesus. This was his life, and it is to us “the Christ life.” His was a life of service, spending his strength and talents to the glory of the Heavenly Father and to the benefit of his fellowman, and especially to those whom the Heavenly Father called—his disciples. He left his place of glory and honor in the heavenlies and became the greatest servant the world has ever known.

In another prophecy concerning himself, Jesus says: “I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.” (Ps. 40:9,10) With this sense of fulfillment, it was possible for Jesus to say on the cross with confidence, “It is finished.”

As we attempt to lead the Christ life—that is, attempt to walk in the footsteps of Jesus—we become more acutely aware of the perfection of Jesus and of our imperfections, for try as we might, we cannot perform perfectly. How thankful we are for the provision of the robe of Christ’s righteousness! In God’s sight, we are righteous because of this, and we fulfill the requirement that those who engage in his work must have clean hands and a pure heart. (Ps. 24:4; Ps. 15) But our standing with the Heavenly Father does not remove our desire and responsibility to be as nearly pure in heart, thought, word, and deed as it is possible for us to be. In fact, the Lord expects that we will attain to perfection of intention, or will. And in his mercy, he accounts the perfection of intention for the deed. The experiences we receive in conjunction with our activity in the Lord’s work are the tools the Lord uses to help us grow up into Christ, to help us be conformed to Christ’s image.

Jesus, our Forerunner, was conformed to the image of the Father in his spiritual mind. The Apostle Paul states: “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 [consummated in character] through sufferings.” (Heb. 2:10) And again in Hebrews 5:8,9: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect [consummated in character], he became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” In John 14:9, Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” In other words, the mental and moral characteristics of Jesus were the same as those of the Father.

The Apostle Peter relates our experiences incurred in the Lord’s work with those of Jesus: “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” (I Pet. 2:19-21) The word suffer means to endure or experience. How did Jesus suffer for us? By holding forth the Gospel, and because he did, we are blessed with the truth. But this activity brought on persecution by his natural brethren. He was the object of scoffing, ridicule, derision; he was accused of blasphemy. Even with all of this, our text continues, “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously.”—vs. 23

In endeavoring, then, to lead the Christ life, we can expect to receive evil for good, and these experiences will be difficult, but they will be used by the Heavenly Father to form Christ in us. And in all these experiences we must conduct ourselves as he did, so that as representatives of the Father we will bring only glory to his name.

The Apostle Paul, in II Corinthians 6:3, states the matter thus: “Giving no offense in anything, that the ministry be not blamed.” In the concluding verses of the previous chapter the apostle summarizes what our ministry is: “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” (II Cor. 5:18-20) The unmistakable thought is that the ministry of reconciliation was originally given to Jesus. But after his death and resurrection, this ministry and the responsibility that is inherent with it was passed on to the footstep followers of Jesus. And in confirmation of this we read in the 1st verse of II Corinthians 6, “We then, as workers together with Him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.”

To the Apostle Paul, and to us also, the privilege of the ministry transcends all other responsibilities and privileges that we have in the Christ life, because it identifies us as being representatives of the Heavenly Father, doing his work during this age. (John 4:34) This is why the apostle admonishes that we in no way give offense, that the ministry be not blamed, but that in everything we should establish ourselves as God’s servants by much patient endurance in affliction, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in prisons, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by forbearance, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by love undissembled, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left; through glory and disgrace, through bad fame and good fame; as deceivers and yet true, as unknown and yet well known; as dying, yet behold we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.—II Cor. 6:3-10

This is how we establish, or prove, ourselves as ministers of God. This is the Christ life. This is the underlying reason for all the scriptural admonitions to purity and righteous living. The Apostle Peter tells us that “if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (II Pet. 1:8) These qualities of character and mind will demand activity in the Lord’s service. Then, in Philippians 2:14-16, we read, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.” In I Peter 2:9 the Apostle Peter tells us, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Here the apostle tells us that the only reason we were called was to hold forth the marvelous light of truth.

The well-balanced Christian is aware of the need for developing the fruits and graces of the Spirit. These are important in our Christ life, for all our efforts in the Lord’s service would not be acceptable if they were not accompanied by love and the other Christian graces. Also, the fruits and graces of the Spirit alone will not benefit us ultimately, unless they are accompanied by good works. Our development as well-balanced Christians, however, must be done in the right way. “If a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” (II Tim. 2:5) In the Lord’s arrangement he has designed that we will develop in Christian character largely through our activity in the service of the truth. The point is that we must put into practice the lessons taught by the experiences the Lord permits us to have. (Heb. 12:5-11; I Pet. 4:12-16) If we do this, we will develop love, joy, peace, longsuffering, and all the fruits and graces of the Spirit which will make our efforts to serve and please acceptable.

In the tabernacle the Lord has given us a very beautiful picture of the relationship between the sacrifices and the manner in which they are offered. On the Day of Atonement, when the high priest took the blood of the bullock into the Holy, he also carried with him live coals from the altar in the court and two hands full of incense. When inside the Holy, the priest placed the live coals in the censer on the golden altar. He then crumbled the incense over the live coals and soon the entire compartment was filled with the smoke of the incense. When this incense penetrated the second veil and entered the Most Holy (which pictured God’s abode), then it was safe for the high priest to enter into the presence of God with the blood of the sacrifice.

The fire on the altar in the court pictured the trials and testings that consumed our Lord’s flesh as he laid his life down in the service of the Heavenly Father, the truth, and the brethren. The coals taken from this fire represented these same fiery experiences. When the high priest crumbled the incense over these coals, there arose a smoke of sweet smelling savor, which pictured the love and zeal and the exercise of all the Christian graces as Jesus met these experiences. When God acknowledged the sweet savor that accompanied our Lord’s sacrifice, the blood was acceptable as the great and only efficacious sacrifice for sin—the ransom price.

Jesus, in speaking to his disciples and to us, said: “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.” (John 4:35,36) It will be said of those who are faithful in their ministry of reconciliation that “this and that man was born in her (Zion): and the Highest Himself shall establish her. The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there,” (Ps. 87:5,6) and that he was one of those who was “beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God.”—Rev. 20:4

Dawn Bible Students Association
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