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We now come to a matter on which there has been some confusion of thought among the Lord’s children. It concerns what follows this knowledge. Note again first of all the wording of Romans 6:6: “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him”. The tense of the verb is most precious for it puts the event right back there in the past. It is final, once-for-all. The thing has been done and cannot be undone. Our old man has been crucified once and for ever, and he can never be un-crucified. This is what we need to know.
Then, when we know this, what follows? Look again at our passage. The next command is in verse 11: “Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin”. This, clearly, is the natural sequel to verse 6. Read them together: ‘Knowing that our old man was crucified, ... reckon ye yourselves to be dead’. That is the order. When we know that our old man has been crucified with Christ, then the next step is to reckon it so.
Unfortunately, in presenting the truth of our union with Christ the emphasis has too often been placed upon this second matter of reckoning ourselves to be dead, as though that were the starting point, whereas it should rather be upon knowing ourselves to be dead. God’s Word makes it clear that ‘knowing’ is to precede ‘reckoning’. “Knowing this... reckon.” The sequence is most important. Our reckoning must be based on knowledge of divinely revealed fact, for otherwise faith has no foundation on which to rest. When we know, then we reckon spontaneously.
So in teaching this matter we should not over-emphasize reckoning. People are always trying to reckon without knowing. They have not first had a Spirit-given revelation of the fact; yet they try to reckon and soon they get into all sorts of difficulties. When temptation comes they begin to reckon furiously: ‘I am dead; I am dead; I am dead!’ but in the very act of reckoning they lose their temper. Then they say, ‘It doesn’t work. Romans 6:11 is no good.’ And we have to admit that verse 11 is no good without verse 6. So it comes to this, that unless we know for a fact that we are dead with Christ, the more we reckon the more intense will the struggle become, and the issue will be sure defeat.
For years after my conversion I had been taught to reckon. I reckoned from 1920 until 1927. The more I reckoned that I was dead to sin, the more alive I clearly was. I simply could not believe myself dead and I could not produce the death. Whenever I sought help from others I was told to read Romans 6:11, and the more I read Romans 6:11 and tried to reckon, the further away death was: I could not get at it. I fully appreciated the teaching that I must reckon, but I could not make out why nothing resulted from it. I have to confess that for months I was troubled. I said to the Lord, ‘If this is not clear, if I cannot be brought to see this which is so very fundamental, I will cease to do anything. I will not preach any more; I will not go out to serve Thee any more; I want first of all to get thoroughly clear here.’ For months I was seeking, and at times I fasted, but nothing came through.
I remember one morning—that morning was a real morning and one I can never forget—I was upstairs sitting at my desk reading the Word and praying, and I said, ‘Lord, open my eyes!’ And then in a flash I saw it. I saw my oneness with Christ. I saw that I was in Him, and that when He died I died. I saw that the question of my death was a matter of the past and not of the future, and that I was just as truly dead as He was because I was in Him when He died. The whole thing had dawned upon me. I was carried away with such joy at this great discovery that I jumped from my chair and cried, ‘Praise the Lord, I am dead!’ I ran downstairs and met one of the brothers helping in the kitchen and I laid hold of him. ‘Brother’, I said, ‘do you know that I have died?’ I must admit he looked puzzled. ‘What do you mean?’ he said, so I went on: ‘Do you not know that Christ has died? Do you not know that I died with Him? Do you not know that my death is no less truly a fact than His?’ Oh it was so real to me! I longed to go through the streets of Shanghai shouting the news of my discovery. From that day to this I have never for one moment doubted the finality of that word: “I have been crucified with Christ”.
I do not mean to say that we need not work that out. Yes, there is an outworking of the death which we are going to see presently, but this, first of all, is the basis of it. I have been crucified: it has been done.
What, then, is the secret of reckoning? To put it in one word, it is revelation. We need revelation from God Himself (Matt. 16:17; Eph. 1:17, 18). We need to have our eyes opened to the fact of our union with Christ, and that is something more than knowing it as a doctrine. Such revelation is no vague, indefinite thing. Most of us can remember the day when we saw clearly that Christ died for us, and we ought to be equally clear as to the time when we saw that we died with Christ. It should be nothing hazy, but very definite, for it is with this as basis that we shall go on. It is not that I reckon myself to be dead, and therefore I will be dead. It is that, because I am dead—because I see now what God has done with me in Christ—therefore I reckon myself to be dead. That is the right kind of reckoning. It is not reckoning toward death but from death.
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