OLD THINGS!

Arthur W. Pink, 1952
 

1. The old MAN. "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Romans 6:6). Alas, how few of God's people today "know this" and enjoy the settled peace which accompanies a scriptural apprehension thereof. It is one of those profound doctrinal statements in which this epistle abounds. It has to do with the objective side of things and not the subjective having reference to a past judicial transaction and not to a present experiential process or future attainment.

In the preceding verses, the apostle had affirmed the identification of believers with Christ, their being legally one with Him in His death and resurrection. Here he states a threefold consequence thereof:

First, their old man was crucified with Christ the aorist tense is used, denoting a completed act in the past. According to the righteous judgment of God, when Christ was crucified, all His people were associated with and included in His penal sufferings and death. It is important to note that the verb is in the passive voice, for this crucifixion was accomplished wholly outside of themselves in the person of their Head. Nowhere in Scripture are Christians exhorted to crucify themselves, for it is a form of death which cannot be self-inflicted. What is required from them is that they reckon or account themselves to be dead indeed unto sin (Romans 6:11), and act accordingly . . .
denying self,
mortifying their lusts,
taking up their cross, and
following the holy example which Christ has left them.

Most of the commentators regard the "old man" as synonymous with our corruptions, but against this there are weighty objections. It fails to discriminate between the person himself and his depraved nature a difference which Paul was most careful to preserve throughout (Romans 7:15-25). Moreover, the "old man" is distinguished from the "body of sin" in the next clause; so too in "the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts" (Eph 4:22).

No, "our old man" is what we were from the very beginning of our existence, before divine grace found us, namely our Adam standing, our natural selves; and that was, in the reckoning of God, executed upon the cross. It was so in order that "the body of sin might be destroyed." The body of sin is our evil nature, the "flesh" of John 3:6, that which defiled our natural selves. It is called "the body of this death" in Romans 7:24, where the reference is not to the physical body, but to that which corrupts it.

Sin is here personified, called a "body" because it is an organized entity, comprising a complete system of unholy dispositions, diffusing its pernicious influence through all the faculties of our being. Again, sin is here designated a "body" in keeping with the previous clause, where "crucifixion" is in view: in Colossians 3:5, some of its hideous "members" are described. But what is meant by "that the body of sin might be destroyed"? Not annihilated, but annulled.

Because of the believer's federal union with Christ, he was "co-crucified," for such is the literal meaning of the Greek. God's design in that arrangement was that his sin, root and branch, should be made an end of in His sight; that is, as He is considered in His official character as the Judge. The object of this was that his sin should be done away with entirely. In the original, it is the strongest possible word: the same as in "the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Corinthians 15:26). That body of sin and death, which is such a grief unto the Christian, is, by virtue of his co-crucifixion with Christ, as much destroyed in the eyes of the divine law as death will be destroyed when it is swallowed up in victory. In 1 Corinthians 1:28, the same Greek word is rendered "bring to nothing," in Galatians 3:17, "make of none effect," in 2 Timothy 1:10, "abolished," in 2 Corinthians 3:14, "done away."

The effect of this is "that henceforth we should not serve sin," or more literally "be slaves to sin." The full wages of sin have been paid, and therefore the believer is freed from his old master. The body of sin can no longer be the ruler of those who died in and with Christ, for in that death the scepter of the tyrant was taken away. Sin still puts in its claims, but it has no authority to enforce them. Christ alone has the right to govern us. Having been made free from sin, we have become servants to God (Romans 6:22). To Him alone we are to yield ourselves, refusing sin's solicitations.

Now concerning our apprehension thereof, "Knowing this," says the apostle. The only way we can do so is by divine revelation. We know nothing about our co-crucifixion with Christ by actual experience. There is not a saint on earth whose own history informs him that his whole body of sin has been brought to naught, made of none effect, abolished, done away. And from his daily inward conflicts, it appears very much to the contrary that he has been liberated from sin. Nevertheless, these things are so, though not as matters of perception, but of reception by believing them to be so because God affirms them, setting to our seal that He is true (John 3:33).

Thus "knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more" (Romans 6:9), we know that not by our feelings or through our senses, but by the sure testimony of God. So it is with the three things stated in Romans 6:6. It is in no way a matter of practical acquaintance, for neither the work of Christ for us, nor the work of the Spirit in us, has effected any improvement or change in our sinful nature. Every believer died (legally) with Christ on the cross, for he was federally in Him as represented by Him. The condemning sentence of the Law was executed upon him. Again, "We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have [so infallibly certain is it] a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2 Corinthians 5:1). And again, "Don't you know that you shall judge angels?" (1 Corinthians 6:3). Those are certainties of faith!

"Do not lie one to another, seeing that you have put off the "old man" with his deeds" (Col 3:9). This presents quite another aspect of our subject, though one that is closely related to the former, growing out of it.

As the result of Christ's work for His people, the Holy Spirit is sent to them, and one of the effects of His regenerating them is that they are brought to loathe themselves and their former manner of life. At conversion, they put off the old man by renouncing the world, the flesh and the devil, and by resolving to live a new life unto the glory of their new Master. Their language then is, "O LORD our God, other lords beside you have had dominion over us: but [henceforth] by You only will we make mention of Your name" (Isa 26:13). They are thoroughly ashamed of themselves for having served such evil tyrants, and now determine, by grace, to render submission unto God alone. Now, says the apostle, do not lie one to another, and shun whatever is inconsistent with and contradictory to the profession you have made. Refuse to yield obedience to any of the dictates of your old self.

"That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts" (Eph 4:22). That is the final reference to the "old man", and it gives completeness to the others.

The first is a doctrinal statement treating of the legal aspect.

The second is a factual reference to what we did at our conversion.

This is a practical exhortation bidding us to shun everything incompatible with the resolutions we made when we first gave ourselves unto the Lord.

We are to abandon our previous ways as a worn-out filthy garment that is thrown away. That outward conduct which issues from our old self must be shunned, and inward desires after forbidden things sternly denied. All behavior that conflicts with a Christian profession is to be studiously avoided, and all carnal affections unsparingly mortified.

2. Old LEAVEN. "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened" (1 Corinthians 5:7). Taken by itself, that verse appears to present a paradox, for what occasion is there to purge out leaven if they already are "unleavened"? If unleavened, what old leaven could be purged out? Yet in the light of the distinctions the Scriptures themselves draw regarding the "old man", there should be no difficulty in understanding this passage, and though it is couched in typical language, its meaning is easily interpreted. Allusion is made to the Passover feast, when every Israelite was required to seek out all leaven and put it away from his house (Exo 12:15, 19; 13:7).

Leaven is the symbol of sin, and the apostle applies the type to the local assembly, calling upon it to cast out everything offensive to God and contrary to His holiness, thus observing a strict discipline (verse 13) and maintaining Gospel purity. The Corinthians had been sadly remiss in this, allowing both moral (verses 1-5) and doctrinal evil (15:12). The apostle enforced his exhortation for the local church to put matters right by a number of weighty considerations.

First, he reminded that "a little leaven leavens the whole lump" (verse 6) if evil is tolerated, it leads to more ungodliness. The presence of a worldling in their midst would corrupt the believers by his evil example.

Second, by their fidelity thus, they would be "a new lump" (verse 7) and not a heterogeneous mixture of regenerate and unregenerate souls.

Third, they were "unleavened" (verse 7) in Christ, in their standing before God, and they were obligated to make that good practically in their behavior.

Fourth, the sacrifice of Christ their Passover (verse 7) demanded this (see Titus 2:14).

Fifth, neither our "feast" of communion with God nor the Lord's supper can be observed with leavened bread (verse 8).

3. Old SINS. "But he who lacks these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins" (2 Peter 1:9). Those words occur in a passage of deep importance practically. Verses 5-7 contain an exhortation for the Christian to give all diligence to the cultivation of his graces, and verses 8 and 9 describe the results of a compliance or non-compliance therewith.

There is no remaining stationary in the spiritual life. If we do not advance, we backslide. The "these things" in verses 8 and 9 are the seven graces enumerated in 5-7. To "lack" them is not necessarily to be totally devoid of the same, but to be careless and remiss concerning them as not to use the grace already bestowed is, in the language of Scripture, not having it (Luke 8:18; Mat 25:29).

I only possess as much truth, as really possesses me which influences and regulates me. Regeneration imposes an obligation to cultivate our spiritual life to the utmost possible extent, to exercise the greatest diligence in striving after holiness and fruitfulness. If we fail to do so, then our growth will quickly be arrested. As yet, there may be nothing wrong in the outward life, but there is an inward torpor and non-enjoyment of God and the things of God, and sad will be the consequences.

"He who lacks these things is blind." Not absolutely so, as is the case with the unregenerate, but relatively, as is indicated in the clause immediately following. Clearness or dimness of spiritual vision, is inseparably connected with a holy or unholy life. As our Lord declared, "I am the light of the world: he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).

To follow Christ is . . .
to commit ourselves unreservedly unto His guidance, both in doctrine and in practice,
to be regulated by the example He has left us,
to yield to His authority, and
to be governed by His precepts.

By so doing, we have "the light of life" not only an illuminated path and perception of our duty but joy of soul. Or, keeping more closely to the language of the context, clearness or dimness of spiritual vision is determined by the extent to which we heed or ignore the exhortation of verses 5-7.

There is a mist over divine and eternal things when faith is not in exercise, and we become near-sighted. This is clear from the contrast presented between "cannot see afar off," and "These all died in faith, not having received the [fulfillment of the] promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them and embraced them" (Heb 11:13). Just as our Lord said of believing and obedient Abraham, he "rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it [thousands of years beforehand], and was glad" (John 8:56). He enjoyed "the light of life" (John 8:12).

"And has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." That statement clearly implies that the Lord's people ought not to forget such a favor, that there is a danger of their so doing, yes, that if a certain course is followed, such will be the outcome. If they yield to, instead of mortify, their lusts . . .
the understanding will be darkened,
the conscience will become calloused,
the affections will become cold.

The "forgotten" here, like the "blindness" of the first clause, is not to be understood absolutely, but relatively, for the divine forgiveness of sins is a blissful experience which is never totally erased from consciousness while memory is retained.

What then is signified? This There is a practical "forgetting." Neglect of the means of grace and carelessness of our conduct, are utterly incompatible with a heart realization of the awful costliness of that sacrifice by which alone sin can be purged. Hence, the closeness of the connection between the two things. If I turn again to folly (Psalm 85:8) and fashion my ways according to the former lusts (1 Peter 1:14) then I shall be blind, deficient in discernment, dim of vision, with no clear sight of Heaven and things to come, in the sense that they have any power to move and mold me. Likewise, Calvary and its pardoning mercy will no longer engage my thoughts. Such a one needs to repent, return to Christ, and beg Him to anoint his eyes with eye-salve that he may see clearly again (Rev 3:18).

But, alas, our lot is cast in a day when sin is regarded lightly, and even many professing Christians refer to their early lives with little or no apparent sense of shame and self-abhorrence. Yet this is scarcely to be wondered at, for there are preachers (styling themselves "Bible teachers") who tell the Lord's people that God remembers their sins and iniquities no more, and that they should not do so. But that by no means follows. Though God has forgiven me, I can never forgive myself for my past wickedness. Yes, if I grow in grace, I shall have a deeper realization of sin's enormity.

Sins are to be called to mind, for my humbling, my watchfulness against a repetition thereof, my gratitude for the amazing grace that cleansed one so foul. "You shall remember your ways, and be ashamed" (Ezekiel 36:31). So too the New Testament calls upon us to remember what we were "in time past" (Eph 2:11-12), that repentance may be deepened by a renewed sense of the same. If we do not, God is likely to allow the devil to terrify the conscience by reviving the burden of old sins.

"Remember not the sins of my youth," prayed David (Psalm 25:7), which was not only an acknowledgment of the same, but a suitable petition when the chastening rod of God be upon us. Poor Job was made to possess the iniquities of his youth (Job 13:26).

4. Old WINESKINS.

"No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined!" Luke 5:37

The container must be suited to the contents. The wineskins here alluded to were of skin-bladders and when new wine fermented in them, they would burst. It was an emblematic representation of the impossibility of a conjunction between the new covenant and the old one, which was ready to vanish away (Hebrews 8:13).

Christ had come to inaugurate a better economy than the Mosaic, and Judaism was quite unable to contain the blessings and privileges of Christianity. The untenability of such a fusion of them is shown in Galatians.

But our Lord's figure has also an individual application and illustrates the necessity of regeneration. The heart must be renewed before it is fitted to receive spiritual things. Grace cannot be acceptable to a self-righteous person nor will the humbling principles of the Gospel be acceptable to human pride. The pure milk of the Word (1 Peter 2:2) is repulsive to those who crave the things of this world. Love to Christ has no room in a heart filled with enmity to Him. Comfort is for those who mourn. Holiness is not suited to the carnal man, nor can spiritual duties be performed by those who are unspiritual.

5. Old THINGS. "Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Probably there is not a verse in the New Testament less understood than that, nor one which has occasioned the saints so much anguish, through their misapprehension of it. It is commonly applied to regeneration, but Christian experience uniformly refutes such a view, for it finds to its sorrow that those words describe neither all things without nor all things within them, the godliest having to lament, "When I would do good, evil is present with me!" (Romans 7:21). The believer discovers . . .
that evil thoughts and imaginations still beset him,
that old inclinations and temptations are still present,
that sinful lusts and desires constantly harass, and,
though he prays against and resists them, he still yields to old habits.

But 2 Corinthians 5:17 does not describe an inward change, but a dispensational one the old covenant giving way to the new, Judaism being displaced by Christianity. The "middle wall of partition" (Eph 2:14) between Jew and Gentile has passed away. So too have circumcision, the pascal feast, the Levitical priesthood, the seventh-day Sabbath. "All things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17), baptism, the Lord's supper, Christ's priesthood and the Lord's day taking their places.

6. Olden TIMES. "Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions. Ecclesiastes 7:10

In view of those plain words of Scripture, how many of our readers are guiltless? We wonder what percentage of them definitely realized there was such a prohibition in God's Word.

Anyone who has read extensively, knows that in every century and each generation, men have spoken of "the good old days," and referred to their own as "hard" or "evil" times.

In most instances, it is owing to ignorance of the past and a spirit of peevishness in the present. Human nature has been the same all through history.

In every age, the mercies of God have far outnumbered His judgments. It is an undervaluing of our blessings, and a proneness to murmur against divine providence which make us draw odious comparisons. Let us forget what lies behind and press forward to what lies ahead! Philippians 3:13

6. Old AGE. "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you!" Isaiah 46:4

Old age is something which is contemplated with dismay by the majority of human beings, for they realize it will put a end to indulging in all carnal pleasures.

But such should be far from the case with the believer, for each year that passes brings him that much nearer an entrance into his eternal Heavenly home.

Yes, but old age also means increasing infirmities, and perhaps total helplessness. By no means always so, for many retain their faculties to the end. Yet even so, God promised to sustain and carry us. Say with the Psalmist, "My flesh and my heart may fail; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:26

And remember 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal!"