"You are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." -Col. 3:3
It must be the desire of every child of God to stand complete in all the will of God. His aim is, not only that his justification may be complete in Christ, but that his sanctification may be ever tending towards perfectness. He desires not only that he might have an external righteousness to present him without spot to God, but also that the inward righteousness of the Holy Spirit might abound in him. If he places not before him the highest standard of holiness, his soul is in a sickly state. It was the end and aim of the apostle to build up a spiritual house; How high is the standard here placed before us! Christ enthroned at the right hand of God- there our affections are to center, and nothing lower than this. There are three points of consideration in this wondrous subject: the believer as DEAD; as POSSESSING LIFE; and as having that LIFE "HID WITH CHRIST IN GOD."
My dear reader, how can we close, our eyes to the solemn fact that spiritual death meets us at every turn? The world is one vast charnel house- a universal cemetery, well-near every dwelling represents a tomb, well-near every individual a corpse. This the Word of God most clearly affirms: "You has He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins." This is not a figure of speech, nor a flower of rhetoric, but it is the declaration of a solemn fact- the description of a real state. The natural world is in a state of spiritual death. Our Lord alludes to this- A disciple came to hint and said, "Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father." What does Jesus say? "Let the dead bury their dead." That is, let those who are unconverted, or spiritually dead, perform that which is in harmony with their own nature.
In John 6 our Lord refers to this truth, "Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, you have no life in you." Does the natural man eat the flesh of the Son of man? Does the world live on Christ? No, the natural mind hates that which is spiritual. It lives on the pleasures and pursuits of the world. It is a stranger to the blood and flesh of Christ, consequently there is no spiritual life in it. Oh, what an awful state is that of every unconverted man and woman who ponders this page! Those who live in pleasure are dead while they live. Sometimes your natural conscience seems alarmed, but the world comes in- your business, your family, your pleasures enter, and everything that did seem to have the semblance of life vanishes. You are dead to prayer, dead to faith, dead to love, dead to a life of holiness, and, your present death is but the prelude to that death that never, never dies.
But in a far different sense is the believer here spoken of as one DEAD. He is quickened that he may die. He dies that he may live. He is brought to life that he may know what death is. A man knows nothing of this spiritual death until he is brought to life. This is a unexplainable mystery to the carnal mind. See how the apostle states this truth: "For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me." The law, brought into his conscience by the power of the Holy Spirit, came with a slaying power.
To what did he die? To all the fond and wretched conceits of salvation by the law. In this sense the believer in Christ is dead. He dies to all his former hopes of acceptance with God by a righteousness of his own. It is a grand idea thrown out by the Holy Spirit, the believer's death with Christ. "I am crucified with Christ." Clear, then, is this truth, that the believer is mystically dead with Christ.
In what sense is the believer in Christ dead to sin? Is he dead to the indwelling of sin? Far from it, for the apostle speaks of "the sin that dwells in me." He is dead to the love of sin, to the reigning power of sin, to the condemnatory sentence of sin. Sin has no longer its former dominion over him. Though it dwells in him, he is so dead to it, that it no longer reigns over him with unsubdued and unbroken tyranny.
The believer is also dead to the world- "crucified unto the world." What a word is that! It ought to be ever before us! It is not necessary that the believer should go out of the world to be crucified to it. For a man to be in the world, filling up his station in life in which God's providence has placed, and God's grace finds him, yet to be crucified to it, to have his affections set on Christ, to be diligent in his lawful business, yet to have his treasure in heaven, and then to desire to have his affections soar and center, even in Him who is on the right hand of God- this it is to be crucified to the world.
But the believer is ALIVE. "Your life." It is spiritual life. It is a life from God: "You has He quickened." Who can quicken a poor, dead soul but God? O wretched doctrine, that makes man's will the turning-point of his divine life! God breathes it into the soul, and man becomes a spiritually living soul. The divine life is a new, spiritual, and deathless life. It is nothing less than the life of God. Guard this precious truth. If you do live, it is because God said, "Let there be life." This life, thus from God, is in and through Christ Jesus. He is set forth as having this life deposited in Him mediatorially for all His members. "For as the Father has life in Himself; so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself." Not for Himself, but for His people, (1 John iv. 9.)
No truth in God's Word shines out more clearly than this, that Christ is the life of the believer. We do not so much live by Christ, or through Christ, as that Christ lives in us "Christ in you the hope of glory." This life that comes from God, through Christ, is breathed into our souls by the blessed Spirit. "It is the Spirit that quickens." Mark this feature in the spiritual life of the believer. It is "YOUR life." It is their precious and priceless gift. It is theirs now. They have the germ in their hearts of that life that shall never die. Ask the carnal man, What is your life? "It is even a vapor which, appears for a little time, and then vanishes away." Oh, to think that your life is but a vapor soon gone!
But what is the believer's life? Poor, heartbroken sinner, hanging on Jesus your Life, moment by moment, your life springs from God himself; and because its source and its nature are divine, it shall survive the wreck of your frail humanity, and shall live on forever. It may be you are a poor, tried believer, hastening to the grave; but look at this spiritual life- it is as indestructible as God. You can say safely, "I have Christ dwelling in my heart, my portion and my all; and though my natural life is but a vapor which vanishes away, I have a life with Christ immortal as its Sire."
But we turn to the concealed character of this life. It is a HIDDEN life. The seat of this life is hidden. It is in the soul of man. It comes not with observation. It is invisible and intangible. It has its lodgment in the hidden, profound depths of the soul. Its existence and its workings are sealed from human eye. Is it any marvel, then, that his life is a concealed one? What does the Lord say of the hidden glory of the Church? "The King's daughter is all glorious within." Hers is not an external and visible glory. That mere external glory is left for those who call themselves followers of Christ, but who, in the doctrine and precepts and spirit of His gospel, deny Him.
But the true glory of the Church consists in nothing external. It is a hidden, concealed glory; therefore the world does not, and cannot, see it. What can the world see of union with Christ, of regeneration, adoption, love, joy, and peace? It does not know God, and is not competent, therefore, to know and judge of His saints. The apostle beautifully states this- "The world knows us not, because it knew Him not."
And how much, too, is the life of God hid from the believer himself. Its existence, its evidences, and its workings are often obscure; but yet blessed are they who know what it is to sit in judgment upon themselves. But, veiled to us, it often is clear and manifest to others. They see it in the lowly spirit, in the tender conscience, and in the growing hatred of sin. Believers are trees of righteousness; and the analogy here is striking. I go into my garden, I mark the growth of the tree; but I see not the secret of its growth- it is hidden. How like this are hidden all the vital actings and supports of this heavenly life.
This should caution us how we sit in judgment upon the Christianity of our fellow-saints. We do not know how that little spark is kept alive: the inward conflict, the struggling, the mourning over sin, how hidden! But who keeps it alive? Who nourishes that hidden root? Christ, by His hidden manna, feeds it; and faith, traveling daily to the fountain, and living on His inexhaustible fulness, is the secret of its support.
Mark its twofold security. It is "hid with Christ." Our Christ is a hidden Christ. The world sees Him not, but the believer by faith sees Him. "Whom, having not seen, we love." Christ is not hidden from the child of God. Seeing Him, He is admired and adored, He is loved and followed. It is bound up in the very existence of Christ himself. He is the Head, we are the body; and are thus essentially and inseparably one. As the Head lives, so lives the body. Christ Himself says- "Because I live, you shall live also." Thus most truly is this life "hidden with Christ in God." "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish. My Father, who gave them me, is greater than all." I and my Father are one."
The subject thus briefly unfolded suggests some important reflections. In the first place, it brings us to the touchstone of truth. You are my reader, either dead or alive. Which is your state? What do you know of this hidden life? Test your real condition by this truth. For eternity decide it. It is of little moment what 'man' thinks of you. Are you alive, or are you dead? What are your pursuits? They shall testify. Can you say, "For me to live is Christ." Mistake not the evidence of this life. The tendency of this life is upward, heavenward. Is it thus with your affections, thoughts, and hopes?
This life, too, will find its level. What is its level? Nothing short of God himself. It comes from God, it rises to God. Can you say- "God, the Searcher of hearts, knows that the aim and tendency and desire of my soul is to Himself?" What a quiet yet solemn reproof is the nature of this life to the religious worldling! You are professedly dead. How then can you mix up with that to which you profess to be crucified by Christ? How can you be worldly, loving the world, and imitating the world, while partaking of a life that is essentially and forever heavenly?
Do not forget the great truth, that, though dead, yet you live. You are justified in expecting great and especial quickenings of this life in all seasons of trial. This was David's prayer: "I am afflicted very much; quicken me according to Your word." He did not make his affliction an excuse for his slothfulness or spiritual deadness. Affliction ought to be no lullaby to your soul. Our prayer in trial ought to be, "Now, Lord, quicken me. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me."
Seasons of sanctified trial are seasons of revival. See, then, tried believer, see that your afflictions and troubles are seasons in which the life of God receives a new impulse in your soul. Let your desire be that your soul may be quickened afresh. Be it your desire- "I want to know more of the power of this life in my soul. I desire to walk closer with You, my Lord- nearer to You, my Savior."
I close with this remark- You can not give a stronger evidence that you are a partaker of this spiritual, hidden life, than that, in all God's dealings with you, the great importunate desire and prayer of your soul is, "Quicken me." This is the upward tendency of the life of God in your soul. Thus it mounts higher and higher, until it loses itself in God. And God becomes its perfect joy, and eternity its endless duration. "The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."