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“Putting off the old man” involves that which it does, not that which it is. Believers cannot put of the old man itself, but do, “by the Spirit” put off its “deeds” and “conversations” (Col 3:9; Eph 4:22). This is possible because the old man, or sin nature, is restrained (but not removed) on the Cross (“is crucified” – Rom 6:6) due to our being “crucified with Christ.”
“Crucified With Christ”
The believer is now before the Father, not in the man who was under judgement (old man; sin nature—NC), but in the Man who has glorified Him in bearing the judgment, and consequently, there is not a cloud between his soul and the Father, because the man who caused the distance has been condemned in judgement.
Often a believer though tasting of peace with God, when he finds the working of sin in him tries to correct it as if he could alter himself (old self—NC), overlooking the great and stupendous fact that the Father Himself has removed the man (nullified the dominion of “the old man” – Rom 6:14—NC) in judgement in the death of His own Son. Thus if a believer is really at peace with God it is because his “old man has been crucified with Christ,” and altogether set aside in the judgement of the Cross. If he were clear as to the fact of our old man being crucified with Christ, instead of trying to correct himself (i.e. crucify old man by self—NC), he would look to the Lord Jesus to set him free from the intrusion of the flesh: “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
What becomes us now is to have the Lord Jesus before us, and not the correction of the old man (by self—NC). The snare of trying to improve oneself is very common, and it is important to see that, however well-meaning it may be, it is really denial that our old man has been crucified, and a revival (continued ignorance—NC) of that which has been set aside in the Cross. It is plain that if we are clear of the old man we have no man before us but the risen Lord Jesus Christ. “If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin”; and the more sensible you are of how ready the flesh is to intrude, the more you are cast upon Him.
It is inconceivable that one could have any just apprehension of God’s grace, and yet continue to expect anything from the flesh or in any way to deal with it (referring to the nature itself and not its works, which we are given to deal with in our walk, because we are crucified—NC). It shows how little the revelation of His grace is really accepted in its greatness; because if I know that God Himself has in the Cross removed from His sight the man (old man—NC) who offended, how gladly I should accept His grace!
What fruitless sorrow has one known for months and years in the attempt to improve oneself, until wearied out we cry, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death” (not the physical body but the “body of sin” with its “members” (Rom 6:6; Col 3:5)? Then we find there is only one relief, and that is found where we ought to have sought it at first: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Nothing can be more certain for the believer than that one man is judicially gone in judgement, and that the Lord Jesus alone remains. When I have put on Christ—the best robe—which is “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” Not only does the blessed Father see me on this ground, one from which He never can change or be diverted, but I now, by the Spirit of God see myself (new self or new nature—NC) on that ground and I can only say, not only our “old man is crucified,” but “I have been crucified”; and if I have been crucified, how can I refer to myself in any sense (concerning self-crucifixion, which is impossible—NC)?
If we observe the history of Christians, we see them trying to improve themselves—their tempers and their evil tendencies, plainly showing they do not truly believe (or misunderstand—NC) in the absolute and simple revelation that “our old man is crucified with Him.”
There is nothing of deeper importance at the commencement of our Christian life than that we should accept, with some apprehension of its greatness, that the man that was under judgment is removed from the eye of God in judgment. We have to ponder in order to realize the magnitude of it, and when we do believe it is the truth, another thing of equal importance is made known to us—that not only is the old man completely removed (concerning its guilt and rein—NC) from the eye of the God, but that by the Holy Spirit we are in Christ a new creation by the power of God. If we keep these two things together we have a great start; one man is gone in judgment and another has been brought in, and this is established to us by the renewing work of the Holy Spirit.
Thus we enter on our new history. Properly, we are not occupied with the flesh (sin nature—NC); though the flesh is still in us (Rom 7:17, 20) we “are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit” (Rom 8:9); and our attention is largely given to walking in the Spirit. We have now a new exercise, even to sow to the Spirit. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (the victory is in the absence of willing to sin - Heb 10:26—NC).
This shows us how intent our eye must be on the risen Lord Jesus; we have nothing to do with that man that has been judged, and the more we realize this the happier we are—judicially freed of the one and by the Spirit of God established in the Other. Everything we do now is done with reference to the Lord Jesus; and not only is “the body for the Lord” (1Co 6:13), but “he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” We are to act according to His pleasure in the very management of our bodies.
It is remarkable that Romans 12:1, 2 refers to the body; “Present your bodies a living sacrifice . . . be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” But in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “we all beholding the glory of the Lord—are transformed”; it is the same word (transformed) as in Romans 12:2, and is only used twice in Scripture in reference to us—once as to the physical body, and secondly as to what is imparted to us—what is received from Christ; we are “transformed according to the same image.”
This might be called the exercise of our daily life; our history here is not merely seeking to glorify Him in our bodies, but we should be growing in moral correspondence to Himself, and that by association with Himself; so that the two great truths we started with would be confirmed to us more and more every day—the old man gone from the eye of God and from our eye, and we are new creations established in the Lord Jesus Christ by the ministry of the Spirit of Christ.
- J B Stoney