THE ABOVE text reveals the main motive that has driven consecrated Christians for nearly 2,000 years to deny self and to lay down life itself for Christ. Let us consider each part in detail:
(1.) “For the love of Christ constraineth us.” According to the September 30th Daily Manna comments, paragraph 2, the phrase, “love of Christ,” may be understood in three senses: (a.) the love that our Lord Jesus has in his heart, (b.) the love that we have in our hearts for Him, and (c.) the love that we have in our hearts like that which He has in His heart. The latter two meanings apply in this verse. The third meaning defines unselfish love in its broadest sense – it is the mark of perfect love, the standard which we are seeking to attain.
In the phrase, “constraineth us,” the word constrain carries a double meaning: (1) of drawing together, and (2) of holding together. The Apostle Paul had just been recounting his Christian activities, and he mentioned that some thought that his course was an indication that he had an unbalanced mind. But he explained that such was not the case. On the contrary, that he had a sounder mind than he had ever had. He felt himself bound to Christ, constrained by his love of Christ – to love Him and all who were His with a pure heart. The Apostle was in essence saying, “I am so closely drawn to Christ that I have the same sympathetic love for others that He had. As He had laid down His life for the brethren, so would I.”
All consecrated Christians are bound by the cords of love. The Lord never compels the acceptance of His favors, but He constrains those who love righteousness and truth by His love, grace, and promises. That is what produces consecration and the faithful carrying out of one’s consecration. God provides a favorable course for those who are feeling after Him and seeking to live a life in harmony with His will. The class that God is now seeking needs no stripes or punishments to constrain their obedience, for they are constrained by love. The love of Christ still draws and holds some, even against all the subtle and deceptive influences of this “evil day.” And the power which constrains is the Truth as contained in God’s Word, which reveals His glorious character and marvelous Plan. The more clearly one can discern the Truth, the more it can influence us. Many have been constrained by the fear of eternal torment, an erroneous doctrine manufactured in the dark ages, but God never uses fear to constrain.
Christ Died for All, for All were Dead
We ask: Why should this love constrain? The Apostle reasons:
(2.) “Because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.” The phrase, “if one died for all,” refers to the ransom (1 Timothy 2: 6). This passage teaches that the ransom covers not just a few, not just some, but all. We read in Hebrews 2: 9: “He [Christ] by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” God’s grace provided the ransom, and Jesus gladly laid down His life as the ransom for Father Adam. But by dying for Adam, all of Adam’s posterity are included in Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus is not merely the Savior of the Church, but also the Savior of the world. The “wise of this world” deny the value of Christ’s precious blood, but for those whose eyes have been opened “it is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1: 16). The Christian’s message is: The cross of Christ is the basis of reconciliation between God and man, and that includes both the Church and the world.
The phrase, “then were all dead,” means that the entire world is legally dead. All are under the just sentence of death. From God’s standpoint the world has already lost life, they are in a dying condition, they are more dead than alive, they are dead in trespasses and sins. Adam and Eve lived life in the perfect measure before sin entered. But the law of God demanded as a just penalty the life of the transgressor, therefore all of Adam’s posterity are heirs of death. Their lives having been forfeited by Adam’s disobedience, all are either dead and buried or are under the sure sentence of death. Man’s condition is Scripturally called death even before he enters the tomb. He is counted dead even before the death sentence is fully executed.
Living not for Oneself
(3.) “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves.” The phrase, “And that he died for all,” shows the Apostle’s continued emphasis on Christ’s ransom sacrifice for all. The phrase, “that they which live,” refers to the spirit-begotten of the Gospel Age. Such were justified to life through faith in Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice, through faith in His blood, and they went on to consecration. Though they were not actually perfect, they were reckoned by God as being alive in Christ. Those of us who are consecrated at the present time, though not spirit-begotten and therefore not yet justified to life, nevertheless enjoy the privilege of tentative justification and all its benefits. And the fact that we have consecrated has put a seal upon our tentative justification.
The phrase, “should not henceforth live unto themselves,” exhorts that if any man will be Christ’s disciple, let him renounce his own self-will, live contrary to his own preferences, and do according to the divine will instead of his own will. Those who possess the proper heart condition respond to God’s grace by desiring to please Him. Such will desire to know, to do, and to love His will. God’s power operates in the consecrated, leading them to works of obedience, self-denial, and self-sacrifice. The Lord is not displeased with those who seek to avoid sin and who recognize the merit of Christ, but it would be better for such to consider consecration which is merely a “reasonable service.”
But Living for Christ
(4.) “But unto him which died for them, and rose again.” The phrase, “But unto him which died for them,” presents the active side of consecration. This consists of the study, spread, and practice of God’s Word, as well as watchfulness and prayer. We live for Christ in both the small and the great things of life – our greatest work being the work within, the development of Christlikeness in our hearts, manifesting itself in our words and deeds. We owe to God and Christ a debt far greater than we could ever pay. The most we can do is to give Them our little all, to show to Them our gratitude. A few passages to the point include:
1 Corinthians 6: 20: “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
James 4: 8: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”
Philippians 4: 7: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
The last phrase, “and rose again,” emphasizes the fact that Christ’s resurrection is as important as His death. We do not have a dead, but a living Savior.
God’s Future Work of Grace for the World
God’s future work of grace for the world will be: (1) To make known to all mankind the gracious character of God and His provision for the salvation of all, and (2) to transform all who are willing from the depravity of sin to perfection of character – images of God, as was father Adam before his disobedience. This transformation of their wills accompanied by a gradual physical transformation will remove from them all the blemishes of sin and all hereditary inclinations thereto. They will have attained the likeness of God, having learned of the undesirability of sin and its evil consequences.
As for those of us who are consecrated at the present time, may we allow the love of Christ to constrain us until we finish our course. If so, we will be given a portion of that glorious ministry toward the world of mankind in the next Age. The Ancient and Youthful Worthies, partakers of the “better resurrection” and made “princes in all the earth,” will be Christ’s earthly representatives. But they will need assistants, and their main special helpers will be the faithful Consecrated Epiphany Campers, the class who are now being developed.