Chapter OneThe Saving Life of Christ
There is something which makes Christianity more than a
religion, more than an ethic, and more than the idle dream
of the sentimental idealist. It is this something that makes it
relevant to each one of us right now as a contemporary
experience. It is the fact that Christ Himself is the very life
content of the Christian faith. It is He who makes it "tick."
"Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it" (1 Thess.
5:24). The One who calls you is the One who does that to
which He calls you. "For it is God which worketh in you
both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). He
is Himself the very dynamic of all His demands.
Christ did not die simply that you might be saved from
a bad conscience or even to remove the stain of past failure,
but to "clear the decks" for divine action. You have been told
that Christ died to save you. This is gloriously true in a very
limited, though vital sense. In Romans 5:10 we read, "If,
when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the
death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be
saved by his life." The Lord Jesus Christ therefore ministers
to you in two distinct ways-He reconciles you to God by His
death, and He saves you by His life.
I would like to examine with you what this implies. The
very first word of the gospel is a word of reconciliation, so that
"we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech
you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to
God" (2 Cor. 5:20). This is a call to the sinner to be at peace
with God Himself. How is this possible? Only by virtue of the
fact that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto
himself" (2 Cor. 5:19a).
God in righteousness has no option but to find you
guilty as a sinner-by nature dead in trespasses and sins-and
to pass upon you the sentence of death, the forfeiture of
His Holy Spirit, and alienation from the life of God. But more
than nineteen hundred years ago, God in Christ stepped out
of eternity into time, and there are extended to you today
the nail-pierced hands of One who suffered, "the just for the
unjust," to bring you back to God (1 Peter 3:18a). He bore
"our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24a).
This is what makes the gospel at once so urgent! Mental
assent is not enough-a moral choice is imperative! Christ is
God's last word to man and God's last word to you, and He
demands an answer.
Your response to Jesus Christ will determine your condition
in the sight of God-redeemed or condemned!
This, however, is but the beginning of the story, "for if,
when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the
death of his Son, much more, being reconciled [now an accomplished
fact] we shall be saved [as a continuing process] . by
his life" (Rom. 5:10). The glorious fact of the matter is this-no
sooner has God reconciled to Himself the man who has
responded to His call, than He reimparts to him, as a forgiven
sinner, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and this restoration
to him of the Holy Spirit constitutes what the Bible calls
regeneration, or new birth. Titus 3:5-6: "Not by works of
righteousness which we have done, but according to his
mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the
renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly
through Jesus Christ our Saviour."
On the third morning after His crucifixion, the Lord
Jesus Christ rose from the dead and appeared to His disciples.
He instructed them for some forty days and then ascended to
the Father. On the first day of Pentecost He returned, not this
time to be with them externally-clothed with that sinless
humanity that God had prepared for Him, being conceived of
the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary-but now to be in them
imparting to them His own divine nature, clothing Himself
with their humanity, so that they each became "members in
particular" of a new, corporate body through which Christ
expressed Himself to the world of their day. He spoke with
their lips. He worked with their hands. This was the miracle
of new birth, and this remains the very heart of the gospel!
"Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." The
One who calls you to a life of righteousness is the One who
by your consent lives that life of righteousness through you!
The One who calls you to minister to the needs of humanity
is the One who by your consent ministers to the needs of
humanity through you! The One who calls you to go into all
the world and preach the gospel to every creature, is the One
who by your consent, goes into all the world and preaches
the gospel to every creature through you!
This is the divine genius that saves a man from the
futility of self-effort. It relieves the Christian of the burden of
trying to pull himself up by his own bootstraps! If it were not
for this divine provision, the call to Christ would be a source
of utter frustration, presenting the sorry spectacle of a sincere
idealist, constantly thwarted by his own inadequacy.
If you will but trust Christ, not only for the death He
died in order to redeem you, but also for the life that He lives
and waits to live through you, the very next step you take
will be a step taken in the very energy and power of God
Himself. You will have begun to live a life which is essentially
supernatural, yet still clothed with the common humanity of
your physical body, and still worked out in the things that
inevitably make up the lot of a man who, though his heart
may be with Christ in heaven, still has his two feet firmly
planted on the earth.
You will have become totally dependent upon the life of
Christ within you, and never before will you have been soindependent, so emancipated from the pressure of your circumstances,
so released at last from that self-distrust which has
made you at one moment an arrogant, loud-mouthed braggart,
and the next moment the victim of your own self-pity-and,
either way, always in bondage to the fear of other men's
You will be free from the tyranny of a defeated enemy
within. You will be more than conqueror, for even death
itself is conquered by His life. Christ through death destroyed
"him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb.
2:14b). This indeed is victory!
You will be restored to your true humanity-to be the
human vehicle of the divine life. Your faith will open the windows
of heaven, for God will move in to do the impossible-and
this is the speciality of creative deity. Your friends will be
baffled, for in reality you will have become a new creature-old
things will have passed away, all things will have become
new (2 Cor. 5:17). Through peace with God you will have
found the peace of God, which "passeth all understanding."
Now if it is true that the Lord Jesus Christ will live His
life through you on earth today, as He lived His life once in
His own body on earth more than nineteen hundred years
ago, it is both interesting and necessary to discover how He
lived then so that you may know how He will live through
you now. Let us look at Scriptures that show us how He lived.
In John 6:56 it says, "He that eateth my flesh, and
drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." From the
context of this passage, we understand that the Lord Jesus
Christ here uses the expression "to eat and to drink" as
representing "to come and to believe," so that those that
come to Him and believe on Him enter into a unique
relationship with Him-they dwell in Him and He dwells in
Verse 57 continues, "As the living Father hath sent me,
and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall
live by me." As He lived by the Father, so you are to live by
Him. How then did Jesus Christ live by the Father? Once you
know the answer to this question, you will know thereafter
how you are to live by Him, and at first the answer is
In John 5:19, Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you,
The Son can do nothing of himself" (emphasis added). "Then
said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of
man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing
of myself" (John 8:28a, emphasis added). Here we see Jesus
Christ as man, living in total, unquestioning dependence
upon the Father. Thus He fulfilled His true vocation as man,
for He came in His sinless humanity to be what man through
sin had ceased to be-the willing vehicle of the Divine
Presence, allowing the Father to express Himself in action
through His humanity.
Although Jesus Christ was Himself the Creative Deity,
by whom all things were made, as man He humbled
Himself-set aside His divine prerogatives and walked this
earth as man-a perfect demonstration of what God intended
man to be-the whole personality yielded to and occupied
by God for Himself.
So the Lord Jesus prayed in John 17 verse 19-"For
their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified
[set wholly apart] through the truth." That is to say, as He
lived in unbroken dependence upon the Father, taking no
step except in recognition of the fact that apart from the
Father, He could do nothing, so He calls upon you to live in
the same total dependence upon Him-taking no step except
in recognition of the fact that apart from Him, Christ, you can
"I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in
me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: forwithout me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5, emphasis added).
In other words, you can do no more without Him than He
could do without the Father. But how much could the Father
do through the Son? Everything! For He was available to all
that the Father made available to Him. "Jesus, knowing that
the Father had given all things into his hands" (John 13:3a).
"It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell"
How much then can Jesus Christ do through you and
through me? Everything! He is limited only by the measure
of our availability to all that He makes available to us, for "in
him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye
are complete in him" (Col. 2:9-10a). What then is the faith
that releases divine action? How may you be saved by His
life, as you have already claimed to be redeemed by His
death? This is the critical question of Christian experience,
and the answer is simple-"The just shall live by faith" (Rom.
Faith in all its sheer simplicity! Faith that takes God
precisely at His Word! Faith that simply says, "Thank You."
If you are to know the fullness of life in Christ, you are
to appropriate the efficacy of what He is as you have already
appropriated the efficacy of what He has done. Relate everything,
moment by moment as it arises, to the adequacy ofwhat He is in you, and assume that His adequacy will be
operative; and on this basis in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 you are
exhorted to "rejoice evermore!" You are to be incorrigibly
cheerful, for you have solid grounds upon which to rejoice!
Again, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17), and here
the word "pray" does not mean to beg or to plead as if God
were unwilling to give-but simply to expose by faith every
situation as it arises, to the all-sufficiency of the One who
indwells you by His life. Can any situation possibly arise, in any
circumstances, for which He is not adequate? Any pressure,
promise, problem, responsibility, or temptation for which the
Lord Jesus Himself is not adequate? If He be truly God, there
cannot be a single one! "And [He is] declared to be the Son of
God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the
resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4)-and of this, His resurrection
life, we are made partakers!
This being so, applying His adequacy by faith to every
situation as it arises, will leave you with no alternative but to
obey the injunction of 1 Thessalonians 5:18-"In everything
give thanks!" In how many things? In everything-without
exception, "for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning
If there is any situation from which you are not
prepared to step back, in recognition of the total adequacy of
Christ who is in you, then you are out of the will of God. You
are asserting by your action and by your attitude that He has
nothing to give you for that situation, which you do not have
in yourself. This is the very negation of dependence, and you
disobey the injunction of verse 19-"Quench not the Spirit,"
for the office of the Holy Spirit is to make known to you, and
to make experiential to you, all that Christ is in you.
This, of course, is what it means to be filled with the Holy
Spirit-to allow the Holy Spirit to occupy the whole of your
personality with the adequacy of Christ. This is the sublime
secret of drawing upon the unlimited resources of Deity.
"Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual
songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. 5:19-20).
How stupid it would be to buy a car with a powerful
engine under the hood and then to spend the rest of your
days pushing it! Thwarted and exhausted, you would wish to
discard it as a useless thing! Yet to some of you who are Christians,
this may be God's word to your heart. When God
redeemed you through the precious blood of His dear Son, He
placed, in the language of my illustration, a powerful engine
under the hood-nothing less than the resurrection life of
God the Son, made over to you in the person of God the Holy
Spirit. Then stop pushing! Step in and switch on and expose
every hill of circumstance, of opportunity, of temptation, of
perplexity-no matter how threatening-to the divine
energy that is available.
With what magnificent confidence you may step out
into the future when once you have consented to die to your
own self-effort and to make yourself available as a redeemed
sinner to all that God has made available to you in His risen
To be in Christ-that is redemption; but for Christ to bein you-that is sanctification! To be in Christ-that makes you
fit for heaven; but for Christ to be in you-that makes you fit
for earth! To be in Christ-that changes yours destination; but
for Christ to be in you-that changes your destiny! The one
makes heaven your home-the other makes this world His
I may wish to return to my home in England, and I
stand in New York, but ever since I was born, I have been
bound to this earth by a law that I have never been able to
break-the law of gravity.