10. Paul - Chief Exponent of Being Crucified with Christ as to the Natural man
Updated: Dec 26, 2021
Chapter 10: Paul--The Chief Exponent of Being
Crucified with Christ - as to the Natural man
Though the Apostle Paul never knew Christ "after the flesh," he seems to have had a
deeper insight into the mysteries of Christ than the other Apostles. He was the dominant force in the shaping of the character and life of the Church. After the Master, he is the outstanding personality of the New Testament, making the greatest contribution to the literature and the growth of the Church. Yet, he knew not Christ "after the flesh" as did the other Apostles; he had never come under the sway of the Savior’s mortal teachings and ministry.
The Apostles could give him no light. The contrary was the case. He, Paul, understood better. He had the (greater spiritual) light. He knew Christ (the Christ of God) better. His insight into such questions as the relation of the Gentiles to the Church, the relation of Christianity to Judaism, the mystery of the In-dwelling Eternal Christ, the doctrine of the mystery Of Christ, the “body of Christ”, the universality of Christianity – not being a religion, but rather a basic truth of our existence IN Christ -- his insight into the mysteries of God was deeper. His judgment was sounder. (Joseph Smith, who holds the keys of the last dispensation, said that Paul Perfectly understood the purposes of God whereby He (God) sent forth power, revelations, and Glory. Joseph also said that Abel was sent forth as an angel of God to Paul to minister consoling works, and to commit to Paul a knowledge of the Mysteries of Godliness. And Paul was acquainted with Enoch and received instructions from Enoch and had received a Crown of Righteousness from God TPJS pg 168-171) The three years in the Arabian desert at the feet of the glorified eternal Christ had done infinitely more for this once proud Pharisee, than the three years with the Man -- Jesus -- had done for the fishermen Apostles. Paul was always ahead of them -- as a missionary, as a theologian, as a preacher, as an organizer, as a saint. After our Lord, it is to Paul that the Church owes the greatest debt.
Now, how do we account for this? Paul, who had never known Jesus after the flesh, knew Him better after the Spirit. He, as none other, was hid with Christ in God. He had been caught up to the third Heaven where he heard things unspeakable, unlawful to utter. He it was who prayed for his Ephesian brethren, that the Lord would grant to strengthen them with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith; that they, rooted and grounded in love, might be able to comprehend with all saints what is the length and breadth and depth and height, and to know the Love of Christ which surpasseth all knowledge, and that they might be filled with all the Fullness of God. (Eph. 3:16-19).
Now what was the (mystery) upon which Paul was focused? Was it justification by faith in Christ? Many would say that it was. However, a study of Paul’s Epistles brings one to the conviction that the great Apostle’s glorying was not simply in the fact that Christ had died for him. With that, there was always associated another aspect of the Cross, namely: The fact that he (Saul) had died IN Christ!
"God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14). "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me" (Gal. 2:20). (If we LDS people only understood what it means that Christ liveth IN Us, then we would we really would be converted to Christ and able to take Him to dwell in all those who are “IN” the world.)
"Our old man is crucified with Him (Christ) that the body of sin might be destroyed" (Rom. 6:6). "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Rom. 6:1-2).
"For ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3).
This seems to be the sublime lesson which the Savior there in the Arabian desert where Paul listened in rapt wonderment, burned into the fiber of his being. It was the deep meaning of Calvary which the Master unfolded to the now broken-hearted Pharisee, who became a contrite Spirit through total conversion to Christ -- to him who was to become the greatest of the witnesses of Christ. The veil was drawn aside and Paul saw into the hidden mystery of the Cross. He saw himself there with Jesus -- in the greatest purpose of God potentially crucified. For Paul, the Christian life was never to be a mere imitation, but a glorious participation in the Savior’s death and resurrection. For him, the believer was a member of Christ’s body -- bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh. For him, to live was Christ. (He knew then that Christ truly is eternally our “Life” and “Light”. Without Christ we do not exist. – See D&C 88:50) He would not have some of self and some of Christ, or even a little of self and much of Christ. He simply would have none of self, and all of Christ. He saw that God had laid not only sins upon the Son, but also the Sinner, and that in Him he (Saul, the old natural man of sin) had actually died. He never wavered. He committed the "self-life" to death and stood forth before the world free IN Christ, (a whole new complete creation IN Christ)!
So utterly does this great Apostle identify himself with Christ, realizing as he does that this identification of all believers in Christ the Lord, was something which in the mind of God had been conceived as man’s way out of sin and the thralldom of the corrupted "flesh-life," and which springs, as it were, from the very nature of redemption (Christ identifying Himself with man, taking the form of a man in the Incarnation and suffering for man upon the Cross that man might identify himself with the One who had died for him and in Him die to sin) -- so utterly does the Apostle identify himself with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that he sees in his own sufferings as a follower of Christ what we may call a continuation of Calvary. Paul speaks of it as a filling up that which was lacking of the afflictions of Christ. In a word, the Apostle interprets his own suffering in the light of the Cross.
We see this in the second Corinthian letter where he dwells upon the persecutions and trials which he bore. "We are troubled on every side," he says, "perplexed ... persecuted ... cast down." Then follows the amazing utterance which gives us the key for the interpretation of the deepest secret of Paul’s innermost soul: "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus ..." (II Cor. 4:8-10). It is Christ suffering, it is Christ receiving fresh wounds, it is Christ being crucified afresh in, and through, his servant. It is Calvary being reenacted. Not that Paul looked upon his sufferings as in any sense a sharing of Christ’s sufferings in His capacity as Sin-Bearer when He bore the sin of the world, or as a completing of the great work of expiation. (That was consummated for all in Gethsemane and upon Calvary. In this sublime giving of Himself as a ransom for all, the sinner had nothing to do. But God, by the taking upon Him all our sins, is but a small portion of His glorious Infinite Continuous At-One-ment. The real reason for His suffering for our sins, was so that we might be made clean, healed, pure, without spot, without blame, without our natural man ego, reconciled as a bride gone astray, who had played the harlot, but now redeemed – so that we are brought back into completed ONE with Him and with our Father, as John so clearly pointed out that Christ had taught in John 15 and Christ himself pleaded with the Father in Gethsemane that “they might be One, as Thou Father art in me, and I in Thee, that they may be ONE in Us.” John 17)
What I wish to emphasize is the fact that for Paul, identification with Christ is something so real that he sees in the Cross not only the death of the Savior, but also the potential death of all those who constitute His body; something so complete that he (Paul) sees in his own sufferings as a Christian, and in the afflictions of all Christians, a constant dying of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
But we must not think of this death to which Paul says we are always delivered for Jesus’ sake (II Cor. 4:11) as something purely negative. Out of it, Paul asserts, springs life -- eternal life!" Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the Life that Christ is, might be made manifest in our body ... So then death worketh in us but Life (Christ) in you" (II Cor. 4:10-12). It is when we die in Christ to the "old life" that the barriers are all removed and the living streams break forth from our innermost beings, bearing Life -- the Life of God, that Christ is -- to others.
Before we leave this phase of our participation let us briefly summarize its implications, as Paul saw them. First, in Christ we are dead to sin (Rom. 6:11). Self is not overcome simply by struggling against it. If it was something which always met us from without, that might not be so difficult. But our very being is soaked with (natural man self). A drop of ink in a glass of water will taint the entire glass. Self is such an insidious thing. Our very thinking is poisoned with the leprosy of self-love. Our spirit is so twisted, torn, because of self, out of its right center, God, and rooted in the natural man flesh -- the old life is so foul in the sight of God -- that no patchwork, no mere polishing up, no amount of varnish will do. Jesus pleads (that we choose to lay down the old man of sin/Self and) be born again. In Christ we are taken into the tomb to be undone. In the symbolism of Baptism we are laid down in the grave of the death of the natural man, then brought forth a “Whole” new man IN Christ.
Christ cannot be to us Eternal Life, without being to us the death of self. "I came not to bring peace but a sword." Now the knife must cut if we would be free. There is no other way out of natural man selfhood.
Second, in Christ we are dead to the world. That does not mean, of course, that some medieval cloister, or a desert retreat, or the cell of a monastery, or a physical suicidal death, would be more conducive to Christian living. No human ever stood nearer the heart of this world’s affairs than Christ: whether in the market-place, in the temple, in the home, with the poor, the maimed, the halt, or with those who rejoiced at a bridal feast, He was ever in the stream of life where the current was swiftest and deepest. No indeed, He was not an ascetic. Yet He could say: "I am not of the world." "They (new creatures IN Christ) are not of the world even as I am not of the world."
The world has taken on plenty of gloss since Christ’s day, but the friendship of the world is still enmity with God -- for the simple reason that the Spirit of the world with its shams and its lies, its greed, and its lust, springs from the monster "self." The Enemy to God, working in our natural man pride and self-seeking, is still the god of this world. Should we be on intimate terms with this world which crucified Christ, our God? It is unthinkable. The spirit that crucified Christ is still rampant in the world. Nothing more logical, nothing more inevitable, nothing more practicable than that the Christian should be cut off from the world. Until this world changes its attitude toward Christ, enthroning Him in its very institutions and lives, we, as (the bride of Christ, find ourselves driven to stand out against our own selfishness and greed, and stand responsible for the choices we have made, and the relationships we have damaged through our Self-ish-ness). “We are dead to the world in Christ” (Gal. 6:14).
In the third place, in Christ we die to the party-spirit. Paul, speaking in his Ephesian letter of the middle wall between Jews and Gentiles, says, that Christ broke down this wall by His Cross, making of "twain (two) one new man." Oh! that the Church might catch this vision; that she might see herself crucified with Christ. How the walls would break down. The wall for example, of Sectarianism. "In Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew." Any intense holding of sectarian attitudes is positively ungodly. All division is of the "flesh." Our natural man raises walls between spirit and spirit, group and group, sect and sect, nation and nation -- Christ breaks them down. To be One with Christ, one dare not adopt any exaggerated views of nationalism. One must die to jingoism. We are IN Christ, branches of the entire VINE of Christ with vast implications of our personal thoughts and actions to the entire race of God’s children.
Only the Cross of Christ can do away with the separation and contention that exists in sectarianism, and nationalism. Not that a good follower of Christ does not recognize his duties to his country. He does. Indeed, only a believer in Christ, who is The Spirit of Liberty, can be a true patriot, and the truer the follower to Christ, the truer is he a patriot, a lover of liberty in Christ for ALL. But over and above nationalism and sectarianism stands Christ, and as members of His body, we are irrevocably committed to the glorious program of world redemption in Christ, that God that created us and holds us all to His bosom.
We have died in Christ to every divisive spirit. Striving and contention and arguing, and fighting and war only occurs in the natural man state. We cannot receive Christ into our bosoms without embracing humanity, for Christ identifies Himself with every living soul as Creator and Father and as a mother hen who would gather ALL her chicks under her wings (Matt. 25:31-46). We cannot have Christ if we will not have His Cross -- and on that Cross was slain all racial enmity and slavery -- in fact all that interferes with the perfect harmonization of the life of the world for the working out of the highest interests of humanity.
"Christ ... is our peace who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity ... for to make in Himself of twain (Natural man of sin and Eternal Spirit) one new man, that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby" (Eph. 2:13-16).
Finally, in Christ we have died to the law: "my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by (as) the body of Christ" (Rom. 7:4). Christ has lifted us not only out of the "flesh- life" and cut us off from the world by His death in which we participate, but has taken us clear out of the realm of law. We are not under the law, we are not governed by inanimate laws, but we are under grace -- it is the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus which governs us. In a sense, it is "the perfect law of liberty" IN Christ, of which James speaks in his Epistle. The carnal laws of Moses were given as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. That letter of the law killeth. The Spirit of God liberates and gives Life. (2 Cor 3:6) The temporal law binds and cuts us off from Christ and the spiritual law causes us to perish from that which is “good” (Love of God), and make us miserable FOREVER! (2 Nephi 2:4) The Spirit of Christ is the power to be IN Christ, the law is dead legalism and can NEVER save anyone. The law is given to shut our big mouths and make us all guilty (of judging one another, instead of leading one another to salvation in Christ- Romans 3). The law is given to humble us and cut us off from God, and break our hearts. The Spirit is an expression of the new nature, the laws of men is an attempt to check and control the old.
How good it is to be free -- free from the dominion of the "flesh-life," free from the tyranny of the world, free from the hideous monster which we call "self." Free from the legalism of a dead law which as Paul says worketh wrath. Free from the bondage of fear and anxiety and worry. How good to have a liberated spirit surcharged with the Life of God. It is by our participation as bride in the Cross of Christ that thus He can liberate us from our devil self. Only as we stand with Christ in His death, and appropriate by faith the liberating power of Calvary (i.e. know that with Christ we have died as to our natural man of sin) can we hope to experience the true freedom for which our spirits yearn.