CONFORMITY TO THE DEATH OF CHRIST
There are actually two verses that I want to look at in this meditation. Phil. 3:10 says, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” Then there is 2 Cor. 4:10: “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”
Practical holiness in the life of the believer is the life of Christ being manifest in the life of the believer. Ian Thomas said that the Christian life is simply the life that Jesus lived on earth being lived now by him in us (in the book The Saving Life of Christ). That is holiness. It actually comes out as fruit. It is not imitation. That is done in the energy of the flesh. What is fruit? It is the deposit of the sap. It is the final result of all the inner activities of the tree—the outcome of the hidden life, which, beginning with the root, passes through the stem into the branch, and finally manifests itself in the bud, blossom, and fruit. When the fruit is formed and ripened, the great purpose of the tree’s activity and growth is reached; the life has completed the cycle.
But how is this fruit manifested? It is through our conformity to his death so that his life might be manifest in us. What I mean by this is that we must die with him to our old life so that his life can be lived through us. He cannot and will not manifest his life through the Old Sin Nature. Therefore Paul speaks of “being made conformable to his death.” The words “being made conformable” (summorphoo) is the translation of one word. It means, “to be conformed to, to receive the same form as.” It is a present passive participle. The present tense means that Paul was speaking about a present tense experience. The passive voice means that the subject is acted upon. Paul was the subject. So he is not talking about a self inflicted death. His part is the desire and willingness, and faith in the process. But being conformed to his death while alive is the work of the cross.
Our second verse helps to bring this out. 2 Cor. 4:10 says, “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” The word “always” (pantote) means “at all times and under every condition.” The words “bearing about” (periphero) means “to carry round, to bear about everywhere with one.” It is a present active participle which means it is referring to the way a Christian is to live on this earth right now. The active voice means it is a choice. One of the problems I have is right here. A choice has to be made. It is difficult to “live” death to self. Now if I could just go out and die every once in a while, that wouldn’t be too bad. But we are talking about “always.” That doesn’t only effect you but everyone that has anything to do with you. You will find many times even your family will try to help you get off “that religious kick.” I have found that people don’t mind running around with a guy who claims his final destiny is heaven. Where the rub comes is when a guy wants to live under heaven’s rules and controls now. Too many heavenly controls will make you useless to the world around you.
The word “body” (soma) identifies the place where both death and life are to be manifested. We might call it the stage or playing field. The word “dying” (nekrosis) means “putting to death, killing.” This is not just speaking of preaching about the death of the Lord Jesus. It is speaking about identification with him in his death. His death with relation to sin becomes ours. This is brought out in Romans 6:6: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” The word “is crucified” is an aorist passive indicative verb. The aorist tense refers to a point of time in the past. When was Jesus crucified? When did he die? That is when this took place. Our old man is crucified now because that is the way God looks at it. We were there in Christ when he was crucified so that when he died we died. The passive voice means that this verse is not talking about a self-imposed crucifixion. It is something that has already taken place in the death of Jesus. What is true of him is true of us. So we are bearing about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus.
The word “life” (zoe) means “the absolute fullness of life.” The words “might be made manifest” (phaneroo) means “to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown.” The life of Christ will remain hidden in the life of the Christian who does not by faith identify with the death of Jesus. It is only through the application of the death to self that the life of Christ is manifest. The verb tense is an aorist passive subjunctive. The subjunctive mood mean that it is possible for the life of Christ to be made manifest. The passive voice means that the life of Christ will naturally manifest like the fruit of the tree. We do not have to do it. He will manifest himself through us but it is conditioned on our willingness to “reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin” (Rom. 6:11).
One of the most serious hindrances to the manifestation of this life is unbelief. It actually lies at the root of all the other hindrances. Christ has the power to overcome this hindrance. When Jesus entered his own home village of Nazareth, Matthew 13:58 says, “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” His power was infinite. The unbelief did not affect omnipotence. It did affect the manifestation of his power. Mark 6:5 says, “And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.”
How are we to rid ourselves of the hindrance of unbelief? We need the power to remove the hindrance and the power to produce the fruit. This twofold power is found in Christ. There is the power of his death and the power of his life. The condition of knowing the power of his resurrection lies in “being made conformable unto his death” (Phil. 3:10). The life of Christ which every believer possesses springs into manifestation out of death. The words of 2 Cor. 4:10 have real meaning here: “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” Death is here put before us as the condition of life. The continual manifestation of the life depends upon the constant conformity to the death. Death means separation (separation from the self life) and life means union (the abiding of the branch in the vine so that the natural process of fruit bearing takes place).
Hopkins said, “Our part consists in getting down into the death of Christ; His part is to live out His own life in us, just as the waters spring froth from the fountain.” There must be maintained a constant death to self. I know you have discovered it is not a once for all act. It must be maintained and applied by faith each day we live. Romans 8:13 “ For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” The miracle of our death with him and the manifestation of his life in us is carried out by faith. Unbelief is the major hindrance. We must choose to use our faith in this area of our lives. Gal. 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
May the Lord bless you.