Dying for Us; Living for Him

Dr. Brian Allison

This past week, thirty-nine members of the Higher Source, or the Heaven's Gate, cult committed suicide. Apparently, they were intelligent people. The reason why these thirty-nine people committed suicide was that they strongly believed something. They believed that following in the comet Hail Bop's tail was a UFO; and that they could rendezvous with this UFO, resulting in an elevation to a higher spiritual life. The strength of their belief caused them to commit suicide as the supposed means of reaching this UFO. Of course, self-destructive behaviour is either deviant, diseased, or demonic. But the point is this: they believed so deeply in this higher life that they were willing to give up everything they had, namely, their lives, in order to secure it.

Do you believe deeply enough in a worthy (not deceptive) cause in order to sacrifice everything? As a Christian, how deeply do you believe in the teachings of Christ and His apostles? The strength of belief is measured by the commitment and abandonment to action. Today is Easter; and we gather together as an assembly to commemorate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. We, as Christians, believe that Christ rose again from the dead. We are convinced of that. So what? What does it really mean for you that Christ rose from the dead? You believe that; so what? What is the practical consequence and the personal impact that this belief makes on you? I suggest that the practical consequence and personal impact, at the very least, should be this: if He gave His life for you, and you live by His resurrected life, then you should give your life for Him.

We read the personal testimony of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:14,15, "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." In this second epistle to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul defends his apostleship. He endeavours to convince these believers that he is a true representative of the Lord Jesus, in response to false teachers who were slandering him and undermining his reputation. This epistle is the most autobiographical one of the apostle in the whole of the New Testament. Herein, the apostle presents doctrine, interwoven with the recesses of his heart and the depths of his spirituality.

The primary motivation for ministry

The apostle Paul affirms, "For the love of Christ controls me" (5:14a). Here the apostle discloses his motivation for ministry. He asserts that the love of Christ impelled him into action, serving as his life principle. It constrained or drove him to do what he did. Notice, the emphasis is not on Paul's love for Christ (though that can be motivational). But rather, as the apostle contemplated the wonder and glory of Christ and His saving work, he was captivated with the truth that this Christ has loved him; and as he reflected on the fact of Christ's love for him, he was profoundly affected by it.

My brothers and sisters, do you marvel at the love of Christ? Does His love for you overwhelm you and rejoice your heart? Is it an amazing thing that Christ could love you? Let's think about this for a moment. You know your wretchedness, as I know my own. You know some of the terrible attitudes you entertain on various occasions, as I know my own. You know your secret sins of the past, as I know my own; and yet, for all this, Christ loves sinners. Doesn't that thought astound you, that He could love someone like you or me? Paul could affirm that he was the chief of sinners; and yet, for all his evil and sin, this Christ still loved him; and he stood amazed. Do you? Do you know this love of Christ that melts the heart and softens the spirit? It was the greatness of this love that impacted the apostle Paul; it was this love that controlled him, and drove him to live the life that he did in honour of Christ. What is your life's driving force? What controls you? Does money drive you? Is sex your life's driving force? What motivates you? Is your reputation your life's driving force? Is that what controls you? The apostle Paul affirmed, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Php 1:21). Is that what drives you? Jesus.

The reason for this motivation of love

For the apostle Paul, the wonder and magnitude of Christ's love were clearly demonstrated in the fact that Christ died on behalf of all – "having concluded this, that one died for all" (5:14b). Remember that when the apostle considers the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ is implied; these two facts are co-dependent realities. Now, the question is this: In what sense did Christ die on behalf of all? Answer: He died on behalf of all provisionally and sufficiently.

First, Jesus Christ died for all provisionally, that is, the death of Christ was God's ordained saving means by which to deal with sin, and His death is freely offered to all, by which one may be saved. If you like, God provides a way open for all in order to be saved. Think, for instance, of a building that is on fire and firemen holding out their safety nets onto which the people who are trapped in the building may jump. 'Salvation' has been provided for all of them. Now, to be sure, some may not jump to safety, but provisional deliverance or salvation is offered.

Secondly, Jesus Christ died for all sufficiently, that is, the efficacious or meritorious effect of the death of Christ is adequate to save any, and all, who may come to Him in faith. It is savingly sufficient to redeem an infinite number of sins. So, concerning the burning building (referred to above), the safety nets are firmly and adequately positioned, and anyone, and all, who jumps will be saved – the 50 pound child, as well as the 350 pound man. The nets will hold, and it does not matter how many jump, there is sufficient means to save.

So, that is what we mean when we say that Christ died for all: He died for all provisionally – the sacrifice has been provided by which one may be saved; and He died for all sufficiently – His death can potentially save an infinite number of worlds. Hence, as the apostle Paul contemplated the glorious fact and the infinite worth of the death of Christ, springing from the magnificent love that motivated that death, he asserts that he is controlled by that love.

Now, the very fact that Christ died for all means that all were dead. Thus, we read, "Therefore all died [or, if you like, all were dead, in need of salvation and life]" (5:14c). In our natural state, we are born into the world spiritually dead. We are, by nature, separated from God. We are under His wrath and displeasure, and are destined for hell. But God has provided for us a sacrifice, and the sacrifice is sufficient to save us. This truth I present to you, my non-Christian friend. You too came into the world spiritually dead in your trespasses and your sins. You too have gone morally astray. You too have pursued your own pleasures and ambitions; and God has laid on Christ the iniquities of us all. My non-Christian friend, I present to you Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world; and this Sacrifice is able to redeem you from all your sins, to pay the spiritual debt that you owe to God, and to remove all your guilt and shame, if you will have it. He died provisionally for you; He died sufficiently for you; but He has not died efficiently for you (i.e., you do not know the actual benefits and blessings of His death) unless you accept His death on your behalf by faith. Again, He is yours, if you will have Him. There is a way open now so that you can be right with God. There is a way open for unclean sinners to be spiritually washed, and given the gift of eternal life, and thus to have access into the very presence of God. The sacrifice is for you, if you will have it. Won't you come and receive? Won't you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord? Won't you repent of your wrongdoings and accept His saving death on your behalf?

The goal of the motivation of love

Jesus Christ died for us in order to reconcile us to God; and He rose again from the dead in order to bring us into the presence and fellowship of God. What practical impact does Christ's resurrection have on you? How should the resurrection of Christ affect your life? The apostle asserts, "And He died for all, that they who live [not all who are spiritually dead shall spiritually live] should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf" (5:15). Here we have the grand practical design of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus: Christ died on your behalf, Christian, so that you, in your acceptance of that death, might give your life for Him. He surrendered His life in exchange for your life. Isn't that a fair exchange? No, it is not! In fact, it is incredibly, infinitely lopsided. You could never compensate for, or balance out, His giving of Himself you. Is it any wonder that Paul is captivated and overwhelmed so that he could profess, "The love of Christ controls me." My Christian friend, it is an unfair exchange. You, through His grace, are eternally and infinitely better off; you have the 'better deal'. In effect, Christ gives you the world in exchange for empty pockets.

Practically speaking, because He gave His life for you, Christian, He wants your life; and He not only wants it, He demands it. You now belong to Him; He purchased you with His blood – "For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor 6:20). Now, isn't giving Him your life the least you should do because of all that He has given you? In considering this instruction – that we are not to live for ourselves, but for Christ – keep in mind the image of the lazy-boy chair and altar of sacrifice.

So, negatively, we are not to live for ourselves. What does that mean? What that means is that our personal needs should no longer have the priority – "I want my husband to make me feel good." "I want my wife to give me pleasure and happiness." "I want people to pay attention and notice me;" etc. Your personal desires and happiness should no longer be supreme. Your comfort and ease should no longer be your ultimate pursuit. When you no longer live for yourself, you have died to your carnal passions and selfish wants. As the apostle Paul states in Galatians 5:24, "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and its desires." In denying yourself (i.e., no longer living for yourself), you have arisen out of the lazy-boy chair and have left it behind, and are moving to the altar.

Positively speaking, we are to live for Him who died and rose again on our behalf. This means that Christ should be our Master. We should live to do His will alone. Our lives should revolve around His teaching and commands. We should seek only to please and serve Him. Simply put, the glory of Christ should be the reason and goal for our living. As Galatians 2:20 states, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me."

For you to live for Jesus Christ means to get up onto the altar, rendering yourself as a living sacrifice for Him. You must surrender yourself completely to Him. Have you done that? I know that some who read this article will say, "Well, what you have written is interesting; and yes, I have heard this before." And you will continue on with how you are now living, and continue to do your 'own thing', and live according to your own agenda. Question: Do you believe in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ? What does it mean to you? Paul affirmed that he believed in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore he lived for Him.

Similarly, unless you live for Him, your belief in His resurrection means absolutely nothing, and will result in the same. True belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ results in a real significant change in your life. He died on behalf of you. He gave His life for you. And right now He demands that you give your life for Him. Won't you do that?