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DEVOTIONS FROM ROMANS

ROMANS -- ABUNDANT LIFE IN CHRIST (15)

The Key Verse  --  The Process of "Knowing This"

Romans 6:6 (NKJV)

Dr. Gordon E. Johnson

Rio Grande Bible Institute

Introduction

Paul has set forth the new Point of Departure. It is the radical solution for the Adamic nature, the flesh, the «ego».  It is nothing less than:  "How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it" (Rom. 6: 1)?  This is God's final verdict on the sin principle with regard to his justified ones.  By one stroke, in the death of the Last Adam, he ended the power of the sin nature in us. He did not consult with us, nor ask our permission.  God knew that the "öld man" was incorrigible and totally beyond repair. His plan was to displace its power and graciously give in its place the risen life of his Son through the Holy Spirit given once and for all.  The Christian life would be the process of knowing God's judgment as absolutely necessary. Please notice the key verb --knowing (Rom. 6:6).

The Masterful Summation of the Point of Departure  Romans 6:2-5

In our previous study of Romans 6:1-5 we learned that God uses four verses to explain to our doubting hearts the truth and the reality of our judicial death with Christ on the cross some 2000 yeas ago. That judicial death seems to defy our understanding as first sight. But the truth is rooted in Romans 5:12-21 where God establishes the sad fact that in the First Adan's sin we were implicated in his death and condemnation. No one can deny that reality. In the same way but MUCH MORE in the Last Adam, Christ, we were implicated in his death and resurrection.

In brief summary we were baptized by one Spirit into the body of Christ at the moment of justification and regeneration (1 Cor. 12:13).  That Spirit baptism is now pictured in the ordinance of water baptism. It becomes a public testimony to our assent to having died to the past and now we live unto God (6:3). Burial inevitably is followed by resurrection and newness of life (6:4). The word "new" («kainotes» in Greek) means: "renewal, not simply an experience similar to the past, but a qualitatively different one."[1] That new quality of life is Christ in us the hope of glory (Col.1:27). We "have been being planted" in the likeness of death, it follows inevitably that we shall be now in the likeness of his resurrection (6:5).

The key verse:    Romans 6:6               «knowing this»

There is a world of meaning in this single verse. This vital verb is a gerund that states ongoing action without any end envisioned. It becomes an on going process. The verb in the original «ginosko»[2] is "to know experientially as contrasted to know intuitively, thinking, reflecting upon, being mindful of." This is not academic knowledge or acquired information but rather a truth to be lived and learned. It infers an illumination from without, an illumination of the Spirit, resulting in a profound grasp of its meaning. The reference is specifically to our having died with Christ (6:6). This knowing comes to us by the Spirit's dealings in our lives and his illumination (Eph. 1:15-20) marked by a hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6).

The key verse:   Romans 6:6                «that our old man was crucified with Him»

The Point of Departure is restated as the object of our knowing. This truth must be believed and learned. Again this truth is a personal and practical knowing at the intimate level of heart and will. We are cast on the Holy Spirit to accomplish this in the breaking and humbling of the believer (Isa 57:15). It is through our accepting in faith God's breaking, not our effort to believe, that the power of his death is released in us.  There is no other way. See Hebrews 12:1-11.

The key verse:    Romans 6:6               «that the body of sin might be done away with»

The "body of sin" is all we inherit from the First Adam, our mortal body that becomes so easily the vehicle and agent of sin. The key verb is «katargeo»; to be idle, to render inactive, useless and ineffective . . . to abrogate, make void, do away with, put an end to.[3] (Italics mine) Here some have overstated this vital truth in their sincere zeal for holiness making it mean a "human experience" that all too often results only in a new definition of sin that does not do justice to sin, as God defines it in the Word. See 1 John 1:8; 3:4; 5:17.

The key verse:        Romans 6:6           «that we should no longer be slaves of sin.»

The end result is liberation, freedom to not sin, holiness of life. Our enslavement to sin is turned into our enslavement to the one who died that we might live his life here and now (6:17, 18).  I cannot believe in "sinless perfection" in this life (1 John 1:6,8,10; 2:1-3), nor do I advocate the opposite necessary sinful imperfection.

A brief personal testimony for what it is worth

Those who know me know that Romans 6:6 has become my personal verse, the story of some 60 years of ministry. I was blessed to be raised in a godly home with an Irish mother who challenged us to holiness. I was highly privileged to attend Prairie Bible Institute high school (4 years), Prairie Bible Institute (3 years –'49), another Christian college (2 years-'51). There have been many academic honors, but more importantly at 14, I responded to the call of missions. I sought to be truly God's, but much in the power of the flesh, hence a deep spiritual pride that masked my troublesome sinful thoughts.

In my first pastorate in Winnipeg at 21 years of age, I began a series of expositional studies on Romans to challenge my members to really live a holy life. I had a sense of achievement because I knew so much (?). In the midst of preaching one winter Sunday morning on Romans 6:6, the Spirit said to me --no voice --"Gordon, you are a hypocrite! You nothing of what you preach." A lightning bolt could not have destroyed me more effectively. That night in a prayer of desperation I said: "Lord. let it cost me what it may cost me, I must know Romans 6:6. (I thought I knew it backward and forward doctrinally). If you don't show me, I must resign from the ministry."

God heard that prayer of spiritual hunger but answered it, not at all, however, as I would have chosen. A few months later I received an invitation to be the conference speaker for five days in St Vincent, MN, a church where I was known. My first thought was: "Great, now they have found me!" But I knew I should not think that way, but they were indeed my thoughts! So I prepared diligently and went to speak saying sincerely I wanted to glorify God and edify his people. Upon arriving on Saturday, I was informed that another brother, E. V. Folden, would share the days. The interim pastor asked me to preach Sunday morning. Again the proud thought: "I was chosen above my fellow pastor." I spoke from my heart on The Offering up of Isaac in Genesis 21. Nothing happened as usual.

In the afternoon it was E. V. Folden's turn to speak, but he did not go up to the platform but simply stood below and opened his Bible. I had come with the thought of analyzing his message, but God had another message for me. I cannot remember anything E.V. Folden said. God took a severe dealing with my "spiritual pride" and inner failures. I saw myself as never before --a darkened heart worthy of death. It was as if I saw myself, a hideous figure, there on the Cross.

Then came clearly to mind a word from God, his recalling my earlier prayer of desperation: "I want you to tell these your friends just who you really are!!"  "But, Lord, they will send me home on the next bus." But I had earlier vowed: "Lord, if you speak, I will obey."

I don't remember if Brother Folden had finished his message or not, but I stood up and asked to speak. I did not go up to the platform as in the morning, I assure you. I spoke of my "spiritual pride" and the inner battles I had lost with evil thoughts. Then the fountains of my soul broke open. I stood and sobbed.  I knew I could not speak another word, so I sat down.  To my amazement, Romans 6:6, my earlier text came immediately to mind and I found myself repeating "Knowing this, Gordon Johnson was crucified . . .  For the first time in my life I was free, I had no mask. I had no reputation.

The wonder that followed was that a true revival visited us, not because of my preaching but in part because of my humbling; the meeting was not dismissed until several hours later. Several began to confess their sins publicly. When the meeting was finally dismissed, I wondered, now what. But to my surprise the pastor said: "I want you to preach tonight." Now my first inward response was:  "But Lord, I can't. I'm not worthy." To which God seemed to say: "You never will be worthy to open my book, but preach." I assure you I made no mental comparison now about my speaker friend. I preached a different message: the anointing of the High Priest; first the blood applied to the right ear, finger and foot and then the anointing oil of the Spirit (Leviticus 8).

That Sunday evening I couldn't fall asleep because of the new sense of spiritual relief. But I finally fell asleep but was awakened after midnight by the sound of car arriving and noises below in the home of my host. The next morning at breakfast my hostess said: "Last night the Kochendoffers --a well known family in the church- came by to make things right between us." {the two most prominent families}.  While they were on civil speaking terms, it was evident that jealousy and pride were at the root of their rivalry. Then she said something that really shook me with reference to my testimony: "I didn't know that you preachers had hearts just like we do." What an indictment on our ministerial pride!

Five days of revival continued with reconciliations and a spiritual breakthrough in a good church that proved to have more divisions than any one could have thought.

God had to break me publicly. I now knew what happened to Gordon Johnson at the cross. I saw myself there, deserving what was mine, death. I now could take to heart what was his, his risen life. I would like to be able to say that such a public humiliation was the final blow to my pride. By no means. But now I know how to take my stand at the Cross. Every time I do it, there is the release in the Spirit. Whenever I choose to not reckon myself dead to sin, the flesh rules. There have been ups and downs, shame for inner thoughts. But now that I stand under that verdict of death to self; I can enjoy his risen life, Christ's life.

Conclusion

Such a public humiliation may not be God's way to bring you to know your death with Christ, but in some way there must be a breaking, an unlearning of our selfish independence. God is the master artifice who brings to us: circumstances, allowing our failures to remind us of our selfishness, our sinfulness, a sickness, a calamity, maybe an unjust treatment, anything that reduces us by that painful unlearning process that leads to life eternal. "For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).

[1] Zodhiates, Spiros, The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN, AMG Publishers), 1992, p.805.

[2] Ibid, p.898.

[3]  Ibid . pp. 841,842

Dr. Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute