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Catechism Class: LD16, Q43 For Me To Live…


Catechism Class: Lords Day 16, Q43.

For me to live is Christ!

When Paul is writing the letter to the Christians at Philippi, he is considering the end of his life and he writes to the believers about his perilous situation.  It’s worth reading from Philippians 1:12-30. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Paul’s situation is not hopeful, humanly speaking, and he is well aware of that, as we can see from his words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:6-8. Perhaps he anticipates that the appeal will go against him, and that he will die.  How does that affect his state of mind?   Philippians 4:24-25And Paul doesn’t seem to be in the least bit perturbed or upset by any of this.  If you look closely at the text of your bible, you may notice that in Philippians 1:21 the word IS is in italics.  That’s a device used by the translators to show you that the word is not in the Greek text, it has has been inserted to make the sentence readable in English.  To make grammatical sense.  So let’s read the sentence as Paul may have intended it to be read.  “For me to live – CHRIST! To die? GAIN!”  Some commentators see great significance in that, thinking that Paul is using this grammatical construction for a very good reason.  He is strongly making a point, excitedly making a statement for all who would hear.  Say it like a declaration instead of a sentence and note how powerful it sounds.  For me to live?  CHRIST!  To die? GAIN!  Either way, Paul is totally content that God is in control and that He has Paul’s life in His hands.  

What does it mean to LIVE FOR CHRIST?  Let’s turn to the catechism for help.   Q.43. What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ on the cross?   A:That by His power our old man is with Him crucified, slain, and buried;  so that the evil lusts of the flesh may no more reign in us, but that we may offer ourselves unto Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

How am I ‘Crucified with Christ?

My ‘old nature’ has been crucified, slain and buried’ because Jesus took it as his own, and it died in him on the Cross.  How does this affect us daily, what is the practical application for us, – for to be totally realistic, if our old sinful nature has been crucified with Christ, why then do we still sin? Trying to understand that dichotomy has led to all sorts of errors concerning the sanctification of the  believer.   Luther called it ‘Simul justus et peccator’ – we are simultaneously saints and sinners.  Romans 7:24 

That’s it! We are sinners, and the tendency to sin remains within us all throughout our earthy lives. But when we sin, we loathe that sin, and we are repelled by it and turn away from it and heartily repent of it before the Lord.  No longer does sin govern our lives, as it did in our unregenerate days.  So the catechist helps us to understand that sin no longer reigns within Paul (and every believer) and thus he, and we, can offer ourselves, as a sacrifice of thankful praise to God.    So sin no longer reigns in us.  Paul uses the analogy of death to show us how our enslavement to sin has been broken. Listen to his the words: Romans 6:6-8.

Paul’s argument here is obvious. People, who are dead, can no longer do anything. They can’t tell lies, or steal or commit sexual sins, or murder. They are dead.  So Paul uses this as an illustration, and argues that we have been made dead to sin, and alive to Christ. This has already happened. It happened at the cross. It affects and changes entirely our status, our standing before God. Our response is seen in Romans 6:12 Sin has been dethroned in our lives, and we are set free to serve God out of a sense of gratitude for His mercy and forgiveness.  Here’s a paraphrase of Paul’s words in Romans 6:1-7,

And shall we then go on to sin, that grace may more abound? Great God, forbid that such a thought should in our breast be found! /  With Christ the Lord we died to sin; with him to life we rise, to life, which now begun on earth, is perfect in the skies. / Too long enthrall’d to Satan’s sway, we now are slaves no more; for Christ hath vanquish’d death and sin, our freedom to restore.

Now, set free from sin’s authority over him…

Paul can offer himself to Christ

  • Paul’s whole life is about Jesus! What about us? What’s the central focus of my life? What’s it all about? When I lie on my deathbed, will I be sorrowful that I didn’t make the promotion and progress that I’d hoped for? That my grand dreams and visions remain unfulfilled, that I will no longer see the sunset, or play any more golf or take any more foreign holidays? Is the purpose of life to ‘shop till you drop’ or to impress the neighbours? Can we really say that, like Paul, for me to live is Christ! All of life, for the Christian, is centred and focused on Jesus. 
  • To live a Christ-centred life is to deny ourselves and to take up our cross and follow him. The Christian life is not about material riches, prosperity or success. For Paul it led to beatings and lashes and arrests and a death sentence. Yet here’s Paul again:  Philippians 3:7-10  Our lives are a sacrifice of worship to Jesus. Romans 12:1 I  
  • We are an offering made suitable for presentation to the Holy God. We are HOLY and ACCEPTABLE! Contrast this standing before God with our pre-conversion status, – filthy and condemned and unacceptable. Because our human sinful nature has died in Christ, our status before God has changed. 

This offering of self to Christ is an act of grateful response

To offer ourselves unto Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving is observed by our instructor to be an act of thanksgiving; not an act of atonement in some vain hope to earn salvation. This is really important to understand. Paul calls this offering of ourselves ‘spiritual worship’ – worship is always a response to what God has done in Christ for us. Because our sinful flesh has died in Christ, we offer that flesh, our bodies, and our sinful nature, now cleansed by his precious blood, to him, out of gratitude for what He has done for us. 

All of this is generally known as SANCTIFICATION. Westminster Shorter Catechism: Q. 35. What is sanctification? A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness

So, as long as we are in this life, our sanctification is only made possible because of the Cross. 

© Bob McEvoy

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