“The body is dead because of sin.” Romans 8:10
WHAT body is referred to here? Certainly not, as some have supposed, the body of sin. Who can with truth affirm of it that it is dead? The individual who claims as his attainment a state of sinless perfection, an entire victory over the evil propensities and actings of his fallen nature, has yet to learn the alphabet of experimental Christianity.
Pride is the baneful root, and a fall is often the fatal consequence of such an error. Oh no! the body of sin yet lives, and dies not but with death itself. We part not with innate and indwelling sin but with the parting breath of life, and then we part with it forever. But it is the natural body to which the apostle refers. And what an affecting fact is this!
Redeemed by the sacrifice, and inhabited by the Spirit of Christ, though it be, yet this material fabric, this body of our humiliation, tends to disease, decay, and death; and, sooner or later, wrapped in its shroud, must make its home in the grave, and mingle once more with its kindred dust. “The body is dead because of sin.” Our redemption by Christ exempts us not from the conflict and the victory of the last enemy. We must confront the grim foe, must succumb to his dread power, and wear his pale trophies upon our brow. We must die—are dying men—because of sin. “Death has passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
And this law remains unrepealed, though Christ has delivered us from the curse. From this humiliating necessity of our nature even the non-condemned find no avenue of escape; from this terrible conflict, no retreat. One event happens to the wicked and the righteous—they both leave the world by the same dismal process of dissolution. But the character of death is essentially changed; and herein lies the great difference.
In the one case death is armed with all its terrors; in the other, it is invested with all its charms—for death has an indescribable charm to the believer in Jesus. Christ did not die to exempt us from the process of death; but He died to exempt us from the sting of death. If, because of original and indwelling sin in the regenerate, they must taste of death; yet, because of pardoned sin in the regenerate, the “bitterness of death is passed.”
If, because there exists a virus in the body, the body must dissolve; yet, because there exists an infallible antidote, the redeemed soul does not see death as it passes through the gloomy portal, and enters into its own life, light, and immortality. How changed the character of death! If the body of the redeemed is under the sentence, and has within it the seeds of death, and must be destroyed, yet that death is to him the epoch of glory. It is then that the life within germinates and expands; it is then that he really begins to live. His death is the birthday of his immortality. Thus, in the inventory of the covenant, death ranks among the chief of its blessings, and becomes a covenant mercy. “Death is gain.”
“What!” exclaims the astonished believer, “death a blessing—a covenant blessing! I have been used to contemplate it as my direst curse, to dread it as my greatest foe.” Yes; if death is the sad necessity, it is also the precious privilege of our being. In the case of those who are in Christ Jesus, it is not the execution of a judicial sentence, but the realization of a covenant mercy. And, as the Christian marks the symptoms of his approaching and inevitable dissolution—watching the slow but unmistakable advances of the fell destroyer—he can exclaim, as he realizes that there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus—
“Come, Death, shake hands; I’ll kiss your bands—
‘It is happiness for me to die.
What! do you think that I will shrink?—
I go to immortality.”
“Because of sin.” Ah! it is this truth whose dark shadow flits across the brightness of the Christian’s condition. To what are all our ailments, calamities, and sorrows traceable, but to sin? And why do we die? “Because of sin.” The immediate and proximate causes of death are but secondary agents. Had we not transgressed, we then had not died. Deathlessness would have been our natural and inalienable birthright.
And were we more spiritually-minded than we are, while we looked onward with steady faith to a signal and glorious triumph over the King of Terrors, we should blend with the bright anticipation of the coming victory, the humbling conviction that we have sinned, and that therefore “the body is dead.