Progressive Christianity

[Rom. 5:10].---'We shall be saved by his life.'

There are certain statements of Scripture which sum up and combine the essential truths and doctrines of our Christian faith in an exceptional way. St. Paul is here, in a word, telling us the supreme truth of our faith, that, while the justifiing work of Jesus Christ opens the way back to the Father's heart and home, His sanctifying grace works out that redemption in daily life. We are made like unto God by the Divine life of Christ working within us.

As impression prevails that the work of salvation is due exclusively to our Lord's death ; that besides the Cross there is no other redemptive work that deserves mention. It is doubtless true that what our Lord did on Calvary was complete in itself. But when we turn to consider salvation in the fullest sense, the salvation that not only pardons but perfects, then other factors are necessarily brought in. For Christ not only died but also rose, and now lives to save His people. That is what the text so positively asserts : 'We shall be saved by his life.'

It is of vital importance to remind ourselves of all that Christ's salvation is meant to be to us and to the world. It may sometimes seem that the average man today does not trouble much about his sins, but that will only be before he has been convicted of sin. When, through the work of the Holy Spirit, he sees himself as he is in God's sight, then he cannot help but troubling about them. Then, by the mercy of God, he is enabled to see in Christ the One who opens for him the way back to God. This is what St. Paul calls being 'reconciled to God by the death of his Son.' It is one of the outstanding truths of our faith by which we are enabled to proclaim hope to the sinner who has wandered farthest. But the gospel does not stop there, because man's need does not stop there. For it is when released from the outward burden that is when he feels the inward distress : 'O wretched man---who shall deliver me from the inward stress and pull of the sin that still besets me.' How shall habits and ties of the past loose their hold?

It is true that sin is condemned, and forgiviven in the Cross, and by faith in Christ any one of us can be forgiven, and become a 'new creature' in Christ Jesus. But that new life in a sense brings out our sins---very much as the spring sunshine, which brings out the flowers in the garden beds, brings out the weeds as well. But the process of sanctification which makes the Christian life, is the discovery of, and the victory over, our sins---the sins of our nature, the sins of our temperment, the sins of our habit. God says that sin shall not have dominion over us, which means that the Christian life is a victory over the sin, the particular sin, which we recognize as ours.

The commonest form of sin is a habit which has got the mastery over us. But the all-important thing to be arrived at is that Jesus lives to break that habit, to give a complete victory over it. 'He shall be called Jesus, because he shall save his people from their sins,' does not mean that He is in some distant and abstract world, achieving a victory over sin in general, but that here, in this concrete world of our own personal existence, He is present to gain the victory, and to break that besetment which to us is absolutely unbreakable.

Thus in Christ's salvation the heart finds not only rest from sin's burden but new life in Christ. It realizes the first truth when it comes into contact with Christ, and the second day by day as life is lived in contact with Him. The first fact brings peace to the soul, the second becomes the means whereby deliverance and joy come to the daily life. Surely it is here that the distinction between the Christian life and the natural life has its origin. That distinction is not an artificial one, but one which arises from the very conditions of our relationship to Christ. Just as the tree in winter is dead because the sap has ceased to pulse through it, but bursts into leaf and fruit as the life of springtime courses through its branches, so is there the distinction between the self-centered and the life that is freely open to the working of the Holy Spirit. Even in the Christian life the first truth may be fully perceived while the second is hardly realized. The life may be reconciled to God, but yet be without victory over sin, that gladness and peace, of which St. Paul so well knew the secret. To such an one comes St. Paul's message, 'We shall be saved by his life.' The resources of Christ's Divine life are added, in response to our faith, to our own natural resources, and we realize at length that a new purity, power, and peace has been added to our own nature.

This, then, is the progressive concern of Christianity. It needs that Christ should not only die for us. It needs that, having died, He shall go on living for us. 'He ever liveth to make intercession for us.'

No one will be left to fight the battle of life alone. Strength will be given to him all through, because of that great love of God, which was first manifested in the Cross, and which will prove itself to the end of the journey by the supply of all such help as is necessary for the daily need. In the living of the Christian life, which seems to be so difficult, and which sometimes seems to be, and indeed is, quite impossible for us if we attempt it in our own strength, we have God with us, making it His business, His work, to bring us all at last to the end in holiness and peace.

In Christ, timothy.