By Reginald Wallis



Identification with Christ

Do you realize, my brother or sister, that there is a deeper meaning of the Cross? It constitutes a much neglected and vitally important aspect of the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary. The substitutionary work of the Savior – his taking our place on the cross – is the only ground of a sinner’s justification, but it is important to realize that the Atonement, i.e. the whole of his accomplished work, embraces something more even than that. The Savior’s redemptive work also includes the glorious fact of “Identification“. This we must consider carefully under the illumination and guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to apprehend the divine way of victory. If there is one subject more than another which arouses the hostility of the Evil One, and about which he does his utmost to keep God’s people in darkness, it is this second and deeper aspect of the Atonement. Let us pray as we consider it.

We have seen that “the flesh” dwells within these bodies of humiliation, and will so remain until the earthly course is completed. In Old Testament typology, Amalek (Ex. 17:8) represents the flesh. You will remember that war is declared upon him “from generation to generation” (17:16) until finally his remembrance is “utterly blotted out” forever (17:14). This cannot be until we have glorified bodies, liberated from the very presence of sin. In the meantime, how can this corruption be dealt with? That is the problem to which many an earnest Christian is seeking a genuine solution.

Is it God’s decree that this evil root of sin should continually bring forth its poisonous fruit, leaving the Christian to pluck off the berries one by one as they appear? Must the spider be allowed to envelop the life with its wretched cobwebs? Has the believer no alternative but a recurring experience of sinning and repenting?

Yes, thank God, there is a more excellent way. Here is good news! Follow this carefully. In the glorious purpose of redemption, the flesh has already been dealt with fully and finally at the cross of Calvary! In the sacrifice of Christ, not only were sins righteously atoned for, but SIN (in its entirety) was “put away” (Hb. 9:26). Calvary penetrates to the very heart of the question, and in the death of the Lord Jesus, God saw the end of the old Adam life, the corrupt fallen human nature, and wound it up forever as an utterly bankrupt concern. In other words, every believer was represented and incorporated into the death of the Lord Jesus. “He died to sin once” (Ro. 6:10), and therefore every believer, in the purpose of God, died with Him. The cross marks the death-knell and the complete termination of “the flesh” in the sight of God. I want to quote you a few references in this important matter:

   “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of his death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of his resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him…” (Ro. 6:1-8).

“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh” (8:3).

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died…” (2 Co. 5:14).

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death…” (Phil. 3:10).

“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).

What has God done, therefore, with the flesh?  He does not forgive it or condone it. God forgives the sinner but He condemns sin (Mt. 6:14-15). Do you see, therefore, that in the Savior’s representative capacity, God saw the death of every believer at the cross, as far as the flesh-life is concerned? “If One died for all, then all died…”

“All Died”

He dealt with the whole sin question as your Representative and mine. A representative is one who acts on behalf of another. An ambassador’s actions and words are those of the country he represents. The Lord Jesus “died to sin” as your Representative. So far as your self-life is concerned, therefore, your existence came to an end nearly two thousand years ago in the divine purpose. It may be you do not understand that. Never mind – believe it! God says so. “Our old man was crucified with him.”

I have read a story which may make this clear to you. During the American Civil War, when men were drawn by lot to join the army, a man named Wyatt was called up to fight for the South. He was the breadwinner for his family and they were entirely dependent upon him. Realizing this hardship, another young man named Pratt, volunteered to go instead. He was accepted and drafted to the front, bearing the name and number of Wyatt. Eventually Pratt was killed in action, and having died as the substitute and in the name of the other man, the full name of Wyatt was recorded as killed in action.

At a later date, Wyatt was again called up for service, but at the Recruiting Office, he calmly stated that he had already been killed in action. The entry was searched for and discovered, and Wyatt, although alive and well, was dead in the eyes of the authorities, because he was identified with his substitute. Does that help you to understand it?

You died with Christ. You were buried with him. You “have been united together in the likeness of his death”. You were “crucified” with him. All this is an accomplished fact in the heavenly purpose, completely apart from the believer’s understanding of it. The way by which it is made real in experience is another matter which we will deal with in the next chapter. Meantime, lay hold of the fact that God has conclusively dealt with the flesh nearly two millennia ago in the death of his Son.
Having seen this, another blessed fact is revealed, that every believer has also been identified with him in his resurrection and his ascension. Read the following passages:

“Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of his death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of his resurrection…” (Ro. 6:4-5).

“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over him.” (8-9)

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-7).

Dead, Buried, Raised, and Ascended with Him

Now let us examine the mighty sweep of this tremendous truth. Every believer without exception, every member of the Body of Christ, every justified sinner, is seen by God as one with Christ in his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension (1 Co. 6:17). We thus conclude that three mighty transactions were effected at Calvary.

Three Calvary Facts

The believer’s sins were righteously forgiven.

The flesh, that internal traitor, was condemned and put away.

The birth of a “new creation” took place. A “New Man” in contrast to the “Old Man” came into being, and every believer forms an integral part of that new creation, “joined to the Lord – one spirit”. To what intent? That he should live no longer for himself (i.e. to the flesh), but henceforth “for him who died” for him and rose again (2 Co. 5:15). All this great accomplishment in the divine purpose, is to find practical outworking in experience day by day. Look again at Romans 6. In verse 4, the objective is “newness of life”. That means that the believer should possess a new mind, a new heart, new desires, new ambitions, new pursuits, new joys, a new peace, a new power, a new victory – in fact, “all things have become new” (2 Co. 5:17). “The flesh” (Col. 3:9) ceases its dominion. The believer is no longer debtor to the flesh (Ro. 8:12), i.e. no longer under any obligation to serve sin, any more than the children of Israel were under further obligation to Pharaoh as they marched out of his dominion in that victorious passage through the Red Sea.

Do you appreciate, my reader, that the “cross” means something more than the Lord Jesus dying for our sins? Take that second look at his cross and ask God to reveal its meaning to your heart:  “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” (Gal. 2:20). You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). Do you believe this?

The Fact and the Experience of It

The next question that arises quite logically and normally in the mind is that experience often indicates that the flesh in the believer’s life is NOT eradicated. It is often very much alive and manifests itself in distressing ways which mar his testimony, disturb his joy, and hinder his usefulness. How can this apparent contradiction be reconciled? The Word of God clearly declares that “the old man” was crucified, yet experience proves beyond doubt that “the flesh” often asserts itself like a “jack-in-the-box” at the least provocation, and at the most unexpected moments!

Now, we need to recognize the distinction between what happened once and for all in the eternal purpose at the cross (Eph. 3:11), and that which is made true in experience day by day. Obviously, there may be a vital difference. While it stands eternally true that a full and complete salvation was wrought out to its finality at the cross, its blessings do not become practically real in experience until they are appropriated. How may this be done? The answer is simple.  By faith (Hb. 11:1)!

Think of your conversion for a moment. Was it not true and an accomplished fact that Jesus died for you long before you experienced this benefit? Why, certainly – before your conversion it was just as true as after your conversion. What made the difference then? You believed it and accepted him into your heart, did you not? How did you receive him? By faith (Eph. 2:8). So that faith made what was an eternal fact to God, a fact of value personally to you. Do you see that? Let us pursue this important enquiry in the next chapter.

Study Guide

When did you learn of this “second and deeper aspect of the Atonement”?

How does the story of the Amalekites in Exodus 17 illustrate the hindrance of “the flesh”?

Wallis defines the deeper work of the cross: “God saw the end of the old __________ ___________, the corrupt ___________ ___________, and wound it up together as an utterly bankrupt concern”.

Give two Biblical references that indicate our death with Christ.

How does the story of Wyatt and Pratt illustrate identification truth?

Give verses that teach the believer’s identification with Christ in his resurrection and ascension.

What are the three “Calvary facts”? What do they mean to you?

How does the believer appropriate these blessings? By ________________.