Posted by: rcottrill | February 28, 2014

Christ Liveth in Me

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Words: Daniel Webster Whittle (b. Nov. 22, 1840; d. Mar. 4, 1901)
Music: James McGranahan (b. July 4, 1840; d. July 9, 1907)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This gospel song was published in 1891, under Major Whittle’s frequently used pen name, El Nathan.

T he key phrase of the hymn, repeated fifteen times counting the refrains, is taken from the old King James Version of Galatians 2:20. The Apostle Paul testifies:

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Other Bible versions of the text can help us understand what God’s Word is saying about the nature of the Christian life.

I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Amplified Bible)

I died on the cross with Christ. And my present life is not that of the old “I,” but the living Christ within me. The bodily life I now live, I live believing in the Son of God who loved me and sacrificed himself for me. (J. B. Philips Paraphrase)

This verse describes a kind of paradox, in that the second part of the verse seems to contradict the first. How can a person “live” who has been crucified and no longer lives?

The answer is that Paul is describing the experiential outworking of a positional reality. When the sinner puts his faith in Christ, and the Spirit of God places him into Christ as to his legal position, God sees him as though he participated in Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4). William MacDonald says, insightfully, of our participation in the death of Christ by faith:

“This means the end of me as a sinner in God’s sight. It means the end of me as a person seeking to merit or earn salvation by my own efforts” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p. 1880).

“I in Christ” is legally and positionally true in the eyes of God. “Christ [living] in me” is the parallel conditional and experiential truth. Someone has said, “A crucified man has no plans of his own.” It’s a way of describing the Christian walk as one of submission to the will of God. As he lives in obedience to God, and faith in God, the character of Christ is reproduced in the believer by the power of the Holy Spirit. That character is spoken of elsewhere in Galatians as “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23).

This is a theme that Daniel Whittle dealt with in another gospel song two years later, called Moment by Moment. The first stanza of that hymn says:

Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
Living with Jesus a new life divine;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

When the sinner is saved, through personal faith in Christ, he passes from death to life, from darkness to light (CH-1).

CH-1) Once far from God and dead in sin,
No light my heart could see;
But in God’s Word the light I found–
Now Christ liveth in me.

Christ liveth in me,
Christ liveth in me,
O what a salvation this–
That Christ liveth in me.

Whittle uses a lovely analogy to describe the transforming power of God in the believer’s life, comparing it to the recreating power of the sun.

CH-2) As rays of light from yonder sun,
The flow’rs of earth set free,
So life and light and love came forth
From Christ living in me.

It should be the controlling desire of every Christian, that what we are positionally in Christ, we become more and more in practical experience–so that when others look at us, they see more and more of Christ.

CH-4) With longing all my heart is filled,
That like Him I may be,
As on the wondrous thought I dwell
That Christ liveth in me.

Questions:
1) Is the difference between the believer’s position and condition (or standing and state) clearly taught in your church?

2) What other hymns do you know that deal well with these twin truths?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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