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Letter to the Galatians - Part 3
A T Pierson: His Testimony
A. T. Pierson at the Northfield Conference in August 1910 mentioned four Scripture texts which had greatly influenced his life.
1. "Psalm 1:1, 2-- 'Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in His law doth he meditate day and night.' This is the sole secret of prosperity and peace: Meditate on the Word of God and take delight in it. In more than 50 years of study I have only begun to understand it.
2. "Proverbs 3: 6-- 'In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.' Since the time when my father first gave me that text when I was a boy leaving home, it has been a principle in my life-- never to make a plan without first seeking God's guidance and never to achieve a success without giving Him the praise.
3. "Matthew 6: 33-- 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.' This promise has been wonderfully fulfilled in my experience. Whenever I have taken a step on faith, and have sought to devote myself primarily to the advancement of God's interests, He has seen to it that I and my family have lacked nothing. I have made it a practice never to put a price on my services, and yet, even during the last 20 years, when I have received no stated salary, there has never been any lack. On the contrary I have been able to give away more money than ever before.
4. "John 7:17-- 'If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.' There is no need of skepticism or unbelief or doubt. Any man who is willing to do God's will can know and the only way to know is to will to do. After more than fifty years of closet study, observation and experience, I can testify that it pays to be a follower of God" ("A. T. Pierson", pp. 317-318).
One of his most significant books was, In Christ Jesus (1898), where he came to the conclusion that this brief phrase "in Christ Jesus" a preposition followed by a proper name was the key to understanding the entire New Testament.
On Pierson’s gravestone was a picture on an open Bible. On the Bible were engraved two verses. I John 5:11 “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” Matthew 28:19 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The Believer's Crucifixion
(This is the third and final part of the adaptation from AT Pierson's exposition of the Fourfold Crucifixion of the believer, in the Letter to the Galatians. I hope you've read the earlier two parts.)
Mortification, or the Flesh Crucified
Talking of the flesh with its passions and lusts, Pierson speaks of "a daily dying to which I consent." It is, in fact, an exemplification of Christ's words in Luke 9:23: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me." Here we see a daily cross. We are reminded of the apostle Paul's terse statement: ‘I die daily’ (1 Corinthians 15:31). Anyone who would be a disciple of Christ must share in the fellowship of His sufferings. Pauls' thorn in the flesh (2 Cor 12) is an example of this crucifixion of the flesh, or mortification.
Pierson goes on to say: The crucifixion of the flesh has to do, not with a justification which He purchased for me by shedding His blood, but with a sanctification that is wrought in me by the indwelling Spirit and which I now participate in, by working out my own salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that it is God who works in me both to will and to do of His good pleasure. (Phil 2:12, 13). This is the mortifying of our members which are upon the earth, referred to in Romans 8:13 and in Colossians 3:5: “Mortify therefore your members.” Mortify does not mean to reckon dead but to make dead. Here is a daily, practical, painful death which, through the inward experience of the cross, the Spirit works in us. ("Death working in us" 2 Corinthians 4.10) Having testified in baptism that we have come are under the government of the Holy Spirit and the headship of Christ, we embrace the cross. In the matter of justification, we may say that 'Christ has done it'; -- but in the matter of sanctification, we may say that 'we voluntarily participate in it' -- we submit to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to work the cross deeply into our lives.
The Self Life Crucified with Christ
It is for this reason that nowhere else but in this letter do we find the four foes of the holy life, all put before us in their relation to the cross of Christ. The four foes that Peirson refers to are
- The Law;
- The World;
- The Flesh;
- The Self.
Perhaps the subtlest of all foes is the self-life. This includes the self-confidence that prevents trusting only in Him (our Everlasting Rock), the self-reliance that turns us away from our only true Reliance and Refuge and Strength, the self-love (self-indulgence, self-gratification) that makes our own benefit and advantage an "idolatrous covetousness", the pride that absorbs us in our own supposed ability and excellence, the self-defense (self-vindication) that makes us our own champions and promotes endless argument and strife, the self-glory (and boasting) that puffs us up and diminishes the glory of God at the expense of the name and fame of mere mortal man.
What shall be done with the self-life? The only hope we have is being crucified with Christ. On the cross His self-life, though never corrupted by sin, was given up for others. He gave Himself for us. And He says to us, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself ‘-- not his self-indulgences, which may only change their form, but himself. Much that we call self-denial is not self-denial at all. We cut off some branch of our selfish enjoyments, but the only effect is to throw back the sap into the other branches to make them more vigorous and fruitful. The axe must be laid at the root of the tree; there must be a complete denial of self. As Dr. Handley Moule says, the arrogant, nominative “I” is changed into the prostrate, humble, objective “me” -- “I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”Galatians 2:20.
Postscript: The Devil
Apart from the world, the flesh, the self, we have but one more foe - the devil! This arch-enemy of the Christian is dealt with in the Epistle to the Ephesians. In the Ephesian letter, victory is connected not so much with the death of Christ as with His ascension to the heavenlies. In Galatians, we have to do with those foes of holy living whose defeat is particularly associated with His cross. I am crucified with Christ, and hence I am dead to the law, I am crucified to the world, I have crucified the flesh, and the self-life is nailed to the cross that the ‘I’ once naturally active, might become passive and submissive - the ‘me’ in whom Christ through the Holy Spirit dwells and works. I cannot be crucified to the devil, nor can I crucify him. Even to the crucified disciple the devil appears as a crafty foe, constantly on the alert, and we need to ascend with Christ to the heavenlies before Satan is crushed beneath our feet. Needless to add victory over Satan comes in a corporate capacity, when we function together as members of the Body of Christ!
© Pratonix/ Roland Olivier