Our Servant Death

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Then each day following he tore it apart and put it back together in new, more glorious relationships. Light tore through the darkness, and God separated the light from the darkness. The light he called Day, and the darkness he called Night. The watery mass hanging in space was torn apart so that waters were left below and waters were taken up above. A firmament was placed between the separated waters. Each day following the same pattern occurs: separation, new creation, reconciliation, and glorification. Each day what is made is good, but then God makes it better the next day through this process. This culminates with the creation of the man himself. He is separated from the dirt of the earth, formed up, and God breathes the breath of life into him. But God is not done. Man himself is put to sleep, torn apart, a new creation is made: the woman. Man awakens to be joined to the woman, who is the glory of the man (1Cor 11.7).

In his work of creation, God reveals to us how we and the rest of creation progress into greater maturity and glory. There must be a separation, a new creation, a reconciliation, and, then, there will be glorification. Each time a man leaves his father and mother–separation–and his joined to a woman to be his wife, there is a new creation and a glorification of the old, following the original pattern. This is only one example. Seeds are buried in the ground and die, but their death is not annihilation but glorification. For it is only as they go into the ground and die that they produce fruit (cf. Jn 12.24). This process is written on every cell of our bodies. The only we grow as humans is through cells dividing, creating something new, and then working together (i.e., reconciliation) to move us into greater physical maturity.

But something happened. Sin entered the world and the death that it brings. Sin latches on to this process of maturity and glorification and perverts it. Sin leaves us trapped in the “separation” phase of the process, as it were, halting the process so that rot sets in. Instead of new creation, reconciliation, and glorification, we move toward being dust again. This is not only true of our physical bodies, but it is also true of every other aspect of our existence. Sin brings its death to relationships so that, for instance, what might be a sharpening of one another through friendly disagreement and debate becomes animus, self-preservation, envy, strife, and the destruction of a relationship. Instead of growing in our understanding together, we begin to battle one another to our destruction.

Once this death takes hold, it spreads. It spreads like cancer, consuming any form of life that it can find. This has happened, not just with us as individuals, but with the entirety of creation. Paul tells the Roman church that sin entered the world and death through sin, so death spread to all men (Rom 5.12). Sin introduced its death to the process of our glorification so that we “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3.23); that is, the glory/glorification that God intended for us (cf. Rom 8.18ff.).

But where sin abounded grace in Christ Jesus super-abounded. In the death and resurrection of Jesus, sin and death are conquered. This doesn’t mean merely that we escape death (though that is certainly true). The death and resurrection of Christ mean that death is now a servant to the people of God. The fact that God used sin’s own tools in order to accomplish his plan (namely, death) means that death serves God’s purpose. Death served God’s purpose for Jesus, so it also serves God’s purpose for all who are in Christ.

The grace of God in Christ is super-victorious. The process of death is now our servant to lead us to glorification. Death belongs to us (1Cor 3.21-23). It is for this reason that death cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom 8.38-39). God has restored his original process of the glorification of creation–separation, new creation, reconciliation, glorification–but now it goes even deeper: even using sin and the death that it brings to be a part of that process. That is the super-abundant and victorious grace of God.

This means that you don’t have to be afraid to die ... in whatever form that takes. You need not fear taking up your cross and following Christ because death serves you. You need not fear losing your life for Christ’s sake, for you will find life. You need not fear changing situations in life. They are serving you and Christ’s church. You need not fear that your sin is the final word. Even though you despise it (and you should), God’s grace is deeper than your sin and more powerful than its death. He can and does use even sin for his purposes. The cross put that on display.

Do not fear death. Trust the grace of God.