SIMPLE TRUTH: I was there!

Published 8:20 pm Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Charles Christmas

I think I have never heard anything more moving and beautiful, neither before nor since. It was during World War II. I was a brand new recruit in Boot Camp at Great Lakes Naval Training Station. It was a Sunday morning in April. My Company 506 was marched into this huge drill hall, along with other companies, for an introduction to Navy worship opportunities and to chaplains for Protestant preference recruits.

After a couple of hymns from the Blue Jacket Hymnal, the chaplain’s prayer, and confession of faith, and prior to the sermon, this extremely large Blue Jacket choir stood and sang a piece of music which I had never heard before titled “Were You There?” The four questions underscored in this spiritual were as follows: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? Were you there when He rose up from the grave?” That has been exactly 69 years ago this month, and I remember it as if it were two weeks ago.

I desire to answer all of the questions in that spiritual. Yes, I was there! I was there when they nailed him to the cross, crucified my Lord and laid him in the tomb. I was there and I am the reason he was nailed to the cross. My rejection of him, my sin against God and my choices to go my own selfish ways crucified him and nailed him to the cross. He died and was in need of burial. The Bible couldn’t be more specific: He died for my (our) sins and was buried (1 Corinthians 15:3). I am the guilty one. My sins caused the cross. He gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

And I was there when he rose up from the tomb. Not only was he declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, (Romans 1:4) but he rose up from the dead for me. Romans 5:25 says, “He was raised to life that I (we) might be declared righteous and accepted before Holy God:” forgiveness and acceptance before God!

But the New Testament letters of the Apostle Paul teach that, for the believer, the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ must mean much more than “forgiveness and acceptance.” And it all relates to the fact that “I was there!”

Not only did Jesus Christ die for me, but I also died with him. Not only was he raised from the dead; but I also was raised with him. This truth makes possible the believer’s present victory over sin as master, over the world as master, over the flesh as master and over the devil as master. The Apostle never claimed that he nor believers would be perfect in this present life, but that we could be and should be victorious. If we can believe that he died for us and was raised for us two thousand years ago; we can also believe that we died with him and were raised with him. Paul explains that this happened when we experienced saving faith in Jesus Christ, and that it is dramatized by baptism (Romans 6:1-10). This whole sixth chapter is about the believer living a life of victory over sin following being forgiven and accepted before a Holy God by his grace. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ does not merely provide grace for us to be forgiven and accepted but provides grace for us to live a life of being “dead unto sin and alive unto God.” And this calls for faith, commitment and obedience on the believer’s part.

This simple truth is so wonderful that it cannot be adequately reviewed in this brief article. But I shall now refer you to passages from the Apostle’s letters for your meditation: Colossians 3:1-25; 2 Corinthians 4:10-11; Philippians 3:10-16; Galatians 2:20 and Galatians 6:14. He died for me but I also died with him. He was raised for me but I was also raised with him. All the potential of dying with him and being raised with him is mine. It must be changed from potential to reality in me and in you as a believer.

—Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.