The Old Man Crucified: An Essential Book

At the end of this week’s outstanding podcast on the Historical Adam and Crucifying the Old Man, the question was asked about which books should be considered essential reading when it comes to the doctrines of our union with Christ, Federal headship, and Imputation. Each book suggested I too would affirm as non-negotiable in wrestling with these issues.[1] I still remember cutting my teeth on John Murray’s “The Imputation of Adam’s Sin” in my seminary soteriology class and having, what seemed like, a thousand light bulbs go off in my head on how the whole Bible fit together.

But I want to offer one more book to this list of essential readings on why these doctrines matter and specifically a book which helps apply these glorious doctrines to the everyday man.

I’ve recently started meeting up with a small group of men in my church early on Sunday mornings to help them fight against sin as well as give encouragement in their war against lust. We’ve begun reading through and meditating on D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Exposition of Romans Chapter 6: The New Man, published by the Banner of Truth. If Murray is the high-minded Ivory Tower theologian working out the minute and much needed details of federal headship and union with Christ, then Lloyd-Jones is, as one member in my church put it, the blue-collar version the rest of us can understand.

Lloyd-Jones in his preaching through Romans chapter 6, has wonderfully taken these glorious, and admittedly tough to understand doctrines, and he has presented them in such a way that the average man can get it. But more importantly, I think, he’s applied these doctrines to why they matter for us in our everyday walk with Christ.

In one sense, Lloyd-Jones is taking the argument of Paul in Romans six and slowly, verse by verse, unpacking it; taking out the doctrine of federal headship and the Christian’s union with Christ, and applying it, turning it over and over, allowing us to see every facet and aspect of this truth. And then, not content to stop there, he makes sure we know what this means for us today; for our sanctification and walk with Christ.

“Indeed, I do not hesitate to say that to understand the meaning of [Romans 6] is the key to understanding the Apostle’s whole doctrine of salvation - in its full sense.”[2]

Indeed, he argues that these doctrines which Paul is presenting, are “one of the most glorious aspects of the Christian truth, one of the most profound, one of the most stimulating, one of the most comforting - indeed I rather like to use the word exhilarating. There is nothing, perhaps in the whole range and realm of doctrine which if properly grasped and understood, gives greater assurance, greater comfort, and greater hope than this doctrine of our union with Christ.”[3]

And to be sure, as the group of men I’ve met with on Sunday mornings begin to wrestle with and really sink their teeth into what Lloyd-Jones is expounding, I am seeing more and more their hope for glory increase, and their assurance in Christ strengthened, and therefore their fight against sin reinvigorated.

After Lloyd-Jones gave two historical examples which help us understand what it means to no longer be under the reign of sin and therefore dead to the old man, he gives this stirring bit of encouragement. “The whole object of the Apostle in this sixth chapter is to get us to realize [who it is we belong to]. ‘Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin’. You are therefore to realize it, to reckon it. Realize also that you are ‘alive unto God through our Lord Jesus Christ’. It is not true yet, perhaps, in your experience; but though it is not yet true in your experience it is true as a matter of fact. We have got to believe it.... This is not a matter of experience primarily; he is dealing with a matter of fact. He says you died to sin as a matter of historical fact.”

There were not a few teary eyed men in my Sunday morning gathering after hearing this exposition; men burdened under the weight of their experience and tempted to forget and no longer believe the truth that they are in Christ that they are in union with him. I am more convinced that every church bookstall should not only make available Lloyd-Jones on Romans 6, but that Christians of all stripes should be reading this volume and letting the exposition of Romans 6 infiltrate their lives.

Perhaps the locus classicus of this volume is where Lloyd-Jones applies these truths to the preaching of the Gospel. He writes that, “the true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge [of antinomianism] being brought against it. There is no better test to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. That is a very good test of gospel preaching. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel.”[4]

And yet, Lloyd-Jones does an excellent job unpacking for us the absolute necessity of good works and obedience. But not before he hammers down the truth of the Gospel. Believing the truth that our identity is in Christ even when our current experiences may chip away at any assurance will help produce obedience in the believer. But, warns Lloyd-Jones, “[we] all proclaim whose slaves we are by the way in which we live. The slave-owner insists upon a certain type of conduct; therefore if you look at a man’s conduct you can tell who his master is.”[5] Again, “If [Paul] granted for a moment that a man could be justified without the process of sanctification starting at exactly the same time, he would not be able to answer the objection voiced in the words, ‘What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace?’”.[6]

But Lloyd-Jones is always sure to put the burden of ability back upon God. It is God’s power that enables. “The command is enough because it is the command of God, but such is the grace of God that he never leaves us with the bare command, he supplies us with reasons for listening to it and for obeying it.”[7]  Indeed, “You cannot, you shall not go on living in the realm and under the final power of sin. Why? Well, because of the reason that he has already given in verse 16 of the first chapter: ‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.‘ Why? ‘It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.’”[8]

These are truths that are good to be reminded of as we continually fight against sin, and Lloyd-Jones has done a marvelous job expositing them for us and helping us to believe and keep on believing. Take up and read.

 Stephen Unthank (MDiv, Capital Bible Seminary) serves at Greenbelt Baptist Church in Greenbelt, MD, just outside of Washington, DC.  He lives in Maryland with his wife, Maricel and their two children, Ambrose and Lilou.

[1] I’d want to also add Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, chapters 1-18.

[2] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The New Man, (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 2003), p. 14.

[3] [3] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The New Man, (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 2003), p. 30.

[4] [4] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The New Man, (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 2003), p. 8.

[5] [5] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The New Man, (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 2003), p. 206.

[6] [6] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The New Man, (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 2003), p. 217.

[7] [7] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The New Man, (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 2003), p. 285.

[8] [8] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The New Man, (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 2003), p. 25.


Stephen Unthank