The Christians Choice: Self-Life or Christ-Life. Which?

The Christians Choice: Self-Life or Christ-Life. Which?

By Philip Mauro (1859-1952)

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” 2 Cor 5:14-15 NKJV.

…The above-quoted passage is addressed to believers, to those who have been quickened [made alive] together with Christ, who have received the free gift of God, which is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. God can bestow this gift freely upon them, because His Son has received in their stead the wages of sin which were due to them [Rom. 6:23].

Hence the love of Christ manifested in His dying for them, constrains them, and they judge that One died for all, therefore all died.

Facts of God

“Therefore all died.” We have in these words a statement of fact of immense importance. It is a statement which is addressed entirely to faith; for faith consists in believing what God says upon the basis of His Word alone. The facts of God, which faith receives upon His Word, are incapable of verification or corroboration. For “faith is the evidence (or conviction) of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1), that is to say, a conviction concerning things which lie in a sphere beyond the reach of man’s natural faculties, and concerning which man may speculate as much as he pleases but can know absolutely nothing except upon the Word or statement of God. Those who believe what God says about matters beyond their reach have faith.

The foregoing statement (“therefore all died”) sets forth the identification of the believer with Christ in His death. It is a fundamental fact. It lies at the basis of personal salvation, and those who grasp the mighty truth embodied in it obtain settled peace of conscience, freedom in life and service, and other consequences of capital importance.

“One died for all, therefore all died.” Human logic may be unequal to tracing the connection between the premise and the conclusion; but the logic of this statement is divine. One died for all; and the merit of the life He surrendered was so great in God’s sight that His death is accepted as fully discharging the obligation to broken law which rested upon the “all” for whom He died. It was a life of transcendent value freely offered (for He owed no debt to God’s righteous law) for those who believe on Him. “Therefore all died.” God can in pure grace, but with perfect righteousness, credit their account with the benefits of that death, and can righteously judge the account to be “settled” — paid in full. If, therefore, God Who judges righteously, declares Himself fully satisfied with this settlement of the sinners account, shall the latter question it, or doubt the sufficiency of the payment? If he believes the declaration of God’s Word on this fundamental point he will set to his seal that God is true, and will joyfully accept the result even though he may not be able to comprehend how it was arrived at.

The identification of the believing sinner with his Lord in the latter’s death is a truth of such importance that God has several times given us His testimony to it in His Word.

Thus we read in Romans 6:6, “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him.” And again in Rom. 7:4 we read, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead, to the law through the body of Christ.” And again in Gal. 2:20 we read “I have been crucified with Christ.” And again in Col. 3:3 we read “for ye died.” Again we read in Gal. 3:13, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us.” And once more in 1 Pet. 2:24 we read that “we having died unto sins should live unto righteousness.”

Such is the explicit testimony of God’s Word on this subject. And now we, hearing this testimony, considering the whole matter, realizing that we have broken the law, acknowledging, as we must, that “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, and just, and good” (Rom. 7:12), and knowing that we are absolutely powerless to settle the claim which that holy law has against us, — considering, I say, the whole matter, we reach a final judgment: “We thus judge, that One died for all, therefore all died.”

This is a conclusion which brings unspeakable relief to those who know the sentence of the law “the soul that sinneth, it shall die,” [Ezek. 18:20] and “who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” [Heb. 2:15]. To know, upon the assurance of God’s own Word, “Who cannot lie,” [Titus 1:2] that one’s death is, not a future event, but a past event, must bring unspeakable relief.

But this is only a part of the great truth disclosed in the above passage of Scripture. These tell us of the believer’s identification with Christ not only in His death, but also in His resurrection.

They Who Live

No sooner does our text declare the fact that “all died” than it speaks of them that live. To those who have received new and eternal life, at such great cost to Him, the passage brings a message which it is of the utmost importance for them to hear. These now have a life to live, and the question is, how shall they live it? Unto whom?

Obviously, such a message could apply only to living ones, to those “who live.” No one would think of giving directions how a dead man ought to live. God’s Word does not contain any directions to guide the conduct of the unregenerate. These are all “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). They must first receive, by faith, the gift of God which is “eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” [Rom 6:23] before any “rules for right living” or “guides to a holy life” could have any possible application to them.

And yet, notwithstanding the difference between life and death so clearly set forth before our eyes in this earthly scene where death reigns, and also in the Word of God, many blind leaders of the blind are telling poor unquickened souls that they ought to “lead good Christian lives,” or are exhorting them to “make a fresh start in life,” or to “lead better lives.” How plain it ought to be that one must first get the life before he can live it!

But “they who live” were once “dead in sins.” Now, however, they have been “quickened [made alive] together with Christ,” and one consequence is that they now have a power of choice. They can choose what they will do with the life they have received. God does not coerce the human will, either in the matter of receiving life or of disposing of it after it has been received. Of those who reject the gift of life, (even after searching the Scriptures which testify of Him, thinking that therein they have eternal life) our Lord said, “Ye will not come to Me that ye might have (i.e. receive) life.” (John 5:39,40).

And now, upon those who have received life from Him no compulsion is exercised. Only “the love of Christ constraineth them”; and they can feel the constraint of His love only in realizing the great fact that He “died for all.” Such love as that should have a constraining force far greater than the force of any law; and surely we will come under the influence of that constraining force in proportion as we “know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.”[Eph 3:19].

Here then is the choice presented to those who live. Shall they live “unto themselves,” or “unto Him?”

The choice is very plain, and very simple, and what it involves is not at all difficult to understand. There are just two centers of life; and around one or the other of these centers the life will revolve. Those centers are self and Christ. The new man, the living man, whose life has been purchased by the blood of Christ has the power to chose between these two centers. To live unto self means to plan, arrange, and order ones doings to please ones self; to gratify ones own wishes; to seek the interests, advantages, comfort and convenience of self; to have as the controlling reason (which so many freely avow) for what they do, “because I wish to do so.”

To live “unto Him” means “to deny self,” that is to say “no” to all self-inclination, self-will and self-interest, to “serve the Lord Christ”; to regard His wishes and His interests; and to seek in every way to advance His cause and hasten the day when He shall be revealed in His power and glory as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, when every knee shall bow to Him and every tongue confess Him Lord, to the glory of God the Father [Phil. 2:10-11].

It is not necessary to enter into the particulars which would constitute the life which is lived unto Him, because, when the quickened soul makes the choice of living no longer unto self but unto Him, he soon learns by the Word and Spirit of God what the details of his life are to be, and he will be led into those good works which God has before prepared for him to walk in (Eph. 2:10).

The difference we are considering may be briefly expressed in the words “self-pleasing” and “Christ-pleasing”; and in this connection we should remember that “even Christ pleased not Himself” (Rom. 13:3).

Our main purpose is, not to give directions for right living, but to indicate some of the weighty reasons which should constrain all for whom Christ died to make the right choice.

Two Classes of Christians

From our reading of the Scriptures and from our observation of those around us, we learn that there are two distinct classes of Christians, and these form two groups indicated in our text. All believers alike have received the life which is to be had only from the risen Son of God, but some are yet living unto themselves, while others have sanctified Christ as Lord in their hearts, and have sought Him as the center around which the objects and interests of their life revolve [1 Pet. 3:15].

When our Lord was on earth there were many who heard His words, and believed on Him, and hence passed from death to life, and yet who did not deny self and follow Him. They became believers but not disciples, going on with the new life in the old self-pleasing ways. And precisely so it is now. There are great numbers who have been saved by the grace of God through faith in His crucified and risen Son, but who have not taken their stand with Him in His present rejection. They have chosen to remain in the camp with its gaieties and attractions, rather than “go forth unto Him” (Heb. 13:13).

There is manifestly a very great difference between these two classes of Christians. In the light of the Scripture before us, to which do you and I belong? And if we discover, in the light, that we are not in the circle of blessing near to Himself, let us lose no time in taking the place there to which He is inviting and which His death and resurrection have opened to us.

Many Christians, alas! take their salvation as if it were a sort of paid-up insurance policy. The premiums have all been paid, so the matter demands no attention or concern from them, and in the event of the remote contingency against which the policy provides, they expect to be saved from disagreeable consequences. But the event is too far off to give them any present concern, and so the insured can go on in the enjoyment of the pleasures that are within their reach. But the Scripture calls upon the redeemed of the Lord to use the life which He has bestowed upon them in His service, to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). “These things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:8).

One need only look at the passage of Scripture upon which we are meditating to see reasons of the weightiest character for influencing His choice of life. Let us briefly indicate some of these.

The Purpose for which Christ Died for Us

The first reason that appeals to us is the statement that the purpose of His death was that we who live should not any longer live unto ourselves, but unto Him. He died for all in order that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him [2 Cor. 5:14-15]. If, therefore, after we have accepted the benefit of His death as the atonement for our sins and our deliverance from judgment and the wrath to come, we go on living as before the life of self-pleasing, we defeat and nullify, to that extent, the very purpose for which He died, and thus make His death, so far, a vain thing. In one word, the life that we are living is not our own, but is His. To every ransomed sinner comes the clear statement of fact “you are not your own, you have been bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20). What then are you doing with the Lord’s property? For whom and in whose interests are you using it? For self or for Him?

The old prophet Malachi asks the solemn question: “Will a man rob God?”[Mal. 3:8]. Will a man dare to do such a thing? Oh! need we look beyond our own hearts to read the self-condemning answer? In the days of Malachi it was only a matter of tithes and offerings. But now it is a matter of the soul which He has bought at a great price. It is a matter of the life, forfeited by reason of sin, which He has redeemed by paying Himself the forfeit.

The Scriptures make it very plain that the death of the Lord Jesus puts the redeemed sinner in a new position with reference to this present life. “Knowing this that our old man was crucified with Him that the body of sin might be destroyed (annulled or rendered nugatory) that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6). Serving sin is merely another way of saying “living unto self,” for sin is pursuing self-will instead of God’s will. It was for this very purpose, therefore, that our old man (what we were by nature as children of Adam) was crucified with Christ. It does not matter at all what sort of an “old man” it was, whether vicious, ill-tempered, depraved, or reputable, kindly and respectable. The characteristics of the old man are of no consequence, for “they that are in the flesh (or old nature) cannot please God,” however much they may deservedly enjoy the esteem of men. God does not accept an “old man,” however much reformed or improved. He accepts only a new man, one having the new nature of the Man Whom He has raised from the dead [Rom 8:11].

Again we read that He “gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil age” (Gal. 1:4). If, therefore, we are going on with the evil age, not availing ourselves of the deliverance which He has wrought for us according to the will of God, our Father, we are opposing ourselves to the purpose for which He offered Himself up, and, of course, are opposing ourselves to our own good, for the will of God is “good, and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:12).

The Power to Live Unto Him

We may also read this passage as stating that His death and resurrection are what make it possible for those who live to forsake the old object of life (self) and to live for Him. He died for all, in order that they who live need not be any longer bound to the servitude of the old life, but might be enabled to live unto Him.

When God gives a command to His children He seeks only the response of their will. He Himself supplies the power. Life itself involves its own dynamic characteristics. The life which the quickened soul receives is, as we have already seen, the life of the risen Christ, and this life will spontaneously manifest its character just so far as scope is afforded to it. But the believer while he has received this new nature, has yet the old nature [the flesh] to “reckon” with, and hence is in a position to live either to the old man [the self-life] or the new [the Christ-life]. So he is called upon to “reckon” himself to be dead unto sin, which reckoning consists simply in judging thus, “that One died for all, therefore all died.”

This death of the Sinless One put an end to the old servitude. Our old man was crucified with Him to put an end to that bondage, so that we should no longer serve sin. And, while His death cut off all ties binding us to the old life, making us “free indeed” (John 8:36) to turn away and escape from all the irksome exactions of the “old man,” His resurrection brings us into a new sphere of life, a new creation, where all things are new and all things are of God, as we read a few verses further down in our chapter [2 Cor. 5:17]. Therefore, the Scripture on which we are meditating puts before us not only His death, as effective to sever the old ties binding us to the self-life and its sphere (the old perishing creation into which death has entered) but also His resurrection as effective to bring us into the sphere of the new life, into which death cannot enter. “Unto Him Who died for them and rose again.”

To know this truth and to apply it in our present walk is to know “the power of His resurrection,” and its present availability in the very scene of our old bondage; “that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father” — absolutely released from and forever triumphant over all the old circumstances and conditions — “even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).

The identification of the believer with Christ in His resurrection brings him into the sphere of the “things that are above.” The life which a man lives expresses itself in the things he is seeking, and upon which he is setting his affections. One may be working in a mine far below the surface of the ground, but his life is not there. It is above where his affections are and the things, which he is seeking. Hence we read, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col. 3:1-2).

Again it is not a question here of trying to discriminate between classes of things on the earth, so as to avoid certain earthly things and seek others. The distinction is sharply drawn between things above and things on the earth. If we have been raised with Christ we are in a position where we have power, if we will, to seek those things which are above, where He is, in other words, power to live no longer unto self but unto Him. How important, and how immensely practical, in a scene where corruption, decay, disease, failure and disappointment abound, to apprehend this truth in all the fullness in which it is revealed in God’s Word. Let us often and earnestly lift up the prayer which the Spirit has given us, that we and all the people of God may have the eyes of our understanding opened “that we may know what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead” (Eph. 1:8-20).

The Effect on Others

Another strong reason for making the complete change of the center of life from self to Christ is the influence and effect of our lives upon those who are without [unbelievers]. Every one who makes any profession of Christ is an object of close scrutiny. Those who are scrutinizing his way of living do it unobtrusively and generally without comment. Often it is done for the purpose of detecting signs of insincerity or failure; but sometimes it is for the honest purpose of ascertaining the reality of the power of Christ in the life of one who confesses Him. Thus, whether we desire it or not, and whether we are conscious of it or not, we are living epistles, known and read of men [2 Cor. 3:2]. What are they reading with those watchful eyes in your life and mine? What conclusions are they drawing from what they read there? And what influence are those conclusions exerting upon their attitude towards the Lord Jesus Christ?

Let me relate a little personal episode which will strikingly illustrate this part of the subject. A few years after I had come to a knowledge of the great salvation which has been wrought by the crucified and risen Son of God, I learned of the death of the beloved wife of a friend, a man much older than myself. I highly esteemed him and looked up to him as one of the most eminent and honored lawyers in the country, and entertained affectionate regard for him because of kindness and help extended towards me when a law student and in the early days of my practice. I was away from home when this news reached me, and though I did not know whether or not he was a Christian, I ventured, in writing him a note of sympathy, to quote those words of comfort given to us in 1 Thess. 4:13-18.

I met him subsequently and he at once referred to my letter and expressed a desire to talk with me on the subject upon which it touched. This led to several long conversations. He was without faith, and had been endeavoring to find in the opinions of learned men a resting place for the mind and an answer to the profoundest questions which the heart raises. Consequently he was in a truly pitiable state of uncertainty, pointing out that one writer said one thing, and one another, and that no one seemed to have any solid foundation for his opinions. I most earnestly urged him to turn from conflicting human opinion to the Word of God, assuring him with all the conviction that was in my own soul, that we had God’s own Word for everything that was important for us to know. I also endeavored to show him by that unfailing Word, that eternal life was given to all who believed on the crucified and risen Son of God. It was quite evident that the impression my testimony made upon him was due to the fact that I had strong convictions, and could rest unquestioningly upon the revealed Word of God. After this much had been gained he put to me this question, “Did your acceptance of Jesus Christ make any actual difference in your life?” What a searching question; and how clear it was that I could bring no help to that distressed and darkened soul and I not being able to assure him that, as the result of believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, my life had been completely changed, that old habits of life and habits of thought had fallen away, that old things had lost their power to attract and to satisfy, and that in short the result was entrance into a new creation!

He went on to say that he had been closely watching churchgoers for forty years, that he could not see that the profession of Christianity made any difference in their lives, that their manner of living could not be distinguished from those who made no such profession, and he cited the case of a man very high in the councils of the nation, a personal friend of his, who was prominent in one of the largest churches of the city, but whose manner of life gave no evidence of being influenced in any way by his profession of Christianity.

Consider what this means — that a man of the highest culture, a close observer of men, living in the center of the national life of this, so-called, Christian land, could ask, after watching professing Christians for forty years, whether believing on the Lord Jesus Christ made any difference in one’s life! What sort of Christians were these? For whom were they living that, after so long a study of their ways, this keen observer was forced to the conclusion that Christianity was, for all practical purposes, a sham — a mere form of godliness without the corresponding power? (2 Tim. 3:5).

I never saw that man again. A few days after this conversation he too was called away, and I do not know whether or not he had found refuge in the atoning blood of Christ. But I am sure that the same question is being asked by millions of others in this and other lands where there is a profession of Christianity. Eyes are fixed upon each one of us who names the name of Christ. They are eager eyes, hungry eyes, the eyes of imprisoned and perishing souls, and while these observers may make no comment, they are asking within themselves, “Does it make any difference in one’s life?” What answer do they get to that question as they regard your life and mine? We are, whether we wish it or not, living epistles, known and read of men; and not only read, but closely studied and scrutinized. What are they reading day by day, and what conclusion are they reaching? The answer will be found in the answer to that other question, unto whom are we living, unto self or unto Him?

The Normal Life

Another thought I would put before you in this connection, namely, that living unto Him is the normal, and hence the happy and fruitful life for “them that live.” The believer is “in Christ.” That is where he belongs. His true interests are all where Christ is at the right hand of God. To live for self, to go on in the old ways, to be making provision for that “old man” [the flesh-Rom. 13:14] whom God could do nothing with and whose corrupted nature brought the Prince of Life under the power of death, even the shameful death of the cross, to seek gratifications among the perishing things of a dying world is, to them “that live,” an utterly abnormal existence, which can yield only disappointment and loss of peace in this life and of rewards in that which is to come. Moreover, abiding in Christ is the condition of fruit bearing (John 15:4,5), and even if it were possible for a living one to find gratification, sustenance, and occasional pleasure in a dying creation, the consciousness of the waste and unprofitableness of such a life would rob it of all real joy.

The Cost of Our Freedom

Finally let our hearts be open to the force of recognizing at what great cost this freedom has been secured to us. Recognizing this, the love of Christ, His dying love for helpless sinners, will constrain us to live no longer unto ourselves, but unto Him, Who died for us and rose again. It cost the humiliation and death of the Lord of Glory to put us in the place where it becomes possible for us to choose between self and Him as the center of life. Of the horrors and sufferings of that death on the cross we can form no conception. What the “power of darkness” meant to Him, we cannot imagine; for He had always dwelt in the bosom of God, and “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” What it meant to “taste death for every man” [Heb. 2:9] we cannot even faintly comprehend.

And yet there was no other way to release us from the old bondage of sin and self. The only way of deliverance for the captives of sin is by the death and resurrection of the Prince of Life (Acts 3:15); Whom it was impossible for death to hold. And because there was no other way, He was willing to die for them. Therefore, One died for all. There was Adam to be saved from death and be brought to God. Therefore Paul declared to the Thessalonians “that Christ must needs have suffered and risen again from the dead” (Acts 17:3). His death was necessary to atone for our sins, and His resurrection was necessary to bring us, with Himself, into the new creation. (Eph. 2:5; Rom. 4:25). And, therefore, after His resurrection He Himself put to the two disciples the question “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26). And He showed them, from “all the Scriptures,” that He ought indeed to have suffered them, because He came to fulfill all that was written of Him. He died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3,4). All that He did was according to the Scriptures; and so He opened the understanding of the eleven and them that were with them, so that they might “understand the Scriptures,” in order to prove to them that “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day” (Luke 24:33,45,46).

He died for us. Therefore, we have life. Let us live it not unto ourselves but unto Him Who died for us and rose again.


“As far as twentieth century Christian figures are concerned, Philip Mauro stands out as one of the most captivating. After coming to a saving knowledge of the Lord in 1903, at the age of forty five, Mauro, a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States and one of the foremost patent lawyers of his day, began his ‘Testimony’ of what was to him the most important event in his life.” – Philip Mauro online archive

In the passages of Scripture quoted, the author used the revised readings because these give the proper verb tense. Parentheses are added to include terms and references added by JBW; some spellings were modernized. Thanks to Christian Salvage Mission for this text, and to typist, Deborah Cooke.

Regarding the “two classes” concept in this article: the author is not excusing the “carnal Christian” (1 Cor 3) as a permanent state of the regenerate. God disciplines His children (1 Cor. 11) and will evaluate their life at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). Spiritual Life is expected to have vital signs (James 2:26). However, most born again believers have yet to fully heed the admonition of our theme text– 2 Cor. 5:14,15.

For a glossary of sanctification related terms (e.g. “old man,” “flesh,” “new man,” etc.), see the page at

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