In Ephesians 1 we have our standing in Christ: this must not be weakened. There must be no turning aside from our place before God in Him. There I get to know that all I was as the old man is for faith gone; I see that I am dead, and that my life is hid with Christ in God. In the flesh there is no good thing, nothing but sin, will, lusts, which lead me away from God. But I believe the testimony of God, and see that Christ died, and that, by death for sins and to sin, the entire evil thing for faith is put an end to. The next step is, that, an end being put to me as the old man, Christ becomes, in me the new man, and I am put in the presence of God as in Christ Himself, entitled to consider the old as done away. This is my place and standing before God. It is not only that sin is put away, but my position before Him is in consequence of this.
Nor is this the only thing; for I know that not only am I in Christ, but Christ is in me. These two things cannot be separated, but they are quite different. The one expresses my standing, the other my state. The Lord Himself said, before He left the world, “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” He has brought me into the standing; and this we have in Ephesians 1, 2. Christ is looked at as having lain in death but now raised, and we are raised up together and made to sit together in heavenly places in Him. There we are; and such is our position as connected with the “God of our Lord Jesus Christ,” chap. 1:17, etc. But in chapter 3:14, it is, “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Again, in chapter 1, it is written, “that we should be to the praise of his glory”; whereas in chapter 3, the prayer is founded on “the riches of his glory,” v. 16. In the first chapter God is called the Father of glory. “Here the standing is taken as a settled thing; but we have something further, “that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” Here it is state, not standing. We do not ask God to raise us up: that is an accomplished fact and is my standing. But here the apostle prays that something may be accomplished; that according to the riches of His glory, we may be “strengthened with might by his Spirit.” The condition of the soul must answer to the place into which it has been brought, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”
I know that Christ is in me, and I in Him; but I ought not to be satisfied without the consciousness of enjoying Him. “That Christ may dwell in your hearts “is a prayer as to state, not a declaration of standing. What we have to watch is, not to unsettle the truth of the standing, but to apply the blessedness of the standing to the judgment of the state.
Thus, if you say you have fellowship with the Father and the Son, I say, Come, let us see. I saw you laughing just now at foolishness in the street: is not that having fellowship with a fool? Thus it is one applies the standing to judge the state. And here it is that the advocacy of Christ comes in, and connects the perfectness of the standing with the state. Can I have a better place and standing than in Christ? I am righteous as He is righteous. My sins are all gone. And what now? I have been brought into the light as God is in the light. But you sinned? Alas! yes. Is this the light? No. But are you going to put me back under law? No! I am going to make you own that you need and have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. The condition of the soul does not depend on standing but on present grace.
If a person says, I am in Christ and I am satisfied, it is to be feared, and very likely, that he is not in Christ. As to doctrine, he may be clear enough; but if he really were in Him, he could not be satisfied without communion. “Knowledge puffeth up”; but the effect of being in the light is to make us value not the place only, but fellowship with the Father and the Son (with one another, too, of course; but this comes in by the way). The way it works is this: the very essence of the condition of a soul in a right state is conscious dependence. Now one may use the fact of completeness in Christ to make one independent. Two things are implied in dependence: first, the sense that we cannot do without God in a single instance; and, secondly, that He is “for us.” In other words, there is confidence in His love and power on our behalf, as well as the consciousness that without Him we can do nothing.
That is the reason why you will find constant reference to mercy when Scripture speaks of or to the individual. When the church is addressed, grace and grace only is mentioned. Only in Jude we have “mercy unto you, and peace and love be multiplied”; and then, in verse 21, “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life,” where the departure of Christendom is contemplated, and when things were rapidly going on to judgment. We find, therefore, the saints exhorted to keep themselves “in the love of God.” This is state again, and it shews that when the Christian profession had slipped, and was slipping, more personal dependence comes in urgently. The moment I let this in, I let all the light in, and gradually my eyes get to see clearly. Christ is that light, and when we have to do with Him, the subtlety of evil is seen. But, besides the light, there is grace and present dependence needed. Let us delight in dependence—that a Person above us should minister to us and care for us.
What should we think of a child with its father and mother, who yet said, I do not like to have anything to do with them? Should we not say, These are not the feelings of a child? You may think yourself a fine man in being independent, but you are not like a father’s child.
Again, in Ephesians 3, it is not our being glorified with Him, but that God may be glorified. Thus in verse 21, “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus.” But this state is produced by Christ’s dwelling in us by faith. It is not a question of the standing we have in Christ. This carries full, practical blessedness with it, as it is said, “That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” Whereas in chapter 1:22, the point is, that God has put all things under Christ’s feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. Hence also in Ephesians 1, it is the exceeding greatness of God’s 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, etc.; whereas in chapter 3 it is, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,” not the power which has wrought for us in Christ’s resurrection, raising us up with Him.
When the heart gets this, according to Ephesians 3, it is safer, very jealous of itself, and in a lowly condition; in a word, it is with God instead of without Him. I am perfect, I want nothing—that is my standing in Christ; but if I look for fellowship, I want God every day and every moment. But if I think of standing: suppose you have paid my debts and given me a capital besides, I have got the thing, and want you no more for it. So I do not want God to give the place He has put me in before Himself in Christ; but I do want Him for communion, and if I find an evil thought, I go to Him for grace to get rid of it. Do you want to be perfect in Christ before God and not have a bit of communion? The work is done. If all your sins are not put away, they never can be; for Christ cannot die again: not only a sin-offering has been made, but sin has been put away. This is what I call my standing, in part at least; and it is as perfect as God can make it. That by which God has been glorified is my place before God. The best robe is on me; with me it is all grace, with Him it is His own glory. But are you to be a stoic? Is there to be no fellowship? Not only there ought to be fellowship, but your joy should be full.
Come now, and answer, like an honest man, Is your joy full? No. Well, but that is what you ought to be, and it is what we find in the end of Ephesians 3—Christ dwelling in the heart by faith; not Christ our life, though this last is a blessed truth, but that we may be able to comprehend all the effects produced by the reality of Christ’s blessed presence— His being in us thus.
What an unlimited extent of blessing this supposes! v. 18, 19. When the standing is known, it is but the beginning of Christian fife. If I am saved, I am inside the door; but inside, I want to know something of what is within. First let the soul be grounded in that which is the substance of the whole truth. Then, if a person is not kept in a state corresponding to the standing, he may do worse even than the unbeliever. The devil may make him for a time cast off everything.