The position of a child of God is so exalted that it seems almost too good to be true! How could one even imagine that a sinner, saved by God’s marvelous grace, is brought to the very highest place in the sight of God? Yet listen to these words: In the Lord Jesus Christ “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:9-10). We are complete in the One Who has the preeminence in all things! We are complete in the One beloved of the Father, Who is worshipped by all the hosts of heaven. The believer does not have limited acceptance but rather the highest standing. He is not seen in the imperfection of human failings. He is seen as “perfected for ever” (Hebrews 10:14). He has been made as acceptable to me Father as the Lord Jesus Himself. What an amazing transformation! The one who once was dead in trespasses and sins has now been placed in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-7).
When did this occur? When a sinner hears the gospel of salvation, believes it and trusts the Lord Jesus Christ, he is sealed in Him by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). The Spirit of God baptizes or fully incorporates that one into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). In Christ all believers are blessed with every spiritual blessing that God can bestow (Ephesians 1:3). In Christ we are made the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). In Christ we are loved and accepted just as He is because we are united with Him. Grace, or undeserved favor, is freely bestowed upon us because we are in the Beloved One (Ephesians 1:6). As the hymnwriter put it, “God sees my Savior and then He sees me, in the Beloved, accepted and free.”
Position Versus Practice
These glorious truths are difficult for many to understand. Will not a belief in them make us cease from all spiritual efforts to please God? No, they are intended to arouse a wondrous appreciation of the Author of “so great salvation.” They are to produce a life in keeping with this high calling. It is for this reason that such books as Ephesians lay down our position in Christ in the opening chapters and then call upon us to live up to that calling in the remainder of the book. Our position is the way God sees us because of what Christ has done for us; our practice is the way we live out our daily lives. What about the various warnings, exhortations and corrections to believers? They are to be understood by remembering that position in Christ is not the same as practice in life, though our practice should increasingly correspond to our position. Compare the following:
POSITION IN CHRIST PRACTICE IN LIFE
Our unshakeable standing through God’s Our response in light of so great a salvation
salvation (Colossians 2:10) (1 Corinthians 15:58)
According to God’s estimate of His Son According to our appreciation of His Son
(Colossians 1:13) (John 14:15,21)
Eternal, unchanging (Ephesians 1:13-14) Temporal, variable (1 Corinthians 3:1-3,15)
We are holy (Colossians 3:12) We must seek to be holy (1 Peter 1:16)
We are perfect (Hebrews 10:14) We must seek to be perfect (Philippians3:12)
We are righteous (Philippians 3:9) We must live righteously (1 John 3:7)
We died to sin (Romans 6:2) We must count ourselves dead to sin
We are the elect of God (1 Peter 1:2) We must make our election sure (2 Peter 1:10W
The difference is plainly illustrated in the church at Corinth. The believers were fully accepted in Christ. He promised to confirm them unto the end (1 Corinthians 1:2-9). Their position was absolutely perfect (1 Corinthians 1:30; 6:11). Yet in practice they were contentious (1:11), carnal or fleshly (3:1-3), puffed up (4:18), at fault (6:7) and failing to judge immorality in their midst (5:1-5).
Relationship Versus Fellowship
Another way of expressing this difference is to compare relationship with fellowship. By receiving the Lord Jesus in genuine faith we become children of God. We are born again by the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23) through the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-6). We become children of God, members of His divine family (Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:2). This is relationship. The child who sins is not ejected from the family. There is a break in fellowship. This invites the discipline of God when there is not prompt correction in self-judgment (Hebrews 12:5-6). The discipline of God may involve bodily affliction and even death (1 Corinthians 11:30-32). Self-judgment involves the confessing and forsaking of sin (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9; Psalm 32:5; 51:1-4). When there is sin the joy of salvation is lost but not the salvation itself (Psalm 51:12). Relationship is not fellowship. Position is not practice. To confuse the two is to invite turmoil of soul and contradiction of the Scriptures.
Variability in the believer’s daily life makes him question his position in Christ only when salvation is mistakenly thought to involve man’s work for God. Scripture teaches that salvation is God’s work for us. Salvation is by grace (Ephesians 2:8), through faith (Galatians 2:16) and is the free gift of God (Romans 6:23 NASB; Revelation 22:17). Peace with God is solely through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20). No human effort can be added to this merciful work of God in our souls (Titus 3:5). God’s work through us results in good works (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:8). Abiding in Christ brings fruit unto His glory (John 15:1-16). Devoted living brings future rewards (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Only faith in Christ forms a basis for our being placed in Christ and remaining there.
Aspects Of Positional Teaching
The believer’s position in Christ is stated from many standpoints. A thoughtful consideration of any one of them would convince us of a standing that is beyond challenge. We would fully understand why God invites us to draw near to His throne in boldness and full assurance (Hebrews 10:19-22). As we review each declaration of God, please note that none of them has the slightest thing to do with our feelings. Each statement is a revelation from the Word of God and is to be believed because God says it is so, not because of emotional stirrings within. Consider these spiritual blessings which are so graciously granted to us in Christ.
1. Forgiveness Of Sins. Countless souls today are crushed beneath a load of guilt before a holy God. With what relief we read, in Christ “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14 NASB). Even the prophets of the Old Testament proclaimed remission of sins on the ground of faith (Acts 10:43). Sins as scarlet are made as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). They are blotted out as a thick cloud (Isaiah 44:22). They are put as far from the believer as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). It is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). When we have redemption through His blood, then we have forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; 1 John 1:7; 2:12). He “loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelation 1:5). How can we read these verses and doubt that God has completely forgiven us for Christ’s sake? Our sins are remembered no more (Hebrews 10:17). The confession of sin by believers is made to restore broken fellowship (1 John 1:9). It is not to establish relationship. As believers, we seek forgiveness from a Heavenly Father rather than pardon from a Holy Judge.
2. Justification. This is a divine act whereby a holy God pronounces the sinner who believes in Christ to be righteous before Him and acquits him from all charges, apart from any merit of his own. This is done freely by His grace (Romans 3:24). This is a declaration of God, not an experiential thing (Romans 4:4-25). Justification is by faith, not human effort (Romans 5:1; Galatians 2:16; 3:11). It is on the basis of the blood of Christ alone (Romans 5:9). When James 2:14-24 speaks of justification by works, it means that faith was displayed in outward actions and thus demonstrated its reality before others. Justification does not mean “to make righteous,” but rather to “declare” that we are righteous. A significant action of God in this connection is imputation or reckoning to the account of another. This is Divine accounting. God imputed, reckoned or laid upon Christ our sins (Isaiah 53:5-6; 1 Peter 2:24). On the other hand, He reckoned to the believer the righteousness of God (Romans 3:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21). It is the only kind of righteousness which makes us acceptable for the presence of God (Philippians 3:9; cf. Isaiah 64:6). We stand, therefore in the presence of God completely cleared of all charges and clothed in the very righteousness of God. We stand without accusation before God because we are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
3. Sanctification. The root word is used in such forms as “holiness,” “sanctify,” and “saints” (literally, “holy ones”). It means “to set apart.” God has set us apart in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30) for His own eternal and sacred purposes. Every believer is sanctified in Christ and for that reason is called a saint (1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1). Though the Corinthians had sin among them, they were still saints. Just as all believers among them were justified, so all of them were sanctified (1 Corinthians 6:11). It was a work of the Holy Spirit and based upon the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:2). Believers are called upon to be in practice what they are in position. Thus the Lord Jesus prayed for their sanctification (John 17:17). In Christ all are sanctified forever, yet we are exhorted to be holy (1 Peter 1:15).
Such profound blessings given by our gracious God should fill each of us with a devotion which never runs dry. We ought to be occupied with the glory of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18). Turning our thoughts within, upon our own failings, is misplaced vision. Rather we should glory in Him (1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 4:6-7). As we focus on Christ, our risen Lord, our hearts will be filled with love and worship for Him, the worthy Lamb of God (Revelation 5:9-13).
The Believer’s Position In Christ
Read the book of Ephesians in a modern translation. Then answer the questions below.
1. What was our position with God prior to salvation (Ephesians 2:1-3,12; 4:18-19)? What were some of the things we practiced?
2. What is our position with God as believers (Ephesians 2:4-6; Colossians 3:1-3)?
What does it mean to be “in Christ”?
3.How is a person brought into a position “in Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:30a; Ephesians 1:6; 2:8-9)?
4.Read Ephesians 1:1-14 and complete the following questions: Identify, by verse reference, the occurrence of the phrase “in Christ,” “in Him,” or similar renderings.
What does the believer have “in Christ”?
What characteristics of God are mentioned, and how do they relate to the benefits He bestows on the believer?
How do these things increase your appreciation for the Lord and your position “in Him”?
5.Why does God want us to know about our position in Christ (Ephesians l:17-19a)?
6. What aspects of the believer’s standing “in Christ” are emphasized in the following verses?
Romans 8:1 2 Corinthians 5:21
1 Corinthians 1:30 Ephesians 2:10
2 Corinthians 5:17 Colossians 1:14
7. Paraphrase (rewrite in your own words) Colossians 2:9-10a. What do these verses mean?
8. Compare the position of the Corinthian believers with that of their practice (1 Corinthians 1:2-9,11,30; 3:1-3; 4:18; 5:1-5; 6:7,11).
9.In view of our exalted position “in Christ,” how shall we then live?
Ephesians 4:1 Colossians 3:1-3
List the changes that living this way will bring in our lives (Ephesians 4:2-3,22-32; 5:3-4,11-13,22-33; 6:1-9).
10. Write a brief paragraph explaining why you think a believer should be taught the truths in this lesson.
How will these truths help you live a more godly life?