FFF 12:4 (Apr 1966)
The Believer’s Standing in Christ
We do well to remember that whatever God has done for us, or given to us, is through His Son. It was impossible for God to bless us on the basis of merit. The only reason He is able to look upon us with complacency is because Jesus died and rose again.
There are past, present and future aspects of the divine scheme of grace and we shall consider each separately.
“According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).
When a person has definitely accepted Christ as Saviour, one of the greatest discoveries for him to make is that he was in Christ before the world began. Such an idea as this never entered our minds in our unconverted state. It is only the mind which is enlightened by the Spirit of God that can in any measure appreciate this tremendous fact. Think of it, and allow the grandeur of the thought to captivate you, that before time had its birth, in the remote eternal ages, you were an interested party in the eternal purposes of God, and an object of His wonderful love See 2 Timothy 1:9).
The question arises, In what sense am I to understand this truth? Perhaps s simple illustration will help. A clever artist decides to paint a picture which he hopes will be his masterpiece. He occupies some time mentally arranging the most minute details connected with the background, the foreground, the figures, the colours etc. In fact, the entire picture is a finished article in his mind before the brush touches the canvas, and when the picture is completed it is in reality a duplicate of that which had been so carefully thought out beforehand.
In like manner, though on an infinitely vaster scale, the divine plan of redemption was a completed work in the mind of God before the world began, and Christ was the channel through whom the work was accomplished.
In the Bible we find that believers are designated a temple in which God has His dwelling place (Ephesians 2:21 and 22), and every believer is a living stone in that spiritual edifice. We cannot tell how many stones have already been dovetailed into this magnificant structure, but however great the number is, they all contribute to the building in its completeness. The most important stone is the Chief Corner Stone, and that Stone is Christ. Hence the significance of the profound statement: “The Stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner,” Very soon this spiritual building will be manifested in all its perfection, without a single stone missing; but in the mind of God all this was complete in Eternity past before a stone was laid, or a soul saved.
Believers are also referred to as a Body (See Eph. 4, and 1 Cor. 12). As the physical body has many members, and yet is one body, so the Body of Christ (the Church) is composed of all who believe in Him. God alone knows the exact number, but however many there are, they all contribute to the Body in its fulness. Obviously the most essential part of the body is the Head which controls the rest, and just as Christ is the Chief Corner Stone of the temple, so He is the Head of the Body, the guiding and controlling power, Apart from Him we are nothing, and have nothing. He is the Head, we are the members, and sooner or later this wonderful Body (which we might refer to as God’s masterpiece), will be seen in glory in all its divine perfection. Not a single member will be absent. Yet, in the purpose of God this Body was complete before the world was, “Chosen in Him.” How wonderful! (See Rom. 8, 29 and 30).
“Ye are complete in Him, which is Head of all principality and power” (Col. 2:i0).
This passage unfolds the present aspect of our standing in Christ. Notice carefully the words “Ye are”; not “Ye were”, though that is true as we have just seen; not “ye will be”, though that is also true, as we shall see presently; but “ye are” here and now, as complete as you will be in Heaven. Then let us notice the words “in Him”. We are not complete in ourselves. Scripture teaches us the very reverse. Paul was one of the most beautiful characters that ever adorned the Church of God and yet in Romans 7:18, this devoted servant of Christ says. “For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.” Paul wrote these words as a believer in the Lord Jesus. Let us therefore ever remember this two-fold truth,
1. we are not complete in ourselves,
2. we are complete in Christ.
There is an outstanding connection between verse 9 and verse 10 of our chapter. The former verse tells us that “in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” That is to say, all the attributes, graces, and perfections of the Triune God are centered in Christ. He is the complete manifestation of all that God is. Verse 10 informs us that we, poor, helpless, failing creatures though we be, are complete in Him. If this fails to stir us to a deep sense of gratitude, our hearts must be miniature icebergs.
How did all this come about? The answer is seen in Hebrews 10:14, which conveys the truth that God sees us perfect is His sight because of the perfection of the sacrifice of Christ. In verse 1 we are told that those sacrifices which were offered year by year continually under the law could never make the sinner perfect (no, not for five minutes), but through the one offering of Jesus, every saint is perfected for ever. What a stupendous sacrifice that must have been!
There is a further passage on this “present” aspect which is most important. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the Apostle says, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new.” Paul does not say that the Church is a new creation, though that would have been perfectly true, but the wording is “If any man be in Christ,” that is to say that each individual believer is in himself or herself a new creation, implying a new condition of things entirely: not the old life improved; not an endless series of patchwork, but a new standing, a new condition, a new beginning, so that as God sees us, old things have passed away: all things have become new. The words which follow are, “And all things are of God.” In this new creation everything is of God: nothing of the world, nothing of the flesh, nothing of the devil.
Let me illustrate this very simply. A wealthy man, to whom money is no object, decides to build a house. He puts in the best material, and the finest workmanship, and when the work is finished it is the admiration of the entire neighbourhood. Years pass by and tell their tale upon that building, and in course of time it is discovered that the foundations are giving way; cracks are seen in the walls, and, what is even more serious, the drains are out of order, and the house is rendered positively unhealthy. The building is therefore condemned. The owner has it demolished, and every particle of it is removed out of sight. He then erects another house on the same site, far more beautiful than the first in design and material. The walls are made of jasper; the foundations are tessellated with all manner of precious stones; the floors are of pure gold; the doors are made of pearl; and the entire building is finally covered with gold. Now something like this has taken place with us in the sovereign grace of God, who has removed from His sight every vestige of the former state of things, and has created us anew in Christ Jesus for His everlasting glory. The prodigal son, on his return home, was stripped of his rags, cleansed from his filth, and clothed with the first robe in the house. Thus we are complete in Him, who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
“That in the ages to come He (God) might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” This passage unfolds the future aspect of God’s magnificent scheme of grace. The words are “that in the ages to come,” not days, nor years, nor centuries, but ages! This carries our mind forward to the wonderful future when God purposes to shew —what? Well, He will certainly manifest His wisdom, His greatness, and His power, but here we are told that He will shew “the exceeding riches of His grace.”
An amazing display of divine glory will be seen in that future period. If we glance at the preceding verses we shall see that God has quickened us together with Christ; raised us up together; and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Him.. And why all this? Not merely for our blessing and enjoyment, but primarily for His own satisfaction, that in the coming ages He might show to a wondering universe how He has handled, and what He has done with such poor, wretched, failing creatures as we were in our unconverted state. The adjective “exceeding” occurs three times in this Epistle. In chapter 1:19 where we are reminded of the “exceeding greatness of His power;” in chapter 3:20, we perceive His ability to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think;” and in the verse under consideration we are reminded of the “exceeding riches of His grace.” It is all of grace from first to last. We are saved by grace; we are kept by grace; if we are enabled to serve Him in any way, it is only by His grace; and very soon grace will crown the work it has begun.
If we bring these three passages into proximity, we shall see this three-fold prospect disclosed; (1) We are to behold His glory. (2) We shall appear with Him in glory. (3) His glory is to be revealed in us.
What a future! Although it does not yet appear what we shall be, when “In the ages to come He will show the exceeding riches of His grace,” surely enough has been revealed to make our hearts overflow with divine joy, and our voices ring with everlasting praise.