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Being In Christ
By David A. DePra
Godís purpose is Christ. All He is doing is for Christ, and in Christ. But the good news is that if we are saved, we are IN CHRIST. That means what God is doing in Christ applies to US.
Many Christians limit the plan and purpose of God to getting people saved. Well, unless we are saved nothing else is possible. But we are saved for a purpose. Salvation is the entry point. Yet there is an eternity that follows.
There are a couple of places, most notably in Ephesians, that speaks of the ETERNAL purpose of God, "in Christ" Ė in other words, the purpose for which we are saved. But no matter where we read in the Bible, all of the purposes of God are related to Christ. And the way in which we get to experience these purposes is only by being IN CHRIST.
God is doing nothing outside of His Son. Jesus is THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON of God. Yet IN THE SON God intends to have many sons and daughters. Thus, we have the Father, His only begotten Son, and those who are IN the Son.
Election Unto PURPOSE
To look at Godís purposes in Christ, one good place to begin is in the aforementioned epistle to the Ephesians:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. (Eph 1:3-5)
Before looking at this passage, I want to get out of the way any discussion about Calvinistic doctrine. Calvinists teach that God, before any of us were born, decided to elect some to salvation, and many more to damnation. Of course, todayís Calvinists have learned to cleverly avoid discussing Godís election to damnation Ė although if God decides who to elect to salvation, and only those will be saved, then He obviously has elected the rest to damnation. Or, if Calvinists donít try to avoid that point of the discussion, they will try to convince you that it is for Godís glory that He has elected billions to damnation Ė even before they were ever born. I sometimes wish that some of these people would just be honest about what they teach instead of betraying the fact that they know they teach horrible doctrines by avoiding them. I once asked a militant Calvinist pastor if he openly preaches his full belief in election Ė both to salvation and to damnation -- to his congregation. He said NO Ė he said he didnít think they were ready for this teaching. Well, it is the Truth, or isnít it? And if it is, then it is THE GOSPEL he believes. Paul wasnít ashamed of his gospel. Evidently, this guy was ashamed of his. Well, I donít want to be cruel. I will leave this right there. I think Iíve made my point. I will not here take the time to go through the dozens of scriptures to prove it further.
So Calvinists teach that God has already determined exactly the number of people, and their names, who are saved Ė God has, they teach, "predestined," them to salvation through His unconditional election. Then Calvinists follow up this error by demanding that because God has elected only some to salvation, that Jesus died ONLY for these few elect. This is the doctrine Ė it is the heresy Ė of limited atonement. Calvinism is heresy, not only because it is a distortion of scripture, but because it is a distortion of God Himself. Whatever I teach about these things ultimately is a picture of the God who is love, and the Savior who came to reveal Him. And the fact is, a God who never intended for Jesus to die for all, and who always intended that many be damned to hell, is quite a DIFFERENT God than the One revealed in the Bible, and the gospel that emerges from such a God is a, "another gospel," with, "another Jesus." Sorry to be so blunt, but most Christians have no idea the immeasurable damage that generally accepted heresy does to peopleís search for Jesus Christ.
Iíve had to say all of this to get to the point of the above passage. What God has predestined are not SOME people unto salvation. Rather, what He has predestined is a purpose FOR SAVED PEOPLE. Itís the purpose that is predestined. In short, if I come to Christ, then what God has predestined applies to me.
If we read the passage again this becomes clear. It first says that God, "has chosen us IN HIM before the foundation of the world." It does not say that God has chosen us TO BE IN HIM Ė not in the sense of unconditional and irresistible election. No. Rather, it is saying that if we are IN CHRIST, that because we are, God has chosen us IN HIM unto a purpose that He is going to mention. In short, God has chosen Christ. Thus, if we are IN HIM, then we are chosen Ė precisely because we ARE in Him.
Paul is here teaching what he and the other apostles teach again and again Ė that all things that God has for the believer are IN CHRIST. They are found ONLY in Him. You cannot have them by going around Christ. In fact, you have to be rightly related to Christ in order for anything that belongs to Him to apply to you.
The Only Begotten Son of God
Here we see a great principle that we will see more of in a minute. Godís purpose can be summed up in a number of ways, but one great way is by stating the relationship of God to those for whom He has a purpose. That relationship is simply this: There is the Father, and there is His only begotten Son, and there are all of those who are IN THE SON -- as sons and daughters. It is that simple. This is why everything God has flows through Christ.
You and I are sons and daughters of God ONLY if we are IN JESUS CHRIST, the ONLY begotten Son. It is through Him and in Him that we are Sons. Iím not simply talking about what He DID for us. Iím talking about the fact that we are now IN HIM Ė we are ONE with Him in spirit. That is the basis of our sonship. That is the ONLY basis. We are sons only in the Son.
This is why Paul says, "God has chosen us IN HIM." Of course. He doesnít choose us IN ADDITION to Christ Ė but rather chooses us IN HIM. That makes us co-heirs with Christ. It makes us sons of God in the only BEGOTTEN SON.
To continue with the passage, Paul said, "God has chosen us IN HIM before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." So what is the purpose for those who are IN CHRIST? Salvation? No. We are already saved if we are IN CHRIST. The purpose for the redeemed, Paul says, is, "that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." And then Paul adds, "God has predestined Ė i.e., purposed beforehand Ė that we should be adopted as children THROUGH Jesus Christ to Himself."
There really isnít anything all that complicated about this passage once we realize that it is not talking about some election unto salvation, or limited atonement. No. It is talking about the purpose that God has for those who are IN CHRIST. We are to be holy and without blame before Him. God intends to adopt us as children to Himself. And again, you will note that even our adoption as children is not to make us sons or daughters in addition TO Christ Ė but we become children of God THROUGH Jesus Christ. In short, we are sons only IN THE SON.
All Things in Christ
In case you havenít noticed, the beginning of Ephesians contains the longest sentence in the NT. I guess thatís one effect of translating the Greek into English. But Paul does continue speaking of the purpose that God has for those in Christ. But first, he summarizes Godís eternal purpose for all creation:
That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.
In order for all things to be gathered together in Christ, two things are necessary: All who are gathered in Christ must be ONE with Him Ė in harmony with Him in every way. Secondly, they must be in harmony with each other. Otherwise, how can all things be gathered together in Him? If you think about it, we now see why some will be eternally separated from Christ Ė they wonít be gathered together in Him.
Paul returns from the overall purpose back to His purpose specifically to those who are in Christ:
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will -- That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
And how might God achieve these great purposes? Obviously, He is already working on it. This isnít reserved for the after life. No. That is why Paul is able to offer the following prayer for the Body of Christ:
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all.
If you read this passage, you see the desire of God for His people. And central to most all of it is that we might SEE. God wants us to KNOW HIM. He wants the eyes of our understanding to be enlightened. He wants us to live governed by His purposes. He wants us to realize and live for these eternal purposes. And of course, fundamental to all of this, front and center, is Jesus Christ. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in HIM. You cannot know the purposes of God unless you know Christ. Again, everything is IN HIM.
In The Son
Godís relationship to each of us is through His Son. As I said, there is the Father, and there is His only begotten Son. There is no relationship like this, and never will be. Why? Because Jesus is God, indeed, He is God the Son. He is the ONLY begotten Son.
The other day on Christian television I listened to two high profile preachers state that Jesus was NOT the only begotten Son of God Ė their reason being that we are also sons of God. Frankly, that is an appalling ignorance. I mean, what do we think the word ONLY means? That there are others in addition to Him? Read these verses:
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:18)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; butthat the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)It is not without significance that each time that Jesus is called, "The Only Begotten Son," that it is from the pen of John, the apostle. John wrote never the end of the first century. It was a time when the identity of Jesus as God become man was being distorted. John was making it clear WHO JESUS IS.
Some interpreters have pointed out that the word translated, "only," can mean, "unique." This is good. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God and He is that in a unique way Ė in a way that will never be true for anyone else. Jesus is God and always was God. He was never anything but the only begotten Son of God. We will never be God. In fact, even before we became sons of God IN CHRIST, we were sons of Adam. Thus, we see why the Bible says we have to be adopted. We were once in the Adam family, and were Ė yes, through a new birth Ė brought over into Godís family through Jesus Christ. This can be likened to an adoption Ė even though the adoption happens through a birth from above. The concept of adoption is justified because of the translation from one race to the other.
But behind all of this stands the reality of many sons IN the only begotten Son of God. In the Bible, the redeemed are always baptized INTO Christ, or INTO the name of Christ. We are IN the Spirit of Christ. We are PLANTED into His death and resurrection. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Indeed, even in Romans 8 where it says that we are being conformed to the image of His Son, the Greek means, "formed TOGETHER with His Son." Yep. There is never the thought that we are clones of Christ, or Xerox copies of Him. There is never the idea that we are sons separate, or in addition, to Christ. No. It is always that we are IN HIM and He is IN US. In fact, isnít this the very meaning of Christianity Ė being IN CHRIST and CHRIST IN US?
The implications are all through scripture. We have already read some of them in Ephesians. The bottom line is that if we are sons IN THE SON, then everything that He has, well, we have THROUGH Him. All that God purposes in Christ He likewise purposes for us Ė not as equals TO Christ, but as those who are IN HIM.
The Father, Jesus Christ -- who is the Only Begotten Son of the Father -- and those who are in the Son Ė this is the, "family," of God. It is the full relationship that God is working on. That is why Paul is able to later say in Ephesians:
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 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 passes knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (Eph 3:14-21)
The words, "in Christ," occur 77 times in the NT. Thatís a good number. In those two words, we have a description, indeed, a definition of Christianity, and they embody the entire purpose of God.
To realize the meaning of being IN CHRIST Ė of being in the only begotten Son of God Ė opens up an understanding, not only of Godís eternal purposes, but also of His ways NOW. For example, God will bless only that which is OF His Son, or IN His Son. Since God is gathering up all things in Christ, you can be sure that He isnít going to gather to Himself that which is NOT of Christ. He wonít bless it and He wonít affirm it and He wonít promote it. Thus, it does not matter how successful something seems to be, how many people follow it, or how much money and people are involved Ė God is in ONLY His Son. And if we want to go on with God, we are going to have to be IN His Son.
But there is even more. Most of us easily accept what Christ has DONE FOR US. It is vital that we do, for His finished work forms the foundation of everything. But how many of us realize who Christ is to us NOW? I donít merely mean Savior, or the One in whose name we pray. Iím talking about something beyond that. Note these following verses:
But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord. (1 Cor 1:30-31)
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
You and I talk all the time about the fact that because of what Christ did for us that we are declared righteous before God. We also say He redeemed us. And we say that He sanctifies us. All of that is good. But read the verse above. It goes beyond that. Paul says that Christ IS those things unto us Ė because we are IN HIM. Christ IS those things Ė NOW. How often is this talked about?
There is a great difference between THINGS Christ did FOR US and who He IS IN US right now. What Paul is saying is that God doesnít MAKE US righteous. Neither does He give us a THING called, "righteousness." No. God gives us His Son. Thus, Christ IS our righteousness.
This isnít just a matter of words or syntax. It is a great Truth. For you see, if God merely gave us a THING or merely a designation of a legal righteousness, we might think that we need to hang onto it or maintain it Ė even as saved people. But once we realize that CHRIST IN US IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS Ė well, can we see how finished and eternal this is?
Notice also Galatians 2:20. Christ did die FOR US. But Paul says he is crucified WITH Christ. He says Christ lives IN Him. Again Ė one with Christ. All of this is what it means to be IN CHRIST and for Christ to be IN US.
In this great Truth we see the meaning of Christ in us, the separation of soul (us), and the Spirit of Christ (Christ in us), and so much else. Christ in us is what God has given Ė and everything God has is found in Christ. HE is those realities IN US. We are sons in THE SON.
Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2:3)
For in him dwells all the fullness of Godhood bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Col 2:9-10)
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Rom 8:32)
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Eph 2:6)
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10)
Everything that God has for the believer is found IN CHRIST. Our oneness with Him in spirit makes that possible. We are sons IN the only begotten Son, and thus, share everything God intends in Him. That is why Paul is able to say:
That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:7)
If you want to know what will be going on throughout the eternal ages, right here we are told. We are going to be experiences the riches of Godís grace in Christ. We are getting started NOW. But this will continue forever. It is all IN CHRIST.
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