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Created in Christ Jesus
by David A. DePra
For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:8-9)
The above verse contains one little phrase that contains so much Truth that we can barely touch upon it. Paul says, "Created in Christ Jesus…." For a moment let us put aside the context of this verse and simply focus on that one fact: A Christian, through the new birth, is created in Christ Jesus. What does that mean?
Well, first of all, it means that there is a creation that happens when we are born again. Sure. When we are born again there is new life. But wait. There is MORE. There is actually a NEW CREATURE that is born. The Bible says, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away. Behold, all things are become new." (II Cor. 5:17)
So one thing that being created in Christ Jesus means is that there is a brand NEW creature that has come to birth – this brand new creature has, if you will been CREATED in Christ Jesus.
How does that work? Well, when you are born again, your spirit is made one with the Holy Spirit. Paul says, "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit (with Him)." (I Cor. 6:17) This is, of course, equal to saying that Christ Himself has come to dwell in us. Or, if you will, it is equal to saying that we are then IN CHRIST. We have been planted into His death and resurrection and are then HIS BODY. All of these pictures are describing the fact that we have been made ONE in spirit with Jesus Christ. We are IN CHRIST, Christ is IN US, and consequently, we are ONE with the Lord.
According to the Bible, our oneness with Christ CREATES a new creature – a new man IN CHRIST. This is what it means to be born again.
Now, it is here that we must be careful to note something very important. In no sense is this new birth ever described as something God does TO us – in the sense of God taking us and making us LIKE Christ, or in the sense of making us a new creation apart from Christ. No. We are a new creation only because we have been joined to Christ – we are a new creation because we are IN HIM. Our new identity is the outcome of having become one with Jesus.
I must say this again because if we don’t get this, nothing else will make any sense. Everything you are as a Christian, and everything you possess, is the result of you being one with Christ. In short, to possess eternal life, Life Himself must possess YOU. To know the Truth, the Truth must know you. God has absolutely NOTHING to offer us outside of His Son. But everything God has for us is found in Christ. Thus, if Christ is in us, the potential is in us for all that God has.
So what we have is this: The new man in Christ Jesus is the creature that is birthed from the union of God and man in Christ. You become a new man, not because God does something TO you, but you become a new man because Christ is IN YOU. All that you are is a direct result of being ONE WITH HIM.
Treasure in Earthen Vessels
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. (2 Cor 4:7)
Paul says that we have, "this treasure," who is Christ Jesus, in, "earthen vessels," who is US. You will note that he is clear to say that the treasure is NOT the earthen vessel, and the earthen vessel is NOT the treasure. No. Christ is OTHER THAN us. There is us, and there is Christ. But nevertheless, the union of the two – of the treasure and the earthen vessel – results in the birth of a new man, created in Christ Jesus.
God never made man to be anything but a vessel that was to hold the Treasure. We were not made or designed to be able to LIVE without God in us. Thus, when Adam emptied Himself of God he died. And Satan came in to fill the void. Since then, people have been trying to fill themselves with anything that will satisfy them. But in the end, only God will do.
Now, the thing that I once again want to point out is that Paul takes pains to say that the Treasure is IN the earthen vessel. Compare this to what many of us have been taught: That the earthen vessel is to be made to LOOK like the Treasure. Or DO like the Treasure. No. Rather, the Treasure is IN the earthen vessel to be SEEN through the earthen vessel – unto God’s glory.
You and I have heard so often that we are to look like Jesus, act like Jesus, or do what Jesus would do. We think that over the course of time that somehow God will change us to where we resemble His Son – almost like God is making Xerox copies of Christ. No. What God is actually doing is putting Christ in us, birthing a new man – and then Christ will be SEEN IN US.
This Truth is especially important to grasp today because so many are teaching that Jesus came to bring out the best in us. Many are teaching that Jesus Christ died to release YOUR greatness, and to help you, "Discover the Champion in You." This is utter nonsense. Jesus came to create you in HIMSELF – which means that you get to be crucified out of the way so that HE might be seen through you.
Note Paul’s words to this effect in the same passage as the one about the Treasure in the earthen vessels:
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. (2 Cor 4:8-12)
We are never, independent of Christ, to be made LIKE Christ. No. We are, by virtue of our union with Christ, to be living epistles OF Christ – that is, Jesus Christ is to be made manifest through us. Or, to continue with the analogy of the earthen vessel, once we are born again and have Christ in us, God will want to BREAK the earthen vessel, rub off the dirt, and put to death that which hinders all that keeps Christ from being seen in us.
When we realize that rather than US living LIKE Christ, Christ wants to live through us, it creates a big question: How is this possible? For Christ obviously will not live through us to the disregard of our wills. In other words, Christ living through us is not a matter of God taking us over, or the result of some form of irresistible grace. No. In order for Christ to live through us there must come a change – a change in us.
In order for Christ to live through us, we must become governed by Truth. This will require the work of the Cross to free us from all error, sin, and unbelief. IF we yield, and that word IF is vital, then we will voluntarily move in concert with Christ. Our ONENESS with Him in fact, will become a ONENESS that is lived out.
The new man that is birthed as the result of our oneness with Christ must GROW in the grace and knowledge of God. Then Christ will be seen. And we will be a WITNESS unto Christ. But this is not US doing it FOR God. It is God doing it for US, and then THROUGH us.
A Living Salvation
Now, before we go on, can we see that salvation is MORE than just a legal classification? Salvation is the result of CHRIST IN US. This is not merely legal – it is LIVING.
There is no question that the legality of salvation – explained through the doctrine of justification by faith – is essential. For salvation to be moral it must be legal and just. But if salvation were only a legal stamp given us of God, there would be no life of Christ in us. But no. God does justify us by faith alone. But He gives us more than a legal classification. He gives us Christ.
God would never declare us righteous legally without making provision for becoming righteous REALLY. And He makes that provision for us by giving us Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But I think that this becomes more clear if we stop thinking in terms of God declaring US righteous because of what Christ did FOR us – and start thinking more in terms of God declaring us righteous because of who Christ is IN us.
The Bible does speak of all the things that Jesus did FOR us. But they are never left there as mere facts, doctrines, or accomplishments that Jesus did for us that have no impact upon us. Everything Jesus did for us is gathered up in Jesus Himself – and thus, when He dwells in us, those things become real, dynamic, and living.
For example, Jesus was crucified FOR us. Thank God He was. But Paul says, "I am crucified WITH Christ." Anyone who is IN Christ can say the same thing. Thus, we must become recipients of what Jesus did FOR us in ways that go beyond our mere acceptance of the historical fact, and our mere acceptance of the legal benefits. Thus, it is precisely because Jesus was crucified FOR us that we can be crucified WITH Him, and have our old man of sin put to death, which results in freedom from sin.
Can we see that everything we have as a Christian is found only in Christ? And that unless He is IN US, we can experience nothing about Him? God doesn’t give us THINGS, and do THINGS, and work THINGS – not independent of His Son. Rather, God gives us Christ, and IN HIM are found all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In HIM are all the riches. In HIM are all the things of God. Therefore it is only through our union with Christ, and our growing to know Him and walk with Him, that the things of God are unfolded to us.
This is why Jesus said, "I am the Truth," and, "You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free." If you say you know the Truth, but do not know Christ, at best you know FACTS and INFORMATION. But if you know the Truth who is a Person, and you know Him the way the Bible means the word, "know," then something much different happens – you will be made true. Facts cannot make you true. Only the Truth can make you true.
The bottom line is this: To know the Truth essentially means to know Him that IS true. But in order to know Him that IS true, you must be MADE TRUE. For darkness cannot fellowship with Light, and lies cannot harmonize with Truth. Thus, if I know the Truth it is because I have been made true.
But again – this is all about knowing and being one with Jesus Christ. This isn’t about me becoming someone or something apart from Christ, or about God doing something TO me. No. This is about what happens to us when Christ is unfolded to us, and what happens to us when we grow to embrace Him.
How much better this is than only a LEGAL salvation. A legal salvation cannot make you true. It might DECLARE you to be true, or righteous. But a legal IMPUTATION cannot make you true or righteous. Only one thing can make you righteous or true: An IMPARTATION. Only if God imparts to us His Son through the Holy Spirit is it possible for us – by virtue of our oneness with Him – to be made true.
Salvation IS legal. But all of it is intended to make us ALIVE. Become one with He who IS the life, and you will…..well, you will be alive. "Christ, who IS our life," and the apostle Paul says.
You and I have nothing except we have it through Jesus Christ in us. Only if we have it through our union with Christ can it be living and able to be experienced. Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life. Thus, if we want to be raised unto newness of life we don’t need a THING. We need Christ. In HIM we find all that God has for us:
That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye 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 1:29-31)
Here we see that, "wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption," are not THINGS, or merely legal classifications. No. They are CHRIST IN US. In other words, HE contains all of these – HE IS all of these in living form. Thus, if He is in us, we have them as the outcome. It is simply a matter of spiritual growth to come to experience them as Christ becomes known to us personally and individually.
But don’t we need to ADD the Holy Spirit TO Christ after we are saved to receive ALL that God has for us? Absolutely not. Actually, the question itself is flawed. Christ dwells in us THROUGH the Holy Spirit. There are not two experiences – there is only Christ. And Paul says, "You are complete IN HIM." (Col. 2:9-10)
When we receive Christ we receive ALL that God has for us. But this doesn’t mean we experience it all at once, nor does it forces us into God’s will. It simply means that we have in us the One in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge – the One who IS all things to us. But we still have to grow IN CHRIST. As we do, then all that Christ is becomes unfolded to us in our experience.
The source of much error in the Body of Christ is the idea that something of God can be found outside of Christ. Some seek after experiences, the things of this world, or even ministry – all in the name of Christ – but apart from Christ Himself. It will eventually lead to error. There are no NEW ways – there is only THE Way. There is no NEW truth – there is only THE Truth. There is no NEW life – there is only THE Life. God could not have been more clear about the fact that all things are wrapped up in His Son, and only His Son.
What is a Christian?
We are here actually getting at the very definition of what it means to be a Christian. A Christian is someone who is IN CHRIST. Or, if you will, a Christian is someone in whom Christ dwells. Thus, despite the fact that much else emerges from being in Christ, unless you are in Christ, you aren’t a Christian.
But there are so many other definitions of what it means to be a Christian out there today. Some say, "Christianity means we follow the teachings of Jesus." No it doesn’t mean that – not if you are not FIRST in Christ. For if you want to follow the teachings of Christ, start with this one, "You must be born again." And if you aren’t? "You cannot even see the kingdom of God." Others today say, "To be a Christian means that I believe the doctrines of the Bible." Nope. A person in whom Christ dwells is going to believe the doctrines of the Bible, but it is possible to believe the doctrines of the Bible and to not have Christ in you. Still others declare, if only by implication, "To be a Christian means to go to church." Nope. There are plenty of completely unregenerate people who attend church today. Some of them are in the pulpit.
A Christian is someone who is IN CHRIST, and someone in whom Christ dwells. But this brings us back to our opening statement: You are born again and have new life because Christ is in you. HE is your new life.
A New Man
Have we recognized that a Christian is not someone who has merely gotten the right religion – that he now believes and practices? No. Rather, a Christian is a NEW creature. Or if you will, a Christian is a different KIND of creature – different than it is possible for any human birth to produce. To become a Christian, you have to be BORN AGAIN FROM ABOVE. You have to receive a KIND OF LIFE that can only be received from the OUTSIDE of you INTO you. You have to receive God Himself.
This is what God is creating IN Christ Jesus – a new man. A new creation – a BODY. But again – this is not created as the result of practicing religion. Or by simply assenting to Biblical doctrines. The new creature – the new man – in Christ Jesus, is the result of our becoming ONE with Christ Himself. We are then created IN Christ Jesus.
But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Eph 4:20-24)
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: (Col 3:9-10)
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal 3:27)
You will note that even though we are a NEW MAN, created in Christ, that there is still the old to contend with. But more importantly, note that the OLD is not part of the new creation in Christ. The old is not what is birthed anew, but rather, it is that which is destined to die.
God has never said that our old man in Adam escapes death. No. Adam – our Adam is crucified with Christ – that we might be raised with Christ as a NEW creation. For this life, what this means is that the power of that old man in Adam is broken. But the presence and possibility of sin remains.
Now, if there is one thing that is wonderful to see about the new man in Christ, as opposed to the old man in Adam, it is this: The old man, the flesh, and the natural, is NOT part of the new man in Christ. These are carried along during this life, as mentioned, but they are no longer WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST.
Of course, I’m not saying that these do not have to be brought under the control of the Holy Spirit. They do – as we grow. And I’m not saying that we are not responsible for them – for we can choose to yield to the flesh. But all of that being said, the REAL US is no longer that which pertains to the old creation. This is easy to prove from scripture:
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. (Rom 7:14-17)
Note Paul’s words: It is no longer I that do it. Paul would never fail to take responsibility for his own failures, and isn’t neglecting that here. For later he says, "O wretched man that I am!" But he is simply saying that his flesh doesn’t behave in accordance with his will as a NEW MAN in Christ. Therefore, he is able to say that it is no longer HE that wills to sin. It is his flesh that will not behave – the sin that dwells in him.
Paul came to see that here were TWO natures operating in him – although he uses the term, "law in my members." You will read phrases like, "I see ANOTHER law at work in my members, warring against the law of my mind." (Rom. 7:23) Clearly, the phrase, "another law," proves there is more than ONE. This is the warfare of flesh against the Spirit, or, if you will, the war between old man and new man. Paul wraps up Romans 7 by saying, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." The new man is who Paul really is, in Christ, but the old is still present, hindering him. Yet there is ultimate victory in Christ.
Have you recognized that your flesh, your old man in Adam – have you realized that if you are created anew in Christ, that this is not really YOU anymore? Now, if you yield to the flesh, then you are responsible. But what I’m saying is that if you have been born anew, you are a new creation in Christ Jesus, and there is no part of that new creation that is of the flesh. No part.
I challenge anyone to find a single verse in the Bible that suggests that the new man in Christ has a flesh component. No. The new man is fully spiritual. Jesus said, "That which is born of the Spirit IS spirit." Now, the flesh is to be governed by our new man – by Jesus Christ as Lord. We have the choice to PUT ON the new man, and to PUT OFF the old. Bur our identity is SURE. And the nature of our identity as a new man in Christ is certain -- the new man is NOT flesh in any way, anymore than the old man in Adam is spirit in any way. The two are completely different KINDS OF CREATURES.
This ought to provide at least some comfort when your flesh doesn’t behave or act the way a Christian ought to act. Your flesh isn’t born again – why should it behave like it is? Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been careful to say that the flesh must be crucified, and brought under the government of God. But your flesh, your natural, and your body will never be born again in this life. Your new man is who you are IN CHRIST. Not who you are by natural birth.
This is why Paul is able to conclude all that he says in Romans 7 with this statement at the start of Romans 8:
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you. (Rom 8:1-11)
To be created IN Christ Jesus is to be a NEW creation. It is to be born of the Spirit of God a NEW MAN. This is not Christ taking me over, or Christ living through me apart from me. But neither is it me trying to live LIKE Christ, or me trying to be religious. Rather, it is Christ living THROUGH me.
For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 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 2:19-20)
"Nevertheless I live – yet not I – but Christ lives in me." This is the union of God and man in Christ Jesus. The result is a new birth of a new man – a new creation.
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