Our Place Before God
My Dear _____:
I am a little anxious lest, knowing now that you have peace with God, you should be content, and settle down, thinking that this is all the blessing that God has provided for you in Christ. Many fall into this snare, and thereby never understand the place into which they are brought.
Permit me, then, to remind you, that great as the blessing is, on the enjoyment of which you have entered, it falls infinitely short of God's thoughts and God's desires for you. I may be able to make this more simple, if I direct your attention again to the foundation. The foundation of all lies in the cross of Christ; for it was there that He both met, on our behalf, every claim of God's holiness, and fully glorified Him in every attribute of His character. It is to this He Himself referred when He said, "I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do" (John 17: 4). And it is on this ground, as having thus established a claim upon God, that He prays, "And now, 0 Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was" (v. 5). You will therefore see that God's estimate of the work of Christ is seen in the place which He has accorded to Him at His own right hand. We may even say more: that nothing less than this would have been an adequate response to the claim which Christ had, through His finished work, established on God. And surely nothing less could have satisfied the heart of God; for who shall even imagine His joy in intervening to raise Christ from the dead, setting Him down at His own right hand, and in giving "Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father"? (Philip. 2: 9-11). Observe, then, very carefully these three things: first, that the place now occupied by Christ in glory is the fruit of His redemptive work; secondly, that He occupies it as Man; and hence, thirdly, that He is there on behalf of His own. The consequence is, that God must bring us into the same place; that God's glory is concerned in according to believers the same place of acceptance before Him; yea, that His heart delights also to acknowledge thus the work and worthiness of His beloved Son. Every believer therefore is before God according to the efficacy of the work of Christ, and in all the acceptability of His Person, and thus enjoys a position of perfect nearness, and is the object of the perfect complacency of God; for he is brought, even now, home to God in Christ Jesus.
I may now lead you to a few scriptures which will abundantly substantiate the above statements. The very next verse to that which occupied our attention in the last letter will do much towards this. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ"; and then the apostle proceeds: "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5: 1, 2). It is thus not only peace with God that we have on believing, but we have access also through Christ into this grace wherein we stand; i.e., we are brought into the full favor of God - into the unclouded sunlight of His presence, and there we can rejoice - everything being settled and secured - in hope of the glory of God. So perfect and so inalienable is the place into which we are brought, on faith in Christ - on faith in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead - that, notwithstanding the trials, difficulties, and dangers of the wilderness-path, we can rejoice in the hope - in the sure and certain prospect - of the glory of God. There may be, as the apostle goes on to tell us, tribulations; but if so, we can glory even in these, "knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" - that love which God proved, commended toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Having too, while we were yet enemies, been reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, we are entitled to conclude, we shall be saved - saved completely, including the redemption of the body (8: 23) - by His life, the life of the risen Saviour at the right hand of God. And not only so, but we also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation (see margin) (5: 3-11). Thus we have as our present portion, the love of God shed abroad in our hearts; we joy in Himself, we occupy before Him a place of perfect favor, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
But even this is not all. In this same epistle we are taught, not only that our guilt is gone for ever as soon as we believe in Christ, that we are justified, etc., but we are also shown to be brought through the death and resurrection of Christ into a new place altogether - a place outside of the flesh, because we are "in Christ" before God. The next section of this epistle, commencing at verse 12 of this chapter, ending with chap. 8, treats of this subject. You will thus see that, first of all, everything is traced up either to Adam or Christ, the two heads, the man Adam, and the second man Christ (5: 12-21). The consequence is, that every one is seen in Adam or in Christ, and I need hardly say, whether we are in Adam or Christ, depends upon whether or not we are believers. If through grace we are believers, we are in Christ. This being so, there are certain blessed results which I will briefly indicate, leaving you at your own leisure to follow out the subject.
The first thing the apostle reminds us is, that the very ground on which we are - the ground taken at our baptism - shows that we profess to be dead with Christ; and this, as is seen in Col. 3: 3, is true of all believers before God. If you carefully read Rom. 6 you will at once see that the apostle urges our responsibility on this foundation. Hence myself is gone from God's sight as well as my sins, otherwise the apostle could not say, as he does, "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (6: 11).
In the next chapter he teaches that we "also are become dead to the law through the body of Christ," etc.; and this prepares the way, after a discussion of the effect of the application of the law to one who is quickened by the Spirit of God, bringing thereby to light the constant presence of sin in the nature and the utter contrariety between the new nature and the old (7: 13-25), for a full statement of the truth as to the believer. "There is therefore," he proceeds to say, "now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus," (8: 1), so complete is the deliverance, as well as forgiveness, which we have in Christ. Nay more; he tells us, "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you" (8: 9). He thus shows that the believer's standing is not in the flesh, not in the first man Adam at all, but he is before God in a place which is characterized as being in the Spirit; that is, the Spirit, and not the flesh, characterizes his existence before God, because, in the death of Christ, the believer's evil nature also was judged; for "God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (8: 3). Then, after pointing out further blessed consequences of having the indwelling Spirit, he declares that "all things must work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to God's purpose," since "whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren," etc. He then asks the question, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" and he answers by reminding us that God, in delivering up His Son to death for us all, has given us the proof that He will freely give us all things. This leads him to the triumphant conclusion that nothing can be laid to the charge of God's elect; that since God Himself has justified them, none can condemn them; that since Christ has died, and has risen again, and is even at the right hand of God to make intercession for us, nothing can ever separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (8: 31-39).
Now it would be a fatal mistake for you to rest in the fifth chapter, if you would know the fulness of God's grace, and the wondrous character of his salvation; for, unless we go on to the eighth chapter, we never know what is true for us and of us before God - the complete and perfect deliverance every believer has, though he may be ignorant of it, in Christ. And it is of the utmost importance that you should see that these blessings which have been indicated are in no way connected with attainment. All that I have pointed out is the portion (whether he knows it or not) of every on who cries "Abba, Father," of every babe in Christ.
But even now there is much more beyond; and if you will turn with me to Ephesians, I will indicate in a few words - for I am unwilling to prolong this letter - the full character of the believer's place before God. Look, first, at the wonderful expressions in the first chapter: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He hath 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 the the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved" (1: 3-6). Look at each of the sentences I have underlined, and you will see how perfect is our place before God. For he has blessed us with all spiritual blessings, etc.; it is His purpose that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love; and He has made us accepted in the Beloved.
In the next chapter we have the steps by which we have been brought into the heavenly places. "God who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved); and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," etc. (2: 4-6). Here we are regarded as having been dead in sins; Christ is looked upon in this epistle as having gone down into that condition - dead, as it were, in the place of the sinner; God, being rich in mercy, and acting from His own heart of love, came in, in grace, and quickened us together with Christ and then He raised us up together and seated us together in Christ in the heavenlies; so that He has brought us into His own presence; and hence our present place - our place now, even while we are in the body - is in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. Nothing short of this expresses the fulness of His grace, or satisfies His own heart.
There is one more scripture I desire to bring before you, and then I have done. "As He is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4: 17). As Christ is at the right hand of God - the delight and joy of God's heart - there in all the perfectness of His person, and in all the sweet savor of His sacrifice, so are we in this world; for we stand not in ourselves but in Christ, and are therefore invested with all His own acceptance and fragrance before God.
The Lord give us to have clearer apprehensions of the place into which, in His unspeakable grace, we are brought in Christ Jesus.
Believe me, dear ______,
Yours affectionately in Christ,
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