This study is about the believers’ position in Christ Jesus.
I don’t know of anything that is more crucial as a foundation to the Christian life, than for the believer to see what has been completed for him ‘in Christ Jesus’. From Ephesians 2:7, we could say that this entire study is embraced within that wonderful phrase ‘the riches of God’s grace.’
So how do we define grace? A common definition is ‘God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense’. Another definition is ‘the unmerited favour of God’. Both of these are true definitions, but the one that I like the best is simply ‘God’s love set free’. You see grace incorporates all that God desired to do for mankind because of His love, which He is now free to perform, because His justice has been met through the sacrificial death of His son.
So, in acting righteously in view of the cross, God’s love is now free to act as He wills! And oh how He has acted for the believer if only we could see it! Just as it says in the passage above, we have (past tense – when we first believed in Jesus) been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will – to the praise of His glorious grace!
So this study will explore the riches of God’s grace in regard to the believers’ position in Christ. In most of Paul’s letters there is a sharp distinction drawn between what God has done for us by grace, and how we are to live in view of this fact. The divine order that God has established through these letters is to first sit and learn of your position in Christ, and then, in view of this position, the exhortation is given to live a life consistent with your position.
In other words, the Christian life is becoming (in your experience) what you already are (in your position in Christ). This divine order is clearly seen in Ephesians, Colossians, and Romans amongst others. For example, and as a study of your own, please read the book of Ephesians and note down all that God has done for you and that which you are called to do yourself. You should see a sharp distinction between the first three chapters and the last three. (With the connection between the two starting at chapter 4, verse 1.) Commenting on Ephesians, Watchman Nee said:
"Most Christians make the mistake of trying to walk in order to be able to sit, but that is a reversal of the true order. Our natural reason says, If we do not walk, how can we ever reach the goal? What can we attain without effort? How can we get anywhere if we do not move? But Christianity is a queer business! If at the outset we try to do anything, we miss everything. For Christianity begins not with a big DO, but with a big DONE. Thus Ephesians opens with the statement that God has ‘blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ’ and we are invited at the outset to sit down and enjoy what God has done for us; not to set out to try and attain it for ourselves."
So the purpose of this study is to set forth that which is DONE, and through faith, enable you to rest in the finished work of Christ and your exalted position in Him! The framework for the following has been taken (somewhat loosely!) from Lewis Sperry Chafer’s excellent book "Salvation." I recommend you read this book as it contains more than I could add here. Before looking at that which God has done for the believer in Christ, Chafer raises the following five points that are very important to remember.
- These positions are not experienced, but are facts of the new life out of which precious experiences may grow. For example justification is not experienced but the joy and peace that occurs because of this fact will be.
- The Christian positions are not progressive. They do not grow or develop from a small beginning. They are as perfect and complete the instant they are possessed as they ever will be in the ages to come. For example, sonship does not grow, as an old man is no more a son of his father at his death than he was at the day of his birth.
- These positions are in no way related to human merit. They are made to stand on the unchanging Person and merit of the Son of God. The Christian is ‘accepted (now and forever) in the beloved.’
- Every position is eternal by its very nature. The consciousness and personal realization of these positions may vary with the daily walk of the believer, but the abiding facts of the new being are never subject to change in time or eternity.
- These positions are known only through divine revelation. They defy human imagination, and since they are not experienced, their reality can be entered into only by believing the Word of God. These eternal riches of grace are for the lowliest sinner who will only believe.
One more thought before you start racing through the list – Think! Yes, think about them. Meditate on them and what it means for you. You see, I’ve read lists like this before and I know the temptation to race through it. But I believe that these are truths that God would want to firmly establish within our hearts, for they glorify His character and show the extent of His work on the cross for us. So please, go slow, ask the Lord to reveal the truth in it, and mediate upon these things. Further on in his book Sit, Walk, Stand , Watchman Nee says:
"Our Christian life begins with the discovery of what God has provided. From this point onwards Christian experience proceeds as it began, not on the basis of our own work but always on that of the finished work of another."
Every new spiritual experience begins with an acceptance by faith of what God has done – with a new ‘sitting down’ if you like.
As you read each point, remember also what has just been said in that these truths are eternal and are as true of you today (if you truly believe in Jesus) as they ever will be. They do not grow or increase, but are free gifts of God’s amazing grace. That’s why we say that the Christian life is becoming what you are. One more last point – failure. Failure is almost a prerequisite for enjoying what God has done. God has hidden these truths from the proud and self-confident and as such they seldom seem interested, or care to believe that these things be of great benefit. But to those who truly see their need of God, the things of grace become the greatest delight! May you enter in new experiences of God’s love as you accept by faith that which God has done ‘in Christ.’
THE RICHES OF GRACE IN CHRIST JESUS
All of the following is true of every genuine believer in Jesus Christ. It is God’s gift to all through the ‘riches of His grace in Christ Jesus.’ These things are the result of His ‘love set free!’
IN THE ETERNAL PLAN OF GOD
Before the world had even been created, God knew and chose those who would be saved, and in the course of time He called them to Himself. Do we fully understand it? No way! Not until He explains it all in heaven. Do we still believe it? Yes, both through the word of God and the experience of God’s call upon our own lives.
Foreknown : Romans 8:29, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren.” (Also 1 Peter 1:2.)
Elect : 1 Thessalonians 1:4, “knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.” (Also Romans 8:33, Colossians 3:12, Titus 1:1.)
Predestined : Ephesians 1:11, “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.”
Chosen : 1 Peter 2:4, “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious.” (Also Matthew 22:14.)
Called : Romans 9:11, “. . . that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls.” (Also 1 Thessalonians 5:24.)
BROUGHT NEAR TO GOD
How near to God has Jesus brought the believer? In our position, just as near as Christ is himself! – In our experience, just as near as we wish to go! His blood has been poured out for the sins of the world and the temple curtain has been torn in two!
Reconciled : By God: 2 Corinthians 5:18, “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ.” (Also Colossians 1:20.)
To God : Romans 5:10, “. . . when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.” (Also 2 Corinthians 5:20.)
Redeemed : Colossians 1:14, “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Also 1 Peter 1:18, Romans 3:24.)
Brought Near : Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Given Access : Ephesians 2:18, “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” (Also Ephesians 3:12, Romans 5:2, Hebrews 4:14-16, 10:19- 20.)
CHILDREN OF GOD
Can someone born, then become be unborn? Can a son in a family somehow cease from being a son? Or can someone who has been adopted, be un-adopted? No, no, and finally, no! If you have been born into a family then you may change your name, but you cannot change your D.N.A and you are forever a son of your father. The same applies for our spiritual birth! The believer is a son of God Himself, born again of incorruptible seed and because of this we cry ‘Abba Father!’ – literally ‘daddy’.
Born again : 1 Peter 1:23, “. . . having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible.” (Also John 1:12, 3:7.)
Sons of God : 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now we are sons of God.” (Also 2 Corinthians 6:18, Galatians 3:26.)
New Creation : 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (Also Galatians 6:15, Ephesians 2:10.)
Adopted : Romans 8:15, “you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Also Galatians 4:5.)
Heirs : Galatians 4:7, “Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE TO GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST!
A good question is ‘Do you have to be perfect to go to Heaven?’ Most say no, as no one is perfect. Yet could a perfectly holy God allow anything less than perfection into His presence? Obviously not! The answer is therefore yes, you do have to be perfect, but how could this ever be achieved by a sinful creation? In Christ, righteousness and perfection is a gift! His declaration is that believers are forever justified – a position that not only means ‘just as if I had never sinned’, but also, ‘just as if I had done everything right!’ Wow!
Justified : Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God.” (Also Romans 3:24, 8:30, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Titus 3:7.)
Righteous : Philippians 3:8,9, “. . . that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ.” (Also Romans 3:22, 5:17, 10:3-4, 1 Corinthians 1:30, 2 Corinthians 5:21.)
Sanctified : 1 Corinthians 1:30, “Christ Jesus, who became for us... sanctification.” (Also 1 Corinthians 6:11, Hebrews 10:10.)
Made Perfect : Hebrews 10:14, “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Also see Hebrews 10:1-2 for the results of being ‘made perfect’.)
Accepted : Ephesians 1:6, “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Also 1 Peter 2:5.)
Forgiven : Colossians 2:13, “God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.” (Also Colossians 1:14, 3:13, Ephesians 1:7, 4:32.)
Complete : Colossians 2:10, “And you are complete in Him.”’
FOREVER UNITED AND JOINED WITH CHRIST
Watchman Nee once said “If I place a piece of paper in a book and burn the book, where is the piece of paper?” No prize for saying that it has gone, as it has been burned as well. In like manner, believers have been placed ‘in Christ’, so that whatever has happened to Christ has also happened them. When Jesus died and rose again, so did we spiritually, and never again will God see a believer as anything other than a new creation ‘in Christ Jesus’. We are forever united and joined to Christ and His history is our history!
Crucified : Romans 6:6, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with.” (Also Galatians 2:20.)
Dead : Romans 6:8, “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” (Also Colossians 3:3.)
Buried : Romans 6:4, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism.” (Also Colossians 2:12.)
Raised : Colossians 3:1, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Also Romans 6:4.)
Ascended : Ephesians 2:6, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
JESUS’ VERY OWN POSSESSION
In a parable about the kingdom of God, Jesus likened Himself to a man who found a treasure in a field. And because of His immense joy, He sold all that He had so that He could purchase that field. The treasure within the field stands for those in the world who believe in His name. For them, He was willing to give up all that He had (His life) and ‘for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross!’ We are the Fathers gift to the Son, His bride, His inheritance and His joy! Amazing.
His Gift : John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me, will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out.’’ (Also 10:29, 17:6,11,12,20)
His Bride : 2 Corinthians 11:2, “I promised you to one husband, to Christ.” (Also Ephesians 5:25-32, Revelation 19:7, John 3:29.)
His Inheritance : Ephesians 1:18, “that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”
His Possession : Ephesians 1:14, “. . . who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.”
BLESSED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
Each believer is also given the Holy Spirit, not only as our means of living the Christian life in this age, but also as a guarantee that as God’s possession we will participate in the glory of the age to come! There is no true Christian alive that has not been given the Holy Spirit.
Born : John 3:6, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
Baptized : 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body.”
Indwelt : 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you?” (Also 2:12, John 7:39, Romans 5:5, 8:9, 2 Corinthians 1:21, Galatians 4:6.)
Sealed : Ephesians 1:13-14, “having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance.”
WITHIN THE ‘MUCH MORE’ CARE OF GOD (ROMANS 5:10)
Think of it – when we were sinners and enemies of God, He fully justified us from every charge because our faith in the work of His precious son Jesus. How much more now, as His treasured possession, will believers find themselves the object of His care!
Objects of His Love : Ephesians 2:4, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us...” (Also 5:2, 1 John 3:1.)
Objects of His Grace : Romans 5:2, “through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” (Also Ephesians 2:7,8 Titus 2:12,13.)
Objects of His Power : Ephesians 1:19, “and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Also Philippians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:5.)
Objects of His Faithfulness : Hebrews 13:5, “For He has said ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Also Philippians 1:6, 1 Corinthians 1:8-9, Jude 24.)
Objects of His Peace : Philippians 4:9, “the God of peace will be with you.” (Also 4:7.)
Objects of His Encouragement : 1 Thessalonians 2:16, “by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope.” (Also Romans 15:4-5.)
Objects if His Intercession : Hebrews 7:25, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Also Romans 8:34, Hebrews 9:24.)
A HEAVENLY HOME ASSURED
Last, but most important of all, He has given us a heavenly citizenship – where we will be fellow heirs with the King of Kings! We live as strangers and exiles on this earth, far from our true home to come. We are ambassadors of God in a country not our own. But
our heavenly home is assured and our inheritance is waiting, kept safe by God himself!
Heavenly Citizens : Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven.” (Also Ephesians 2:19, Hebrews 12:22.)
God’s Household : Ephesians 2:19, “. . . but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.” (Also 3:15, Galatians 6:10.)
Heavenly Inheritance : 1 Pet 1:4-5, “. . . and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power.” (Also Ephesians 1:14, Colossians 3:24, Hebrews 9:15.)
One last thought... from the simplicity of a flower to complexity of space, the more mankind explores the work of God. The more we stand in awe of its perfection. We can now examine the properties of God’s creation right down into the cellular level, and this only confirms the thought that God has intelligently created everything and His work is perfect and complete. With such a creative and all-powerful God, do you think He would complete anything less than perfection in His most important work – our salvation? The riches of His grace detailed above are just part of the fact that confirm that He has indeed completed His most perfect work in those that believe! The new creation is the most wondrous of all His creations!
Ok, so there is still one more thought...but it is something awesome to consider. Commenting on the entire list of the work done for the believer, Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote the following:
These marvels of grace constitute that ‘good work’ which He has but begun in those who trust Him. To this much more is yet to be added according to Phil 1.6 “He that began a good work in you will carry it on until the day of Christ Jesus.” The ‘riches of grace’ are the beginning; the final presentation in glory in the likeness of Christ will be the completion. Such a final perfection and such an eternal being is the greatest divine undertaking for the one who has been lost in sin. Nothing less than this would satisfy His boundless love.
The “riches of God’s grace,” that is, His love set free, is incredible! I hope you have seen something more of His amazing work for everyone who has been born again. But like Chafer says, it’s only the beginning! One day, when He comes again, the process shall be complete and we shall be changed into His very likeness. And then, for the ages that are to come, His bride shall be a visible witness to the incredible kindness and grace of God. (Ephesians 2:7) Let me end with a quote which seems appropriate and will one day be reality...
“Grace is but Glory begun, and Glory is but Grace perfected.” — Jonathan Edwards