I believe that nothing is more foundational to the Christian life than for the believer to understand his or her position in Christ Jesus.
Our position in Christ is our legal standing with God: Are we guilty or not guilty? Debtors or free? His enemies or His friends? Understanding these things makes a difference in how we live day in and day out.
In His goodness and by His grace, God changes our standing — our position — before Him when we place our trust in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. Ephesians 2:7 affirms that our new status flows out of that wonderful phrase “the riches of God’s grace.”
This study will explore the riches of God’s grace in regard to the believer’s position in Christ.
Here’s where this article is headed:
How do we define grace? A common definition is “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” Another way to describe grace is “the unmerited favor and kindness of God.” And oh how He has acted out of his kindness for the good of the believer! There was justice due for the penalty of our sin, but God paid that debt through the sacrificial death of His Son. Ephesians 1:3 says we were (past tense – when we first believed in Jesus) blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ in accordance with His pleasure and will – to the praise of His glorious grace!
The riches of God’s grace give us a new position in Christ, and this makes all the difference in living with purpose and satisfaction. Most of the apostle Paul’s letters in the New Testament draw a sharp distinction between what God has done for us by grace and how we are to live in view of this fact. The Book of Ephesians, for example, first makes us “sit and learn” of our position in Christ and then, in view of this position, encourages us to live a life consistent with it.
In other words, the Christian life is becoming (in experience) who you already are (as God sees you). This divine order is clearly seen in the books of Ephesians, Colossians and Romans among others. As a study of your own, read the book of Ephesians and write 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 at 4:1). Commenting on Ephesians, Watchman Nee says:
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.1
So we want to build on that which is DONE and, through faith, be enabled to rest in the finished work of Christ (meaning what Jesus accomplished by His death and resurrection) and our position in Him.
The framework for the following has been loosely taken from “Salvation” by Lewis Sperry Chafer. Before looking at that which God has done for the believer in Christ, here is a summary of the five points Chafer raises2:
Our position in Christ is a result of our new life in Christ from which precious experiences may grow. For example, justification – meaning all of our past sins being covered – leads to joy and peace.
The Christian position is as perfect and complete the instant it is possessed as it ever will be in the ages to come.
This position has nothing to do with what we have accomplished or earned. It is based solely on the merit of the Christ. The Christian is “accepted (now and forever) in the beloved.”
This position does not ever change. Our awareness and feelings about our position may vary day to day, but the abiding fact that we are a new creation in Christ remains.
Our position can only be known through God revealing it to us. Its reality can be grasped only by believing the Word of God. These eternal riches of grace are for anyone who will believe.
Now, we will explore the riches of God. But before you start racing through the list, think! Yes, think about His riches. Meditate on them and what they mean for you. You see, I’ve read lists like this before, and I know the temptation to race through them. But I believe that these are truths that God wants to firmly establish within our hearts, for they glorify His character and show the extent of His work on the Cross for us. 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.3
Every new spiritual experience begins with acceptance by faith of what God has done. As you read each point, remember what you have just read: These truths are eternal and are as true of you today as they ever will be. They do not grow or increase but are free gifts of God’s amazing grace.
God has hidden these truths from the proud and self-confident. But for those who truly see their need of God, the gifts of grace become their greatest delight!
You enter into new experiences of God’s love as you accept by faith that which God has done in Christ.
The following things are true of everyone who has placed his or her faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. They are God’s gifts to all through the riches of His grace in Christ Jesus. (The Bible verses are taken from the English Standard Version.)
Before the world had even been created, God knew and chose those who would be His children through faith, 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 lives. Believers are:
Foreknown: Romans 8:29 — “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Also see 1 Peter 1:2.)
Elected: 1 Thessalonians 1:4 — “For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you.” (Also see Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12; Titus 1:1.)
Predestined: Ephesians 1:11 — “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will”
Chosen: 1 Peter 2:9 — “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession ...” (Also see Matthew 22:14.)
Called: Romans 9:11 — “... though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad — in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of Him who calls.” (Also see 1 Thessalonians 5:24.)
The Bible says the blood of Christ brings us near to God. In the apostle Paul’s writings, everything the blood of Christ accomplishes is also accomplished by the death and the cross of Christ. They are interchangeable ideas. If we are declared righteous by the blood, we’re declared righteous by His death. It isn’t the physical makeup of the blood that accomplishes something, it is the sacrificial giving of life that allows us to come near.
Reconciled by God: 2 Corinthians 5:18 — “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (Also see Colossians 1:20.)
Reconciled to God: Romans 5:10 — “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.” (Also see 2 Corinthians 5:20.)
Redeemed: Colossians 1:14 — “... in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Also see 1 Peter 1:18; Romans 3:24.)
Brought Near: Ephesians 2:13 — “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 in one Spirit to the Father.” (Also see Ephesians 3:12; Romans 5:2; Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19- 20.)
Can someone who is born become unborn? Can a son or daughter in a family somehow cease being a son or daughter? No! If you have been born into a family then you may change your name, but you cannot change your DNA. You are forever a son or daughter of your father. The same applies to our spiritual birth! The believer is a son or daughter of God.
Born Again: 1 Peter 1:23 — “. . . since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God.” (Also see John 1:12; 3:7.)
Children of God: 1 John 3:2 — “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as he is.” (Also see 2 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 3:26.)
New Creations: 2 Corinthians 5:17 — “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (Also see Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:10.)
Adopted: Romans 8:15 — “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Also see Galatians 4:5.)
Heirs: Galatians 4:7 — “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
Do you have to be perfect to go to heaven? Most say no because no one is perfect. Yet could a perfectly holy God allow anything less than perfection into His presence? No! So therefore, yes, you do have to be perfect. But how could this ever be achieved by an imperfect, sinful creation? In Christ, righteousness and perfection are a gift! His declaration is that believers are forever justified – a position that means we are declared righteous. He completely covers our past.
Justified: Romans 5:1 — “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Also see Romans 3:24; 8:30; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:7.)
Righteous: Philippians 3:8-9 — “... in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” (Also see Romans 3:22; 5:17; 10:3-4; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21.)
Sanctified: 1 Corinthians 1:30 — “And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us … sanctification and redemption ...” (Also see 1 Corinthians 6:11; Hebrews 10:10.)
Made Perfect: Hebrews 10:14 — “For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Also see Hebrews 10:1-2 for the results of being made perfect.)
Accepted: Ephesians 1:5-6 — “... he predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Also see 1 Peter 2:5.)
Forgiven: Colossians 2:13 — “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.” (Also see Colossians 1:14; 3:13; Ephesians 1:7; 4:32.)
Complete: Colossians 2:10 — “You have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”
Believers have been placed “in Christ” so that whatever has happened to Christ has also happened to 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 — “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” (Also see Galatians 2:20.)
Dead: Romans 6:8 — “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.” (Also Colossians 3:3.)
Buried: Romans 6:4 — “We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Also see Colossians 2:12.)
Raised: Colossians 3:1 — “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Also see Romans 6:4.)
Ascended: Ephesians 2:6 — “... and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
In a parable about the kingdom of God, Jesus likened Himself to a man who found a treasure in a field (Matthew 13:44). And because of His immense joy, He sold all that He had so that He could purchase that field. The treasure in 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 (Hebrews 12).
His Gift: John 6:37 — “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out.’’ (Also see John 10:29; 17:6,11,12,20)
His Bride: 2 Corinthians 11:2 — “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” (Also see Ephesians 5:25-32; Revelation 19:7; John 3:29.)
His Inheritance: Ephesians 1:18 — “... that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints.”
His Possession: Ephesians 1:14 — “... who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.”
Believers are also given the Holy Spirit, not only as a means of living the Christian life in this age but also as a guarantee that, as God’s possessions, we will participate in the glory of the age to come! There is no true Christian alive who has not been given the Holy Spirit.
Born of the Spirit: John 3:6 — “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Baptized: 1 Corinthians 12:13 — “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
Indwelt: 1 Corinthians 6:19 — “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (Also see 1 Corinthians 2:12; John 7:39; Romans 5:5; 8:9; 2 Corinthians 1:21; Galatians 4:6.)
Sealed: Ephesians 1:13-14 — “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
Think of it – when we were sinners and enemies of God, He fully justified us from every charge because of our faith in His precious Son, Jesus. How much more now, as His treasured possession, will believers find themselves the objects of His care!
Objects of His Love: Ephesians 2:4 — “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us ...” (Also see Ephesians 5:2; 1 John 3:1.)
Objects of His Grace: Romans 5:2 — “Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Also see Ephesians 2:7-8; Titus 2:12-13.)
Objects of His Power: Ephesians 1:18-19 — “... that you may know ... what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe.” (Also see Philippians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:5.)
Objects of His Faithfulness: Hebrews 13:5 — “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Also see 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 see Philippians 4:7.)
Objects of His Encouragement: 2 Thessalonians 2:16 — “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace ...” (Also see Romans 15:4-5.)
Objects of His Intercession: Hebrews 7:25 — “Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Also see Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:24.)
Last, but most importantly of all, He has given us citizenship in heaven – 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 — “Our citizenship is in heaven.” (Also see Ephesians 2:19; Hebrews 12:22.)
Members of God’s Household: Ephesians 2:19 — “You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Also see 3:15; Galatians 6:10.)
Have a Heavenly Inheritance: 1 Peter 1:4-5 — “... an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (Also see Ephesians 1:14; Colossians 3:24; Hebrews 9:15.)
One last thought: From the simplicity of a flower to the complexity of space, the more humankind explores the work of God, the more we stand in awe of His perfection. With such a creative and all-powerful God, do you think He would complete anything less than perfection in the important work of our salvation?
The riches of God’s grace are incredible! But as Chafer says, it’s only the beginning! One day, when Christ comes again, the process shall be complete and we shall be changed into His 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 from Jonathan Edwards that reflects what our reality will one day be: “Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected.”
Learn more about core Christian beliefs such as the Holy Spirit, heaven and the Trinity.
Watchman Nee, “Sit, Walk, Stand” (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1977), p. 2.
Lewis Sperry Chafer, “Salvation” (Findlay, OH: Durham Publishing Company, 1917), pp. 57-59.
Nee, “Sit, Walk, Stand,” p.5.
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