STUDY ONE: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ‘IN CHRIST’ CONCEPT –
PART I: IMPLICATIONS FOR OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2011
In the first three studies in Developing Christian Community we will be looking at the significance of the ‘in Christ’ concept for developing Christian community:
Study One: Implications of the ‘in Christ’ concept for our relationship with God
Study Two: Implications of the ‘in Christ’ concept for our relationship with ourselves
Study Three: Implications of the ‘in Christ’ concept for our relationship with each other.
The key text for the ‘in Christ’ concept is 2 Corinthians 5:17: ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’ or, more literally from the Greek: ‘if anyone is in Christ – [it’s a] new creation; the old [creation or set up] has gone, the new [creation or set up] has come.’
Over these three studies you will learn that the ‘in Christ’ concept does in fact open up a whole new world, and challenges every believer to take on board a massive and revolutionary paradigm shift. If you grasp this concept, or, rather, if you let it grasp and impact you, you will, literally, never be that same again. Your relationship with God, your relationship with yourself and your relationship with other believers will be changed forever.
A. THE MEANING OF THE ‘IN CHRIST’ CONCEPT
A.1 Identification with Christ in his substitutionary death
Because Jesus Christ died as our substitute, his death, in which he bore sins’ penalty, is considered our death.
Task: The texts below refer to the identification of the believer with Christ in his death for sin. Think deeply about their implications for your relationship with God and make notes on this significance:
‘died to sin’
‘baptized into Christ – baptized into his death’
‘buried with him’
‘united with him … in his death’
‘our old self was crucified with him’
‘we died with Christ’
‘count yourselves dead to sin’
2 Cor 5:14 - ‘one died for all, and therefore all died’
Galatians 2:20 - ‘I have been crucified with Christ’
Colossians 2:20 - ‘you died with Christ’
Colossians 3:3 - ‘you died’
Death is the ‘wages’ of sin, its just legal penalty in the courts of heaven. These verses tell us that when Jesus our substitute died, we died. We have, in Christ, already paid in full the penalty [death, that is, separation from God] for our sins. There is no more penalty to be meted out to us. In fact, as far as God’s legal penalty for sin goes, we have ceased to exist as isolated individuals. He sees us always ever and only in Christ our substitute. When we think and live as though there is still a penalty hanging over us, as though our sin and our sins cut us off from God, we are relating to God as a stand-alone individual: we are seeing ourselves outside of Christ, and disregarding the Gospel.
A.2 Resulting in permanent possession of redemption and forgiveness
Because God views us always, ever and only in Christ, we have, as a present, permanent possession, both redemption, and forgiveness. [For studies on Redemption and forgiveness see the Words of Salvation studies on this site.]
Both of these verses tell us that we have redemption and forgiveness in Christ. In both verses redemption and forgiveness are nouns not verbs: something we possess, not something God does, is doing, or will do. Forgiveness and redemption is not something that is on-again/off-again dependent on us, but something for which we thank God, something that he has given to us as part of the ‘in Christ’ package.
Task: Study these verses; discuss and record the implications of this forgiveness and redemption for our relationship with God.
‘Redemption’ means ‘freedom at a price’: it is liberation from bondage to sin, law, death and Satan. ‘Forgiveness’ means the ‘removal of the barrier’ that sin erected between man and God. In Christ there is no more bondage, no more barrier. Neither sin, nor law, nor death, Satan can ever again hold us enslaved or cut us off from God – because God no longer relates to us as we are in ourselves. He relates to us in Christ.
A.3 And permanent, confident access into the presence of God
Because we are in Christ and possess permanent redemption and forgiveness, we also have permanent and confident access into the presence of God. We need fear no rejection; we need fear no cold shoulder.
Task: What do these verses teach us about our access into the presence of God?
Note the words ‘hold firmly’ [4:14], ‘approach the throne of grace with confidence’ [4:16], ‘have confidence to enter’ [10:19], ‘with … full assurance of faith’ [10:22], ‘hold unswervingly’ [10:23], and ‘he who promised is faithful’ [10:23]. Because Jesus is who he is and did what he did as both the one final once-for-all sacrifice for sin, and the perfect high priest, mediator, representative, we can be absolutely confident of our acceptance in the presence of God. Our right of access is not in anything we are or do, but purely in Christ – who he is and what he did. Thus our access and acceptance in the presence of God is secure and constant.
A.4 In which there is no fear of condemnation or judgment
When he died on the cross, Jesus Christ took all the condemnation and judgment that our sin incurred. At that point of time all of our sin and all of our sins had not yet happened in time and space. But in God’s eternal outside-of-time perspective he laid them all – past, present and future - upon Christ and Christ bore the condemnation and the judgment for them all in full.
It is twisted thinking to hold
• that only our pre-conversion sins were paid for by Christ
• that only our remembered and ‘confessed’ sins are not held against us
• that God’s judgment will fall on us if we sin today
• that God condemns us for our sins until we repent of each one individually
Why is this twisted thinking?
• Because all of our sins were forgiven when God nailed to the cross of Christ everything that stood against us [Colossians 2:13,14]
• Because we, in our sinfulness, do not even recognize as sin that which God in his holiness knows is sin
• Because the Bible teaches that there is no condemnation, no accusation that can stand, and no fear of judgment for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Task: What do these verses teach us about condemnation, accusation and judgment for those who are ‘in Christ’?
1 John 4:17-18
Note: When Romans 8:35-39 states that nothing can ‘separate’ us from the love of Christ, this is still in the context of the ‘no condemnation’ of verse 1. The commonly held perception was that suffering was the evidence of God’s judgment, but the Gospel teaches that, because Jesus Christ took all the judgment, suffering cannot ever again be seen as God’s judgment for the person who is ‘in Christ’. The accusations, the judgment, the condemnation all fell upon Christ in God’s eternal plan and purpose to save us. When the Christian suffers any of the things Paul listed in these verses, none of these things indicate that God has rejected us or is judging us, because nothing can separate us from Christ’s love. Nothing can undo and reverse what he, in love, did for us.
A.5 But only guilt-free peace and joy
We have learned so far that those who are ‘in Christ’
• Have, in Christ their substitute, already paid in full the penalty for sin
• Possess present and permanent redemption and forgiveness
• Have permanent, unimpeded access into God’s presence
• Fear neither condemnation nor judgment
The resulting state of mind and emotion in the presence of God is peace and joy. This is what the angels promised when they announced the birth of Christ:
‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people’ [Luke 2:10]
‘ … and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests’ [Luke 2:14]
When we relate to God in ourselves, standing on our own two feet, with our own pitiful handful of perceived righteousness, there can be no real peace and no real joy. But here, in Christ, there is peace, and there is joy, for in Christ our relationship is secure and stable.
Task: What do these verses teach about the peace and joy that those who are in Christ possess?
B. IMPACT FOR THE LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
Task: Discuss the impact of the truths presented in this lesson for your life and the life of the church