Posts Tagged ‘in Christ’

That I May Know Him

That I May Know Him

© C. O. Bishop 2/16/2018

Philippian 3:9-17


We have been studying through Philippians together: When we last met, we ended on Philippians 3:9, where Paul concluded his statements as to having lost the things that were once important to him, but having found himself “In Christ.”

9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

Now Paul, having found himself “in Him”—in Christ—was positionally perfect. His standing with God was made forever secure. But his condition—his state—could change drastically, just as our state, or condition, changes when we sin. This difference, between the two concepts, “Position” (Where I am, and Who I am, in Christ), and “Condition” (How I am doing, and What I am doing) has been the source of much bad teaching, and misunderstanding in the church, for centuries. Paul’s old condition, from human perspective, was quite admirable. Lots of great credentials and accomplishments. But his old Position (still in his sins…still “In Adam”) was terrible—he was headed for destruction!

When he embraced the redemption provided at the Cross, he lost his social standing, and his accomplishments were no longer respected. He lost them because of the Cross, but gained something new at the Cross, at the same moment. He gained a new Position. He is now no longer “in Adam”…he is “in Christ.” This is in keeping with 1st Corinthians 15:22 And all his own efforts do not add to that position, nor does a failure on his part detract from that position. His works can only affect his condition, not his position.

Paul said that he counted all those things as garbage! Why? Because they could not enhance his position at all, and possibly could prove a snare to him, in terms of the practical outworking of his relationship with God. He said that those things have been willingly set aside: why? So that he could focus on growing in an experiential knowledge of Christ

That I may Know Him

10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

“That I may know Him?” What can he mean by this? Didn’t he already know Jesus? He met Him on the road to Damascus… he was commissioned by Jesus for service. How could he not know Him?

The word Paul chose to use, here (Greek “gnonai”, from “gnosko”), means to have experiential knowledge—not merely acquaintance, or knowing a fact, or even figuring something out. I may “know” something because of careful reasoning. I may “know” something as a fact about which I have been told. I may even “know” a person because I have met them once. I sometimes tell people about famous violinmakers that I happen to have met. I could say, “I know him.” But I have to qualify that remark, by saying, “He wouldn’t remember me. I only met him once.”

To know someone in an ongoing relationship which is growing in depth and closeness is the kind of continuing knowledge Paul sought. And all the things he once took pride in would detract from that relationship if they had any affect at all. If he set them all aside in terms of value or importance, they could have no negative effect. But if he clung to any of them as being “vital to his identity”, they would surely detract from his identity in Christ, as a distraction, if nothing else.

This can be true in our own lives as well: If it really is central to my self-view that I am part of some trade (a welder, in my case, or a violin maker, or a teacher or pastor), or that I belong to some political party, or a particular church, or even a particular nationality,  or ethnic group… then how central is my relationship with Christ? To the degree that “something else” is central to “who I am”, Jesus has been dethroned in my life.

What do we call it when “something else” has taken the place of God in my life? The fact is, this constitutes idolatry. Perhaps Paul avoided using that word in order to underscore the relational issues, but we do tend to elevate such minutia to ridiculous levels of importance. We have our little “in” groups of people who drive a certain kind of car, drink a certain kind of beverage, follow a particular sport, or a specific team within that sport, or who are alumni of a specific school. Our society promotes this kind of thing, and says we ought to have “pride” in the school we attend, etc. We even argue over which kind of shoes to wear. Proverbs states that pride is the root of contention. And if it ruins human relationships, how much more would it limit our relationship with a holy God? We need to think clearly about what is important to us, and why…and, to what extent.

Grammatically, Paul applied that same word for knowledge to the whole list he enumerated: To Know Christ, and (to know) the power of His resurrection, and (to know) the fellowship of his suffering, being made conformable to his death.

To experientially know the power of the resurrection in my life is to see the new life in Christ take hold and transform me from the inside out. I began “knowing” that power the day I first trusted in Christ as my savior. But it is an ongoing transformation, and I want to see it increasing continually. We are to live “as those alive from among the dead.” We can’t have our old perspective on life anymore. We have been resurrected with Christ.

To experientially know the fellowship of His suffering: fellowship means “sharing in”—“partnership”. How can we be partners in the suffering of Christ? He did say that we are to take up our cross and follow him. That we are to count our own life as a thing of the past, and join him in his passion for the lost world. Do we personally share in having nails driven through our flesh? No, not as a rule. But we can at least recognize that His suffering was for a purpose, a testimony, etc., and we can join him in in enduring whatever is set before us as a way to demonstrate his Love and faithfulness to others. I think that would at least be a start. Jesus poured himself out to meet the need of a lost world. We can pour ourselves out daily to serve, as He gives us opportunity.

What does it mean to “be made conformable to His death?” Over in Hebrews 12:4, Paul commented to the believers that “ye have not yet resisted unto [the shedding of] blood, striving against sin.” In their particular case, the suffering for Christ had taken no serious turn, though it certainly had, in the lives of the many believers who had been tortured and killed for their faith. Could they have borne such a burden? Perhaps not, because these are the same believers he rebuked for having backslidden into babyhood, in Hebrews 5:12.

Is it possible then, that the issue in becoming “conformable to His death” may have to do with becoming committed enough that, if called upon, he could follow Jesus in death? Maybe. That would be some serious growth, as a believer. But that is exactly what eventually happened to Paul. And, yes, he was ready!


11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

What is he saying? Does he mean that the way to be resurrected is to do all the things he just listed? Why then, would he say, in Romans 6, that as many as have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death, and his resurrection? (By the way, that baptism is not in reference to water, either.) Why would he say in Ephesians 2:6 that I have already been raised up with Christ (resurrection) and have already been seated with him in the heavenlies…in fact, that I am there, now? (Not only already resurrected, but already ascended!)

So, we can be sure that he is not saying one is to earn the resurrection from the dead. In fact, he did not say “earn”—he said “attain.” The Greek word is “katantiso”, meaning “arrive”. It is only used 13 times in the New Testament, and in all but two cases it is translated “come to”, in the sense of “arrival”. So, in what sense could Paul question his “arrival” at the resurrection? According to his comment in Ephesians 2:6, he is already there. So he cannot fail to be resurrected. Some commentators suggest that he only wants to live to see the rapture. In that case the next sentence would make absolutely no sense, as he said he “isn’t there yet”. That would be a silly statement, as the rapture, obviously, still hasn’t happened. Incidentally, the word in verse 12 for “attained” comes from yet another Greek root: “elabon”, which comes from “lambano” which is usually (133 times) translated “received,” meaning to “take for oneself.” So, whatever Paul is talking about, it is something to be received, not earned, and it is not something that everyone receives at the same time. It is individual in nature, and something at which to “arrive.”

So, there have been a variety of possibilities suggested, each having some problems. But what if the issue is only that he wants to live out the reality of the resurrection in his own life? That he wants to live like one risen out from among the dead (the Greek word, here, for “Resurrection” is “ex-anastasin”—resurrection from out of”…and this is the only time in the New Testament where this specific word is used.)

What if the real issue is that he wants to live in such a way that Christ’s new life will be the only thing other people see? That would be something to “attain to”, wouldn’t it? Something worth striving toward? If that is what he means, then all the following comments make plain sense, too. And, as it happens, we have another admonition from Paul that says exactly that—Romans 6:13 says that we are to live “as those alive from the dead”. I believe Paul was “leading by example, and saying that that was his goal as well.

12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

The Greek word translated “apprehend”, here. Is “katalambano.” It is translated several ways, but it seems to mean, in general, to “seize something, with the purpose of making it one’s own”. So, Paul knows that he himself has been “seized upon” by Jesus, and made the “personal property of Christ.” He, in turn, wants to “seize” the relationship with Christ, and make it a living reality in his life, so that Jesus is all people will see in him. And he concludes that he, personally, has chosen to “press toward the goal!”

Paul says that his whole goal is to draw close enough to Jesus that nothing else is visible in his life. Have you ever heard a plane coming, overhead, but when you looked up, it turned out that they were so close to being lined up with the sun, that all you could see was the sun? You could still hear the plane, so you knew it was there, but all you could see was the sun, until the plane moved to a position further out of line with the sun.

If your life is so “lined up with” the Son of God, that when people look at you, He is all they see, you are “apprehending” that for which Christ died to provide. Follow after! Press on, toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ.

Paul clearly says that he has not arrived at that point in his life, but that it is his goal to continually strive toward it. And there is a reward for the striving; a prize. God knows the heart…He will reward the striving, the consistent attempt to “get out of the way” and allow the resurrected Christ to live through us.

Examples to Follow

Paul goes on to say that we are to follow his example. This is good leadership. “Follow me!” is something you can only say from “out in front.” Paul was definitely out in front. In this passage and other similar passages, he says “follow me as I follow Christ” or “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1st Corinthians 11:1) Paul was leading by example. He could literally say, “Do as I do!”

15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

The word for “rule” here, is “kanoni”—a standard; not a law. This is not a suggestion that we need to set up “rules to live by”. The “standard” that Paul had just erected was that he personally sought to follow Jesus closely, hoping to “arrive” at a level where only Jesus would be visible in his life. That is the standard…the living reality of Christ.

We have the same example for us to follow, then. We are not left to wonder how we should live. We have a written command, and a living example. Paul says we can look around us, and take note of those among us who follow his example, and imitate what we see in their lives. And, we are to learn to set such an example ourselves.

17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

We are not to follow blindly: we are to read our Bibles, then compare what we see with what the Bible says, and, as our leaders, pastors, teachers and fellow believers follow the example of Christ, we can also follow their living example.

Lord Jesus, open our eyes to see you in the believers’ lives around us. Help us to learn to walk by faith, but to see the reality every day, in the lives of the men and women of God around us.

Solid Food

Solid Food:

The Fourth Warning and our Eternal Hope

© C. O. Bishop 6/2/17 THCF 6/4/17

Hebrews 5:12-14; 6:1-19


We have been working our way through Hebrews for quite some time, now: we have seen the clear superiority of Jesus Christ over all the Old Testament “pictures” of Himself. We were able to see that He is the fulfillment of all those prophecies and all the prefigurings of Him who was to come. We also saw three warnings apparently directed to people who were not settled in their faith. Today we will address a fourth such warning, by far the most stern of all given so far.

It is important to read passages of scripture in the context in which they were given, so as to see who was talking, about what, and to whom. In this context, the writer had been addressing backslidden, immature believers, and scolding them for not moving on, and growing up into Christ. But he definitely addressed them as believers.

12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

And this will we do, if God permit.

This is evidently what Paul considered “baby food”. He says “Let’s move on! You should understand all this by now!” The “principles” means the primary teaching—the foundational studies. If you don’t have the foundation secure you can’t build. But: once the foundation is in place, you don’t keep “re-working the foundation”…you start working on the structure of the building, if I may use that analogy. So, Paul says, “Let’s move on unto perfection (maturity)!” He is moving on from milk to solid food. But as we move forward, let’s pay close attention to the pronouns: details that allow us to correctly discern the meaning.

Moving On

The following passage is the most commonly used passage to argue that a believer can lose their position in Christ, and be lost. Even if there were not contextual evidence to the contrary (which there is), there are dozens of passages elsewhere that flatly contradict the notion that one, having been truly born again, can ever be lost. But, in reading this passage, those who want to believe they can be lost again (because they do not understand the character of Grace) do not read the whole context: they read verses 4-8 and ignore the background in chapter five, but, most specifically, they do not read what follows, in verses 9-12. And, of course, they ignore the clear promises to the contrary, which state that those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ will never be lost, will in no wise be cast out, and will never perish.

Let’s read the whole passage, bearing in mind that the writer has been talking to believers (albeit immature believers) in chapter five, and is continuing his discourse, here. In chapter five he was using the pronoun “Ye” (KJV second-person plural) to address the believers, and “We” (first person plural) to refer to the writer, and possibly his colleagues. He only used the third-person when he spoke of an unspecified other person, saying, “…he is a babe…”

Here in verse 4, he changes the pronouns to third-person references. He no longer says “ye”, but rather “those, they and them”. These pronouns are terms of reference, not terms of address. He has changed who he is talking about. He was quite sharp in his rebuke to the backsliding believers, but now he is talking about another group to whom he is referring as a matter of comparison. We will read the whole passage and then come back to address specific verses.

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:

But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.

10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:

12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Notice how the pronoun switches back to second person, in verse nine (“you”), and he specifically addresses the hearers as his beloved. That word is a relational term of endearment, and confirms that they are believers. He also states that he is convinced that in their case, the above five verses do not apply, because they are saved. He says that things pertaining to salvation are what will apply to them.

So, we conclude that the people in verses 4-8 are not believers, but are the “hangers-on”, the “dabblers” who have never claimed Jesus’ blood as their only hope for salvation. They have never been born again. They are not “baby Christians”, nor even “backslidden Christians”—they have not been born yet! They are still “in Adam”, not “in Christ.” (See 1st Corinthians 15:22…positional truth, as opposed to conditional.) And, this is one of the sternest warnings to that sort of person; that they are truly teetering on the edge of Hell. They are flirting with eternal disaster, and not seeing themselves as being in deadly danger.

But, one may ask, how can the person described in verses 4 and 5 not be a believer? This person:

  • Has been once enlightened,
  • Has tasted of the heavenly gift,
  • Was made a partaker of the Holy Ghost, and
  • Has tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the World to come!

How could such a person not be born again? Well…let’s consider a single example:

Consider Judas Iscariot:

  • Was he once enlightened? He had better have been! He sat under Jesus’s personal teaching for three years! He heard and saw everything the other Apostles heard and saw.
  • Had he “tasted of the heavenly gift?” YES! He was sent out with the other apostles, two by two, and was preaching, teaching and healing…even casting out demons.
  • Was he made a partaker of the Holy Ghost? To the same extent that the others were, prior to Pentecost, yes! I think we can demonstrate that he was. How else was he casting out demons and healing people? That was the Holy Ghost at work in his life. None of the apostles were indwelt by the Holy Spirit until the day of Pentecost. But the Holy Spirit was at work in their lives.
  • Did he taste the Good Word of God, and the powers of the age to come? Certainly! He had Jesus, the Living Word, right there, and he studied the Written Word with the other apostles, and preached the Word of the Kingdom along with them.
  • Was he a believer? NO! Jesus said so. Compare John 13:10, 11, where he specified that “ye are not all clean” and John 15:3, where he told the eleven, “Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you.” The difference? Though all twelve apostles had heard the Word, only the eleven had believed (compare John 5:24.) Judas had known the full truth of the Gospel, but had never applied it to his own case.

We must carefully study the Word to be sure of what it says, and to whom, before we make application to our own lives. These verses are a prime example of a passage that can easily be misapplied.

Consider Abraham:

The Writer goes on to use the patriarch Abraham as an example of someone who continued to believe God, in spite of the fact that what he saw sharply conflicted with what he had been promised. Keep in mind that he definitely had a promise from God; this was not a “feeling” he had. He was spoken to in an audible voice…there was no “imagination” at work, here. Read Genesis 15:1-21, in context with Genesis 14.

God responded to Abraham’s statement of faith by making two promises:

  1. The promise of a seed (this was partially fulfilled in Isaac, and later, through Christ); and
  2. The promise of the land. Again, the promise of the land was only partially fulfilled even in the time of David, 500 years later. Final fulfillment will come during the millennial kingdom still to come.

13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,

14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.

The account in Genesis 15 records both the “counsel” (the original promise…verse 17) and the oath: God had first made the promise, and Abraham asked for a token he could cling to: a sign, if you want to call it that. In those days when two people took an oath, they made a sacrifice to God, and, to invoke God as a witness, they walked together between the pieces of the split sacrifice. So, God commanded Abraham to set up the sacrifices, and divide them, preparatory to the two of them walking between them, as Abraham apparently expected. But when the time came, God put Abraham into a deep sleep, so that he could not move, but only watch, as God, in the form of a lamp and a furnace, passed through between the pieces of the sacrifices. I don’t know the significance of the lamp and the furnace, though I am sure there has been much speculation over it. The point I do understand is that God made the oath alone—Abraham was only there as a witness to, and the beneficiary of, the promise.

15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

Abraham had already been waiting for some time when God made this promise. He was an old man. It was still a few years longer before God chose to begin fulfilling the promise. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. And Isaac was just the beginning of the fulfillment. Even the hundreds of millions of Jews that have lived and died over the last 39 centuries are only a partial fulfillment. All those born again through Jesus are the full fruit of the promise.

16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.

17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:

18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

Notice that though the promise was to Abraham, we are told here to anchor our own souls with the same hope Abraham had. We are not told to take the promise of the land for ourselves; it is not a promise to us. We are told to place our trust in the same God in whom Abraham believed.

And that hope is the “anchor of our souls, strong within the veil.” What veil? We could spiritualize it and say that “our faith reaches into the Holy of Holies (true), and clings to the Mercy Seat of God (also true).” But; over in Hebrews 10:20, we see that the writer gets much more specific: he says that the literal veil in the literal temple was a prefiguring of the literal body of Jesus. Our hope is in the shed blood of Jesus. We enter in “through the veil, that is to say, His flesh.” And that is where our anchor of the soul—our hope—finds solid ground as well. Jesus said “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me”…and that is literally the truth. The torn veil was the only passageway to the dwelling of God on earth: Jesus’s body on the Cross—His shed blood—is the only entrance to God Himself. And it is in him that we find our security.

So, where is our hope?

Our Hope is in the Person of Christ and His Completed Work at the Cross

Let’s review some of the Promises of Jesus to see where our hope really resides.

  • John 3:15, 16 each state “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life”. “Whosoever believeth” leaves it open to you and to me. This is a “bearer bond”. It has full value to whoever has possession of it. If you will personally place your trust in Jesus then this applies to you.
  • John 5:24 is another general invitation. It says that whoever hears the word of Christ and believes on (places his trust in) Him who sent him,
    • Has everlasting life (present tense)
    • Shall not come unto condemnation, (future tense), but
    • Has passed from death unto life (Perfect tense…it’s a completed, finished issue.)
  • John 6:35 says, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” This is faith in Jesus as a person, his character and all He claims to be.
  • John 6:37 “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and he that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
  • John 6:39 “And this is my Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”
  • John 10:27, 28 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
  • 1st John 5:11-13 “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you who believe on the name of the Son o God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

In this study, I have concentrated on promises given through the Apostle John; but there are countless others, some plain, some obscure, beginning in Genesis, and scattered throughout the entire Bible. The Redemptive plan of God, through Jesus Christ, to save the lost Human Race, is the central theme of the entire Bible. The security of the believer, because of the faithfulness of God, not our own behavior, is a theme that parallels that central theme, all the way through God’s Word. To a person who is looking for such promises, they are literally everywhere.

This passage, Hebrews 6:4-9, far from teaching that a believer can be lost, is teaching the opposite: “God is not unrighteous, to forget…” God knows our frame, that we are dust…he knows that we are failures by nature. Jesus said, in John 15:5, “…without Me ye can do nothing.” That is literally true. We are encouraged to move on to spiritual adulthood, allowing God to work through us, and to produce fruit in our lives. My prayer is that each of us will submit to Him in love, and allow Him to do just that.

Lord Jesus, once again, we ask your blessing and mercy, as we seek to follow you. Teach us to walk in the reality of your love and the truth of Your Word.

No Condemnation (Part One)

No Condemnation (Part One)

© C. O. Bishop 12/25/15 THCF 12/27/15

Romans 8:1-4


We have taken a bit of a guided tour through Romans over the last several months: We saw in the first five chapters the utter bankruptcy and lostness of the human race, contrasted against the Grace of God freely offered through the person of Christ. We saw that we are to enter into that Grace through faith in the shed blood of Jesus as being the full payment for our sins.

We saw that upon our placing our faith in His shed blood, his complete righteousness was posted to our account as a believer, so that we are no longer seen as bankrupt, but as fully solvent in Christ, and completely righteous in Him.

We saw that because of that transaction at the Cross, we are no longer seen as enemies, but rather that we are at Peace with God, and, more importantly, He is at peace with us.

In chapters six and seven we saw that we no longer have to sin…we have a genuine choice available to us because we have a genuine new nature. The old nature is still present, but no longer holds any authority. It has not only lost its authority, but it has lost its identity, as God no longer sees our old sin nature (frequently called the “flesh” in scripture, but not to be confused with tone’s physical body) as the “real” person. He will only address Himself to the new nature, sometimes called the New Man, and sometimes the “mind” or the “spirit”, (not to be confused with the Holy Spirit.) We finally saw the results (chapter 7) when a genuine believer earnestly attempts to live the Christian life in His own strength.

The trilogy of Romans 6, 7 and 8, then, is completed with 12 “layers” of truths in chapter eight:

  1. There is no condemnation to those in Christ.
  2. Those in Christ are free from the Law of Sin and Death.
  3. Those in Christ are responsible to walk in Him.
  4. Only those in Him can walk in Him.
  5. Only the Holy Spirit can do the walking.
  6. Only saved people have the Holy Spirit…and, conversely, if you do not have the Spirit, you aren’t
  7. The Flesh cannot be subject to God, so it cannot please God.
  8. The Flesh is always an agent of death, whether physical or spiritual…always remembering that “death”, in scripture, is always some sort of separation, whether spiritual or physical, and whether temporary or eternal.
  9. Those who are indwelt by the Spirit of God are already the Sons of God, and, because of that we are joint-heirs (not co-heirs) with Christ.
  10. At the “adoption” (Greek “huiothesis”) we will be recognized (publicly) as the heirs of God, and, at that point, too, the Earth will be freed from its bondage…when we receive our new bodies.
  11. We cannot be separated from God, because we cannot be separated from the love of God which is in Christ.
  12. We cannot separate ourselves from His love, because He specifies that “no created thing” can separate us from Him…and we are, by definition, a “created thing”.

I don’t think it would be profitable to try to cover all of these twelve layers of teaching in one service; partly because we would have to rush, and partly because it does not give the hearer the necessary time to think things over. There is a great deal here upon.which to meditate

So, let’s see how far we can get:

No Condemnation:

This is one of the most important foundational truths for the believer in terms of confidence, peace, and functionality. If you do not grasp the central truth of your security in Christ then you cannot serve effectively because you will be constantly looking back to see if your salvation is still safe.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

This comment alone has generated more arguments among evangelical Christians than most of the rest of the Bible. Some see it as a dangerous teaching that will be misused to produce licentiousness. And that is true. Any valuable tool or privilege can be misused. A hammer (or a pair of scissors, etc.) can be used as a weapon; that does not mean that people should not have hammers or scissors. It means that we have to use responsibly the gifts and tools that God has given us. That same principle applies across all levels of truth. The fact that truth can be misused does not negate its truth…it simply means that responsibility goes along with truth.

Let’s examine both the truth and the responsibility that accompanies it.

How sure am I (and why am I so sure) that I am secure in Christ? It is clearly stated in many passages that offer no qualifiers. It is the key theme of this particular chapter, and is stated by Jesus personally, in passages where no conditions were added to modify the promise.

John 10:27, 28 is a fairly important passage. He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish.” Notice that he did not say, “IF they follow me, I will give them eternal life”…he said “…they follow me, and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” I have many times heard someone protest, “well, yes, but you can jump out!” No…because, in the first place, if you could “jump out”, then the central promise to this passage (“They shall never perish!”) would be untrue.

Also (again Jesus is speaking), in John 6:37-39, Jesus promised “all that the Father hath given me shall come to me, and him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out. For I came not down from heaven to do my own will but the will of Him that sent me, And this is my Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” Let’s think that one through:

  • All that the Father has given to Jesus will come to him. He won’t fail to find them.
  • No one who comes to Jesus will ever be cast out…ever.
  • God’s specific will regarding all those given to Jesus is that Jesus will never lose one of them, but that
  • They will be raised up at the last day.

That is pretty specific. There are no honest ways to refute the promise. Sometimes people try to bring up counter-examples:

  • Judas Iscariot (He was never saved to begin with—Jesus himself said so. John 13:10, 11)
  • Ananias and Sapphira (they lost their physical lives—there is no evidence that their eternal destiny was involved.)
  • Samson seems a “poster-child” for an unfaithful believer, if you only read his history. But when we read God’s commentary on him, we find him in Hebrews 11:32, listed by name under God’s “hall of fame” for faith. Many other such examples exist, but the point is that we need to believe God’s promise, not keep trying to find loopholes.

One thing we don’t want to overlook is the second half of verse one: “…who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit”. There are those who argue that this half of the verse is a copyist error, and that it is only supposed to be in verse four, not verse one. But let’s set that argument aside: What would it say if we knew for sure that it should be in both places?

Looking back at Chapter seven we see that Paul concluded that a “disconnect” had occurred between his old sin nature and his new righteous nature: that the old man, the flesh, was no longer him.  Does that shed any light on the subject? Who is it that verse one promises will not be condemned? The old man or the new? The old man is already condemned, and irrevocably so: even God couldn’t save it or change it. The new man is created in the likeness of God to the extent that it is completely righteous and holy, just like Him (Ephesians 4:22, 24).

Do you suppose he may be simply reiterating the separation between old and new, here? God does judge sins…and he judges sinners, if they cling to their sins. The moment you trusted Jesus as your savior, your sins were judged at the Cross, and you gained a new nature, so that the Lord will never again see you as a sinner. Will you see yourself as a sinner? Actually, I rather hope that you do—Paul saw himself that way.

Paul said (1st Timothy 1:15), “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; among whom I am chief.”  (Greek protos eimi ego: Not “was”, but “am!” Jesus used nearly the same construction when he said [John 14:6] “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life…”, and Paul used exactly the same construction when he said [Romans 11:13] “I am the apostle to the Gentiles.”) It is interesting, too, to realize that of all the apostles, and all the potential people who might say such a thing about themselves, Paul is the only one through whom the Holy Spirit elected to say such a thing…and he said it three times, in so many words. (“To me, who am less than the least of all saints…”; “not worthy to be called an apostle…”—these words are not just Paul’s “emotional outlook”.

Peter might have possibly said such a thing in his own private grief at having denied the Lord, but in his epistles there is not a trace of that. Paul, who arguably is the one who laid the foundation of the entire Gentile church, is the one through whom the Holy Spirit made all three of those statements… about Paul, no one else. So, while I think it is fine for me to soberly look at myself and say, “I am a sinner, saved by grace!”, it is not OK for me to declare myself the “worst of sinners” or anything similar, because Paul already holds that title. That is what it says. I do not claim to understand it, but there is no question that it is what it says.

So, those who “walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit” includes all believers. God has permanently separated you from your sins.

Set Free from the Law of Sin and Death

The next thing Paul states is that he has been made free from the Law of Sin and Death.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Notice the tense in this verse: does he say that the Spirit will make him free? No, he says that the law of the Spirit has made him free from the Law of sin and Death… past tense! So, what does that mean? What is the Law of Sin and Death, anyway? Is it the same as the Law of Moses?

I think that the Law of Moses could certainly be included, because, as you recall, the Law of Moses certainly called for death to the disobedient. But the “Law of sin and death” goes back even further: In Genesis 2:17, God warned Adam, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; thou shall not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” There is the first iteration of the Law of sin and death. “If you break the Law you will die”. That is the central theme of Law. Notice that there were no “safeguards” set up—no invisible fences or anything similar. They broke the Law, and died spiritually the moment Adam ate that fruit. 3,500 years later, God re-stated the principle: Ezekiel 18:4 says “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

So, in what way have I (past tense) been set free from this ancient principle? I can see that the Law of sin and death recognized me as someone who should be put to death. But, according to Galatians 2:19, “I, through the Law, am dead to the Law, that I might live unto God.” Jesus fulfilled the Law for Himself by living it perfectly. He fulfilled the Law for me by dying in my place. Now I am free, not because the Law has changed, but because it is satisfied regarding my sin. I am dead!

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 is what Jesus accomplished through His perfect life and substitutionary death. He deposited His righteousness to our accounts by His perfect life, and took our sin in his vicarious, substitutionary death. The Law made no provision for such a thing. The Law of the substitute was there, to be sure, but in very limited form. The Kinsman redeemer was there, but only to a certain extent. Jesus fulfilled all the promises of God for a redeemer and a savior, and a perfect sacrifice that takes away sin, rather than temporarily covering it.

What Should be the Result in Our Lives?

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

We are alive to God, and He wants us to respond to His Grace by allowing Him to live through us, and demonstrate His righteousness in us. For what cause? To keep us from going to hell? No, to glorify God in our bodies, and to keep others out of hell. Jesus said that we were to let our light shine in such a way that others will see our good works and not glorify us, but glorify our Father in Heaven! Our good works are part of the Christian life, but they are not part of how we are saved, nor part of how we are kept safe. They are part of our testimony and part of our worship: part of how we honor God with our lives. All the saving and keeping is done by Jesus.

But, What if We Fail?

Are there consequences for disobedience? Of course there are…but they still do not negate the promises we just read. My salvation and my security in Christ are entirely His responsibility, not mine. I could do nothing to save myself, and I can do nothing to stay saved. But I want my life to count for eternity: I want to honor God with my life. I do not always succeed in that. Many times I fail: If you don’t believe me, just ask my family.

But we are told to confess that we have failed, and get up and walk again. We are just as secure when we are wallowing in sin and self-pity or self-righteousness, as when we are soberly, joyfully, honestly walking with God…but we will not be aware of it, nor happy about it. 1st John 1:9 is not just a statement of fact, or even a command, it is a precious promise. We can be restored to fellowship and joyful service!

Make it a priority in your life to go back over chapters 6, 7 and 8 until the lesson sinks in and you can apply it to yourself. That is what I am having to do as I teach through these passages.

Lord Jesus,  make us able ministers of your Word, and teach us to place our faith in your divine safekeeping, so that we are not constantly working to make ourselves better, but to make your name shine before those who don’t know you. Shape us into the Men and Women of God that you have chosen us to be.