Monday, July 22, 2013

The Gospel: A Present Spiritual Reality In The Life Of Every Believer

The Gospel: A Present Spiritual Reality In The Life Of Every Believer

The Bible says that a believer is “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), “buried with him” (Romans 6:4), “dead to sin” (Romans 6:2), but “alive unto God” (Romans 6:11) and “risen with him” (Colossians 2:12), as well as seated “together in heavenly places with Christ” (Ephesians 2:6). All of those phrases are spoken of in context in the present tense as though I am crucified, buried, dead, raised from the dead, and seated in heaven all at the same time, right now. To borrow a question from Nicodemus in John 3:9 -- how can these things be? Jesus convicting rebuke in verse 10 is “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” How long have I been saved and I don’t understand what it means to be crucified, buried, dead, risen, and seated in heaven with Christ?

These phrases represent more than just cute sayings or visual imagery for the Christian. As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, my standing is in the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1), that Christ was crucified for my sins, died and buried, rose again the third day, and ascended up to heaven where he “ever liveth to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25). It is more than just an outward identification, as water baptism. It is more than just the forgiveness of sins and possession of eternal life. The truth of my standing in Christ runs deeper than the deepest sea and higher than the highest star. I am, right now, crucified with Christ, buried with Christ, dead with Christ, risen with Christ, and seated with Christ all at the same time. The gospel is a spiritual reality in the life of every believer. My flaw is that I fail to believe the gospel as literally as God meant for me to know and believe it (trace the words like know, believe, and reckon through Romans 6, 7, and 8).

How can these things be?

Jesus died 2,000 years ago on the other side of the planet. He is also no longer dead. Not only did He rise from the dead, but he ascended back up to heaven. So how could I, a Christian in the 21st century, possibly be a partaker (word used on purpose) of the gospel of Christ? How could I be crucified with Christ when it happened 2,000 years ago in another country, especially seeing he is no longer dead!? Get ready for some doctrine ...

When I trusted Jesus Christ as my Saviour, I received the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit joined unto my spirit and we became “one spirit” (1 Cor. 6:17), much like a marriage (Rom. 7:1-4). This same Spirit circumcised me (Col. 2:11) so that I (my soul) was no longer “in the flesh” or joined to it (Rom. 8:9; Rom 7:5), although I (my soul) am still geographically trapped inside this “body of sin” (Rom. 6:6), much like an ice cube can be unstuck from an ice tray while still seated inside it. But this spiritual circumcision, which is directly related to the new birth (John 3:6), is like I actually died (put off the body - Col. 2:11; death is a separating of the soul from the body - Gen. 35:18) and had my spirit regenerated/quickened (Col. 2:13) so that I was no longer spiritually dead and separated from God (Rom. 8:7). So before I was saved, I was dead to God but connected to the flesh. Now that I’m saved, I’m separated from the flesh and connected to God by the Spirit. I am (that is, the new me) a “new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15), born of the Holy Spirit by the word of God (1 Pet. 1:23), with a new mind (Eph. 4:24) that strives against the mind of the flesh, as though I had multiple personality disorder (Rom. 7:5-25)! The Holy Spirit inside of me is like new wine in old bottles (Matt. 9:17). Having not yet reached perfection (Phil. 3:12) or the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23), my present, imperfect state is an unstable, double-minded condition (James 1:8) where my carnal flesh continually strives against my Holy Spirit indwelt and regenerated spirit (again, see Romans 7). This double-mindedness (Rom. 7:25) emphasizes the importance for a Christian to continually submit to the mind of Christ. In spite of this imperfect state, I spiritually possess, by the Holy Spirit and the gospel, the life of Christ. As I grow in the knowledge of what Christ has given me by His Spirit, I yield “unto God, as those that are alive from the dead” (Rom. 6:13). My increased faith and understanding of what Christ has done for me produces obedience.

(If you don’t understand that last paragraph, go back and study the passages. Understanding the role of the Holy Spirit and the nature of body, soul, and spirit is vital to understanding salvation more completely. You need to really know what the Holy Spirit has done inside of you.)

The Holy Spirit is eternal, outside of time, and had (or perhaps “has” is a better word) a significant role in the offering of Jesus on the cross as an offering for my sin (Heb. 9:6-28). The Holy Spirit inside of me right now is not a 2,000 year older version of the Holy Spirit by which Christ offered himself to God. It is the same Spirit, transcendent of time and space (Eph. 4:6). It is by this Holy Spirit that we have been made “partakers of Christ” (Heb. 3:14), “partakers of the Holy Ghost” (Heb. 6:4), and “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). To partake is to participate, to take part, or to have a share in something. It is like I have a direct connection to Christ on the cross, a direct connection to Christ in the grave, a direct connection to the resurrected Christ, and a direct connection to Christ seated in heaven. How could we comprehend cell phone and internet technology, radio waves and television, but not understand our joining unto Christ? The significant role of the Holy Spirit in salvation and joining us to Christ is exactly why Jesus had to go away so that the Comforter could come (John 14:16).

But how can these things be?

Christ died and rose from the dead 2,000 years ago. That was the past. Aren’t I reading into this just a little too literally? How could I right now be joined unto His death 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem? The problem is we are not reading the Bible literally enough. Did you notice that Christ is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8), as though His death was already a reality in eternity past? Or did you notice that after Christ’s resurrection and ascension, He was still pictured as “a Lamb as it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6). Hebrews 9:14, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Remember, the Holy Spirit is eternal, transcendent of time and space, above and outside our own physical reality. To God, one day is the same as a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8). This is because God is outside of time and, in fact, created time “in the beginning”. By the eternal Spirit, Christ has always and will always be the Lamb slain for my sins. He stepped out of eternity and into time to die for my sins.  But that event 2,000 years ago was offered “through the eternal Spirit”, Who is outside of time. Think of it from God’s perspective like every second of history is happening all at the same time. When I got saved, I was joined unto that same eternal Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17), which means I am also joined unto both His death and life at the same time. Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension are a continual, present reality for me on a spiritual level.

What this means for me is that when I received the Holy Spirit, Christ’s life became my life (Col. 3:3-4). His righteousness is my righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). His crucifixion is my crucifixion (Gal. 6:14). His death is my death (2 Tim. 2:11). His resurrection is my resurrection (Rom. 8:11). Because he is seated at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1; Heb. 12:2) and I have His Spirit, then I am also seated in heaven (Eph. 2:6). Christ’s resurrection and ascension are not yet physical realities for me, although they will be one day (1 Thess 4:14-18), but they are indeed spiritual realities for me, right now. I am most obedient as a Christian when I live in this knowledge that I possess Christ, His righteousness, death, and resurrection (Rom. 6:11).

Living the eternal in the daily

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not just something we believe and hold onto, but a spiritual reality we live in and are joined unto. My life is not just identified with Christ, HE IS MY LIFE (Col. 3:3-4). Since He died and I am joined unto Him, I can “die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31) to sin. Since He was “obedient unto death” (Phil. 2:8), I can obey by the same power. Since He conquered sin, death, and the grave and my spirit is joined unto His eternal Spirit, I am assured the victory over sin and death, not just in the future, but also victory over sin in my daily life (1 Cor. 15:53-58). When Paul talks about the “new man, which is renewed in knowledge” in Col. 3:10, he is telling us to remind ourselves of the present reality that we are dead and risen with Christ (see context of Colossians 3). Although my carnal mind in the flesh often hides this fact, I am living Christ’s resurrected life right now! (new wine in old bottles!) I have the not yet, now, in Christ.

Every day I need to preach the gospel to myself. Every day I need to remember that I am joined unto Christ, joined unto His crucifixion, joined unto His death, joined unto His resurrection, and joined unto His ascension all at the same time by the Holy Spirit who is outside of time. God, through the eternal Spirit, has given me the life of Christ right now and forevermore. I live the eternal in the daily. How true are these things? So true that when “Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col 3:4). When He appears in glory, so do we!

The gospel is not just a belief system or an identifying mark, but a present spiritual reality in the life of every believer. You cannot believe these things literally enough. I look forward to the day the gospel is complete in me, when I put off the body of sin and see Christ face to face (1 Cor. 13:12). Until then, I daily live in the gospel of Christ and “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Monday, July 15, 2013

He Cannot Sin

He Cannot Sin. What on earth is 1John 3:9 talking about?

1 John 3:9, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

I recently listened to a message where the speaker said that 1 John 3:9 is about habitual sin and an exhortation to not sin. He completely missed the point of the verse. So do a number of other Christians who think the verse is saying that a Christian will never commit habitual sin.

1 John 3:9 is NOT a direct exhortation to stay away from sin (although 1 John was written for that purpose -- see 1 John 2:1), which is a good thing to do but it is not what the verse actually says. It specifically says "he cannot sin", which seems directly contradictory to 1 John 1:8 that says we are lying if we say we have no sin. The verse does not say "don't sin", it says "he cannot sin". So how does a Christian understand the difference between 1 John 1:8 that says I sin and 1 John 3:9 that says I cannot sin?

The answer is clear in the first part of the verse "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin". It is my SPIRIT that is born of God (John 3:6), not my flesh. Get that. Very important to understanding the passage. My flesh is where I sin (Rom. 6:6, "body of sin"; Rom. 7:17-18,23) but my new man CANNOT sin because it is born by incorruptible seed - the word of God, 1 Peter 1:23. A Christian is 2 people - a new man trapped in an old man's body, but the "new creature" is regenerated/quickened by the Holy Spirit and cannot sin. The new man (Eph. 4:24), new creature (2 Cor. 5:17), spiritual mind (Romans 7-8), and living in the spirit (Romans 8:9) are all different terms and phrases describing the same thing: my spirit that is born again (John 3), regenerated (Titus 3:5), and quickened (Eph. 2:1-6; Col. 2:13) by the Holy Spirit of God. All of this is possible because I am in Christ (1 Cor. 12:13), who died for my sins, condemned sins in His flesh (Rom. 8:3), and conquered death by rising from the dead. I am no longer guilty or under condemnation of the law. But while trapped in this body of sin and death, I can live the resurrected life of Jesus Christ right now (Gal. 2:20) and I don’t need to wait for “the redemption of our body” which is still future (Rom. 8:23 - the rapture, see 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thess. 4). I have the not yet, now, in Christ.

1 John 3:6 says "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not". Although spiritually I am always in Christ and that cannot change (Eph. 1:4; Col. 2:7), 1 John 3:6 is a practical command and application that I must abide in Christ to stay away from sin (see John 15 for a similar passage). But the practical command in verse 6 should not take away from the doctrinal truth of verse 9 that my new man is born of God and cannot sin.

1 John 3:9 seems contradictory to a verse like 1 John 1:8, but it is because I'm a new man that cannot sin temporarily trapped in an old man's “body of sin” (Rom. 6:6). The thing is that the new man has been spiritually circumcised (Col. 2:11) and is not "in the flesh" (Rom 8:9). This separation between my flesh (old man) and my spirit (new man) is where the victory comes from when I yield unto the righteousness of God in my spirit. See Romans 6:12-18 on the yielding, which describes 2 kingdoms warring inside of me wanting to reign, but Christ has already given me the victory.

1 John 3:9 explains WHY I can obey 1 John 2:1, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not”, because I have a new nature that CANNOT sin created by God to be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29; Col. 3:10). The key then is to “yield” to (Rom. 6) and “abide” in (1 John 3:6) Christ who not only intercedes on high (1 John 2:1) but also lives within me (Col. 1:27).

Christian, remind yourself every day that Christ has given you a new nature in Him that cannot sin.

Romans 6:11, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

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UPDATE 7/16/13

Please note that Christians will bring up 2 arguments against my teaching: (1) the wording in other versions, and (2) the tense of the Greek verb. I'm not an expert in #2. However, please reference this article -- http://www.faithalone.org/magazine/y1990/90march2.html -- which gives a decent summary of those 2 issues and teaches the verse similar to what I have done. (I don't know anything else about that other website or even if the Greek explanation is good, but include the link for added benefit and reference.)