A Man in Christ, and the Power of Christ in a Man

2 Corinthians 12  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 4
2 Corinthians 12
We need to be taught of God, what this "man in Christ" means. When we speak of a man in the flesh or a man in the Spirit, we mean his state or position; what characterizes him before God. A man in Christ does not mean what he is in himself. It is the condition of every child of God "in Christ." This chapter, in what follows, chews us much of what flesh is, but in this state-" in Christ," flesh had nothing to do with it. The body had nothing to do with it. Paul could not understand it of himself. He says, "I knew a man in Christ, whether in the body I cannot tell," &c.; that is, it is not what he was as a man down here. It is the position of a believer contrasted with that of an unbeliever. "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature." That characterizes him, and the value and import of it are unfolded in that passage. And again " Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin." It is quite evident it has nothing to do with anything he has out of Christ. Whatever he was before, he was in flesh; now he is in Christ, and all is measured by Christ: he has got his place in the second Adam, and not in the first. It will show itself in its practical ways, but this refers to his standing.
I desire to show, first, the force and bearing of this-a man being " in Christ." So long as Christ was in the world, nobody could say, "A man in Christ." "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone." God's grace was working from Adam downwards; but that is another thing. In order to know what it is to be in Christ, we must know what this Christ is. Why should God have peace and blessing for a man in Christ? Because there was none for him anywhere else. There would be judgment for his sin, but no life or righteousness, or power, not one thing that he needs before God could he have without being in Christ. There is plenty of wickedness and pride, creature work of our own, but nothing that can go up to God. We may clothe ourselves in our own eyes, but Adam was naked before God, even when he clothed himself. There may be bright qualities, intellect, &c., but WHO is clothed in them? MAN. He prides himself in them. But there may be good qualities in any animal. There is a difference between some and others; some are vicious, others the reverse. The intellect of man and his wonderful faculties are not the question, but what do they turn to? Pride, title to be something, man clothing himself in his pride! Is that the way to heaven? God says, " there is none righteous, no not one." Does the man think so, who thinks to go to heaven that way? No! he has nothing else but filthy rags. When the voice of God is not there, the fig-leaves may do very well. They may do for man; but when God comes in, they will not do before Him. God clothed Adam, but then death had come in. When man clothes himself it only brings out his shame. When God clothes him he is fit for God-he has " put on Christ." There is no desire in the natural man to be with God; man has no desire to go to God. Conscience drives a man away from God, and his heart keeps. him away. Any honest unconverted man would own he has no pleasure in Christ. It is thoroughly brought out that the carnal mind is enmity against God. The man out of Christ is either a gross outward sinner, like the publican, or the respectable and hard-hearted man who has no sympathy with the reception of a sinner. See what the Christ is whom we are in. Christ comes; God occupies Himself with these sinners, but see how they treat Him. Knowing all the sin, all the hatred of their hearts, the breaking of the law, and a thousand other sins, He came for this reason-He came to seek sinners. The grace of God, who is love, has risen above all, that man is. If man feels what he is before God he gets into despair. You do not trust every one who comes to you, because you are sinners. God knows all about you. Christ came because you are wicked. If that suits you, that is the God you have in Christ. If that does not suit you, there is judgment for you. But, in Christ, God is above all the sin, and because it is what it is, He sends Christ. What man means by God's goodness is indifference to sin. God never in grace alters His holiness. Before a man could be in Christ, the whole work was needed to be done. He made Him to be "sin for us." The first thing is Christ made sin, and then grace reigns through righteousness. Christ was entirely alone to drink that bitter cup, and then God could not only save the sinner but glorify Himself about the sin. God would glorify Christ in Himself. When Christ was made sin, God was perfectly glorified. There was perfect righteousness against the sin, but love in bearing it. He is gone up to the throne of God, as a man. Now there is a Christ to be in; righteousness is accomplished; the whole thing is done; and the Holy Ghost is sent down to bear witness that God has accepted this man and His work. Righteousness is glorified in the presence of God.
As a Christian, I am a man, not in the flesh, but in Christ. The whole work is done that fits Him to sit on the right hand of God. He has glorified God, and God has glorified Him in Himself. But before I can have a man in Christ, I must have a Christ to be in there on the throne of God. Directly I take knowledge of what Christ has done for me, as applied by the Spirit, I am a man in Christ. It is not given to every one to have spiritual manifestations, as Paul had. Paul saw more of what it was to be there by what he saw here.
Now we see what the flesh is in connection with this. In the beginning of the chapter, we see what the height was to which a man could be taken. The thief might go into Paradise the same as Paul, but it was a wonderful thing for a man down here to have these revelations. But in the end of the chapter we see what the flesh is capable of. Nature cannot go into heaven. If God is pleased to take Paul up there, there is no consciousness of being in the body at all. "A man in Christ"-" of such an one will I glory." There is the glorying of a Christian. How many a one would say, You must not do that; but Paul says, " I will glory in it." There is a man dead! No, he is not dead; he is alive in Christ-as a man out of himself in Christ. He will glory in this; and you could not help glorying, if you really believed it. It is not thankful, not to glory in it. You may not apprehend all about it, but if you believe it you will glory in it. If Paul had gone up to a fourth heaven, there would have been all the more need for the thorn, or he would have gloried in that. The danger was not when he had the apprehension of the presence of God, but it was when out of His presence, when he got thinking of it. The revelation was not a source of strength; he needed something else. Whenever he preached, he had something to make him humble, something to keep the flesh down, (the thorn, not sin,) something to make nothing of him-breaking down the pride of man. He was humbled, because in danger of not being humble. There was strength for him. If he preached in a despicable manner, but souls were converted, (as they were,) how was that? If that is the way of getting blessing, it was not Paul's power, but Christ's power. Then let me have the thorn, he says. Thus we have the danger of the flesh dealt with in humbling him in the presence of man breaking down that very thing that would puff itself up, and Satan that would puff up is obliged to be an instrument to break it down.
Now, I have the power of Christ in the man, not only a " man in Christ." While in this world, I want something to carry me through, and to protect me from being cheated-something for the conflict I am in. That is power in the Christ, as well as being in the Christ. There was something there to keep the nature down that would have gloried; and besides that, it was the occasion of bringing in Christ. There is always something to glory in in Christ. Do not believe that the saint is not entitled to enjoy all the advantages he has in Christ. All the hindrance, all the wretchedness, made him glory more in Christ. He says, "Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities," &c.
At the end of the chapter we see what the flesh left to itself even in a Christian is. Flesh in its fairest forms, its capacities, &c., is all a hindrance. Tie may only glory in the old man, in its being dead-" reckon yourselves to be dead," &c. We may rejoice in finding the flesh good for nothing. What man is in flesh, and flesh in a man, is all bad. God says, I will visit you by my word and Spirit, and then bring you to where I am. The sins are gone. But the sin is not gone you say. But " sin in the flesh" has been condemned. Christ has died for it, and I am clear, justified from it. I have got out of this condition thus condemned. If you have got into the third heavens, you may know that all the flesh could do would be to make you proud of it. A man in the flesh cannot please God, and the flesh in man cannot please God. If you were in the fourth heaven, it would be just the same. Sinful flesh has been condemned. Then I can say, I am dead and I am in Christ, the man at the right hand of God.
Whether an apostle or the simplest saint that ever was, I need the power of Christ in the man.
The Lord give us to judge flesh, and all the scene around that ministers to it.