In Christ and the Flesh in Us: Part 1

2 Corinthians 12:2; 2 Corinthians 12:2  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Such is the Christian. Through infinite grace he is no longer before God in his sins and in the flesh, but in Christ Jesus. He was “without Christ,” he is “in Christ,” he will be “like Christ.” A Christian, then, is not one who hopes to be, but one who is, in Christ. A man may be much reformed, and not in Christ. He may be earnestly taken up with religiousness, yet not in Christ. He may even be convicted, yet not converted. Those who stop short of Christ are still in their sins. To be in Christ is to be the workmanship of God—a new creation. Such have died with Christ, and are alive to God in Christ. It is an entirely new condition and standing. All is of God. The old things have passed away; all things have become new. Whatever, therefore, a man may think of himself, whatever changes may have been wrought in his outward deportment, or however esteemed he may be by others, he has no authority for calling himself a Christian, if he is not “in Christ.”
Nor is it correct to say that those who are in Christ were always in Christ, as some have asserted, because they confound purpose and redemption. We are told that “we were all by nature children of wrath, even as others.” The apostle seems gladly to acknowledge that he knew some who had been brought into this marvelous character of blessing prior to himself. He says, “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen... who also were in Christ before me.” (Rom. 16:77Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. (Romans 16:7).) As to the purpose of God, we know that all those who compose the church of God were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. It is also clear that redemption, though accomplished more than eighteen hundred years ago, is only the present blessing of those who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of their salvation, and believed in the Son of God. Before that we were afar off; “but now, in Christ Jesus, we, who sometime were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Of such, too, it is truly written, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sine, according to the riches of his grace.” (Eph. 1:7, 11, 137In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; (Ephesians 1:7)
11In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: (Ephesians 1:11)
13In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13)
.) No one, then, can be spoken of in a scriptural sense as in Christ Jesus, before he has received Him who “was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification” as his Savior. Before he was made alive (quickened) he was dead in trespasses and in sins—in the flesh; but, through a divinely-wrought faith in the Son of God, he has received eternal life, the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. He is associated with Christ in life, and by the Holy Ghost he is one with Him. This, too, he is entitled to know and to rejoice in, as Jesus said, “In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” (John 14:2020At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:20).)
In the apostles' days persons were accredited as being “in Christ,” and they were spoken of, and written to, as such. For instance, Paul's first letter to the Corinthians is addressed “to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus;” and the letter to the Philippians, “to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi,” thus showing that saints in those days were ordinarily recognized as “in Christ Jesus.”
The truth is that the epistles describe men as either “in the flesh,” or as “in Christ Jesus.” The natural man, however cultivated or refined, however outwardly religious and benevolent, is nevertheless “in the flesh,” as to his state before God. He is in the first Adam, and dead in sins. He needs spiritual life. This is why the gospel presents no thought as to mending or improving men in the flesh; on the contrary, it speaks of redemption, that is, taking out of a state of guilt and condemnation, and bringing into a position of blessing and nearness to God. For, however polished and amiable people appear, we are assured that “the carnal mind is enmity against God” —the will is in opposition to God. Thus man naturally, however refined. and generous, is only “corrupt tree, which cannot bring forth good fruit.” Neither law nor terrors, commandments nor judgments, make him fit for God. His whole history shows the opposition of his will to God's will, and exhibits the truth of the divine sentence, “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:88So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:8).) A verdict sweeping indeed but most just, and unmistakably plain and conclusive. Such is man! He “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:1414But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14).)
Under those circumstances, as before observed, God has not proposed to mend the corrupt nature, but, in His infinite grace, has brought in redemption, in Christ, and through His blood. In this way we have deliverance from guilt, condemnation, and the dominion of sin, and are before God on an entirely new standing in life and righteousness.
The sense of guilt has been cleared, in divine grace, by the death and blood-shedding of Jesus once for all; who bore our sins in His own body on the tree, suffered for sins, and died for our sins under the judgment of God. Thus all our need, as to sins and guilt, has been fully met in righteousness, and all who believe are justified by His blood, justified from all things. Instead, then, of guilt we have a purged conscience, for we know that all is now clear between us and God. Our sins and iniquities He will remember no more. Instead of imputing sins, He accounts us righteous, so that we have “no more conscience of sins,” are no longer guilty, but justified freely by His grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. It is God who justifies. We are also delivered from condemnation, because, when law was unable to produce good in us, on account of the unclean and corrupt qualities of our nature, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and as a sacrifice for sin, condemned our old evil nature— “sin in the flesh.” Thus our old man, with its sinful passions and lusts, has been crucified with Christ; we have died with Him, who, in such wondrous grace, was made sin for us; who became our Substitute, and bore that condemnation which was due to us. The whole condemning power of God on account of sin having been poured upon Jesus, there is no condemnation left for us. Hence we are assured, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”
But sin is the master of man naturally—it has dominion over him. Sin reigns unto death. He is the slave of sin, and cannot free himself. But God, in His grace, has set the believer free. He has died unto Christ, his Substitute. Neither sin nor law can have anything to say to a dead man. He that is dead is set free, or justified, from sin. You cannot charge a dead man with lust. Being then set free from sin, and become an object of divine favor, it is said of such, “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” We are delivered, and brought to God. We are become servants to God. What an unutterable difference between being a slave of sin and a servant to God! We are alive to God in Christ, that “henceforth we should live, not to ourselves, but to him who died for us, and rose again.” His death has brought us deliverance as well as peace. By it we have been forever freed from guilt, condemnation, and the dominion of sin. Blessed indeed it is to grasp these precious realities!
We must not, however, forget that God has not only wrought, in His exceeding grace, to save us from wrath, but has acted agreeably to His own goodness and nature. Nothing less could suit Him than that we should be before Him in love, in conscious nearness and relationship in eternal glory. He is therefore bringing many sons to glory. Jesus once suffered for sins that He might bring us to God. Redemption is God's way of bringing us to Himself; the wisdom, work, and results are all for His glory, as well as for our eternal blessing. It was necessary, therefore, that the whole question of sin should be settled in righteousness, for the glory of God, as well as to meet our need. Atonement was for God; it fully answered the just demands of His throne. In this way God has been glorified, and we have been cleansed, delivered, and brought to God as purged worshippers.
God has also given us life—a risen and eternal life. It is His own gracious gift. Blessed be God! We read, “God hath given tons eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” It is life in Him who is risen from among the dead, and given to us as a present possession, to be known in activity and power in our souls. God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. “He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (1 John 5:11, 1211And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (1 John 5:11‑12).) Christ, then, is our life, and “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made us free from the law of sin and death.” Christ lives in us, and we are in Him. We are, then, associated with Christ in life—a risen and eternal life. Hence we are addressed as “risen with Christ,” and consequently exhorted to “set our affections on things above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” The believer has passed out of death and into life. This transition scripture folly recognizes. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. We have also received the gift of the Holy Ghost. “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”
The believer, therefore, is not in the flesh, but in the Spirit—he is in Christ; he has died out of his old Adam standing in the death of Jesus, and has been quickened, raised up, and seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. He has been brought out, and brought in. Hence scripture speaks of us as “accepted in the Beloved,” “complete in him,” “preserved in Christ Jesus,” and “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” We are a new creation in Him who is Head of all principality and power, are always before God in Christ, in all His acceptability and nearness, and loved by the Father as He loves the Son. This is where redemption has brought us, where divine perfect love has set us, so that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as He is, so are we in this world. We have died unto sin, died with Christ, and are alive unto God in Him. Having received remission of sins, we are united to Christ by the Holy Ghost, joined to the Lord—one spirit. This is a man in Christ. “We were in the flesh,” but having died with Christ, and risen with Him, we have eternal life in Him, and are united to Him by the Spirit.
(To be continued.)