Position of the Believer Before God

Ephesians 1  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 5
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You so continually find the hearts of Christians, even, so little thoroughly founded on the work of the Lord Jesus, so feebly conscious of their relationship to God, that I desire briefly to bring out again what the position of the believer is before God as presented to us in this Epistle and in Romans.
Before beginning, however, I would first allude to one thing that hinders people, and that is want of earnestness of purpose. Thus you often meet persons who say they want peace, and yet they can go and play all the day. Is it a wonder if they have not peace? Others, again, may not be trifling, but they throw their heart into business. The effect, of course, is the same. How little of what Barnabas exhorted to, " That with purpose of heart they should cleave to the Lord!" How little of what Paul had before him, "This one thing I do!" Or of the prayer in the Psalms, " Unite my heart to fear thy name!" Nay, they are afraid even to look earnestly at their relationship with God; they are afraid to see it.
I am persuaded that many souls are in such a condition; possessing life, it may be, but contented without a full, distinct living in and knowledge of God and His righteousness, so as to walk always in the liberty and joy of a known relationship. Now to be uncertain of our relationship with God is not the Christian state. "The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." The spirit of fear is not the spirit we get in virtue of the righteousness of God. It is very useful in its place, but where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.
The great thing which hinders this is flesh, that is, the nature we get from Adam. The flesh has its desires and delights, and it has its condition before God -sin; just as we have life in Christ, and we have righteousness in Christ, that is, standing and life. We are apt to think that scripture speaks only of flesh as to its corrupt workings; but it has its standing before God, as well as its workings. I cannot be guilty and righteous at the same time; I cannot be a saint and a sinner at the same time. We have to get well hold of this, that the man in the flesh is a guilty man before God, one who has no righteousness; a man, indeed, ever living in evil, but besides that a sinner before God. I may be in conflict with my sins, and yet know no acceptance, and I may be in conflict and yet know acceptance. The mere question of conflicts, and overcoming, is not the whole question of acceptance. I may have a child struggling with an evil temper, and vexed with itself because of it, and yet my heart may be delighting in my child. I have to overcome before and after acceptance; only I fail before and succeed after. But for acceptance God cannot have any sin at all.
The Epistle to the Ephesians takes up the work of God, without any reference to any experience at all. It takes up the sinner where God sees him Himself, and puts him where God's power has put Christ. It does not speak of justifying, nor of any work in order to it, but it takes the sinner up just as he was and puts him up where Christ is. It puts him in the place of a child, and says, walk as a child.
Romans speaks of us as alive in sin, Ephesians as dead in sin. Therefore, in Ephesians, God takes into His own presence, according to His own nature as God, and according to the relationship of children. We are created again in Christ Jesus. There we get nothing but the work of God. What has a man to do with his own creation? Nothing whatever. Therefore God places him there according to the power which put Christ there.
But we do not begin there, with being dead, where God begins in Ephesians. Therefore in Rom. 1 the picture of man's state is fully brought out and then what meets it. It is not men "dead in sins" that we get, as in Ephesians, but a responsible person living in sin, and so he has a conscience of sin whenever law comes in; first, as to his conduct, and then as to what passes in his heart. Then God meets this condition in the third chapter in the blood of Christ. It is not one dead in Romans. We have somebody to begin with who wants justifying. He finds the law of sin in his members, and more, he is a captive. The war, it is true, will be to the end, but not the captivity. But what about righteousness? Is the man with the law of sin in his members, which leads him captive, righteous before God? The very opposite, and wretched because so. Where is the way out? There is none for the flesh, and that is what we are speaking of.
Then he is taking up what is passing in his heart, to draw the conclusion of what is passing in God's heart. What is known of God? His righteousness. In what character? That of a judge. Is that all you know of God? Redemption is unknown. It is the case in this eighth of Romans, of one under law trying to make out righteousness, looking at God as a judge, and finding it cannot meet him. It is the condition of a sinner who is to answer for himself before God. This is all true, but am I to learn nothing of what Christ did for people in that state? It is the standing of a man who has to answer for himself as a child of Adam, before God. Now, if that is your case, you are infallibly lost.
This sort of exercise is very useful to break us down to find the need of another standing altogether. The blood of Christ is the answer to what I am, a sinner before God; but besides, Christ's standing is my place in the presence of God in spirit. Till this is known, the question is, How am I to get done with this conflict, which always leads to so much sorrow? (Not that the conflict ceases, only when redemption is known there is power.) Well, the end is this, I must reckon myself dead; there is no use in the conflict. I cannot deliver myself. Where the Romans end as to experience, Ephesians begin as to doctrine. Then I am created anew in Christ Jesus.
We must come to a positive, full, true sense of this, that we are dead. Till the soul has been brought to this, it has not got a standing in Christ: it is not expecting it; it is seeking help. But, if I may so speak, is Christ going to help Himself to be more righteous? "O, but I find so much evil in myself!" " In yourself! " Are you to be accepted in yourself? " So much evil!" Why, there is nothing else. You are trying to get an experience which will set you right before God: but you cannot, and ought not. What we are brought to is the full, certain, most holy, sin-judging discovery, that in the flesh dwells no good thing. Are you going to have your standing with God ascertained by the knowledge of good and evil in you? Will God pass it over lightly? No; but He takes us out of it. He cannot have us in the flesh at all, because there is sin in it. All comes to this: death and resurrection. We were baptized into His death. You must come and close with Christ as dead about sin, and own, I am there. (I must be alive unto God in entirely another way.) I have judged myself as I ought to do when brought to acknowledge that
not one stone have I found in the morass of sin to put my foot on before God as to righteousness. I am dependent on the goodness and grace of God. I have learned what I am, what sin is, what my condition is, and learned that flesh never can be set up again. The old man must come to the cross, to death experimentally. Then there is full deliverance. " There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus." I am not now answerable for what I was as a sinner. Why? Because Christ has answered for it. That is closed. " He was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification."
You will find that in Romans Christ is not followed to His exaltation except once. (Chapter 8) And the reason is that Romans is this, that Christ stood there in our place and wrought that work. It is the close of my experience as a sinner. Now I come in Ephesians to the beginning of my experience as a saint. What has God done? He has taken the One who was dead for my sins and set Him up in heaven. That is my place, " holy and without blame before him in love."
You never can get really and rightly practically into the blessing spoken of in Ephesians, unless you have got really and rightly into the consciousness of this, that you are dead. Otherwise you will have the new thing and the old thing. Therefore we must distinguish between the conflict and the standing. The flesh never ceases to be an enemy, but now it is locked up. If I have got the flesh locked up, he may lust as he pleases. He has no power. For the Spirit is life because of righteousness. You cannot get that until you have given entirely up the other standing.
If a man looks at the experiences of his heart he sees inconsistencies, and that is not divine righteousness. He must be brought to death. There is no hope of getting better, and while under the law no power of getting better. But when brought into the presence of God, where all sin is seen and judged, then we get on true ground. We thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I cannot but regret that I find in Christians uncertainty as to their relationship with God, looking to experience in connection with their standing. Our experience is not Christ, and He is our righteousness.