The phrase in Christ is something that's often used in Christian circles, but do we really understand what that means?
We'll find out today on Truth for Life as Alistair Begg takes an in-depth look at the meaning and implications of being in Christ. We're continuing our study in Ephesians. Ephesians 2, beginning at verse 11. Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands, remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now, in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you're no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Amen. Father, as we turn now to the Bible, please grant to us the aid of the Holy Spirit, that we might bow down underneath the truth of your Word, that we may take our stand upon it, that our lives may be transformed by it. For we ask it in Christ's name.
Amen. Well, we're picking up our study at verse 13 here. And since we're going to move very slowly this morning, we're not going to get beyond the opening phrase, In Christ Jesus. I think it's perhaps helpful for us at least to see the big picture and the flow of Paul's teaching here as we have it in the passage that I've just read.
You'll be helped, as I have been, by just noticing transitions. First of all, in verse 11, therefore remember—and here's the phrase—"at one time." He comes back to it again in verse 12—"at that time." At one time. And then in verse 13—"but now," and then in verse 19—"so then."
All right? At one time, but now, so then. At one time, he says, as we saw last time in his description of the unbelieving Gentiles, we had a picture of our pre-Christian reality. And if verses 1 to 10 explain the fact of our hopelessness, then verses 11 and following express our helplessness. And we saw last time that outside of Christ, the verdict of the Bible is that we are both hopeless and we are helpless. It points that out not to drive us to despair but to drive us to the only solution to our hopelessness and our helplessness, namely, in the gospel of the Lord Jesus. So that's the little section in verse 11 and 12 at one time. And then in verse 13, he's going on to contrast what he has just said was true of them by nature with what they are now by grace. And this contrast in verse 13 is akin to what he's already done in verse 4. If you look back at verse 4, having in the first three verses outlined their predicament as being enslaved and condemned and dead and so on, he then says, "...but God, being rich in mercy."
So God has intervened on their behalf, and things will never be the same again. And that's what he's doing once again in verse 13. And then down in verse 19, when we finally get to it—which won't be today—he begins to describe the results of what Christ has done. And what he has done is he has brought both Jew and Gentile to the same place, to the foot of the cross. He has provided for them the same salvation in the blood of his Son. He has united them in their harmony with one another in Jesus.
And he is putting together a whole new dimension of reality, which he describes here in metaphorical terms, in terms of a holy temple and a structure being built to the Lord. So he's pointing out that their identity is directly tied to their experience of community. We try and say this consistently, that although we come to Christ as individuals, we do not live in him in a solitary fashion. But when we are united with Christ, we are united with all who are then in Christ. And it does not make sense to live then in isolation from those to whom we have been united. So they were formerly stateless, and he's going to tell them how they have now a whole new citizenship.
They were friendless, but now they have a completely new family, and they were once alienated, but now they have been joined together. Now, all of this actually flows out of this one phrase this morning that I want us to pay attention to, and it's there in verse 13, but now in Christ Jesus. In Christ Jesus. This actually is the most common description in the Bible of a follower of Jesus—that he or she is a person in Christ. You might be surprised to be reminded of the fact that neither Jesus nor Paul, certainly in their recorded teaching, used the word Christian at all. In fact, Christian only appears in the New Testament three times—once when Luke explains that the followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch. And they weren't called Christians as sort of in a nice way. They were called Christians in a not-nice way. You Christians!
You Christianoi! It is also when Paul gives his testimony before Agrippa, and Agrippa says to him, Do you really think you're going to make me one of these Christians in such a short time? And the other place—the only place that is actually used in any positive dimension—is in 1 Peter chapter 4, where Peter is speaking about suffering, and he says, you know, If you suffer as a Christian… And he's using it there simply as we most commonly use it—namely, as a follower of Jesus. But, you know, when you think this out, it makes sense that Paul—and he does this over a hundred and fifty times in his letters—over a hundred and sixty, actually—not necessarily the exact phrase in Christ Jesus, but synonyms for that, essentially. He comes to it again and again and again. He understands how vital it is that those who have professed faith in Jesus Christ understand that what has happened to them is that they have been united with Christ, that they live in union with Christ, that he is not an add-on to their profession of faith.
They are in him, and it is on account of the fact of their union with him that everything else flows. So that, for example, when you tell somebody these days, if someone says to you, Well, what are you? And you say, Well, I am a Christian, well they will often come back and say, Well, either what does that mean, or what kind of Christian are you, and so on.
And the term itself is not actually particularly helpful, because you constantly have to go back and explain, No, not one of those, no, more like this, more like that. So we could make a case for saying that we would start to just tell people, they say, What are you? Say, I am in Christ Jesus. They'll say, Well, that's a strange thing to say. And you say, Yeah, I did it deliberately, because I wanted to tell you what it actually means. And they will say, Does it mean to be inside Christ, the way my keys are inside my glove box, or the way my clothes are in my closet, inside Christ? No, we will say, No, it doesn't mean that at all. It means to be united to Christ, the way a limb is part of a body or the way a branch is part of a vine. In other words, that the union that exists is a personal, organic union that is brought about, as we've seen already in Ephesians here, as a result of God's gracious initiative. Now, the danger in doing what I'm going to do in the balance of time, in sticking with one phrase, is that it becomes a bit of a rabbit trail. And I confess that it is a purposeful rabbit trail, which I hope you will agree with by the time I finish.
If you don't, then let me apologize in advance. But let me turn you to a number of passages in the Bible—first of all, in John chapter 15. Because it is here in John 15 that Jesus uses this very terminology concerning the vine and the branches. In fact, in chapter 14 and verse 20, when he's thinking about leaving his followers, he says, I won't leave you as orphans. This is the eighteenth verse of John 14. I will come to you.
Chapter 14. And yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
That's quite a thought, isn't it? That the context in which his followers find themselves is that they are united in Christ, they are included in Christ. And so, when he goes into chapter 15, he picks a picture that would be familiar to them, the vine and the branches, and he says, I am the true vine.
My Father is the vinedresser. And every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. It's not our purpose this morning to stop here, but let's just notice in passing that to be in Christ, to be in the vine, as it were, is to be pruned. And all pruning is purposeful. Sometimes it is painful.
It may often look haphazard from where we're sitting, but in the economy of God it never is. The vinedresser knows exactly what he's doing, and when he prunes us, when we feel, as it were, the knife of his pruning on us, it is in order, we're told, in order that we then, the branches, may bear more fruit. Already, verse 3, you're clean because of the word I've spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. He goes on to say, as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.
Any sensible schoolboy can get a hold of this. Apart from me, he goes on to say, you can do nothing. So, the reality of our Christian experience is that we are united with Christ, we are placed into Christ. Not inside of Christ. In fact, there are two sides to this, because the Bible also speaks—in fact, Jesus here is speaking—of he being in us by the Holy Spirit and we being in him by the Holy Spirit, two sides of one coin, expressing the fact of our union with Christ. Classically, in Paul, 2 Corinthians 5, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. And of course, Paul is going to go on to speak about this new creation that God is making that comprises all who are redeemed, put in this new family, brought together in a tribe that no one will be able ultimately to number, that will have every flavor and category and language and picture and face that we could ever imagine in one great, gigantic jigsaw puzzle of God's grace.
That's what he's doing. And every time that another face is added to the collage, as it were, it is a testimony to the wonder of God's goodness. Now, the reason this is so important is because it establishes your identity as a believer. You believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is your identity. You are in Christ Jesus. It doesn't mean that because you have an admiration for Jesus, because you like the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount, because you are able to rehearse the creeds.
No. It means that you, by grace, through faith, have been personally, organically brought into a relationship with Jesus, which can only be described in this terminology—in the mystery of it, in the wonder of it, in the entire nature of it. And it's vital that we understand it. Because if we don't understand it as individuals and as a congregation, then we will tell the wrong story, and we will lead people up the wrong path. What we're talking about here is what God has done for us in Jesus. The authentic follower of Jesus is in him. Now, Paul has described for these Ephesians—reminded them, the Gentiles—of the way in which this came about in their lives. If you go back to chapter 1 of Ephesians, you will recall, I hope, that having spoken of those who were the first to hope in Christ—namely, the Jew, because salvation is first for the Jew and then for the Gentile—all the early believers were Jewish. We, including himself, with that group, Paul says, we, verse 12, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be to the praise of his glory. Then verse 13, in him—notice again—in him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, believed in him and were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.
So this is of absolute vital importance. When these folks rehearse the story of God's grace in their lives, they would have marveled at all that Paul has said in Ephesians 1. They would have said, You know, the amazing thing about this is that I was chosen in my Maker, I was hidden in my Savior, and this before even the mountains were formed. And someone says to him, Well, how did you personally, you know, engage with this? And they would have said, Well, verse 13, I heard the word of truth, I realized it was the gospel of salvation, I believed it, and I was sealed, I was authenticated, I was marked with the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. God invaded my life.
This is something that I actually did. I believed. Now, we've said this before, and we need to keep saying it, that while God elects to salvation, he doesn't believe for us.
We believe. John chapter 1—you needn't go there, it's part of the rabbit trail, but let me quote it to you—he came to his own. His own people didn't receive him, by and large, but to all who did—notice the verb receive him, notice the verb who believed in his name—he gave the right to become the children of God. Unless a man is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. A lady once said to George Whitefield when he was preaching, she said, Whitefield, why do you keep saying to people, You must be born again?
And Whitefield said, Because you must be born again. There is no other way. Well, did you bring about your own birth? Physically? No. Spiritually?
No. Oh, I know that somebody told you, you must return to Christ and be repentant of your sins, and you did all that, and it seemed like you were doing everything. But now you've gone along the road a little while, and you keep looking back and further back and further back, and say, you know, it's remarkable that I was even there. It's remarkable that he gave me that book.
It's remarkable that she shared with me what she did. And as you trace the line further back, where do you trace it to? You trace it to eternity. In him you heard the gospel. You believed. Now the fact is—and this is what Paul is, of course, pointing out in the classic section of 8, 9, and 10 of chapter 2—that the faith, our faith, our laying hold of the promises of God, is actually rooted in the activity of God. For by grace you have been saved through faith. It's your faith.
And this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God. So the identity that is ours in Christ and the mystery of the work of Christ are there with each other. Paul, in Romans, as you know, begins by showing how the whole world is accountable before God. All have sinned and have come short of the glory of God.
He points out that there's no way that we can work out our condition and put ourselves in a right standing with God. He then says, but the glory of the good news is that the righteousness of God has been manifested. It's apart from the law, and it is that which the law and the prophets have testified to, but it is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
Okay? So a righteousness that is alien to us through Jesus Christ as a result of what Christ has done. He has kept the law in its perfection. He's the only righteous man that ever lived. He has borne the penalty of sin, which we deserve, but he took in our place. And now that righteousness is imputed to all who believe. Therefore, it is not to those who don't believe. As Calvin says, all that Christ has done for us is of no value to us so long as we remain outside of Christ, so that there is an appropriation, there is an acceptance, there is a gift that is to be received. And whether that takes place instantaneously in a great dramatic moment or whether it takes place over a period of time, whatever way it comes about, eventually the person begins to sing the songs and suddenly says, You know, I actually believe this.
Something has happened to me. I guess I have been born from above, and I believe. And as a result of believing, I know myself to be included in this company. The gospel is the promise of forgiveness and transformation for those who are in Christ. You're listening to Truth for Life. That is Alistair Begg with part one of a message called In Christ Jesus. And if you'd like to know more about what it means to be in Christ Jesus, let me encourage you to visit truthforlife.org slash learn more.
You'll find a couple of brief videos there and several short series to help you get started. Now, I don't know if you realize this or not, but Truth for Life is entirely listener funded. Alistair's daily programs are made possible because of the generosity of many faithful truth partners. These are listeners who are passionate about seeing other people become followers of Jesus through the preaching of God's word. If you're looking for a way to share the gospel with others, know that when you give to Truth for Life, you're helping to deliver Alistair's teaching to a worldwide audience.
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Request your copy of Seven Reasons to Reconsider Christianity when you sign up to be a monthly truth partner or when you give a one-time donation at truthforlife.org slash donate. Now, are you already starting to think about a vacation next year? How'd you like to make it both meaningful and fun? Well, you can join Alistair on the deeper faith 2023 Mediterranean cruise. You'll be the guest speaker on this trip that runs from August 26th through September 4th, 2023. The voyage begins in Rome, Italy aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship. Guests will enjoy luxurious rooms, first-class dining, top-notch amenities as you sail to various Mediterranean ports. Each day's adventure will be topped off by sharing evenings with Alistair as he teaches from God's word. Find out more about the cruise or book your cabin at deeperfaithcruise.com.
I'm Bob Lapine. We hope you enjoy your trip or your weekend and are able to worship together with your local church. Monday, join us for the conclusion of today's message, Jesus died for our sins and he sets us free, but free to do what exactly? We'll find out Monday. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-30 20:57:19 / 2022-12-30 21:06:00 / 9