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The Christ-Centered Life

The Doctrine of Positional Truth

Introduction

A foundation is the basis upon which a thing stands, is founded, or is supported, but a solid foundation is necessary to withstand the storms of life. Build your house on sand rather than on a rock and it will crumble under the tempests of life.

As the Lord taught in Matthew 7, the same is true for our spiritual life. The only adequate foundation for eternal life and a life that results in true spiritual transformation is the person and work of Christ and the spiritual wealth of our position in Christ—our co-identification or union with Christ in His person and work.

This study introduces us to the concept of positional truth. Positional truth has to do with who we are in Christ as believers. Since it has to do with who we are in Christ, it will also affect our self-concept. The focus, however, is on who we are in the Savior through faith in Him and how that should impact our lives as believers.

We must understand that the first key to effectiveness in living a godly life is to know what God has done for us. This forms the foundation for our response. Only as we understand and rest in how God has acted in Christ are we able to act through Christ. In terms of all aspects of our salvation and all that it brings we must know and consider that God has done it all.

Begin to show [people] what they are in Christ and all that the Great Physician is and they will apply it to their own life. … That is why preaching positional truth always proceeds in point of importance to life truth. In the great epistles, the doctrinal epistles like Romans and Ephesians you have this order. Take Ephesians and its six chapters. The first three chapters tell you what Christ has done for you and then the next three chapters tell you what you can do for Him.39

Understanding what God has done for us and who we are in Christ is foundational to having the right motive in living the Christian life, and the right motive is a vital key in the process of transformation. Chafer called this “the right motive.” Lawrence quotes Chafer who said:

What is your motive for doing right? I suppose that above anything else in the world you want to honor God with the right kind of a life. I believe that, men. You do not need to convince me of that. But what is your motive? Why do you want to live right? Is it in order that God might accept you or is it because He has accepted you? … Ninety-nine out of one-hundred people who are members of our Protestant churches today … think their job is to win the favor of God and they do not know that they have the favor of God from the moment they believe on Christ. … He has given you everything that He ever required and that is yours right now when you believe. Never are you called to fall back on the merit system. … Are you living the best you could because you were set right, or did you live the best you could hoping to be set right?40

Commenting on this statement by Chafer, Lawrence writes: “This is the foundational factor in obeying God’s commands: obedience is a response to God’s provisions for holiness, not an attempt to earn God’s blessings and provisions (cf. Rom. 8:32).”41

We hear a great deal today about our self-worth, self-esteem, self-image, and learning to love yourself. Many psychologists focus on self-worth with the goal of simply helping people feel good about themselves. Understanding just who we are and self worth are important aspects of emotional and spiritual stability and are a driving force within all human beings. As human beings created in God’s image, we each have value, meaning, and purpose in the plan of God. Having a right concept of ourselves is biblical, but only if we keep the right focus and purpose.

For instance, in Romans 12:3 we are told to think properly about who we really are according to God’s grace. The means for knowing who we are, so that such knowledge transforms our motives and thinking, is a renewed mind in the Word (12:2).

Romans 12:1-3 Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service. 2 Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith.

The goal and motive of a right self image, rather than self-centered objectives, is loving ministry to the body of Christ that is empty of hypocrisy.

Romans 12:4-9 For just as in one body we have many members, and not all the members serve the same function, 5 so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another. 6 And we have different gifts according to the grace given to us. If the gift is prophecy, that individual must use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is service, he must serve; if it is teaching, he must teach; 8 if it is exhortation, he must exhort; if it is contributing, he must do so with sincerity; if it is leadership, he must do so with diligence; if it is showing mercy, he must do so with cheerfulness. 9 Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good.

An accurate and biblical self concept has two important sides or contrasts. It contains both strength and humility. It contains both a deep concern over the fact of our sin and joy and relief over forgiveness, and both a strong sense of our inadequacy and need of God with an understanding of how God in grace has perfectly met that need in Christ.

As human beings who are spiritually weak, we not only need a proper self-concept we need God’s power and ability to change and overcome the sinful nature (the flesh) and those patterns of life that are so destructive to ourselves and to others. The Christian’s position in Christ and his co-identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection form the foundation for victory over the flesh and a new capacity for life.

To be sure, the Spirit of God, whose responsibility it is to glorify Christ and mediate His life to you and me, will never produce spiritual power or bring true spiritual change into any life that is not resting in the merit, significance, and sufficiency of Christ as the source and ground of all life and meaning. Such would be out of the question due to the purpose of the ministry of the Spirit as declared in Scripture.

If we want to experience the transformed life, we must understand who we are in Christ by God’s grace and how that affects our walk in life. Understanding the practical ramifications of our position and union in Christ (Romans 6) is foundational to the walk in and by the Spirit of God (Romans 8).

The Holy Spirit cannot cooperate or engender any reality of experience when the very basis of a grace relationship to God is ignored. How, indeed could the holy Spirit empower a life which is wholly misguided and wrong in its objectives, methods, and motives? His benefits, of necessity, have significance only for those who recognize and believe that they are perfected once-for-all by simple faith in Christ as Savior and that their new obligation is not to make themselves accepted but rather to walk worthy of the One in whom they are accepted.42

A Note of Warning

In Colossians 2:8 the Apostle Paul gives us a word of caution and one that is particularly fitting for our focus in this study:

Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Satan is a master of deception and, aided by his world system in which we live and by our own blindness, he seeks (as he did in the beginning) to hold us captive as slaves to a whole range of false beliefs and strategies by which we attempt to achieve that which only God can give. Ironically, we seek to achieve by our own self-effort that which we already have in Christ. The result is we often become focused on false goals which, like a hypnotic spell, hold us captive and keep us from experiencing God’s love, strength, and freedom, and the significance of life in Christ. These goals we so often pursue involve standards of achievement we (or others) have established as evidences of our success and thus of our self-worth.

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with doing our best and in doing things well for God’s glory and for the blessing of others as well as for our own enjoyment. However, when this becomes the focus, we can become a slave to perfectionism or to defeatism. Note some of the problems which typically occur with the perfectionist or those who are under pressure to meet self-imposed standards to feel good about themselves:

  • They usually base their self-worth on how well they do things and on the response of others to how well they have performed.
  • They tend to be critical and look down on those who don’t do so well.
  • If criticized they are devastated and become defensive because they seek their value through their performance. Perfectionists tend to be vulnerable to big mood swings depending on their success.
  • In their pursuit of a perfect standard, they tend to become controlling as they fight to have things perfect so they will feel okay.
  • The self-imposed standards usually result in a rule-dominated life. They set rules and schedules for nearly every area of life and focus their attention on their ability to accomplish the rules and meet their schedule.

In contrast to this, the Christian’s focus needs to be on Christ and his new life in Him, not on self-imposed regulations, schedules, achievements, etc., regardless of their nature whether religious, social, or secular. Christ will bring order with spiritual control and ability into the life, but He will be the center, the focus, motive, and source of what we do and how we do it rather than neurotic motives to achieve.

Definition of Positional Truth

Positional truth is the doctrine of the believer’s heavenly, spiritual, and eternal position in Jesus Christ by which a person spiritually and positionally is united and identified with Christ in His person and work—past, present, and future. This truth is especially seen in the Pauline epistles where, over a hundred times, the apostle uses such phrases like “in Christ,” “in the beloved,” “in Him,” “with Christ,” etc. These phrases draw attention, indeed, they put the focus on the secure position and many blessings that all believers are given through their union with Jesus Christ. The basis of these blessings is the finished work of salvation accomplished through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.

Scriptures Showing the “In Christ” Concept

1 Corinthians 1:2 to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.

1 Corinthians 1:30-31 He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision carries any weight—the only thing that matters is faith working through love.

Philippians 3:9 and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness—a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness.

Colossians 2:6-12 Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and firm in your faith just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. 11 In him you also were circumcised—not, however, with a circumcision performed by human hands, but by the removal of the fleshly body, that is, through the circumcision done by Christ. 12 Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead.

Colossians 3:1-3 Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, 3 for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

2 Timothy 1:1 and 9 From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, to further the promise of life in Christ Jesus,…9 He is the one who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not based on our works but on his own purpose and grace, granted to us in Christ Jesus before time began,

Compare also Romans 6:1-11; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:4-10.

The Mechanics
(Who, When, Where, How)

When people receive the Lord Jesus Christ (the who and when) by personally believing in Him as their Savior (trusting in His person and work on the cross for their sinful condition) they are placed into vital union with the Savior (the where) through the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit (the how) so that they become co-identified spiritually and actually with Jesus Christ in His person and work (the results).

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body—though many—are one body, so too is Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.

Romans 6:3-5 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection.

Colossians 2:12 Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead.

Key Concepts of Positional Truth

It’s the Foundation for Growth and Change

As stressed in the introduction to this lesson, understanding positional truth is foundational for growth in the Christian life. When properly grasped, it protects against man’s and Satan’s substitutes for spirituality, and it forms the foundation for spiritual victory over the sinful nature or the flesh. In other words, the truth of Romans 6, our position in Christ, is crucial for the truth of Romans 7 and 8, overcoming the power of indwelling sin by means of the Spirit who indwells within. One finds the same concept in Paul’s letters to the Galatians and the Colossians.

Positional truth means we share in all that Jesus is in His person and we share in what He did and will do, His Work. Thus:

  • As He died unto sin, so we too have died unto sin.

Romans 6:3 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death?

  • As He rose from the dead, so have we.

Romans 6:5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection.

  • As He is seated at God’s right hand, so are we.

Ephesians 2:6 and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

  • As He is the Son, so we are now sons.

Galatians 3:26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith.

  • As He is eternal life, so we have eternal life.

Romans 6:23 For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • As He is perfect righteousness, so we have His righteousness.

Philippians 3:9 and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness—a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness.

Note the chart on Positional Truth.

The Nature of Our Position in Christ

Our position in Christ is not a conscious experience, an emotion, or a second blessing to be sought. It is a spiritual fact and takes place as a grace work of God when one believes in the Savior, and this is true for all believers regardless of feelings or understanding. Of course, understanding positional truth is important to experiencing the benefits of being in Christ. This is most obvious in Colossians 2:6-12 quoted above and in Romans 6:3-12.

Romans 6:3-12 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. 6 We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.) 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires,

The Believer’s Position Is Perfect and Complete

Unlike spiritual growth and maturity in the Christian walk, positional truth is not progressive. From the moment of salvation, having been placed into Christ by the Spirit, believers are blessed with every spiritual blessing and are complete. They lack nothing, but they do need to grow in their understanding of what they have in Christ.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.

Colossians 2:10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

Hebrews 5:11-14 When someone’s prosperity increases, those who consume it also increase;
so what does its owner gain, except that he gets to see it with his eyes?
12 The sleep of the laborer is pleasant—whether he eats little or much—
but the wealth of the rich will not allow him to sleep.
13 Here is a misfortune on earth that I have seen:
Wealth hoarded by its owner to his own misery.
14 Then that wealth was lost through bad luck;
although he fathered a son, he does not have anything left to give him.

1 Peter 2:1-2 So get rid of all evil and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 And yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation,

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor both now and on that eternal day.

Positional truth means at least three wonderful facts for every believer:

  • Christ totally surrounds us; we are enveloped by His life.

Colossians 3:3 for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

  • Christ protects us from everything that is hostile or dangerous.

Romans 8:32-39 Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Christ supplies us with every possible need for life.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.

Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply your every need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Raymond Ortland writes:

We’re in Him the way a baby’s in a womb—but better.
We’re in Him the way a moth is in a chrysalis—but better.
We’re in Him the way a deep-sea diver’s in his diving suit—but better.
We’re in Him the way birds are in the air, or fish are in the sea—but better.43

The Believer’s Position Is Eternal and Permanent

Salvation is totally a work of God’s grace and based on the merit and worth of Christ and His finished work rather than our works. Since that is true, there is nothing we can do to lose it. In addition to Romans 8:32-39 quoted above, note our Lord’s promise.

John 10:28-30 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.

This truth is evident from the fact that the carnal believers at Corinth are still viewed as permanently set apart, sanctified in Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:2 to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.

“are sanctified in Christ Jesus” represents the perfect tense which looks at an event or fact completed in the past with results going on in the present. Though he declared them carnal in chapter 3, the apostle viewed them as still positionally in Christ.

The Wealth of the
Believer’s Position in Jesus Christ

As to Christ’s PERSON

Being in Christ we share in the following:

  • As He has perfect righteousness, all believers have Christ’s righteousness imputed to them.

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.

  • As He has eternal life, so all believers have eternal life.

Romans 6:23 For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • His eternal destiny becomes the destiny of all believers.

Ephesians 1:4-5 For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. 5 He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will—

Ephesians 1:10-11 toward the administration of the fullness of the times, to head up all things in Christ—the things in heaven and the things on earth. 11 In Christ we too have been claimed as God’s own possession, since we were predestined according to the one purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will

  • As He is the Son of God, so all believers become sons and members of God’s family by adoption and by regeneration, the new birth.

John 1:13 —children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.

Ephesians 1:5 He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will—

Galatians 3:26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith.

1 John 3:2 Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is.

  • As He is the Father’s chosen One, so all believers are chosen ones. [Some see this as a corporate choosing, others as personal and corporate which fits best with Scripture as a whole.]

Ephesians 1:4 For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love.

  • As He is the Heir of God, so all believers are heirs of God.

Ephesians 1:11-14 In Christ we too have been claimed as God’s own possession, since we were predestined according to the one purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, would be to the praise of his glory. 13 And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation)—when you believed in Christ—you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.

  • As He is the Great High Priest, so all believers are priests of God.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

But being in Christ, believers also share in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross.

As to Christ’s WORK

Being in Christ, we share in His work past, present, and future:

  • In Christ, believers are reconciled to God by His substitutionary death.

Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life?

  • In Christ, believers have peace with God.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

  • In Christ, believers have His righteousness imputed to them.

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.

  • In Christ, believers are justified, declared righteous.

Romans 5:9 Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God’s wrath.

  • In Christ, believers are redeemed by His blood and have forgiveness of sin.

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace

  • In Christ, the demands of God’s holiness have been satisfied; God has been propitiated.

Romans 3:25 God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed.

  • In Christ, there is now no condemnation.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

  • In Christ, the penalty of sin has been expiated, removed.

Colossians 2:14 He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.

  • In Christ, believers are no longer guilty or under the condemnation of the Law and its sentence of death.

Romans 7:4-6 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you could be joined to another, to the one who was raised from the dead, to bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful desires, aroused by the law, were active in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code.

Colossians 2:14 He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.

  • In Christ, believers are accepted, made fit and sufficient to be partakers in God’s family and inheritance.

Ephesians 1:6 to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son.

Colossians 1:12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.

All the above deal with Christ’s substitutionary death for sin’s penalty as He died in our place, bearing our penalty. But Christ’s death also includes His judicial work against the reign of sin.

Christ also died unto sin’s power to break its reign. He died for sin and unto sin and its reign.

Romans 6:10-12 For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires,

  • In Christ, believers have also died with Christ in His death and burial.

Romans 6:3-4 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.

Colossians 2:12 Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead.

  • In Christ, the believer’s relationship to Adam has been severed and the dominion of the sinful nature, though still present, has been broken.

Romans 6:1-14 What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? 2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. 6 We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.)
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, 13 and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.

  • In Christ, believers have been raised together with Him in His resurrection.

Ephesians 2:5-6 even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you are saved!— 6 and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

  • In Christ, believers have been raised with Him for a walk in newness of life (cf. Rom. 6:8-12 above).

Colossians 2:12 Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead.

  • In Christ, believers are seated with Him in the heavenlies at the right hand of the Father.

Ephesians 2:6 and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

  • In Christ, believers have an eternal access to God, they are made nigh to God, translated into God’s kingdom, and delivered from Satan’s kingdom and the power of darkness.

Ephesians 2:18 so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Ephesians 3:12 in whom we have boldness and confident access to God because of Christ’s faithfulness.

  • In Christ, believers have a perpetual and effective High Priest, an advocate and two intercessors, the Son at God’s right hand, and the Holy Spirit who dwells within (Rom. 8:26-27, 34; 1 John 2:2).
  • In Christ, believers have special significance and the basis of a true self-concept as the children of God. Being in Christ, the believer is one who is God’s child by spiritual birth and legal adoption. This means believers are in the royal family of the King of kings. Believers are royal sons of God, a holy and royal priesthood, ambassadors of the King, and partners with the Savior. How could we possibly be more significant and have a greater reason to live than that?

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:10 You once were not a people, but now you are God’s people. You were shown no mercy , but now you have received mercy.

Hebrews 1:9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.
So God, your God, has anointed you over your companions with the oil of rejoicing.

Hebrews 2:11-13 For indeed he who makes holy and those being made holy all have the same origin, and so he is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12 saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.” 13 Again he says, “I will be confident in him,” and again, “Here I am, with the children God has given me.

Application

There are a number of ways we could apply the truth of our position in Christ, the truth of identification. Let me suggest just two, with the second being a further outworking of the first.

Concerning Obedience

First, concerning obedience or overcoming the pulls of indwelling sin and the passions of the flesh. After declaring the believers identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, the apostle says: “So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6:11). The KJV translated “consider” as “reckon,” and it is truly the reckoning that counts. The Greek word is logizomai. It means “to calculate, count on as true” as in adding up a set of numbers to arrive at their true sum. By calculating the facts presented in verses 1-10, we are to know for certain that we are dead to the power and rule of sin and alive for the power of Christ. This means the ability for obedience to God (Rom. 6:12-18). Our union with Christ is made up of two aspects: death and resurrection (life). Identification with Him in His death leads to identification with Him in His resurrected life.

  • We must know the facts of identification with Christ.
  • We must count on these facts as spiritual realities by faith.
  • Knowing and believing in our new identification, we are to present ourselves to God for obedience.

This presentation is ultimately carried out through walking by faith in the Spirit who dwells within (Rom. 8:1-13). Being instruments of righteousness as seen in Romans 6:13 is equivalent to the fruit of the Spirit of Galatians 5:22-23.

Galatians 5:16 But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.

Romans 6:13 and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

However, before we experience the life of identification (death and life) through this reckoning that counts, we too often have to experience the failure and weakness of Romans 7:15-25, the futility of trying to live according to law by our own resources and good intentions. Faith in God’s resources only really begins when we stop trusting in our resources.

Concerning Man’s Behavior

Robert S. McGee writes:

What a waste to attempt to change behavior without truly understanding the driving needs that cause such behavior! Yet millions of people spend a lifetime searching for love, acceptance, and success without understanding the need that compels them. We must understand that this hunger for self-worth is God-given and can only be satisfied by Him. Our value is not dependent on our ability to earn the fickle acceptance of people, but rather, its true source is the love and acceptance of God. He created us. He alone knows how to fulfill all of our needs.44

All believers have the perfect basis for a proper sense of identity or a good self-concept, one dependent on who they are in Christ and, please note, one dependent on the value God places on their lives rather than on the value they or others may place on their lives. Whose opinion is the most important? Yours and mine, or God’s? Do we properly grasp how foolish it is to live our lives for the opinions of man? Compare the following verses:

1 Corinthians 3:3-7 for you are still influenced by the flesh. For since there is still jealousy and dissension among you, are you not influenced by the flesh and behaving like unregenerate people? 4 For whenever someone says, “I am with Paul,” or “I am with Apollos,” are you not merely human? 5 What is Apollos, really? Or what is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, and each of us in the ministry the Lord gave us. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused it to grow. 7 So neither the one who plants counts for anything, nor the one who waters, but God who causes the growth.

1 Corinthians 4:1-5 One should think about us this way—as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Now what is sought in stewards is that one be found faithful. 3 So for me, it is a minor matter that I am judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not acquitted because of this. The one who judges me is the Lord. 5 So then, do not judge anything before the time. Wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts. Then each will receive recognition from God.

2 Corinthians 10:12 For we would not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who recommend themselves. But when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.

The three fundamental needs people have for a sense of purpose and significance are Acceptance, Belongingness, and Competence, and each of these is found in Christ. Our life, therefore, is to be directed away from ourselves, the carnal and the visible, to the secret source of life—the risen Savior and our perfect union in Him and His life.

(1) We are Accepted in Christ with free access to God.

Ephesians 1:6 to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son.

Ephesians 2:18 so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Ephesians 3:12 in whom we have boldness and confident access to God because of Christ’s faithfulness.

Romans 14:3 The one who eats everything must not despise the one who does not, and the one who abstains must not judge the one who eats everything, for God has accepted him.

(2) We Belong to the family of God as adopted children.

John 1:12 But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children

1 Corinthians 3:23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Galatians 3:26-29 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.

(3) We Have Competence, ability in Christ to be and do what God calls us to.

Philippians 2:12-13 So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, 13 for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God.

Philippians 4:13 I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.

Our union in Christ (our position) is a call for us to be Christ-centered and oriented in our thinking. For a practical application of what this means regarding who we are as individuals compare the two self-concept diagrams at the end of this lesson.

In view of these many declarations of Scripture which use “in Christ,” or a similar term, it is clear why Paul said that in Christ we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing and that we are therefore “ complete in Him.”

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.

Colossians 2:10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

Conclusion

Since believers are complete in Christ, there is nothing they can add to gain salvation, or to maintain their salvation (cf. Titus 3:5; Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 8:32-39). We are saved by the record of the Savior, not ours.

Likewise, there is nothing believers can add to the work of Christ or to their new life in Christ in order to walk with God and experience true spirituality. The need is to reckon, to rely on this new spiritual life and these marvelous resources we have by grace in the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Col. 2:1-23; Gal. 3:1f; 5:1f).

Colossians warns believers against being led away from full confidence in their complete position in Christ. Similarly, Hebrews and Galatians warn against moving into legalism or into some form of works and away from trust in the finished work of Christ as the ground of one’s spiritual life. To trust in anything other than God’s full provision for us in Jesus Christ is to be faithless in our position and futile to our condition.

As a result of union with Christ, the believer’s life is hidden permanently in God through this union and identification with Jesus Christ.

Colossians 3:1-3 Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, 3 for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

There are two ideas in these verses:

(1) Safety: Believers are doubly safe with Christ in God.

John 10:28-29 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand.

(2) Secrecy: Believers’ lives are nourished and supplied by hidden resources which the world cannot know or give.

In conclusion, let me repeat what was said at the beginning of this lesson. The Spirit of God, whose responsibility it is to glorify Christ and mediate His life to you and me, will never engender spiritual power or bring change into any life that is not resting in the merit, significance, and sufficiency of Christ as the source and ground of all life and meaning. Such would be out of the question.

If we want to experience the transformed life, we must understand and count on who we are in Christ and how that affects our walk in life. Romans 6, understanding the practical ramifications of our position and union in Christ is foundational to Romans 7 and 8, the power of indwelling sin and the walk in and by the Spirit of God.

39 Lewis Sperry Chafer, “ The Believer’s Responsibility,” transcription of a class lecture, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1948, taken from class notes by William D. Lawrence, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1993, p. 13-3.

40Ibid., p. 13-3.

41 Ibid., p. 13-3.

42 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. VI, Pneumatology, Dallas Seminary Press, Dallas, Texas, 1984, p. 164.

43 Raymond C. Ortland, Circle of Strength, Victor Books, Wheaton, 1978, p. 5.

44 Robert S. McGee, The Search for Significance, Rapha Publishing, p. 15.

Related Topics: Christology, Basics for Christians, Regeneration, Justification, Sanctification