In the context of the message of the Gospel, these two words hold tremendous significance. They are words that ought to prompt an overwhelming sense of wonder and gratitude as to what Christ accomplished on the cross on our behalf. Consider that we, as believers, are no longer…
- slaves to sin but free (Romans 6:6-7,14,18).
- strangers and aliens but members of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19).
- servants but friends (John 15:15).
These statements represent powerful, new realities for us who have been transferred at the moment of salvation from the “kingdom of darkness” to the “kingdom of light”—the kingdom of God’s Son, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:12-13).
Each of these declarations holds a wealth of meaning but all hold in common a fundamental fact of change as to how God perceives us, brought about by God alone. Understanding how God now sees us—the new position we have been granted in Christ—is a key principle for living the Christian life.
The Nature of the Change
Many Christians have little or no understanding of the profound change that takes place in a life when one is saved.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)
Elsewhere, Scripture contrasts the position we formerly had “outside of Christ” and the new position—the new identity—we have in Christ. (In 1 Corinthians 15:22, Paul uses the idiom in Adam to describe what we were at one time as unbelievers—spiritually dead—versus what we now are as believers—alive in Christ.)
Just in case we aren’t really taking to heart this dramatic change that has taken place, the apostle Paul gets more personal in his letter to the Ephesian Christians.
Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:1-6 NLT)
Those two small words, “but God,” contain only six letters, but they signify an immense difference—a change from what we were before to what we are now.
Paul draws a similar contrast in 1 Corinthians 6. After explicitly referring to some of the wicked behaviour of sinful mankind (vs. 9-10), Paul once again refers to the dramatic change that happens in one’s life at the point of conversion:
Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11 NLT)
It is important to note what Paul meant when he states that the reader was “made holy” (“sanctified” in other translations). In this context, the apostle is referring to how God presently sees our position as children adopted into his family, based entirely on the fact that we have been “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:5-6 NKJV).
Rather than being condemned, we are now accepted because of who we now are in Christ!
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 NASB)
In light of all of the above, how should we as God’s children now live? There can be no greater motivation to live a life that pleases and honours God than an ever-growing understanding of God’s limitless grace and mercy for us as undeserving sinners. It ought to be the natural overflow of our new life “in Christ” that we are motivated to live out our changed life.
Thus we have Paul’s exhortation:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1 NIV)
Or, as an alternative reading would put it:
Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational [logical, intelligent] act of worship. (Romans 12:1 AMP)
The word “therefore” points us back to everything that precedes it. Building on what he has said in the preceding chapters about God’s grace, Paul now goes on to talk about what ought to be the natural consequence of what we now are in Christ. As such, recognizing who we now are in Christ, we ought to live out our new lives in as a response of gratitude to the grace of God.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. (Titus 2:11-12 NIV)
Paul then goes on to say that the result of having a proper understanding of the grace of God at work in us ought to be an eagerness to live lives pleasing to God—“eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14 NIV). In every situation, at every stage of life, God wants us to know that his grace is more than sufficient for our every need. That was God’s promise to Paul and it is ours as well:
My [God’s] grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)
As we respond in faith and obedience to the Lord, God assures us that it is he himself who will bring about the transformation in our lives that only he can accomplish in setting us free from the power and insidious influence of sin. We can then take to heart the words of the apostle:
…he [God] who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NIV)
Going Deeper series: Each of GoodSeed’s tools is written to provide readers with a foundational overview of the Bible’s core message so they may clearly understand the gospel. We do this by presenting key stories from creation through the Cross. We at GoodSeed do not attempt to be exhaustive in our approach nor is that our goal. There is too much that could be said about life, death and life after death. Likewise, we don’t want the reader to get sidetracked from learning the Bible’s primary message regarding salvation—perhaps for the first time.
However, we also recognize that the Bible is a rich spiritual treasure trove, deserving of a lifetime of study and consideration. With that in mind, each month the Going Deeper series is going to examine some nuggets to encourage your heart, enlighten your mind and motivate you to dig further into God’s Word yourself!