Underpinnings: Christ in You

This is one of my underpinnings, which are the basic assumptions that drive my life but that pass undetected to the naked eye.

Some of my most basic assumptions about life are some of the most difficult for me to articulate.

That I believe that Christ lives in me is no surprise to those around me, but they might not know how thoroughly I believe that, and I how thoroughly I want to live it. Paul wrote that we as believers are one spirit with Christ. If fact, he even went so far as to call us Christ’s body. We know that humanly speaking, there’s no practical way to separate the head from the body. My head is part of me, and my body is part of me. So it is with us and Christ. We are His body. Jesus was called the Anointed One (Christ), and it is for this reason we are called Little Anointed Ones (Christian).

Paul writes that we are new creatures and that all things have passed away. We died with Christ and were raised up with Him in His resurrection power. I embrace this reality by faith.

Having said this, I am in no way undermining the reality of the flesh. However. Paul also writes that Jesus died to set us free from the obligation to serve sin, which means that we have no obligation anymore to serve the flesh. As a believer, my job is not to define truth but to believe God.

This basic assumption affects my daily decisions. It affects the way that I pray. It affects how I discern God’s will. It affects how I interpret my circumstances. However, all of those things are merely outward workings of this internal assumption.

Christ in you is the mystery of the gospel. What are the things that change when you really ponder the reality of Christ in you?

3 comments

  1. Dwight Gingrich

    Good thoughts, Matthias! You are describing the essential God-part of our salvation, from the initial moment of justification through sanctification to our complete justification and sanctification when Christ returns: God in us. Or, put another way, the indwelling of the Spirit of God/Christ. We don’t hear enough of the Spirit’s work in most of our churches, which is another way of saying we don’t understand well enough God’s work in our salvation–that he comes to dwell in us, both individually and collectively, to fill us with all His fullness and achieve His good pleasure in us.

    “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” we often hear, but too often the very reason for this exhortation is dropped: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:11-12, ESV). In other words, as it hit me recently, the reason for the fear and trembling, at least in this case, is NOT because of some fear of not pleasing God, but exactly the opposite: we fear and tremble as we experience the awesome reality of God working in us–what a wonder!– accomplishing His good pleasure. “Work out,” then, means “perform the salvation God has given you, display the results of it,” not “earn.” It is the same word Paul uses in Romans 15:18 when he says, “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has ACCOMPLISHED through me.” Similarly in Philippians, we cooperate with the Spirit of God inside of us, not resisting Him but welcoming His work, as He unfolds God’s good, pleasing work in us, a work that springs from the salvation He has already given us, and a work empowered by the God Who (as previous verses describe) has already successfully performed, to His good pleasure, the work of exalting Christ and giving Christ God’s own name: “the name which is above every name… Lord” [Yahweh]. It is this God who, as we obey, has placed the Spirit of this exalted Christ in us to work His good pleasure!

    You mention we have “no obligation to serve sin.” In connection with that thought, have you ever pondered what it means that Christ “died to sin” (Romans 6:10)? I think it is necessary to ponder this question before we can know what it means that we, too, have “died to sin” (6:2) and are “dead to sin” (6:11). Our explanation for the latter (that we no longer are compelled to give in to temptation; that, in fact, we are “dead” to its enticements–a dead body doesn’t feel anything when it is poked–or we should at least act as if we are…) simply does not transfer to Christ, who is here presented as our model of having “died to sin.” I think if we first ponder what it means for Christ to have “died to sin,” then we can gain a better image of what Paul says is the experience of those who have been “united with him,” and we can better understand the reality of your statement, that we are have “no obligation to serve sin.” Exegetical hint: I think the imagery of dying to sin is, in this passage, related to the imagery of sin/death reigning as a king/slave master (5:14, 17, 21; 6:6, 9, 12, 14, etc.).

    Thanks again for this post, Matthias!

    • Thanks for your response, Dwight! I love that perspective on Philippians 2!

      I took your question as rhetorical, so forgive me for responding. But just for fun and for the benefit of other readers, here’s a summary of where I think you’re going:

      1. God gave dominion of the earth to man (Adam).
      2. Man (Adam) surrendered dominion of the earth to sin/death.
      3. Jesus came as a man and through His death broke the dominion of sin/death.
      4. Jesus was the firstborn of a new race of people who have the legal rights to the earth’s dominion (and many more rights, such as access to God’s throne room, etc.).
      5. By faith we enter into this race (as new creatures), which changes our legal obligations. Christ even went so far as to seat us with Him in heavenly places.

      As a side note, this is why Jesus had authority to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, etc. This is why we, through faith, have the authority to do the same.

      I appreciate your feedback!

  2. Matthias, thanks for your thoughts! You gave the big-picture message of Romans 6 very well, much like I had in mind and better than I had in words.

    So, with that in mind, we can zero in again on the phrase about Christ: “the death he died, he died to sin.” How did Christ die TO sin? Perhaps it means this: Paul seems to personify sin as a being who reigns–“King Sin.” King Sin demands that anyone living in his kingdom must pay the “tax” of death. Jesus voluntarily entered King Sin’s kingdom; even though he never sinned, he had become a citizen of King Sin’s kingdom and thus owed death. Thus, Jesus died. He gave King Sin all that was owed to him, and was now free. Free, but dead, so King Sin was happy.

    The resurrection, of course, changed all that! Jesus is now alive and owes King Sin nothing. He can now move about freely in King Sin’s kingdom without King Sin being able to press him for any “taxes”– they have already been paid! Jesus has “died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God” (Rom 6:10). His entire life now is devoted to the service of God, who raised him from the dead. (The theology of the Trinity gets fuzzy here, but I believe I’m using biblical language!)

    So what does Paul’s very next sentence then mean: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”? Surely it means that, by faith, we too have been joined with Christ in his death and resurrection and have already paid King Sin his dues. True, we will still die once physically, but this brief experience of death will be nothing like what it would have been had Jesus not triggered the beginnings of the resurrection. Had Jesus not risen, our death would be complete (both spiritual and physical) and permanent (no hope of resurrection). But now we can live with complete confidence that we have already, by participation in Christ, paid King Sin all that we owe him.

    We are now “alive to God in Christ Jesus”–completely free to live completely for God, who has already begun giving us eternal life. We owe “King Sin” nothing, so Paul says “do not let sin reign… do not offer any part of yourself to sin”–don’t volunteer to sin, in other words. You are a citizen of heaven, and only an ambassador in Sin’s kingdom. You don’t owe taxes. You don’t need to sin, you don’t need to die. You still could, of course… but why would you?

    I get excited about this, because it is so very much better than the tired old teaching that “count yourselves dead to sin” means act AS IF you cannot feel any temptation to sin! That is merely a lie pretending to be good news, an imposter who can’t swim posing as a lifeguard.

    Romans 6:1-14 is part of a larger unit in Romans (6:1–7:6) in which Paul proves that grace doesn’t lead to sin. Why not?

    1) “A New You” born in Christ no longer has any obligations to sin–why would you volunteer to sin? (6:1-14).

    2) “A New Master”–righteousness–offers a gift much better than sin’s wages–why would you want to sin? (6:15-23).

    3) “A New Husband”–Christ–impregnates us with his Holy Spirit so that we bear his “fruit” rather than the “fruit” of the Law (7:1-6).

    So, if a Christian serves sin, it is a volunteer act (6:1-14), it is stupid (6:15-23), and it is because he has resisted the work of the Spirit (7:1-6). But I’ll stop preaching here. 🙂

Leave a comment