In Christ and In the Body
(Delivered March 22, 2006)
There’s something very important that I want to make sure you have clear in your mind and that you understand. Let me read a passage of scripture, Romans 11. The Apostle Paul in Romans 9, 10, and 11 is actually explaining how it is that God has turned to Gentiles; what right he has, and why he has done it, and what he’s going to do in the future. It’s a dispensational section explaining that God in his grace is not just showing mercy to Israel like he did in Egypt where Israel got mercy and Pharaoh got judgement, but that today God is having mercy upon all. And God has a right to have mercy upon who he’ll have mercy, though some people think his mercy is limited. But the point is, under Grace his mercy is to everybody. But in order to do that, his dealings with the nation of Israel were changed.
There’s been a dispensational change. God in his administration to this world, in his affairs to this world and the carrying out of his plan and purpose in time, God changed from what he was doing as explained in prophecy with the nation of Israel to something new that was not explained in prophecy which is called the mystery that involves all nations, the Gentiles. And when he made this change, he says in explaining about Israel in Chapter 11:1, “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I’m also an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew.” That is, there’s a certain group in the nation of Israel that God knows as his people. In fact, the prophets said he would call out from within the nation of Israel a believing remnant and that’s what the reference to “foreknow” is and when it says God “cast away,” he didn’t cast away his people.
But there is a casting away. Verse 7 says this: “ What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” There are a couple of terms I want to make sure you have clear in your mind. If I said to you what is a church? What would be your answer? A called out assembly. There is a church made up of believing Jews. A lot of times I’ll refer to them as the Kingdom Church because they’re the ones who are going to inherit the Kingdom that’s here on earth. God was calling out of the nation of Israel a believing remnant and that’s what this verse says, “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for…” Israel is going to seek a kingdom that’s going to be on this earth but for the most part, the nation of Israel didn’t get it, but there was an election; God chose to save the believing remnant. He called out from Israel a believing remnant… “the election hath obtained it”. It’s theirs. But what happened to the rest of Israel? They were blinded and in verse eleven, “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.” Not only were they blinded, they stumbled, and they fell. And not only that, verse 15: “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” In the present time, they are actually cast away from God. Now I say that because of what we’ve been studying. Paul made a reference in Colossians to a group of people that he calls “the Israel of God” (in Galatians he calls them the Israel of God), he called some individuals that he notated by name as “of the circumcision”. And that’s a reference to that kingdom church, the believers of the nation of Israel that God called out that’s going to receive the promises God made to the nation of Israel.
By the way, Peter tells these people what their identity is. Do you know what that is? He says, that these people are a chosen nation, that they’re a royal priesthood, …but when he calls them a Holy Nation, that’s their identity. That’s why we can say they’re the Israel of God. Israel is the name of a nation. And these people are a Holy Nation, they’ve been set aside; they have the Holy Spirit, and they’re a Holy Nation. That’s the identity of these people. And by the way, that’s the fulfillment of what God said he was going to do with them in the Old Testament when he called them out. He was going to make them a Holy nation, and a royal priesthood. He sent the Holy Spirit on that believing remnant and they’re now a Holy nation.
In the meantime, God is calling out of both Jew and Gentile that have fallen and are cut off in sin. God is offering through the gospel of Christ, called the Gospel of the Grace of God, an opportunity for lost people still to be saved before he judges the world in his wrath. And he’s calling out those who will believe, and when we believe today, we become the Body of Christ. Paul says, “Now we are the body of Christ and members in particular.” In Ephesians we’re called the one new man, but we are the body of Christ. The Apostle Paul went out and ministered and called people out of the Gentiles, he called Jews and Gentiles alike, to be saved. When we get saved today by God’s Spirit we’re placed into the body of Christ and that’s our identity. So at one point in history, in the past, there was this group of people who are called the Israel of God and there’s a group of people called the Body of Christ on earth at the same time.
Now that doesn’t exist today. Because at the point that Israel fell, there is no longer a building of an Israel of God. Since the age of Grace has lasted 2000 years, the people who were waiting for Christ to come back and set up the Kingdom, died in hope. When Christ comes back they’re going to be raised from the dead and it will be the fulfillment of their hope. Today on earth there’s only the Body of Christ. But back in the Bible days, when the transition went from God’s ministry to Israel, to God’s ministry to the Gentiles, there were two kinds of believers on the earth. Now we’ve studied all that and realize how some of the circumcision worked with Paul. And when we realize there are these two groups out there you’ll notice some people say this is the Church age. That’s bad terminology; it will really confuse things. We are a church, but we’re the church which is his body. And the reason Paul says, “the church which is his body,” is because there’s a church which is not his body. Church just means ‘called out’. God called out of Israel a people; today he’s calling out of the Gentiles a people. And, he’s not making us the same. We’re different. However, with the word Church, you have to be careful and not call this age, the Church age.
There’s also a misunderstanding that to be ‘In Christ’ means to be in the Body of Christ. And that is a dangerous thing. That’s what we were working on last time. And I want to repeat perhaps a couple of verses that I tried to rush through too quickly last time: John 17 and Ephesians 1. This is a reminder of the point we made that God is fulfilling an eternal purpose and that eternal purpose involves both Heaven and Earth. In the riches of God’s grace he says (Eph1:8) “Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together IN ONE all things IN CHRIST, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in him” This just tells you when time runs its course, everything in heaven and earth is going to be centered in God’s Son. But that also tells you that the Body of Christ who has a heavenly purpose of God finds it’s purpose in Christ. And, the nation of Israel who has been called out to be God’s earthly people to establish God’s Kingdom on this earth forever, their position finds its fulfillment also ‘In Christ’. To think that to be ‘in Christ’ means you have to be in the Body of Christ is to miss that God has a purpose in Christ that involves the Heavens and has a purpose in Christ that involves the Earth, all of which is going to be centered in Christ. But, it will always be in two different places. God needs these two different agencies because he has two different places that he wants to center in his Son. The understanding of being in Christ doesn’t necessarily have to do with the Body of Christ. And you need to keep that understanding clear. Now go to John 17. (I rushed through this last time). This is the Lord’s prayer. Now listen to this prayer: “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, who thou has sent.” Now, Jesus Christ is going to be glorified with the Father and he’s going to give eternal life. You should understand something. We live in a very special age. Mitch, in talking about witnessing to his Grandfather, wants his Grandfather to trust Christ and have eternal life, right? If the Lord is praying here that he might give them eternal life, do you realize they don’t have eternal life yet? Ever since Adam sinned there has been a promise of God to restore man and give him eternal life. But God has not given eternal life yet. And Jesus Christ is going to be glorified and here he’s praying he might give them eternal life.
Now look at verse 9: “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” So those who have followed Christ, he’s kept them, they are his. The one that got lost is the son of perdition. But the Lord kept them and he’s asking the Father to keep them and he is saying, I’m just praying for these and not praying for the world. However, now he stretches the prayer out further in verse 20: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word”. Now the twelve are going to go out and preach to others, continue to call out the nation of Israel and as the twelve are going to go out and preach, now the Lord says, I’m praying not just for these, but for those that are going to hear them when they preach. And it says, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.” So in verse 21, he says, “as thou, Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” Now if he’s praying that these people who are going to be called out would be one in God the Father and God the Son, they’re not in God the Father or God the Son yet, are they? He’s praying that when he accomplishes what God sent him to do, (he’s on his way to the cross), that then there will be the means by which they are going to be united with God and share in eternal life with God through the accomplishments of the Cross.
So you realize what it means to be ‘in Christ’. It’s to be in relationship with him and to share in his eternal glory. And, these people are going to have a place. He’s praying that might happen and God the Father is going to answer his prayer. He answered that prayer on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the nation of Israel. Most of the time, in Paul’s epistles, he talks about ‘in Christ’, repeatedly. In fact, one of the most important verses says, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” In Christ we have redemption. How are these people going to be redeemed? Ultimately, it’s through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s the relationship ‘in Christ’. If he’s the redeemer, that’s where they’re going to have life. Not only do we have redemption ‘in Christ’, their redemption is ‘in Christ’.
But you know, because Paul talks about us being members of the body of Christ he has by the understanding of Grace a greater understanding and speaks more about it. Paul speaks about ‘in Christ’, ‘in Him’ some twenty-six times. And sometimes people think that means you have to be in the body of Christ to be in Christ. But that’s not true because the Kingdom saints are ‘in Christ’ even though it’s not mentioned as much, but it is mentioned. For instance, 1 Peter 5, (and Peter only mentions it twice, and it’s really only one time that it’s clearly in the same idea of being redemptively in Christ) but he just kind of throws it out, so you know he has an understanding of it, though he just doesn’t write about it much. 1 Peter 5:14, “Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.” So he knows they’re in Christ, doesn’t he? He doesn’t write about it like Paul, but he knows that he’s ‘in Christ’. He understands that. He understands that was the prayer and they would be in Christ and now it’s through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, the called out believing remnant, they have a position ‘in Christ’. Look at Jude, the opening verses, verse 1 says, “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.” Preserved, where? They’re saved ‘in Christ’, redeemed ‘in Christ’, preserved ‘in Christ’. It’s in Christ that they have this life.
The Gospel of John is where the prayer of Jesus Christ is recorded that this would be done and was accomplished at the coming of the Holy Spirit. It’s in 1 John, but I can show you that’s how it was accomplished. Now you know that because of other verses, ‘I’m the vine, you’re the branches. He that abideth in me…’ You can see there’s this abiding in Christ. John was writing in 1John to tell those he’s writing to how to know they are in Christ. Chapter 3:24, “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” Now there are two things that keep going back and forth: God in us, and us in Christ.’ Verse 23 says, “And this is his commandments, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.” And so the relationship is with God the Father and God the Son. They are in the believer and the believer is in them and John says here is how we know…he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And we know that God is in us, “And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” So the people who received the Holy Spirit now know that God is in them.
But the reverse of that is true, as well. Look over at 1John 4:13, “…hereby we know we dwell in him and he in us, because he hath given us his Spirit.” His Spirit secures both. It gave them their position ‘in Christ’ and ‘Christ in them” because His Spirit is in them. They are in living union with God the Father and God the Son. Verse 5:20, “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” If you’re in him, what do you have? Eternal life. Now my point to you is God eventually gave to that believing remnant his Holy Spirit; God is in them and they are in Christ.
Now when God saved us Gentiles through his Grace, we have a position ‘in Christ’ as well. And that position is sometimes called the Body of Christ, but we are ‘in Christ’ and we’re not the only people of God that are ‘in Christ’ and Christ in us. So, don’t confuse that. The reason that it’s important to know, (look at Romans 16:7) is because those who don’t rightly divide and don’t realize God called out a Kingdom church and then called out the Body of Christ, (and the one is not the other. They’re kept separate in Scripture), they don’t clearly define terms and when they read verses like this, Romans 16:7, “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, (so they’re Jewish) and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, (now what group do you think they belong to? They’re of note among the apostles. He’s talking about some Jewish people who are noted among the apostles of Christ, the twelve apostles. They are Jewish Kingdom saints, they are of the circumcision, they are the Israel of God) “who also were in Christ before me.” But some people say, “See! The Body of Christ didn’t begin with Paul because there were people in the Body of Christ before Paul.” It didn’t say they were in the Body of Christ, did it? It says what? They’re in Christ. There were a lot of people in Christ before Paul. When the Holy Spirit was poured out on that believing remnant of Israel, they were placed in Christ! It didn’t say now they are in the Body of Christ, they’re still the Israel of God! They’re the circumcision believers. They’re the called out among the Nation of Israel. But when Israel fell and God called on us Gentiles, then he formed the one new man, The Body of Christ.
Are you still holding your place in Ephesians? Here are verses that are really clear though some people look at these and get mixed up with them. But if you understand that there was this group of circumcision believers, and that unbelieving Israel fell, and now God formed the Body of Christ, then Ephesians 2:15, “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;” you’ll understand that today God doesn’t make believers part of something he has already built, he’s making believers part of something new, called the ‘new man.’ (Epheisans 1:22,23 calls us the Body of Christ). Eph. 2:16, “…that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” The new man is the Body of Christ. So now God formed the Body of Christ. Look at verse 19 “Now therefore ye…” (who is that? the members of the body of Christ). Back up in verse 2:13, “..now in Christ Jesus ye who were sometimes far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” We’re now in Christ, we’re the one new man, the Body of Christ. Paul’s writing to members of the Body of Christ. Verse 19, “Now therefore ye (members of the Body of Christ) are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” Who are we fellow citizens with? A group of people who were before us, right? There are the Saints and we become fellow citizens of the household of God. God has a household. And his household is made up of all his believers. You have us, who are the body of Christ. We become part of the household of God along with that other group of people, the saints that were before us.
Look at Eph 2:21, “In whom all the building fitly framed together (now notice how that verse started out, in whom, it’s in Christ) groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. In whom ye also are builded together (who are we builded together with? Those saints who were before us!) for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Now, you know, when I look at that verse do you know what I think of? I think of a two story Colonial house. God had laid a foundation on this earth with a group of people that are going to be his people on the earth, and then God ‘fitly framed’ us together with them for a holy habitation. God has a heavenly people as well. We’re the second story of the household of God. His house has a bottom floor and a top floor; an earthly floor and a heavenly floor. He didn’t put us together and make us one floor, he has two groups of people, two floors, because he has an eternal purpose for both heaven and earth. We’re the same in Christ, but two different places for two different purposes. Is that clear to everyone? Because some people read those verses and start destroying grace, saying the Body of Christ didn’t begin with Paul, and the Body of Christ is really Israel, and throw away everything that God’s doing because they don’t understand that God had a purpose for both and he’s made known to us that wisdom.
You know, I skipped verse 20. I won’t spend much time here, but I’ll just share something with you. It reads, “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” Now some people say that if you understand the “two story” illustration it doesn’t matter if you think that’s the twelve apostles in this verse. But that’s not the twelve apostles. For your own study, if that verse confuses you and you think that the message of grace is built upon the twelve apostles’ teaching, notice the order there. There’s Apostles and prophets. You mark down Luke 11:48, it will talk about how the things that Jesus Christ is doing with the Kingdom saints is based upon the prophets and apostles. Did you hear that order? Prophets were given in the Old Testament to Israel, then Israel got Apostles. The order that God deals with Israel is prophets and Apostles. When God started to form the Body of Christ, do you know what order it was? Look at Ephesians, 4:9, “Now that he ascended, (that’s Christ ascended up into heaven after his death, burial and resurrection) what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.” In verse 10, you have Jesus Christ ascending back into heaven. That’s not Jesus Christ before he died, that’s Jesus Christ ascending above all heavens. What did he do from that position? Verse 11, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets…” Notice the order changed. When he began to call out the Body of Christ for his heavenly purpose he first calls out apostles then he called out prophets. You and I are not built upon the prophets and apostles, you and I are built upon the apostles (some are named elsewhere like Titus and Timothy) and prophets of the Body of Christ. I realize this doesn’t really fit out study, but in case you thought I skipped that verse, I wanted to explain it.
Prophets were given because the word of God wasn’t complete yet, God was actually speaking through the mouth of men (the gift of tongues) communicating the truth. Until they had a Bible to find out what God was saying to them, they wouldn’t know what God’s word to the Body of Christ was except that God, at the very beginning of the age of grace, gave them not only apostles to establish the church (we’re built upon a foundation which was laid and established by the apostles and prophets) but God also began to speak through men without their studying the Bible. They would just stand up and God would speak out their mouth; that’s what a prophet was. And that’s why you know all this ended, because 1 Corinthians 13 says that when the word of God was completed then the body of Christ (as Ephesians 4 says) came to maturity. Those things then ended and Jesus Christ no longer continually gave those gifts and those gifted men to the church once we had the word of God. Now we use the word of God to edify one another.
The following are answers to a questions from the congregation. Could not hear the question.
Answer: In the Old Testament there were a lot of prophets that spoke to the nation of Israel but only certain ones God used as writing prophets. This is where we got the Old Testament scripture from. God used the Apostle Paul as the only writer to the Body of Christ. That is why the Apostle Paul says when you read my writing understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ. We don’t know what they were speaking but we know what God wrote for us is sufficient for us to be perfected unto all good works.
Answer to another question: 1Corinthians 12:5. There are different administrations, but the same Lord. You know there are always those people who will always tell you (when you talk about right division) Oh, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever. Absolutely! There’s one Lord. But there are different administrations. He has a different administration, a ruling policy, for the nation of Israel and a different administration for the Body of Christ. If you want to find out what the orders are for the Body of Christ, you go to Paul’s epistles. If you want to find the administration orders for the circumcision believers, Peter, James and John has that information.
I don’t know if you catch these in your reading, but I’ve caught them for years. When the Apostle Paul was first saved on the road to Damascus, Christ tells him to stand up on his feet. He’s been cast down because of the light of Christ upon him, and then what follows is Christ explaining what Paul’s ministry is to be. Listen closely to this, Acts 26:16, “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen (What did he just see? The risen, ascended Lord Jesus Christ. He’s seen the one who died, is alive, and ascended into heaven. So he’s a witness of the resurrection of Christ) and of those things in which I will appear unto thee.” So Christ is going to appear to Paul more often to give him other things that he will be a witness of…namely, the mystery of the age of grace. Verse 17: “Delivering thee from the people, (that’s the unbelieving nation of Israel as he didn’t have to be delivered from the believing Jews) and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee (that’s on the road to Damascus) to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance (notice the next word) among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Who is this? These are people who already had an inheritance before he ever called out the body of Christ. And now we’re a part of the inheritance. We have a place in the kingdom of God, don’t we? We don’t take their place, they have their place. We have a place that God revealed to us, the heavenly places where our inheritance is. But those phrases always stood out to me and I’ve always understood that and I hope you do now too.