IV. The glorified Christ in the letters of Paul (Chapter 1-5)
1. Peace with God!
The first, greatest and deepest problem of man is that something is standing between him and God. He can try to talk himself out of it, to improve himself, or to make up any distraction. The situation is quite different for those who believe in Christ. He knows that a representative has died for him. But how does he know if that is enough? Does God accept this transaction? A glance at heaven answers this question once and for all. A look at the glorified Christ proves to him the incredible fact: He is at peace with God. He can happily and freely say: "Nothing, and nothing at all, stands between me and God. It is peace". To see exactly how this proof works, let us look at the book of Romans.
“But on ours also, to whom, believing on him who has raised from among the dead Jesus our Lord, who has been delivered for our offenses and has been raised for our justification, it will be reckoned. Therefore having been justified on the principle of faith, we have peace towards God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 4:24–5:1
What does the believing Christian see when he looks into the open heaven? He sees that Christ is there, as man, alive. This proves that Christ is risen. This means that the man Jesus Christ, who once hung on the cross, who was "given up for our transgressions", has been resurrected. Only God could have done this - and that means nothing less than that God accepted his work on the cross. Therefore, the raising of Christ has been done for our justification. It proves that God's requirement has been fulfilled. The consequence is , "we have peace with God". Many people regard this statement as presumptuous. But can it be presumptuous if I believe God, if I accept what He tells me?
We see here that justification involves much more than being "declared innocent". It is even more than being innocent. Adam was innocent. But he could not point to a glorified person in heaven and say, "I am connected with Him". The place of the glorified Christ shows how God thinks about His work on the cross and therefore also how he thinks about me. Adam could lose his innocence at any moment. Our justification is secured in the Risen One.
The following passage (up to Romans 5:11) describes the effects of justification. They are breathtaking:
- As for the sins of the past: We are at peace with God.
- As for our position in the present: "through which, by faith, we also have access to this grace in which we stand. We stand in grace - we bask in the rays of God's favour.
- And as for the future, we "boast in the hope of glory".
- But not only that, we even boast of tribulations (v.3), because we know that they strengthen our spiritual "muscles" and make our hope more alive.
- And finally, we also boast of God Himself (v.11) - a God who, at a time when everything was speaking against us (powerless, ungodly, sinners, enemies (v.6-10), took the worst possible event (the death of His Son) as an occasion to bless us!
This first discovery makes it clear to us already: It is worth looking at the glorified Christ!
2. No condemnation
"There is then now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1).
We look again into the open heaven and make a new discovery. It is not only Christ there in glory, but we learn that God sees us "in Him". We have a completely new position: in Christ. It is interesting to see what precedes this view.
From Romans 5:12 Paul deals with the question of whether a believer still has to sin. He shows that we are freed from the power of sin because we have died with Christ. Through death (i.e. through our death with Him) we escape the old master. We are no longer in the dominion of sin. We no longer need to sin. The new nature does not want it and the Holy Spirit draws us to Christ in such a way that we "walk in the Spirit".
However, I experience this deliverance only to the extent that I let the Spirit grant it, give Him room to work, and condemn those things which hinder Him. At the top of this list of obstacles is the trust in one's own strength. This is the personal experience of Romans 7 (that is why it is always spoken of in the "I-form"). As long as I trust in my own strength, I fail again and again. Then I learn where the problem is: Sin (the old nature) still dwells within me, and I have no strength to fight it. I need a Saviour from outside (v. 24).
Now I look into the open heaven and see not only Christ there, but also that I am "in Him". That is, God sees me in Him. I no longer need to struggle to get into a good position before God, I am already there.
What is particularly important here is that God sees me in the One in whom He has judged sin: in Christ! In this way I understand that God loves me, although I still have sin in me. How is that possible? He has long since condemned sin in Christ on the cross: "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God…has condemned sin in the flesh," (Rom 8:3). It is so important to understand: God does not condemn me because the sinful nature is still within me. How could I walk with God if I did not know that He does not condemn me?
So this second look into the open heaven shows me my new position: I am "in Christ". My new source of strength is no longer my own effort, but the Holy Spirit. My new principle of life (or modus operandi) is to live "according to the Spirit" (v. 4). I no longer look to myself, but the Holy Spirit occupies me with Christ and gives me joy in Him and draws me away from the things that used to attract me.
3. God is for us
"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who against us? He who, yes, has not spared his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him grant us all things? (Rom 8:31,32)
At the end of Romans 8 we look again into the open heaven and see Christ there as the one who has not been spared by God. Here it is emphasized that He is God's "own Son". This teaches me something very important about God: He has given everything, without reserve - even His Son. But it goes even further than "giving": He has judged Him - "not spared".
The conclusion is obvious, but it is powerful: A God who does this will not and cannot hold back anything. He "will also give us everything with him". What is the reason for this? Because "God is for us". That is decisive. And He proved it by not sparing His Son in the judgment of the three hours of darkness.
If God has "invested" so much in us, the inspired writer concludes, then He will also give us everything that is good for us. "Give" is a beautiful expression. It goes much further than just "giving" because it shows that God likes to do it. To this it says: "with Him". Everything we receive, we see as a gift that we receive in connection with the glorified Christ.
So this view of heaven shows me not only that God "justifies" me and "does not condemn" ("no condemnation"); but the positive, incredible and all-changing truth that "God is for us".
4. No one who condemns, and Christ who intercedes
"...who is he that condemns? It is Christ who has died, but rather has been also raised up; who is also at the right hand of God; who also intercedes for us" (Rom 8:34)
At this point, the place where Christ is explicitly mentioned. Romans 8 is about the Christian position (we are in Christ) and God's help for us in the "sufferings of the present time". Although we are already "in Christ", we know of difficulties on earth. But then we look into the open heaven and see that Christ is there: "at the right hand of God".
Paul asks the question: "Who is it that condemns us? This is not about God. Before Him we are already justified (Rom 5:1) and there is now no more condemnation for us (Rom 8:1). Now the point is that no one else can judge or condemn the believers either, not even Satan!
There are several examples in the Old Testament of how believers were tried:
- Israel was to be accused by Balaam, whom Balak had called. God did not let this happen. He only allowed Balaam to pronounce blessings on the people of Israel (Numbers 22-24).
- Sanherib, the king of Assyria, accused Hezekiah of "deceiving" and "seducing" the people - and "even more" his servants spoke against him. Hezekiah and Isaiah did not answer, they prayed and cried out to God and He intervened (2 Chr 32:11-22).
- In the time of Zechariah, when the high priest Joshua stood there in dirty clothes (symbolizing the condition of the people), Satan was immediately on hand to accuse him. But God did not allow him to do so (Zech 3:1-5).
So before God we are already justified, and others who want to condemn us have "bad cards": We are in Christ. Christ is at the right hand of God. If someone wants to condemn us, he must condemn Christ, who is at the right hand of God - an absolute impossibility!
But we see even more: Christ at the right hand of God uses himself for us. Instead of accusations, only intercession penetrates through to God - and then still through such an intercessor, the exalted Christ!
5. Wisdom from God, Righteousness, Holiness, and Salvation
"But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who has been made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and holiness, and redemption" (1 Cor 1:30).
The first letter to the Corinthians - in which Paul must take up many a problem and some disorder - also allows us a look into heaven several times.
In the first chapter it already becomes clear that the Corinthians had flirted with the worldly wisdom of the Greek philosophers and had gotten into problems as a result. Paul presents Christ to them, and that is to present Christ first of all as crucified (1 Cor 1,13.23; 2,2). This was the result of the wisdom of the world: they had - by following it - nailed the Lord of glory to a cross!
How great the folly of the Corinthians was; if they were to emulate this supposed wisdom, if they were prepared to take a look into the open heavens they would realize all the more. There they would see their true position: They were "in Christ Jesus", they belonged to Him and were united with Him. All this did not come from men and was not thought up by men, but it came "from God": God himself was the great planner, initiator, and executor.
Here the view of the glorified Christ shows us especially what we have received in Him. The four things that are mentioned are not only given to us through Him, but they are, so to speak, anchored in Him: "who has become us..." (not: "who gave us"):
- Wisdom from God: The wisdom of the world is wretched. It leaves God out and ignores sin. It does not help one millimeter to find a solution - it cannot even describe the problem correctly (because it ignores God and sin). In Christ, however, the wisdom of God has come to us: It revealed God and found a way to save people - and it did so through a means that was the epitome of folly for the Greeks at that time: a crucified man!
- Righteousness: righteousness is always with God (He is righteous), but only through the atoning death of Christ has it become possible (and fact) that this righteousness justifies us!
- Holiness: There had never been a way to true holiness before. The Jews were proud of the law, which in reality could only condemn them, and the Gentiles lived openly in flagrant sin and found it normal. But Christ has become true holiness for us, both in our position before God (Heb 10:10,14) and in our practice (John 17:19). How could we live holy lives as such, that the Spirit occupies us with Christ and draws us to Him?
- Redemption: The term redemption in the New Testament is broader than our language often suggests: It includes not only the redemption of the soul, but also that of the body (Rom 8:23). Perhaps this is why salvation is mentioned as the last of these four pieces: It is only at the coming of the Lord that it becomes fully effective upon us.
A glance at the glorified Christ shows at the same time all the folly of the world (and how absurd it is if Christians think they can enrich themselves through that), and the riches that God holds in Christ.
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