A DISCIPLESHIP TOOL
Our Sevenfold Relationship With Christ
Every Christian has a sevenfold relationship with Christ. Each relationship signifies an important aspect of salvation, and can be identified by a different preposition –on, in, through, by, for, with, and to.
1. On Christ
Our relationship with Christ begins with this step: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31 NKJV). To believe “on Christ” is to come to Him confessing our sins and accepting Him as Lord and Savior. He is the only one who can save (Acts 4:12), and He is the only “Mediator between God and men” (1 Tim. 2:5). We acknowledge that we cannot be saved by our good works, which are nothing but “filthy rags” in God’s eyes (Isa. 64:6). When we believe on Him we are “born again” and become a “new creation” (Jn. 3:7; 2 Cor. 5:17). Without this first relationship we can have no other relationship with Christ.
2. In Christ
After we are saved we move to being “in Christ.” This expression is found in one form or another 27 times in Ephesians, with about half of them in the first chapter. To be in Christ is the great accomplishment of salvation.
How do we define our salvation? A thorough answer might be something like this: Salvation is God’s gracious work for man, consisting of such mighty undertakings as regeneration, redemption, reconciliation, sanctification, justification, propitiation, substitution, atonement, remission, glorification, and the vicarious sacrifice of Christ. All of these words are true, as each one identifies an aspect of our salvation. But our own working definition of salvation is much shorter – it is to be in Christ.
To be in Christ is the most emphatic and most concise expression of what it means to be saved. If there is one form of expression which identifies a believer more emphatically and explicitly than another, it is “in Christ” or some other form such as “in Him” and “in the Beloved.” These expressions are never used loosely; they are never applied to any but the children of God.
The Lord Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you” (Jn. 15:4). These two “ins” are quite distinct, though closely connected. It is one thing to “be” in Christ, and another to “abide” in Him. The former expression is a matter of grace and is perpetual; the latter is our responsibility and may be interrupted.
3. Through Christ
This phrase “through Christ” signifies divine enablement. Romans 6, 7 and 8 each conclude with this expression. Chapter 6 closes with “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ” (Rom. 6:23 KJV). Romans 7:25 (NKJV) concludes with, “I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord,” while Romans 8:37 says, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
We must understand the difference between Romans 7 and 8. Romans 7 is a controversial but important chapter. In it Paul describes his experience as a saved person. Only a believer can say, “I delight in the law of God according to the inward man” (Rom. 7:22). But he is a defeated believer who cries, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24). In Romans 7 Paul repeatedly says that he has the desire to do good but not the power. He wants to do good but finds himself doing the evil he does not wish to do. Romans 7 leads to two important discoveries: first, the believer finds that there is no change in the flesh (the old nature) at conversion (7:18); second, the only power the new nature has is that of the Spirit (8:2).
The difference between Romans 7 and 8 is that the Holy Spirit is not mentioned once in chapter 7, but 19 times in chapter 8, which begins this way: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (8:1). That is why the defeated believer in Romans 7 is more than conqueror in Romans 8. Can the believer do the will of God apart from the Spirit? The answer is “No!”
In Philippians 4:13, Paul writes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Here Paul emphasizes the fact that in all things he continues to be strong by the One who bestows power on him. Paul has that strength as long as Christ keeps pouring the power into him. A living Christ inside is more than sufficient for us to endure circumstances outside. What Christ wants Paul to do, Christ enables him to do. Where the finger of God points, the hand of God provides the way. Philippians 4:13 is the complement to “Without Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).
4. By Christ
The expression “by Christ” is used to indicate fruitfulness: “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:11). The fruits of righteousness are the believer’s good works. This fruit cannot be produced by human power, but only by the Holy Spirit in union with Christ. The believer not only bears fruit to the glory of God, but is also filled with the fruits of righteousness. Just as the apple tree is filled with apples in due season, so the believer’s life may be filled with good works. But there are two important differences. First, the fruit tree can bear only one kind of fruit while the believer bears all kinds of spiritual fruit. Second, the fruit tree becomes filled with fruit in a special season, but the believer is filled with all kinds of spiritual fruit at all seasons.
The Book of Psalms focuses on praising God. In it we find that praise is due God continually, at good times and bad, in health and sickness, in riches and poverty, whether we feel like it or not. “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1). Hebrews 13:15 says, “By Him let us give the sacrifice of praise continually, that is, the fruit of our lips” (Heb.13:15). Here praise is called a “sacrifice” because when we offer it in bad times we “sacrifice” our own evaluation of what is worthy of praise, and learn to praise God continually. Praise is also called “the fruit of our lips” because it is not enough to praise God in our hearts; we must also do so with our tongues.
5. For Christ
The expression “for Christ” signifies service. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20). The apostle Paul told the Thessalonians, “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Th. 1:9). A principle reason why God does not take His children to heaven the moment they are saved is because He wants them in the world to serve Him. Jesus said, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (Jn. 12:26). The reward for serving and following Christ is the Father’s honor.
Before we were saved we served sin. But after conversion, we “should no longer be slaves to sin” (Rom. 6:6), but “serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:24). Christians are Christ’s servants. A servant is in subjection to and obedient to his master; he does not do his own will, but that of the one who employs him. And that is what Christian service consists of – submitting to the authority of Christ, doing His will, walking according to His commandments, and seeking to please Him in all things.
Christian service is the exercise of those spiritual gifts given to us by the Spirit of God (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12-14; Eph. 4:4-16). A spiritual gift is a God-given ability to serve others. Every believer is given at least one gift. While some are limited, there are three gifts which many saints possess – ministering, giving and showing mercy. Our spiritual gifts must be used not for self, but for the good of others. Any service which is not an exercise of our spiritual gifts is most likely an activity of self (Rom. 12:3-5).
6. With Christ
The phrase “with Christ” is used to indicate our fellowship with Him. Christians are “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). At the time of our conversion we “died with Christ” (Col. 2:20) and rosewith Him: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is … For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1,3). To walk with Christ is to have fellowship with Him.
Christians are “called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). John tells us that our communion with God and Christ must be in the light. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” (1 Jn. 1:6-7). To walk in darkness is to follow a course of sin and live an unholy life. The most prominent properties of light are its transparency and translucency. Light speaks of openness, authenticity, clarity and reality. Light is the naked truth; it exposes things. To walk in light is to have a godly life without deception, insincerity, hypocrisy or disobedience. It is only as we walk with Christ in the light that we have fellowship with Him.
7. To Christ
The phrase “to Christ” is used to suggest marriage. Paul writes to the Christians in Rome, “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the Law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Rom. 7:4). And to those in Corinth he writes, “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2). At the present time we are engaged to Christ and we shall be actually married to Him when He comes with His saints for the second time (Rev. 19:7-9).
In a wedding, when the vows are spoken married life begins. So also, the soul’s surrender to and acceptance of Christ as Lord is but the beginning of the Christian life. And just as the bride turns her back upon all other lovers and vows to be faithful and obedient to her husband, so the believer disowns all others and promises to be subject to Christ alone (Isa. 26:13). As the purpose of marriage is the production of offspring, so we read that we “may be married to another – to Him … that we should bear fruit to God” (Rom. 7:4).
We can say that all we need for now and for eternity is wrapped up in Christ. We find our sufficiency in Christ in all circumstances. God has made us dependent on His Son in all aspects of the Christian life. In our new life, Christ is our Head in grace (Eph 1:22-23; 2:8); in our emptiness we draw from His fullness, in our weakness we draw from His strength, and in our ignorance we draw from His wisdom. In the next life, Christ our Head will be in glory. We shall see His face and behold His glory. We shall be so engrossed by His glory and so completely occupied by His splendor and loveliness that we shall forget ourselves. Eternity will be too short to exhaust the vision of His glory.
By Maurice Bassali
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org