Life in Christ

by David Clayton

Righteousness by faith in Christ is one of the simplest truths, and certainly one of the most beautiful in the Bible. Why then does it seem to cause friction and confusion?

I believe there are several answers to this question. One of them is, of course, that we all have so many wrong ideas deeply embedded in our minds that it is difficult for us to see with perfect clarity. Everything which we view, has got to be matched against the database of ideas which is stored in our minds. If any of those ideas is wrong then it will usually have an effect on how we view the particular issue in question. Many times it is our deep-rooted ideas which need to be changed. Often, there is something fundamentally wrong with them, but because they are a part of the belief structure around which we have built our entire philosophy, we refuse to even consider the idea of changing them. They must remain, therefore the truth being considered must be rejected. For us, the truth becomes a lie, because of our pre-conceived ideas.

A Logical Sequence

Truth always follows a logical sequence. There is always a chain of ideas with one thing linked to another to form a beautiful whole. This is always true. It is equally true that error must create a chain of false ideas to support its shaky structure with one error leading to another, until there is a confusing web of false ideas. (This is why it is so interesting to see that the Roman Catholic Church claims the doctrine if the Trinity as the foundation of all her beliefs).

Sometimes we hear ideas presented which are so illogical that all we can do is laugh at them. Ideas do not fit together in a reasonable way and we can see clearly that the persons presenting such views are not balanced in their minds. In contrast to this, there are times when we may disagree with an idea, but we can see, logically why a person may believe it. We see one idea linking to another idea in a reasonable way, yet as we trace these ideas backwards, we find one basic false idea which lies at the root of all the other wrong ideas which followed. These ideas may follow a pattern of logic, but will still be very wrong because they started on a false premise.

It is important that we consider these things. Truth does not contradict itself, so if we find contradictions between what we believe, and the word of truth (the Bible) then something must be adjusted. Some people set out to adjust the Bible, but in every such case, it is our beliefs rather than the Bible which need modification. In this article, as I will try to show one connection between righteousness by faith and the truth about God, I trust that we may be able to see the logic that ties one truth to another in a perfect sequence.

What is Life?

There is no human being who can give a perfect answer to this question. If man could answer this question, then probably he would have already produced life, but the best that he can do is describe the characteristics of life and show how it manifests itself.

Yet this is an important question, because over and over in the Bible, man's problem is said to be the absence of life. He is described as being dead and in need of life. We are told that this life is what we have been given in Christ Jesus. The question is, have we truly, literally, in actuality been given something, or is this just a figurative way in which the Bible speaks?

When a person receives life, what does he receive? For example, let us consider Lazarus when he was dead. What was there missing from him? What made him senseless, what shut down all his mind and body functions so that he was no better than a piece of dirt? What was missing? Was it a spark of electricity, was it a puff of air absent from his lungs? We know better than that. All the electricity and all the air in the universe will not bring a dead person back to life. Life is an element that ONLY GOD possesses and which only He is able to impart. We may not know what it is, but we know that it exists and that it is something very, very real.

As soon as an entity is born, we know whether or not it is alive because there are certain indicators we look for. In the case of animals we look for independent movement, response to stimulus – something to indicate that this individual has the ability to perform certain functions. If these functions are manifested, then we say the thing is alive, if these functions are not present then we say it is dead.

Different Kinds of Life

Whatever life is, plants, humans, animals, insects, birds, fishes, microbes all share it alike. Maybe when we come down to the basic fundamental definition of it, all life is the same. It is the same spark of energy existing in the ant which also imparts life to the human. One thing is certain, however, and it is that life manifests itself differently in different organisms and in this sense we can say that there are different kinds of life.

From the moment of birth, a bird will behave like a bird, a fish like a fish, a dog like a dog and a human like a human. There are certain kinds of behaviour which do not need to be learned, they are inherent in the life, they are an integral part of the organism which receives such life. In other words, life is not something which is learned or developed. It is something which is inherited, which is present at birth and which has in it, the characteristics which will determine how the organism will behave, what kind of creature it will be. No matter how it tries and how it learns, a dog will never be a cat. At best, educating a dog in cat behaviour will only result in a very confused and poorly adjusted dog!

Spiritual and Physical Life

Spiritual life may be understood in more than one way so let us define what we mean when we speak of spiritual life. It may refer to the state of existence of spirit beings – the kind and the quality of life in which they exist. By this definition, all spirits possess spiritual life including God, the angels and even demons. It is a kind of existence which is non-physical. However, this is not the kind of spiritual life which I want to discuss here.

It is possible for human beings, in our physical state, here and now, to receive a certain kind of life that we refer to as spiritual life and this is what we are talking about. How do we define this spiritual life? In this context what we are speaking about is a certain kind of life which God imparts to those who yield to Christ. This life affects us on the spiritual level, that is, it affects our minds rather than our bodies and this is why we refer to it as spiritual life. This life is a gift from God through Jesus Christ, and can be obtained in no other way.

As my understanding of righteousness in Christ has grown, I have come to realize that one of the most important things which we need to understand is, what is the nature of this life and how real is it? I will also add another question. How can this life be received, how do we obtain it?

Are Spirit and Life the Same?

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26)

What is it that makes a person dead? The Bible says it is the absence of the spirit. This agrees with what we are told in Genesis 2:7 concerning how man first received life. It says that God breathed into man's nostrils the “breath”, or the “spirit” of life and this is what made man become a living soul.

The word translated as “breath” is the Hebrew word “Ruach” which also means “spirit.” Some might say, “all that it means is that God started the breathing process because it says that “God breathed into his nostrils.” Notice however, that in John 20:22, Jesus again breathed on his disciples saying, “receive the holy spirit.” Was it breath that He imparted to them at that moment? Of course not! It was life. In this case it was spiritual life, something far more than literal breath – much more than air, more than new thoughts and ideas. However, the action which He used to represent this impartation of life was breathing on the disciples, just as God did when He gave Adam life.

The Bible consistently represents the spirit as being the key ingredient which makes a person alive. The following verses illustrate this very clearly.

“And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat.” (Luke 8:55)

“and having said thus he gave up the ghost (spirit)" (Luke 23:46)

“Saying, Lord Jesus receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59)

In these, and many other verses we see the clear teaching that the spirit (whatever it is) is the vital ingredient which makes a person alive. When the spirit is gone, a person is dead, when the spirit returns, the person comes back to life.

Of course there are many Christians who believe that the spirit is an actual individual entity which may continue to exist on a conscious level after an individual is dead. They believe that even though the body ceases to function, the spirit continues to live and function in a non-physical realm. This is a false idea which is not supported by the Bible and it lays the foundation for many false beliefs such as the teaching that at death man goes immediately to his reward in heaven or an eternally burning hell, or that it is possible to communicate with dead people, or, the equally dangerous idea that God's spirit is an individual person, independent of God and Jesus.

In an attempt to counter these false beliefs, some of those who have embraced the truth about God have gone to an extreme in the other direction. They limit the spirit to simply, thoughts and ideas, and deny that the spirit is an actual component made up of some kind of energy, some literal element which we cannot define. Both extremes are false and deny what the Bible says. Embracing one or the other will lead us onto a path which will eventually force us to take a direction which will diverge further and further from the way of truth.

So, although we cannot define life, we know that we do possess life, a very real and literal thing and that this life is referred to as our spirit. This is also true of God. God's life is also referred to as the spirit of God. In fact, Ellen White referred to the holy spirit as the “Soul of” Christ's life.

"Christ declared that after his ascension, he would send to his church, as his crowning gift, the Comforter, who was to take his place. This Comforter is the Holy Spirit,--the soul of his life, the efficacy of his church, the light and life of the world. With his Spirit Christ sends a reconciling influence and a power that takes away sin." {RH, May 19, 1904 par. 1}

The Nature of man

One of the main reasons why there is misunderstanding and disagreement on the subject of righteousness by faith is that there is confusion concerning the nature of man and therefore, confusion also concerning man's real problem. Some believe that man's problem is really a physical one and consequently, they also believe that the solution is a physical one. They believe that the real reason why man commits sin is because he has a weak, fallen, sinful body which he inherited from Adam. They believe that if, with Christ's help we are able to bring these bodies under discipline, then we will be able to stop committing sin.

But the truth is, there are two sides to man's nature. There is the physical and the spiritual. Man possesses spirit as well as flesh, a mind as well as a body. What is man's real problem? What is it that really makes him a slave of sin and an enemy of God, is it his flesh or is it his spirit? Is it his body or is it his mind? Notice what God tells us in His word:

“For the carnal mind is enmity against God for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Rom. 8:7)

This is very plain. Man's problem is that he has a carnal mind, he has a corrupt spirit which is incapable of good. The very thoughts of sinful man are evil and therefore it is impossible for him to do good. The problem is not his body, but his mind. Man's problem is not a physical one, but a spiritual one and it must be solved on the spiritual level, not the physical.

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, (Mark 7:21)

Now it is true that the Bible often speaks of the “flesh” or the body as being the problem. For example in Romans 8:8 it says that those in the “flesh” cannot please God. However the very next verse, Romans 8:9 shows us that it is not speaking of the literal flesh and blood, but rather the fleshly mind or the carnal spirit for we are told,

“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Rom 8:9)

Likewise, Romans 6:6 tells us that the “body of sin” has been destroyed by our union with Christ. But it is obvious that we still have our flesh and blood bodies and they are still weak and suffering the effects of sin even after we become Christians. So it is evident that the Bible is not speaking of our literal bodies when it speaks of “body of sin,” but again it is speaking of the carnal mind, the spiritual part of us which is our real problem.

The nature of man's life

What is the nature of man's life, or man's spirit? By nature man has a life which is weak, carnal and inherently corrupt. There is nothing which man can do about this of himself. It is something which he inherited, it is the life which was passed on to him, transferred from generation to generation across 6000 years. Our nature is tied to our lives and when we receive life at conception, we also receive our natures, therefore a dog behaves like a dog, a pig behaves like a pig, because of the life which they inherited. In the same way, a man will always behave as a sinner, with a tendency to always do wrong, because this is the way he was born. It has to do with the life or the spirit which he inherited.

When we understand this, then we can see that man's problem is his nature, or, that which produces the nature which is, the life which he inherited, or, the spirit which he inherited. As long as man possesses the carnal spirit or nature, or life which he was born with, he will never be able to resist sin. It is impossible for any creature in the universe to behave in a way which is contrary to his nature.

False religion

The mark of all false religion is that it attempts to solve man's problems on the physical level. Always there is an effort to change man's behaviour by external means.

Through affliction of the body, strict discipline, rites and ceremonies, outward observances, man tries to solve the problem of his depraved nature. But this is a concept which is very, very wrong. It lies at the foundation of legalism (that is, religion which is based on rules), because it leads to the idea that all man needs to do in order to overcome sin is to bring his body into obedience to a set of prescribed laws.

It needs to be said again and again, man's problem is not on the outside. It is not his flesh which needs to change, but his spirit or his mind. He needs a new spirit, he needs the mind of Christ. So can we see? If what we need is a new spirit, where shall we obtain it? Shall we create it? Shall we develop it? Shall we produce it by a lifetime of effort? No, no, no! The Bible says that we can receive it ONLY as a gift from God. This is a supernatural work, it is something totally outside of man's ability and if we desire to obtain this new mind, we must receive it as a gift from Christ, purely by faith! There is absolutely no other way. No effort of man can make a sinner into a saint, no amount of discipline can change a carnal mind into a spiritual mind. It must be the exclusive work of God in Christ.

“ ....Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God ... Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3-5)

This is the answer to man's sin problem. It is the only answer. Every man who hopes to have eternal life must be born again because it is the only way that sin can be overcome. He must be born again of the spirit. What does this mean? Remember that the spirit is life. Man's spirit is man's life and God's spirit is God's life. What Jesus was saying was that the only way man can escape the power of sin and be qualified for God's kingdom, is if he receives God's own life or God's own spirit. A life which is completely different from his own corrupt one.

There are many people who stumble at this wonderful truth. Some resist the idea that man may literally partake of the very life of God. To them, it seems a blasphemous idea to suggest that man and God may actually share the very same life. They fear that it may lead men to self-exaltation or that it may cause us to drift towards the teaching of pantheism. But when the word of God teaches something very clearly we need not be afraid of it. Rather we should be afraid of rejecting it. It is our misconceptions which must be cast aside rather than the words of God.

“ .... I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

“ .... your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Cor 6:19)

“But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” (1 Cor 6:17)

“I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:23)

There are dozens of these verses in the Bible which all teach the same great truth. The Christian becomes an actual child of God, literally, because he literally receives the very life of God. Isn't this what happens when we parents have children? They become our sons and daughters because they receive our very life and this is the reason why they behave like us in so many ways. So the word of God tells us that this is the reason why we behave like God. It is because we have this life in us, and this is a life that does not commit sin.

“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9)

This is the truth, brothers and sisters. Men do not overcome sin because they try hard to do what is right. They do not gain the victory by striving and struggling against temptation.

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Rom 7:18)

Such methods are vain and frustrating. They can never lead to victory, because we cannot resist our natures. The only hope is that we may receive a new nature or a new life and this is what God gives us when He gives us His Holy Spirit. It is His own nature, His own perfect life which cannot be touched by sin.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom 8:2)

The Word or the Spirit?

There is one other important question which needs to be answered. What is it which changes a sinner into a saint, is it the word of God or is it the spirit of God? Or is it that the word of God is the same as the spirit of God? Of course Jesus said, “the words I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63) This may lead to the belief that Christ does not literally live in His people and that it is not actually God's life which literally is united to the life of the Christian. Some Christians believe that it is by reading the words of the Bible that we are changed. We receive the thoughts from the Bible and they change our thoughts so that our thoughts become LIKE the thoughts of God and this is what it means to say that we have the life of Christ. It really means that we think in the same way that he thinks.

In John 5:39 Jesus said,

Search the scriptures for (because) in them ye think ye have eternal life…” (John 5:39)

Sometimes we read this verse and think that Jesus was here giving the Jews a command to study the Scriptures. But the meaning of this statement is better understood when we read it in a version other than the King James. We see that what Jesus was really saying was, “ you search the Scriptures ...” He was commenting on the Jews' habit of searching the Scriptures rather than commanding them to study them.

Here we see that the Jews loved to read the scriptures. What was their purpose in doing this? They thought that eternal life was in the scriptures. They thought that by feeding on these words they would obtain the blessing of God. But Jesus went on to show the true purpose of the scripture,

“…and they are they which testify of me…”(John 5:39)

This is the purpose of the scriptures; to testify of Christ. The Jews read the scriptures thinking that in reading and memorizing these words they would obtain life. However, words can never give us life. The purpose of these words is to direct us to Christ, the one who is the true life, the only one who can give us everlasting life. As Paul says in Gal. 3:24, “ the law was our school master to bring us unto Christ .”

So Jesus continued by saying,

“And ye will not come to me that ye might have life.” (John 5:40)

“I am the way, the truth and the life (John” 14:6).

What a tragic picture? The Jews studied and studied the scriptures, they could explain every doctrine and they made sure to memorize passages of the word, even writing out sections and sewing them into the very garments they wore, or posting them to the walls of their homes. But they missed the whole point of what they were reading! All this body of knowledge had only one point, one purpose and it was to lead them to Christ, Yet while they embraced the words which spoke of Christ, they rejected Christ Himself, the living reality to which those words were directing them. Paul tell us,

“…if there had been a law given which could have give life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” (Gal. 3:21)

But this is not possible. Words cannot give us life. No matter how we memorize them, no matter how we think about them, no matter how beautifully they express the truth, words cannot give us life. It is only Christ Himself, the living word of God who can Himself give us life, not by counseling us or educating us or stirring up our thoughts, but by implanting in us the seed of His very own life, His own life-force, the holy spirit, thereby making us a partaker of the very life of God, or the divine nature. Therefore, again Paul tell us, “ the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. ” (2 Cor. 3:6) and, “the Lord (Jesus) is that spirit” (2 Cor. 3:17)

I certainly am not saying that the word is not important. We must study that word, we must understand it, but only because this enables us to find and to hold on to Christ. It is He and He alone who can give us life.

In sharing these truths we have lost a few friends (although we have also made a few). What a pain this has been! It hurts to lose friends, but especially when they become upset at the plain teaching of the word of God. Traditional thinking is so deep-rooted in many that they either cannot, or will not think outside of the common mold. They reject the most wonderful truth in the word of God because it does not fit with the way they have seen things all these years.

“But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.” (2 Cor. 3:15, 16)

May God our Father, grant us the wisdom, honesty, open-mindedness and understanding that we may turn to the Lord so that this veil of misunderstanding may be taken away.

Restoration Ministries

Restoration Ministries is dedicated to the promotion of the truths contained in the word of God. In particular to the restoration of those truths which have been cast down to the ground and trampled underfoot by the papacy, and adopted by her daughters.

Our purpose is to motivate men and women to commit themselves wholly to the task of personal preparation for the coming of the Lord, and to the taking of the final warning message to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.



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