The marvelous blessing of being in Christ was portrayed in the
initial article of this extended series. Several great passages
were quoted relative to this strikingly beautiful blessing. Now
we turn to another facet - a negative consideration.
The Sad, Pitiful State of One Out of Christ
What it means to be in Christ is heightened and sharpened by contemplation
of what it means to be out of Christ. This is the sad state of
the alien; it is also the sad state of one who formerly was in
Christ but has apostatized, and no longer loves and serves him,
having lost his link with the Lord of life.
Several of the Pauline epistles depict one who knows not the Lord
or who has rejected him after once knowing and obeying the system
of truth that saves.
The Galatian epistle speaks this way in marvelous fashion. We
come into Christ by baptism (Gal. 3:27). In that act we put on
the Christ. By gospel obedience we become Christ's; we become
Abraham's spiritual seed; we become heirs according to the Abrahamic
promise (Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:29). The implications from this leap
up from Galatians 3:27, 29. If we are not in Christ, we have not
put Christ on; we do not belong to him; we are not clothed with
him; we are not Abraham's spiritual seed (Gen. 12:3); we are not
heirs according to the Abrahamic promise. In Galatians 2:16ff
Paul teaches justification "by the faith of Christ."
This means that it is found in the gospel, or the "one faith"
of Ephesians 4:5 and Jude 3. Justification is, therefore, in Christ
- not out of Christ. This being the case, then no one, absolutely
no one, is justified who is out of Christ.
Spiritual life is in Christ - not out of him. Paul so stated
in precious, picturesque language in Galatians 2:20. Paul was
not alive in Christ in Acts 7 when he witnessed Stephen's stoning.
He was not living in Christ when he consented to his death and
made havoc of the church as reported in the early verses of Acts
8. He was not alive in the Lord when he sought to imprison every
Christian man and woman he could find in the Jerusalem area.
He was not a recipient of spiritual life in Christ when he left
Jerusalem for Damascus "breathing out threatening and slaughter
against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1). He was not
in the Lord when he was doing many things contrary to the name
of the Christ: when he was shutting the saints up in prison giving
his consent to their death, punishing them in every synagogue,
attempting to make them blaspheme God, being constantly mad against
them, and persecuting them even into foreign cities (Acts 26:9-11).
While so engaged, Paul could not have written and would not have
written Galatians in general or Galatians 2:20 in particular.
Galatians chapter four talks of the pitiful plight of the Galatians
prior to their accepting and obeying Christ. Note what is said
in Galatians 4:8, "Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye
did service unto them which by nature are no gods." Outside
of Christ they did not know God. Before they were in Christ,
they were pagan idolaters. They yielded service to what they
thought were gods but in reality were dead idols - lifeless deities,
objects that could not see, hear, nor bless them. In Galatians
4:9 Paul mourns over the fact that they were being swayed away
from the Savior. They were upon the threshold of turning "again
to the weak and beggarly elements, where unto ye desire again
to be in bondage." The implication is plain. They were about
to return to what they knew when they were outside Christ. This
was the sinful sphere of weak and beggarly elements; it was the
sinful state of spiritual bondage and galling serfdom.
Galatians chapter five speaks of liberty in the Lord. In Christ
is freedom; in the Lord is liberty (Gal. 5:1,13). Outside of
him there is bondage; there is no liberty.
Those once in Christ can apostatize from him. The Galatians were
about to do this. If they forsook Christ to return to Judaism,
Christ would be of no profit to them (Gal. 5:2); they would fall
away from grace (Gal. 5:4). Peter says the state of the apostate
is worse than that of the alien who never knew God (2 Pet. 2:20-22).
To be outside Christ is to major in the works of the flesh (Gal.
5:19-21). To be in Christ means to major in the fruit of the
Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). I shall say more about this in the next
installment of this extended study.