The Sinner in the Saint
By Pete Garcia
One of the greatest paradoxical mysteries in all of the known universe, is that of the mystery of Christ in the believer. How can an all holy, all righteous, divine Being who is Creator and will not tolerate even the tiniest infraction of His divine law…dwell, inside His fallen, sinful, creation? Certainly, the Apostle Paul wrestled with the significance of this concept and was given the understanding to explain for our benefit. He says;
“I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” – Colossians 1:24-28
According to Scripture, the age we live in now, has been on the mind of God since eternity past. Being omnipotent, and knowing the end from the beginning, God knew that there could only be one way. When a person becomes spiritually born again by God’s grace through our faith, they must take on the righteousness of God, through the Son’s sacrificial atoning work on the Cross. (John 3:3, Eph. 2:8-9, 2 Cor. 5:21) At the moment of conversion, a believer does not go from being evil to being righteous per say, but goes from being spiritually dead, to being spiritually alive. Although we are spiritually regenerated from within, we still must dwell in the shell of the fallen, fleshly, man which causes the believer to have two natures, the divine, and the sin nature.
Think about it this way, before a person becomes born-again, what God sees in that particular individual, is only them in their sinful, fallen, spiritually dead, state…of which He will not and could not share His glory in and with. For starters, we couldn’t physically exist with Him in a fallen state. Moses had to hide himself in the cleft of a rock and could only cast his gaze at the shadow of God walking past, and he still glowed for days. John on Patmos, witnessed the resurrected and glorified Christ (or Christ in His natural state), and he fell over as dead. Physically, we couldn’t survive the experience of witnessing God in our flesh, without God dimming down (if that is a way to put it), His own Being. We must be born again, in order to receive the glorification (think upgrade) to our mortal status.
When a person becomes a believer in the finished work of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Cor. 15:1-5), they realize that there is nothing they can do to earn what God the Son has already accomplished on Calvary’s cross, (John 19:30). Then by placing their faith in that finished, perfect work, instead of relying on their own feeble efforts, they have in affect, allowed God the ability to quicken their dead, spiritual nature, in which He substitutes His own righteousness, in place of theirs.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” – 2 Cor. 5:17-21
At that point, the believer is no longer seen by God as fallen man, but redeemed man. God see’s the Son’s blood if you will, painted over the believer, much as it was painted over the door at the first Passover. That God would choose to inject if you will, Himself through the Holy Spirit into and sealing the believer, is beyond our comprehension. If anything, it shows us that God is infinitely loving, and infinitely good, and infinitely merciful while still remaining infinitely holy and infinitely righteous. So He is able to both keep the divine order in tact by not violating His own laws, or violate the principle of free will, which is necessary for man to willingly come to their God of their own volition.
In terms of the grander scheme, God chose to redeem fallen man, by becoming a Man, while remaining fully God, which would also allow Himself the ability to both serve man as our brother, and kinsman redeemer. At some point yet future to us now, Christ will first redeem His bride at the Rapture of the Church (the catching up), and then redeem Israel and Creation through the seven year Tribulation. We see this played out in type in the book of Ruth, (the Gentile-bride), and what we will see played out in reality, in Revelation 5-6, where Christ takes the title deed to the earth (which was lost from Adam), from the hand of the Father and begins opening the seal judgments, because only He is worthy to redeem man, as He is both God and Man.
Where many Christian denominations, teachers, and individuals get things wrong concerning the doctrine of Salvation (Soteriology) is, that they confuse the ‘tenses of salvation’. When you are born-again, you become as Paul writes, a new creation. You are that proverbial caterpillar who is transformed into the butterfly. Once that happens, you can never go back to being a caterpillar. Once you are truly born-again, you can’t be un-born, spiritually speaking. In other words, since you can’t earn your salvation by your works, neither can you ‘un-earn’ or lose your salvation by your works. If salvation is a gift of God (it is), then it’s not based on our own efforts, by solely God’s mercy and grace. (Romans 4) The tenses of salvation are;
1. Justification – are saved from the penalty of sin. It is a one-time event for the believer (happens at the moment of salvation)
2. Sanctification – being saved from the ravages of sin. It is a lifelong event for the believer (happens throughout the life of a believer)
3. Glorification – will be saved from the presence of sin. It is a one-time event for the believer (happens at the Rapture of the Church)
Salvation happens when we come to the end of ourselves, and trust wholly in the finished work of Christ at the Cross. We come to Calvary as sinners, unable to save ourselves. Sanctification happens over the life of a believer, and it is Christ who promises to ‘finish the good work He began’ in us. (Philippians 1:6) Sanctification is that maturing process every believer goes through from the point of their rebirth, until the time when either Christ call’s us home through death, or we see Him in the air at the Rapture which is the Glorification.
Christian’s still sin, (1 John 1:8-10) because it is in our fleshly (human) nature to sin. If Christian’s were physically separated from our human bodies at the moment of conversion, then we would no longer desire to sin. But since we aren’t, and we must wait for that future day when Christ changes us from mortal and corruptible, to immortal and incorruptible, our sin nature is something that we must contend and hopefully overcome in the meantime. Again, Paul speaks to this;
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” – Romans 7:18-20
Sin is what interrupts our relational process with God once we are already believers just as disobedience interrupts our relationships with our own parents as we were growing up. Sin, and moreover, unconfessed sin doesn’t make us unsaved, it simply makes the believer miserable, because now he is both redeemed by God, yet out of fellowship with God…while being reviled by the world and accused by the Accuser. In other words, it is a bad place to be.
But, the believer has at his or her disposal, a reconciliation for sin. (2 Cor. 5:18) We have a Mediator for our sin. (1 Tim. 2:5) We have access to the very throne room of God. (Heb. 4:16) We have the ability and the liberty to confess our sins, and have them wiped away as if they never happened, since they were already paid in full at the Cross. (Col. 2:13-15) But this liberty isn’t free per say, because it will impact how we live in the here and now.
And one day, we will have to give account for what we did with our salvation at the Bema Judgment. (1 Cor. 3:9-16) We are not judged for salvation, because that is already settled. What we are judged for, is what we did with our salvation. And if a believer is constantly living in unconfessed sin, he or she is hard pressed to still be doing God’s will, thereby frustrating God’s plan for your life and now missing out on reward that God had intended to bestow upon you.
“Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.” – 2 Cor. 5:9-11
But if the Bema Judgment sounds frightening, it is not meant as punishment, even though there will be reward and loss. For many have sacrificed much, and some all, to try to be the men and women God has called us to be. And God wants very much to bestow His riches on His own, so that we may share in His merciful bounty.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 2:4-6
“So it is now after salvation, begins the lifelong process of sanctification for the believer….till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ” – Eph. 4:13-15
For too little is made of the Rapture of the Church in regards to the actual purpose of it. The Rapture is that future tense of salvation, known as glorification. It isn’t just to escape the wrath that is scheduled to visit the earth, but also serves specific purposes in regards to our physical nature. Just as it will be at the Sheep and Goat Judgment, (Matt. 25) where Christ separates and judges the nations between those who can and cannot enter into the physical, millennial Messianic Kingdom, the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church also separates the worthy from the unworthy.
The Rapture of the Church separates His redeemed Bride (the Church), from this sinful world, and to an even further and more personal degree, separates the individual believer, from the sinful bodies in which they’ve had to dwell in while living in this fallen world. (1 John 3:1-3) The Rapture is the process that transports us from our current abode, to the heavenly. The Rapture changes us from our mortal estate, to an immortal one so that we may straight away, stand at the judgment seat of Christ, as we must be judged first, in order for Christ to then exact His perfect wrath on a Christ-rejecting world. (1 Peter 4:17)
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: â€œDeath is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Cor. 15:50-54
Even So, Maranatha!