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Lesson 7: Sanctified in Christ Jesus
In our last lesson we saw God's great plan—to call out people from Adam's sinful family and unite them in one spiritual body called "the Church." The Church is God's "called-out assembly"—the Body of Christ. Christ is the Head and all believers are members of the one Body of Christ. The apostle Paul said,
"This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church." Ephesians 5:32
It is God's purpose that this heavenly Church, the Body of Christ, should be expressed here on earth. In each locality, believers are to assemble regularly with other believers for prayer, worship, fellowship and teaching from God's Word. These assemblies of believers are called "local churches." Paul was writing to a local assembly of believers when he wrote "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth."
Thus, we see that the Bible uses the word "church" in two ways. It can refer to:
The Heavenly Church, which is composed of all believers from the Day of Pentecost until the end of this age;
The Local Church, which is an assembly of believers in a certain locality here on earth.
The First Local Churches
On the Day of Pentecost, there was only one local church—the church in Jerusalem. Later on, we find that there were churches in many cities. In each of these localities, God had a group of believers who were His "called-out assembly" in that city. Let us see how this came about.
In Acts 15, we see three things. First, the gospel was preached and there were those who believed the gospel. Peter said,
"Men and brethren, you know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe." (Acts 15:7)
Second, the Holy Spirit was given to those who believed the gospel. Peter said,
"And God, who knows the heart, has testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us." (Acts 15:8 NET Bible)
Third, those who believed and received the Spirit were God's called-out people. The apostle James said,
"Simon [Peter] has declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name." (Acts 15:14)
How did people become members of God's called-out assembly? They believed the gospel; they received the Holy Spirit and thus became members of God's called-out assembly.
One Heavenly Church…Many Local Churches
Because of persecution the believers in Jerusalem were scattered into other cities and nations. Wherever they went, they preached the gospel. People believed and were saved. As people in a city were saved, they became the church in that city. Thus the Bible speaks of "the church of God in Corinth", "the church in Antioch" and "the church in Ephesus."
Each of these local churches was an expression of the one heavenly Church. Christ was the unseen Head of each assembly and the believers formed His body. Thus, in each locality, Christ was able to express His life through the church in that place.
As spiritual Head of each local church, the Lord Jesus gave spiritual gifts to the believers, the members of His body. In each local church certain men were chosen by the Holy Spirit to be "elders" or spiritual leaders. They had the spiritual oversight of the Lord's people in that local church. So the churches were strengthened and increased in number. The Bible says,
"And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily." Acts 16:5
Where did the local churches meet? At first they met in one another's homes. The place where they met was not considered to be of great importance because they knew that the Lord Jesus Himself was there with them. He had promised, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20)
When did the believers meet? They met on the first day of the week, which is Sunday. The Bible says, "Upon the first day of the week…the disciples came together to break bread." (Acts 20:7)
God's Called-Out People
There is a company of people—Christ's believers who have been "called out" of the world to be God's special people. We have not been converted in order that we might make the world better. We have been called out from among the unsaved people of the world to be God's church—His called-out assembly.
There is no greater honour than being a member of God's assembly, but this requires that we be set apart from the sinful world system. God has always separated His people from the ungodly, unbelieving world.
"Sanctified in Christ Jesus"
The Bible says that all believers are "sanctified in Christ Jesus." The apostle Paul wrote the church in Corinth in this way:
"To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus…" 1 Corinthians 1:2
What does the word "sanctified" mean? It means "to be set apart for God." By God's will we are part of a company that has been "sanctified" or set apart from this sinful world in which we live. The Bible says that our Lord Jesus Christ "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world." (Galatians 1:4)
God wants His people to be set apart from Adam's sinful race and from the whole system of evil in the world, that we might serve Him.
How did God set us apart for Himself? He set us apart by putting us in Christ. By the mighty power of God, believers are taken out of Adam's sinful race and put in Christ. The Bible says,
"Of Him [God] are you in Christ Jesus…" 1 Corinthians 1:30
God puts us in Christ on the cross. We were crucified with Him. When He died, we died with him. When Christ rose from the dead to become the Head of God's new creation, we rose with Him—a new person in God's new creation. The Bible says,
"So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away—look, what is new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17
Because we are in Christ, we are forever set apart from sin and from the sinful world. It is not that we are apart from them, but Christ is. We are set apart for God in Christ.
God has a special name for His called-out people. We are His "saints." The word "saints" means "holy ones." We are God's holy ones. Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth,
"To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified [set apart] in Christ Jesus, called to be saints." 1 Corinthians 1:2
In the original language, this verse simply says, "called saints." The words "to be" are not in the original. We are not called to be saints; we are saints now, by God's calling.
A saint is not one who has earned this title by his unusual personal holiness. He is a person whose old life ended on the cross. He is now a new person in Christ, seated with Christ at the right hand of God. All believers are saints by God's calling.
The Meaning of Baptism
What is baptism? Baptism is a church ordinance or ceremony which pictures our unity with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. An ordinance is something that we can see and feel which pictures or symbolizes a spiritual truth.
God wants every believer to know and understand that he is in Christ—that he shared in Christ's death, burial and resurrection.
We are air-breathing creatures, and water is an element of death to us. When we stand in water to be baptized, we are testifying to the fact that we have gone into death with Christ. We were crucified with Him. We died with Him. The Bible says,
"Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" Romans 6:3 (NET Bible)
When we are placed under the water, we picture our burial with Christ. The Bible says,
"Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death…" Romans 6:4
When we are lifted up out of the water we picture the fact that we were raised with Him in newness of life. The Bible says,
"Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life." Romans 6:4 (NET Bible)
Baptism sets forth, or pictures, burial. If we do not accept our death with Christ we will not understand the real meaning of baptism. We are "buried with Him by baptism into death."
Have you seen that you died with Christ? Do you understand that your "old man"—your sinful self—was crucified with Christ and buried with Him? Do you see that you are a new person in God's new creation? If so, then you are ready to testify publicly by your baptism that you are through with your old life; you are a new person in Christ.
The Lord Jesus commanded that everyone who believes on Him be baptized. For the early Christians, baptism was a vivid and happy experience which they never forgot. It was the day when, in the face of terrible persecution and even death, they dared to step out against the world and publicly confess Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord forever.
The Believer's Position in Christ
The most precious phrase in the Bible is the little phrase, "in Christ." This phrase, or its equivalent, is used over 130 times in the New Testament!
God sees all people as either in Adam or in Christ. By our first birth we were all in Adam. We shared in all that Adam was and all that he did. Our old life in Adam ended on the cross when we were crucified with Christ. Our new life in Christ began with His resurrection. God created us as a new person in Christ. Every believer is in Christ.
The Believer's Riches in Christ
Every believer is "sanctified in Christ Jesus." On the one hand, this means that we are set apart from Adam's sinful race and from the present evil world. On the other hand, it means that we are in Christ.
What does it mean to be in Christ? To be in Christ means to share in all that Christ is all that He has.
Where is Christ now? He is seated at the right hand of God. He is the Head of God's new creation. God has given everything into His hand. The Bible says,
"The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand." (John 3:35)
All that Christ is and all that He has is ours because we are in Christ. God wants each of us to know that all our blessings are in the heavenly Christ. The Bible says,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Ephesians 1:3
This verse says that God has blessed us with "all spiritual blessings"in Christ. "All" is a big word. It means A-L-L! All that Christ is and all that He has is ours because we are in Christ. These blessings are "in heavenly places"—that is, they are in God's new creation.
There is the system of things which we can see—the system of this world. This system is passing away. But there is a whole system of unseen things in the spiritual realm—God's new creation. The glorious, exalted Christ is the Head of this system. It is a glory system and a perfect system because everything in it is of God.
This glory system is eternal; it will never pass away. The Bible says,
"Unto Him [God] be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end." (Ephesians 3:21)
To which system do we belong? We belong to the glory system—God's new creation. If we want to enjoy our new life in God's new creation, we must get better acquainted with the things of the new creation. The apostle Paul said,
"We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal [passing away]; but the things which are not seen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18
God wants us to set our affections on Christ and on the unseen things of the glory system where Christ is reigning today. The Bible says,
"Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth…" Colossians 3:1-2 (NET Bible)
* Every believer is "sanctified in Christ Jesus"—set apart to God in Christ.
* We belong to the glory system—God's new creation!
There is always a great principle regarding the ways of God which runs throughout the Bible. The principle is this: God always separates His people from the ungodly, unbelieving world.
When God called Abraham, He told him to leave his country and his kindred and go to a land that God would show him.
God separated Noah and his family from the wicked, ungodly world of his day. All of that world perished in the great flood, but Noah and his family were carried by the ark safely to a new beginning in an earth that had been cleansed by water.
God separated the children of Israel from Egypt, a type of the wicked, unbelieving world. He took them through "death" to a new beginning. They went down into the Red Sea with walls of water on each side and passed through on dry land. When the armies of Pharaoh tried to do the same thing, God caused the waters to return and they were all drowned.
God has separated us, His believers, from the unbelieving world. By our death, burial and resurrection with Christ, we have been delivered from Satan's world-system.
In the old creation, Adam was our head and our source. We shared in all that Adam was and all that he did. By the mighty power of God, believers are taken out of Adam and put in Christ. The Bible says,
"But of Him [God] are you in Christ Jesus…" 1 Corinthians 1:30
Christ is a heavenly Person, and we are His heavenly people. We share in all that He is and all that He has done.
People take their character from their source. Adam is the head and source of the old creation. Those who are unsaved are of Adam's order and they take their character from him. The Bible says,
"The first man [Adam] is of the earth, earthy…As is the earthy [man], such are they also that are earthy [earthly people]…" 1 Corinthians 15:47-48
God has put us in Christ. Christ is the Head and Source of the new creation. We are of Christ's order, and we take our character from Him. The Bible says,
"The first man is from the earth, made of dust; the second man is from heaven. Like the one made of dust, so too are those made of dust, and like the one from heaven, so too those who are heavenly." 1 Corinthians 15:47-48 (NET Bible)
There are now two orders of people in the world. Those who are in Adam are earthly people in the old creation. Those who are in Christ are heavenly people in God's new creation.
God is saying to us: "Be what you are! If you are a new person in My new creation, live that way!" The Bible says,
"He that says he abides in Him [Christ] ought himself also so to walk even as He walked." 1 John 2:6