All the worth I have before Him
Is the value of the Blood;
I present when I adore Him,
Christ, the First-fruits, unto God.
Him with joy doth God behold,
Thus is my acceptance told.
“Brought Nigh” – “W.R.”
The mystery of marriage is that two become one. The deep symbolism of marital union is a picture of the soul united with God. Paul tells us that marriage, where two bodies and souls join, represents Christ and the church (Eph 5:33). For just as the union of bodies and souls makes one flesh, so Christians together make up the body of Christ, while he himself dwells in our bodies (1 Cor 6:19) and in the church (1 Cor 3:16).
In Scripture, the euphemism for marital union is know (“Adam knew his wife”) and fitting it is. Union should bring perception. To be joined together physically should represent the most intimate emotional and personal knowledge of one another. So it is in our union with Christ. For those whose lives are hidden in Christ’s, for those who possess Christ’s life within them, the possibility of the deepest communion and knowledge of God is great.
This union is what confers upon us all the merits of the Son. His life and standing before the Father becomes ours. If the Father’s love for us is our prompting to worship, then the Son’s merits upon us become our permission to worship. This is the second aspect of our new natures that make ultimate love for God possible. Our union with Christ is most clearly seen in the term in Christ.
Though the term means more than one thing in the New Testament, when used of the church, in Christ refers to this unique relationship we have with Christ. To be placed in Christ is to be fully identified with the person and work of Christ. To understand how expansive that is, consider two Scriptures.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3)
For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
In Christ, every spiritual blessing comes to the believer. In Christ, every promise of God for believers is affirmative. To be in Christ is an extraordinary privilege, a rich and lavish gift to God’s beloved. The sense of God’s goodness in this arrangement is fundamental to communing with God. No one could enjoy and experience God’s presence if he believed God rejected him, despised him, or would cast him out if he came. Sinners can believe that they are able to remain in the holy and convicting presence of God to the degree they believe his grace towards them in Christ.
To be in Christ means two profoundly comforting truths are true of the believer. If we grasp these truths by faith, we will have boldness to keep communing with God, seeing that God has permitted us into His presence in Christ.
1) We are accepted by God in Christ.
To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:6)
The word accepted in modern English can sound as if a Christian barely makes the grade with God. Closer to the biblical idea is the word ‘pleasing’. God makes us pleasing to himself in Christ. God accepts us, not reluctantly, not begrudgingly, and not unwillingly. Whomever God accepts, he accepts as the father in Christ’s parable accepted his prodigal son, with arms open. When God accepts us, it is because in Christ, we have become greatly pleasing to Him. The old German theologian, Meister Eckhardt, said, “The Father loves nothing at all but the Son and such things as he finds in the Son.”
What did God say of his Son at his baptism and transfiguration? A voice from Heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” When a believer is in Christ, he is hidden in the One that the Father delights in. God loves us in Christ. He chose to love us in Christ before the foundation of the world. He put on “Christ lenses” and looked at us before we existed, and through those lenses of grace, he loved us. He loves us still in Christ – with an everlasting, undying, unflagging love (Jer 31:3). We are accepted by God in Christ.
For a sinful rebel to end up the object of God’s delight is a miracle. If we are accepted in the Beloved, then six things are true of us.
1) God’s anger towards us has been propitiated (1 John 2:2). If you are in Christ, you are no longer an object of God’s wrath. His fury at your sin was poured out on Christ.
2) All our sins have been forgiven (Col 2:13-14, Eph 1:7, 1 Cor 6:11). When Jesus died on the cross, he either made a full payment, or none at all. God could not be propitiated towards us if there were an outstanding sin debt. To be in Christ means we have been completely forgiven. As we will see, there are still reasons to confess our sins, but our judicial debt before God is forgiven on the day of our repentance and faith in Christ.
3) We have been justified and declared righteous (Rom 5:1, 2 Cor 5:21). Because God’s justice is
satisfied in Christ, God can forgive us in Christ. Because he forgives us in Christ, he counts our sin to be on Christ on the cross where he punished it, and he counts Christ’s righteousness as true of us. He declares us not guilty of our sin, and declares us clothed with Christ’s righteousness.
4) We have been reconciled to God (Rom 5:10, Col 1:21, 2 Cor 5:18). God’s anger is turned away, the offending debt is paid for, our rags are replaced with Christ’s righteousness, and God’s face is turned towards us.
5) We have been regenerated and granted eternal life (Col 2:13, Jo 1:12). Since we are forgiven, justified, and reconciled, God can lawfully and joyfully gift us with eternal life and make us his children.
6) We have been adopted (Eph 1:5, Ro 8:15, 23). God grants us all the privileges of a natural-born child. In a Roman household, the event of adoption signified that a child would now receive all the privileges of the father’s name and inheritance. We now share the inheritance granted to Christ (Eph 1:11).
What this amounts to is that someone who has been forgiven, justified, reconciled, regenerated, loved, and adopted is deeply pleasing to God. Such a person has continual direct access to God. Boasting is excluded, because it is all of grace. We glorify God by trusting in the fullness of the gospel.