Some years ago a friend introduced me to the idea that Christians can be good people yet not represent the Kingdom of God. To do so we must be positioned in the new covenant and not the old. This is to say we are in step with Jesus and not with Adam/Moses.
Let me explain.
NATURE OF FLESH
‘The flesh’ has a bad name in Christian circles. Related to carnality, yet not identical, the flesh is well described as our life in Adam compared to a life not lived in Christ. Even here in Christ means ‘in the Spirit’ of Christ and not a new form of Christ inspired law-keeping.
“We are united to Christ who is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, and participate in the risen Humanity of Christ so that we are bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh.” Torrance is saying that in the incarnated life of the new testament age, Jesus is us.
‘When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory’ Col 3.4 NIV. When do you appear in the glory of your sonship? When you live in Christ instead of living in the law.
Well may it be said that Christianity is a person and not a religion. The Kingdom is Christ in us and as us rather than a Jesus empowered agenda of good works. This is us incarnated with the trinity – common knowledge in Christianity grounded in the Nicaean Creed but not always in Pentecostal circles and other Christian sects.
Thomas Torrance writes, “The radical significance of Christ's substitutionary Priesthood does not lie in the fact that His perfect Self-offering perfects and completes our imperfect offerings, but that these are displaced by His completed Self-offering. We can only offer what has already been offered on our behalf, and offer it by the only mode appropriate to such a substitutionary offering, by prayer, thanksgiving, and praise.”
Displaced because Christ’s life is your life. This life of yours is more than assent to doctrines or the touting of proof texts. It’s a state of being in which you and Christ are one and more – you and the trinity are one.
‘The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you--they are full of the Spirit and life’ John 6.63 NIV. Spirit and life comes to us when we agree with Christ that we are joined to the trinity and are one substance with God. God is Father and we are sons.
When Jesus said, ‘The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing’ He denoted the truth that in Adam all die and that in Himself is found all spirit and life. Adamic mindsets produce non-life. All who believe Christ belong to the Body of Christ. But what we believe about Christ and the nature of our gospel determines whether we are a robustly functioning organ of the Body or a disease.
JESUS HAD A BODY AND COMES IN YOUR FLESH. THIS IS LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
But Jesus was not dumping on bodies or giving encouragement to Platonism. Jesus came in a human body – the Son of God incarnated in flesh and blood. The Son of God incarnated in Palestine is completed today in us in Ringwood and Murwillumbah. By the Spirit Jesus Christ, our Father and Holy Spirit inhabit our bodies. John declares that the difference between Kingdom Truth and mere religion is embracing the actuality of Christ come in our flesh. Christ is not only in you. He manifests as you.*
‘This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God’ 1 John 4.2 NIV.
CHRIST OUR LIFE
Christ our life is the genuine body. The law our life is a carcase. The fullness of Christ is realised in the church built without human hands but nevertheless by God’s daughters and sons being the multiplication of Jesus. Jesus multiplied is the new creation – the new social structure called the Kingdom of God. Richard Rohr observes,
“Apart from a general Platonic denial of the body in most religions, Paul made a most unfortunate choice of the word flesh as the very enemy of Spirit (for example, Galatians 5:16–24). Now we would probably say “ego” or “small self,” which would be much closer to his actual intended meaning. Remember that Christianity is the religion that believes “the Word became flesh” (John 1:13), and Jesus even returned to the “flesh” after the Resurrection (Luke 24:40)—so flesh cannot be bad for us.
If it is in any way antibody, it is never authentic Christianity. Merton rightly recognized that it was not the body that had to “die” but the “false self” that we do not need anyway. It becomes a too-easy substitute for our deeper and deepest truth.” (1)
Observation reveals that by retaining ourselves in the law and old covenant we can be good people but live from the old self and not know it.
The law binds us to externality for that is what it is. If we are attached to the law, we have not emerged from the old covenant; in other words we have not been reborn we will have retained the old self – a self that is not wicked but a self that is not spirit and life.
We may have a career and achievements but these are not the essence of the self. In Christ all are made alive and we are who we are: Sons of God in spirit and in truth.
Sons are who we are in relationship with Father. Our real self is the person we have become in an encounter that is so real that it is called Christ our life.
* We are not deities. But we are sons. A very high order of being.
(1) Rohr, Richard. Immortal Diamond: The search for our true self. SPCK. Kindle Edition.