On his way to Damascus from Jerusalem this Pharisee of Pharisees who was out to arrest and kill as many Christians as he could-- in one blinding encounter with the resurrected Christ, learned about what it meant to be in Christ as members of His body.
And as he [Saul or Paul] journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? And he said, Who are you, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom you persecute: it is hard for you to kick against the goads. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what will you have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told you what you must do. (Acts 9:3-6 KJ2000)
"I am Jesus whom you persecute!" Wait a minute! Jesus was dead. So was Stephen, whose execution Paul witnessed. Now he finds out that Jesus is not only alive, but that the Lord makes no distinction between Himself and His body. From heaven's perspective, the very believers in Christ whom Paul was out to kill and persecute are Christ Himself! This became a lesson well-learned by Paul, who later wrote, "For even as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body being many, are one body, thus also is the Christ." (1 Corinthians 12:12 Wuest) The Christ and His body are one. Or as the first Adam said of his bride, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh." (Genesis 2:23)
Likewise, the ekklesia, the bride of the Last Adam, is "bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh," spirit of His Spirit--members of His very body. Paul had a lot to think and pray about during the next three years while he was hidden away with Christ in the Damascus wilderness. He learned and experienced the reality of an exchanged life as a viable member of our Lord's body. He later wrote, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me."
It was out of this encounter and a further time of intensive discourse with the living Christ in the Spirit over the next three years that Paul had an increasing revelation of the workings of the cross and the body of Christ. He saw this more clearly than any other apostle. None of them taught the truth of the many-membered body of Christ like Paul did. No one emphasized the importance of every member growing up fully into Christ like Paul did. The other apostles knew Jesus after the flesh--they walked with Him in the days of his flesh here upon the earth. But Paul probably knew Jesus after the Spirit better than any of them. (See Galatians 1:15-19) It was from this experience he wrote, "Therefore from now on know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet from now on know we him no more." (2 Corinthians 5:16 KJ2000)
Paul also wrote, "For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." (Ephesians 5:30 KJ2000) One cannot truly know Christ after the Spirit without discerning His body, because that body is spiritual. That body is His earthly manifestation. He is His body and His body is Him.
So Jesus, the Last Adam, says of His bride, "You are bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh and spirit of my Spirit." As Paul found out, you can not persecute a member of Christ's body without persecuting Him. Paul even said that when one member of Jesus' body suffers all the members suffer. You also can't bless a member of His body without it blessing all members and Jesus as well. It was He who said, "What you have done to the least of these, my brethren, you have done unto me." When Christ's body is in Him and He is in His body, the two become one. To persecute one is to persecute the other. This is the mystery of the Body - many members - one body - so also is the Christ.
Eve was made from one of Adam's ribs, and Adam said of her, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." The bride of the Last Adam, taken out of Him, is bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. These two are one. When the Roman spear was thrust into Jesus' side, water and blood poured out. This is also what happens in child birth; lots of water and blood accompany the birth of the child. That day a bride was born, just as Eve was taken from the side of Adam, bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, the bride of Christ was taken from the side of Jesus.
In chapter two of his book, "Bone of His Bone," F. J. Huegel wrote:
We must bear in mind that it is the office of the Holy Spirit to graft the believer into Christ, as a gardener would graft the branch of a tree into the main body of another. "By one Spirit are ye all baptized into one body" (I Cor. 12:13). Paul dwells upon this grafting process in the eleventh chapter of his letter to the Romans, where he speaks of the breaking off of Israel from the Root, Christ, and the grafting in of the Gentiles, to become partakers of the Root.
True conversion in its deepest aspect is just this. If it fails to result in a veritable grafting into Christ, it is spurious, and from the nature of the case, unfruitful. Indeed, we must be born again. We must be rooted into the very Trunk of the Eternal Godhead. We do not simply strive to imitate a Divine Leader; exceeding great and precious promises have been left to us whereby we are made partakers of the Divine Nature (II Peter 1:4). The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: ... heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16,17).
It was the Spirit who convicted us of sin, creating in us a deep antipathy for sin, and a burning desire to be free from its foul dominion. It was the same Spirit who revealed Christ to us as the only way out: our sin-bearer (John 16:7-15). It is the same Spirit who binds us to Christ, rooting our lives into His Divine Life, and causing us to grow up into Him who is the Head. Madame Penn-Lewis, in one of her books, points out that in the Greek the much-loved John 3:16 conveys a very different meaning from that of our English versions. It is not simply he that believeth in Christ, but rather he that believeth into Him, who shall have eternal life. By the co-action of the Spirit (and the Holy Spirit works so in conjunction with our spirit that we are often altogether unconscious of His working) we have believed into Christ. He has become our life. "But he who is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (I Cor. 6:17).
To see how this applies to the Body of Christ, let us look at the larger context of the passage in Ephesians mentioned above. Paul exhorted men to love their wives as their own bodies, and then went on to explain the deeper purpose behind this love mystery. "He that loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." Then Paul continues to delve into the greater purpose or cause behind it all. "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church." (Ephesians 5:28-32 KJ2000) This is indeed a great mystery! ". . . he that is joined unto [literally, glued to] the Lord is one spirit." (1 Corinthians 6:17 KJ2000) Ezekiel saw this New Covenant coming; a covenant not based on our old natures keeping God's laws, but one based on the Spirit of God being placed in us. He prophesied,
Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27 KJ2000)
There can be no true joining into Jesus without His first putting a new heart within us. It is His indwelling Spirit that makes this joining possible. Jesus told the disciples,
For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me. He that finds his life shall lose it: and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 10:35-39 KJ2000)
Being grafted into the Vine requires certain things of us as branches. Like a branch from a wild olive tree, we are grafted into the Spiritual root and severed from our natural root. (See Romans 11:13-18) This often causes a rift between us and those closest to us who are still of the wild olive tree. When a young man was called by Jesus to follow Him, he asked if He could first bury his father. To this Jesus replied, "Follow me. Let the dead bury the dead." With this engrafting also comes the grace to obey our Lord in whatever He requires from our new hearts filled with love for Him.
Who Is Our Identity?
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me... (Galatians 1:15-16 KJ2000)
Who is our identity? As we watch children, we see them dressing up as cowboys or super heroes and running around acting out the part. As adults we find our identity in sports heroes, movie stars, even political figures. Just watch grown men and how they act as they watch a football game. Not so long ago a fan even ran out on the field and tackled a player on the opposing team! Watch how parents yell and scream at their kids as they play junior football or in little league. They are trying to live out their youth again through their own kids.
My (Michael's) father lost a leg in WWII when he stepped on a land mine in France. He walked with a wooden leg and had a slight limp as a result. One day as a child I noticed that I also was walking with a limp, though there was nothing wrong with my leg. My aunt, his sister, later pointed out to me how I even laughed like him and smiled out of the corner of my mouth like him. He was my hero and I emulated him in almost every way. He was my identity. But as Christians who have been crucified to the world, who should our identity be?
Often Christians emulate a great teacher or a denominational leader. I, Michael, have known pastors in one denomination that even use the same gestures and voice intonations as the founder. I found out later that this is partly due to them being required to watch 5,000 hours of his video taped sermons in seminary. No wonder! But is that who we are to emulate? Jesus warned His disciples about this kind of hypocrisy. Eugene Peterson captures it well in his Bible paraphrase, The Message.
"The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God's Law. You won't go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don't live it. They don't take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It's all spit-and-polish veneer. Instead of giving you God's Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn't think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called 'Doctor' and 'Reverend.' Don't let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of 'Father'; you have only one Father, and he's in heaven. And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them--Christ. Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant." (Matthew 23:2-11 MSG)
It should be evident by now that our only Teacher is to be Jesus through His Spirit, (See John 14:26 and 1 John 2:27) and we are all students in the school of His abiding Life under our One Teacher. It also should be evident that we are to emulate only One Father--the one who is Father of us all in heaven and we as His children are all brethren or siblings. "Don't ever let anyone call you `Rabbi,' for you have only one teacher, and all of you are on the same level as brothers and sisters." (Matthew 23:8 NLT)
Not only can we displace Christ of His proper place in us by taking back control, but as we give others in our lives the place that belongs to Him alone, this is antichrist. This is the real danger of calling others our "Teacher" or "Rabbi" or even "Father." We begin to emulate them and they become the one who is manifest to others through us instead of Jesus. The title Reverend belongs to the One who has redeemed us. "He sent redemption unto His people; He hath commanded His covenant for ever; holy and reverend is His name" (Psalms 111:9 KJ21) We have yet to meet a "man of God" who has the marks of Jesus in his body and has purchased us with his own blood. The titles "Vicar" or "Vicar of Christ" mean "Instead of Christ." How blinded by pride can we get?
Our only identity is who we are in Christ! We who have believed into Christ have also been crucified in Him. We have also been resurrected in Him and we now live as members of His body in heavenly places in Him as well as members one of another here on earth. Soon the word identity should come to our minds as we understand these things and live them out. As Christians truly born from above, His identity is our identity.
Christ identified with us in our fallen state and so "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." He so identified with us that He took upon Himself our sins, but not only that, He took our sin-prone natures and nailed them to that tree. The scriptures in both Old and New Testaments point to our co-identification in Him.
In Isaiah 52 we read, "For you shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rear guard. Behold, my Servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonished at you; so his appearance was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men." Jesus has promised to go out before us and to be our rear guard. He is not only before and behind us, but we are totally in Him. We don't face our trials alone because He said, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." No man can get to us except through Him. Have you been rejected, beaten, scarred and maligned in this life? How much more Him? As many as were astonished at you, so were they at Him. As many as marred you with their fists and attacks, so did they to Him. Because of this have any been exalted and extolled above every name that is named more than Jesus? If we abide in Him in His sufferings, we too will be exalted in Him. We have not been left here on earth to go it alone. Jesus is still acquainted with our griefs and sorrows. Notice the verb tense of this passage. "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows."
He is still despised and rejected by men. They malign His holiness in movies and books; they speak lies about Him and mock Him constantly. Is it any wonder that we get the same treatment as He abides in us? He is still being despised by this world daily as He makes His abode in us. Our griefs, our rejection and our sorrows are His and His are ours. Christ is our identity and He identifies with us. But know this, if all men are speaking well of you, watch out! You are not abiding in Christ nor His cross. (See Luke 6:25)
Has life dealt you a bad hand and given you a hard row to hoe? So was the life of Christ. He was a tender root in a parched land being rejected and assaulted on every front. The king sent out a hit squad to kill Him while He was only an infant. Are you homely or disfigured or not included among the beautiful people of this world? So was Jesus. "He has no stately form nor splendor; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." Are you homeless and have been cast out of society? Jesus said, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head." (Luke 9:58 KJ2000) Again, identity! It is all in the present tense. Has your experience in today's church been painful and full of rejection? The chief priests and rulers of His people, the Jews, rejected Jesus at every turn and finally they plotted to have Him killed out of pure jealousy. (See John 11:48)
He was not only despised 2000 years ago, but still is! He is still persecuted when His body, the body of Christ, suffers vehement criticism, violence and harm by those driven on by the spirit of the red dragon who always tries to devour the manifestation of the man-child, the end-time body of Christ. Why is there such similarity in the life that we have been dealt and the one that He had to live? He identifies in every way with His body, the called out ones, the ekklesia of God, and our lives manifest His presence. Identity!
Isaiah continues, "Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all." In Hebrews we read about Jesus total identification with us:
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our weaknesses; but was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 KJ2000)
In the Old Testament Law, there was a solemn sacrifice in which two goats were appointed to take away the sins of Israel. This was a shadow of what Jesus would do. One goat was sacrificed and his blood sprinkled on the altar. The High Priest then laid his hands on the head of the other, transferring to him the sins of the people in type. Then the goat was led out into the wilderness to be left in a desolate place to die. He was the scapegoat. This a type of the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins.
Men unwittingly do this today. They blame others for their own sins and accuse others of things they are guilty of themselves. We saw this during the Vietnam War. Those who obeyed the laws of the land were sent into combat, only to return home and be blamed for all that went wrong in that war. Yet the elected officials voted in by the people who were casting blame were the ones giving the orders and controlling the war. Who was to blame? Who voted them in and kept them in office? Also, those who called our soldiers "baby killers" went on to practice and endorse abortion and the killing of millions of unborn children. To commit a wrong and blame others for it is about the worst form of cowardice, and the serpent who accuses the saints before God for what he tempts them to do is the prince of cowards.
"And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death." It is not only in the life of Jesus we see complete identity with and in us, but also in His death. He carried all this rejection and suffering, but men thought Him some kind of terrible sinner, because it had to be God that was smiting Him. He died the death of a criminal. They could not see that He was suffering for and with their sins so that all men could be free of sin once and for all, free to live as the sons of God in His holiness. He was torn so we could be healed. Yes, there is a physical healing available from God from time to time, but more than that our very souls, the center of our beings, the motivating force behind all sin, must be healed most of all. The flesh profits nothing. What is born of the flesh is still flesh, even if it is healed by God. But what is born from above is eternal and finds its counterpart in the very Spirit of God the Father. Everything else is temporal and will be done away with. Jesus said, "Every plant, which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up."
The flesh of man, his old nature, cannot be fixed or improved on. You can take a pig into your house, bathe him, put perfume behind his ears and even put a pretty ribbon around his neck and let him eat at the table with you. But has he changed? In his heart he is still a pig, and as soon as you leave the door ajar, out he goes, back to his wallow. So is the uncrucified life in even the best of religious men. Today we see men rising to high stature in their church systems; they are even made leaders of their evangelical organizations, but what happens? Those who have not had the deep work of the cross in their lives revert to the pig within when given a chance. They are caught partaking in adulterous affairs, homosexuality, pornography, embezzlement of the faithful's money, you name it. Just type in "church fraud" or "church corruption" on a web search engine and you will find hundreds of cases where church leaders have been caught. God is not impressed with our Bible knowledge, our high positions, or even our great Christian works. What impresses Him is when He looks into us and sees His own Son.
Such identity! Someone said, "Jesus loves you the way you are, but too much to leave you that way." I, Michael, remember singing, "Just as I Am" at many an altar call. I think that many of us get the idea that since we confessed our sins and made a public show of our repentance, we get to go on just as we are and live life in the same selfish ways as before. We have our "fire insurance" paid for and don't have to worry any more about hell. This is not the "so great a salvation" that Paul was speaking of. Salvation is being saved not only from our sins, but being saved from ourselves, from the very man of sin that abides within, and being placed into the Son of Righteousness, the very Son of God. "And as we have borne a resemblance to the earthy one [man], let us see to it that we also bear a resemblance [image] to the heavenly One." (1 Corinthians 15:49 WNT) Just as Jesus could say to Philip, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father," so can we who are in Jesus say, "If you have seen me you have seen Christ." Those born from above have Him as their sole identity, not themselves or their great works.to top