There is More to the Cross than Forgiveness/Part 3
By: The John Ankerberg Show
Sinner-Man or Saint Who Sins?
For years I partook of the bread at the Lord’s table and thanked God for my forgiveness. Then one day as the elements were being served in my church, the Holy Spirit popped a revelation-type question into my head: If, as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we only commemorate our forgiveness, why did Christ initiate two elements—the wine and the bread? After all, it is through the blood of Christ that we are forgiven, so why not celebrate with a single element—the cup? Here’s the answer.
Gratitude for our forgiveness is appropriate as we commemorate the shedding of Christ’s blood when we partake of the cup. It was in Jesus’ body, however; that we were crucified as sinners and reborn as holy, righteous children of God. Folks, we were not crucified in Jesus’ blood, but in His precious body. I realize that if we try to assign specific roles to Christ’s blood and His body, we run into trouble because Christ is One, not compartmentalized. It took all of Jesus to save all of us. We are on safe theological ground to believe that it was in Christ’s body that we were crucified and then reborn. God says, “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4). The old spirit-you died in Christ’s body before the new spirit-you was born in His resurrection (1 Peter 1:3)! “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). “A new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh [body]” (Hebrews 10:20). God is showing us the importance of Jesus’ physical body here and its function for us. Just as Jesus’ shed blood is necessary for the forgiveness of sin, His crucified and resurrected body is the means by which our identity was changed from rejected sinner into acceptable saints. Gang, in addition to Jesus’ blood, Jesus’ body was heavily involved in satisfying the requirement that we must possess the “holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14 KJV). We (drumroll) are (drumroll with trumpets) holy new creatures in Christ, and His precious body was a vital factor in effecting this change in our spirit identity. I find the Lord’s table even more meaningful as I worship and adore Christ for my forgiveness as I partake of the cup, and for my new identity as I partake of the bread.
The Christian who believes he is first and foremost a “sinner saved by grace” tacitly denies that his change of identity through the body of Christ is a factor in our salvation that is just as vital as the forgiveness of our sins through the shed blood of Christ. Folks, that statement is not blasphemy. The blasphemy is that for years I was ignorant of the miracle that Jesus Christ accomplished for me via His precious body: the changing of my spirit identity from sinner to saint. Understanding your true identity as a saint is crucial to your experiencing the abundant life Jesus spoke of; because you will “life out” whatever you believe about yourself to avoid feeling like a phony. Believe you are a “sinner saved by grace,” and you’ll act like one; believe you are a holy, purified saint who sins at times, but who hates that life-style, and you’ll be highly motivated to act like such a saint. It’s just that simple.
Birth always determines identity. When you came to Christ, you died as a sinner (Galatians 2:20) and were reborn with a new identity; you are now a saint (Romans 1:7). You’ve been cleansed, and you now house the Holy Spirit of God in your new spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17; Romans 8:9). And let me caution you. God is not “playing like” you are now a saint when, in fact, you are a grubby wretch. A dramatic inner change transpired when you got saved. You are literally a saint, or God wouldn’t call you a saint over 60 times after the cross. Paul addresses his epistles to “all the saints,” never to “all the sinners saved by grace.” Will you believe and walk in these 60 references, or cling to one verse (1 Timothy 1:15) in which Paul refers to himself as “chief of sinners”? There are many things in the Bible that I do not understand, and that’s one of them. I try to walk by what I do understand and trust the Lord to fill in the gaps. But when I do the math on that 60+ to 1 ratio, plus all the verses which say that Christians are righteous, it’s a no-brainer. We’re saints, gang.
Christ, Your Life
In addition to His deep desire for intimate fellowship with you, there is a second glorious reason why Christ indwells you via His Spirit: to express His life through you. You presently trust Him to take you to a future heaven, but do you use that same faith to trust Him to face each day through you? Are you trusting Him for living as well as for dying? You can do the latter and ignore the former, but it’s far short of God’s grace to you. When a lost friend is trusting in his own merit to stand before God one day, you are saddened because you know he’s deceived. Tell me: Do you live life as if God’s forgiveness through Christ is all you need—that you are doing pretty well without “bothering” with these other truths that I’ve pointed out? I mean this kindly: Is this not also an affront to God’s grace, that you need not embrace all of what Christ accomplished for you in order to make it through each day?
The Spirit of Christ
“You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9). The verse states that the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit may be used interchangeably—they are synonyms. “And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10). The “Spirit of Christ” in verse 9 (above) is the One who gives this life to your spirit. Your physical body was not regenerated (born again) at salvation. This is obvious as you observe the once-youthful, vibrant bodies of Christians degenerating toward death daily. (My earthsuit looks like it needs ironing.) But such is not the case with the spirit of the new creature. “The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Corinthians 6:17). Your spirit is alive and righteous. Your spirit is your seat of spiritual life. The Spirit of Christ who indwells your spirit is now your life, just as He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
Are you enjoying the earthly benefit from the accomplishments of Jesus’ blood for your forgiveness, Jesus’ body for your identity change, and Jesus’ Spirit as your life? God wishes that you would.