An Indwelling Relationship

Christ in You

To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.—Colossians 1:27

Reprinted from the Peoples Paper of Australia

The expression "Christ in you" speaks of that special relationship that we are privileged to have with our dear Master and through him with out heavenly Father. In John 6:44 Jesus said, "no man can come unto me except the Father who hath sent me draw him and I will raise him up at the last day." It is only those who are called and drawn of the Father who have Christ in them.

In the passage surrounding the theme text, Paul shows the special care that he had for the church, those who had Christ in them. In verse 24 he speaks of the great sufferings and afflictions he was going through for them. Paul suffered perhaps more than any other of the apostles—severe beatings, scourgings, persecutions, etc. All these experiences he gladly underwent, in fact he said that he rejoiced in his suffering! Why? Because he was doing it for the sake of Christ’s body members to assist them to develop the Christ-likeness and character.

As he says in verse 28, it was so that "we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." This is the reverse of Christ in you, these two experiences are very much linked together. It is only those who are in Christ as his body members who have Christ in them. Paul’s concern for the church is a great example to us, as he said in 1 Cor. 11:1: "Be ye followers of me even as I also am of Christ." He was always prepared to do anything, to go to any lengths, to help his brethren in Christ and these should be our special concern also.

Running a Race

Paul likens our Christian development to running in a race. Our is a very unusual race in that we can only run the race and make our calling and election sure if we spend our time helping the other runners also to become winners and overcomers. If we truly have Christ in us, our chief concern should be to help and assist those others who are in Christ and have Christ in them. These are our brothers and our sisters, members of our own family, the New Creation that God is bringing into being. This is really an amazing truth—creating a special family to share his nature and to live on his plane of existence. This is the ultimate result if we allow Christ to be fully formed in us.

In Galatians 4:19 Paul said: "My little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you." There is more than one sense in which Christ is in us, and Paul here speaks of his being formed in us. When Christ is fully formed in us it means that we have developed the likeness and character of our dear Master, just as he bears the likeness and character of our heavenly Father. As he said in John 14:9: "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father," then, in verses 10 and 11: "Believest thou me that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself but the Father that dwelleth in me, or else believe me for the very work’s sake."

Any suggestion that this passage of John 14 supports the trinity teaching is answered in verse 20, again the words of our Lord: "At that day you shall know that I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you." This verse makes it very clear that the Father is in Jesus, just as Jesus is in us. The passage really speaks of the oneness that exists between the heavenly Father, Jesus, and all the members of the family—a oneness of spirit, of purpose, of desire, of character. We are all at one with the wonderful divine plan of the ages which our heavenly Father has in hand, and we eagerly look forward to our part in it in the next age.

A Developing Relationship

Our oneness with our heavenly Father, with his Son, and with each other, is an ongoing development, not something that is achieved in just a moment of time. The forming of Christ in us is a lifetime work. To have Christ in us really means to have his mind in us. We recall Paul’s words in Philippians 2:3-5: "let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every many also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."

The mind surely is the most important part of the human body; it is with the mind that the important decisions of life are made. All our deeds and actions are governed by the mind. The Scriptures frequently speak of the heart condition. We speak of a good-hearted person. God says, "Give me thy heart." The term heart is used here in a poetic sense. It all relates back to the conscious decisions made by the mind—it is with the mind that we give our heart to God, it is with the mind that we decide to become a footstep follower of the Master and run in the race for the prize of the high calling, it is with the mind that we decide to strive to achieve the Christ-likeness within us.

1 Corinthians 2:16 says we have the mind of Christ. This is the disposition, the character, that the indwelling of his holy spirit is developing in us if we allow it to do so. The mind of Christ is not something that we naturally possess; our fallen nature has many impulses and desires that would be quite contrary to the mind of Christ. So there must be a transforming work as described in Romans 12:2, 3: "Be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."

Verse 3 seems to pinpoint one of the frailties of the natural mind before it has been renewed, that is, to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. It is a normal worldly tendency to have a feeling of self-importance, to want to be somebody, but we are not to be conformed to the world. Phillip’s Modern Translation reads: "Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God remake you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed."

There is a tendency on the part of many to have a desire to conform to the world, especially perhaps among young people. We sometimes hear the expression, "But everyone does it," referring to some particular activity that would not be appropriate. With us it is different, our desire above all else is to have the mind of Christ developed in us.

We note Phillip’s translation again, "let God remake you." While this is not in the original text, it is a truth brought out elsewhere, for example in Philippians 2:13, "for it is God that worketh in you to will and to do of his good pleasure." Of our own selves we are very frail and weak, we cannot make progress simply in our own strength. But what a wonderful truth! We have the power and strength of the Almighty God working in us. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31). All things are from God through Jesus Christ, so perhaps we should say that God is working through Jesus Christ who is in us. That seems to be the thought in the beautiful prayer of our Master on behalf of his followers found in John 17.

Jesus' Prayer for His Followers

In verses 9 and 10 of that chapter Jesus is speaking of his footstep followers, "I pray not for the world but for them which thou has given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them." Then, from verse 20, "neither pray I for these alone, but for them which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one, as thou Father art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one, that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me."

"I in them and thou in me." God is in in Christ Jesus, and Christ is in us—in this way God is in us and working in us through Jesus Christ. Speaking of the heavenly Father and the sending of the Comforter, the spirit of truth, Jesus said in John 14:17. "the world seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but you know him, for he dwelleth with you and shall be in you." Again in John 14:23 Jesus said, "if a man love me he will keep my words and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him."

Let us now link these verses with 2 Corinthians 5:17, "therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [or new creation]: old things are passed away, behold all things are become new. And all things are of God who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ and hath given us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath commited unto us the word of reconciliation."

A Work of Reconciliation

God has been in Christ throughout the Gospel Age reconciling to himself those he has been calling out of the world to be his special family and bride to his dear Son. Soon this work will be complete, all of the firstfruit class will be gathered in but the reconciliation work will continue on for another thousand years, during which all of the remainder out of mankind will be reconciled to God. In his prayer Jesus prayed not for the world—not because they will not have a part in God’s plan but because it was not the due time. He will pray for them when that time comes, for he gave his life for them as well as for us.

Work Out Your Own Salvation

To return to the passage in Philippians 2 previously touched upon, and this time reading part of verse 12, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." One translation puts it, "work out your own salvation with reverence and self-distrust." This again would be a paraphrase but the thought is that we need never fear that God will let us down. He will always perform his part to the full, our only fear would be that we may come short.

These two verses (Phil. 2:12, 13) teach an important lesson. While it is God that works in us, we must work out our own salvation. God does not do that work for us; he works in us. He provides the strength and power, but we must make the effort ourselves, we must utilize the help which our heavenly Father and his Son are offering. That power and strength only becomes available to us as we draw upon it in the working out of our own salvation. God does not take over our own minds. He does not control us against our will.

We could take an illustration from the developing countries of the world. The more affluent countries often provide the skills and technical know-how and often the machinery and means to enable thenewly developing onesto improve their own position. It is entirely up to them as to whether they utilize the help provided or not. Just so in our relationship with Jesus and our heavenly Father; they are dwelling in us, ready to provide all the help required for our spiritual development, but they will not renew our mind, they will not make of us a new creation, they will not make us perfect, contrary to our own will and desire.

We also have Christ in us as our example and 1 Peter 2:20, 21 brings out one way in which he is a pattern for us. The passage reads, "For what glory is it if, when you are buffeted for your faults, you shall take it patiently? But if, when you do well and suffer for it, you take it patiently, this is acceptable to God. For even hereunto were you called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps."

Christ the Example

God has not shielded us from the difficulties, trials, and experiences of life, these are all necessary in order to develop the Christ-likeness in us. We learn to take them all without murmuring or complaining, without bitterness or antagonism in our hearts toward anyone, even if they have not treated us fairly. Peter points out in this passage one way in which Christ is our pattern or example but we are to copy him in all the affairs of life. When we come to the crossroads, when there are decisions to be made, we do not just please ourselves but ask the question, "what would Christ do?"

The word "example" in this passage is very interesting: it is from the Greek "hupogrammos." This is the only place where it occurs and a Greek scholar says that it means a written copy such as is set up for children, or an outline or sketch for a painter to fill up, then in general an example, a pattern, for imitation.

At the last supper Jesus gave us a most important lesson in the washing of his disciples’ feet. We find the account in John 13:13-15, "you call me Master and Lord and you say well for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you."

The lesson here presented was not that we need literally "wash one another’s feet" but simply that we should be prepared to perform the most menial tasks for each other, the most commonplace humdrum things, tiresome uninteresting duties. Jesus knew well that many would want to serve him in the bigger, and what they though t to be more important and honorable things. In the Lord’s sight nothing can be more important than the small, mundane, everyday tasks which we can do for each other, pictured by washing each other’s feet or the giving of a cup of cold water.

In all this, our heavenly Father has set Jesus before us as the pattern to follow. Those who have Christ in them are gradually growing into his likeness for we all bear the family resemblance to our elder brother and our heavenly Father. In Matthew 5:48 Jesus said, "Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect," and in Colossians 4:12 Paul, referring to Epaphras, states that he is "always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in the will of God."

A Desire for Perfection

We all have a strong desire for perfection, for completeness. We cannot be perfect in the absolute sense while in this body of flesh but that is the goal and pattern set before us, perfection, the same perfection that our heavenly Father has—nothing less. While we cannot attain to absolute perfection, through weakness of the fallen nature, as much as we would like to be able to do so, God desires us to develop perfection of character in heart condition, perfection of intent and desire. If we achieve that goal in this life, our gracious heavenly Father will make us perfect in the full sense on the other side of the vail on the resurrection morning.

If we have this desire for perfection of character, we can achieve it through the power and strength of Christ who is in us. We can achieve nothing worthwhile by relying on our own strength and might. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. If we have Christ dwelling in us, we have that desire for Christ-likeness and to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. The Scriptures tell us that God is love, so if we would be godlike, we must develop and grow in love—love for our neighbor, love for our enemies—and above all, we must obey the new commandment that our Master gave us, that "you love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34). "He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love" (1 John 4:8).

It is so important that we know God, not just about him, but really know him, know and appreciate his character, his love as manifest through his dear Son and in his glorious plan of salvation for all mankind, if we are to be perfect as he is perfect. We must have the correct pattern set before us, we must know just what his perfection is like, in other words, a correct understanding of his character. As we know, many have a very imperfect understanding of the character of God and the doctrines they believe and teach show him as being far from a God of love.

This is where Bible study and doctrine fit in—we study to know God and his Son Jesus Christ; we can only truly know them when we come to a full understanding and appreciation of the divine plan. We can obtain an insight into the character of God by looking around us at the many good and lovely people who are still in the world. We know that there is much wickedness but there are still many who have not fallen completely from the image in which God created mankind. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them" (Gen. 1:27).

The previous verse also uses the word "likeness," not the physical image and likeness but the character likeness. So by looking around us at the very best of men and women we can see in some small measure at least a reflection of the character of God. This is especially true when we look at our brothers and sisters in Christ, those who have Christ in them. They should all indeed be a reflection of the Lord. This is exactly the thought in 2 Corinthians 3:18, "But we all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord."

By looking at our brothers and sisters in Christ we do see in some measure a reflection of the character and love of our heavenly Father, bearing in mind that only one person has ever been a perfect reflection of God, and that, of course, was Christ. Let us keep this in mind when looking at our brothers and sisters in Christ and not expect absolute perfection.

Complete Oneness Not Achievable Now

It is evident that we are not going to achieve complete oneness of doctrine on this side of the vail, but let us not allow this to become a stumblingblock, let us not allow this to prevent our oneness in Christ in a spirit of love. It has been said that, when we awake on the resurrection morn, each and every one of us will find out that we had many things wrong. But let us rejoice in that we do hold so many precious truths in common, let us rejoice that we know our heavenly Father, we know that he is a God of love, as manifested by his glorious divine plan. We know our elder brother Jesus and have the hope of being like him and seeing him as he is one day.

Let us be very tolerant with one another, forgiving one another whenever the occasion arises as Christ forgave us. Paul says in Philippians 4:5, "Let you moderation be known to all men, the Lord is at hand." The Lord Jesus is indeed at hand. He is with us always. He sees our every deed and action. Another translation renders the verse, "Let your sweet reasonableness be known to all men"—the Greek word means to be yielding or pliable.

This sweet reasonableness is something which the Lord would have us display at all times, even to those we might feel are being quire unreasonable. What a beautiful world it will be when all have learned to develop this attribute! We who have Christ in us are developing that trait of character now. Let us all strive to develop more and more the sweet reasonableness desired by our Master at all times and especially towards each other.

"That he would grant you, according to his riches in glory, to be strengthened with might by his spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, the length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."—Ephesians 3:16-21