STUDY - STANDING AND STATE
The difference between a believer's Standing and his State, is a doctrine often overlooked yet is one of the most important truths found in the New Testament. Now, it's true that those exact words "standing & state" will not be found as such in the Scripture, but as with many doctrines found in the Bible, it is a formulation of fact derived from a number of related verses. In reference to Scripture, then, a
doctrine refers to the entire body of essential theological truths that define and describe that teaching. I Tim 4:16 "Take heed unto yourself, and unto the
doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this you shall both save yourself, and them that hear you." It is this doctrine, or teaching, about the difference between the believer's standing in Christ in contrast to his actual day by day state, that will clarify a great deal of confusion surrounding the security of our relationship with God.
For most students of the Bible, it comes as no surprise that the Old Testament portion of the Bible is basically the same as the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), primary authority in the Jewish faith. The word 'Torah' (means 'law, teachings' or 'instructions') refers to the five books of Moses, also knows as the Pentateuch in the Christian faith. It is in those first five books of the Bible that we find mention of the words "law" over 200 times, and for good reason. Efforts by Hebrew scholars to codify and enumerate the commandments contained in the Torah, yield an astonishing 613 commandments in those five books alone.
I mention this only to point out the fact that laws and legal terms are inherently part of ancient Hebrew culture and, in consequence, Hebrew Christians in the New Testament era enjoyed an implicit understanding of legal concepts which escape the average Gentile reader. Thus, the distinction drawn by the Apostle Paul between the believer's legal
standing in Christ and the
state, he or she experienced, was well understood and appreciated by the Jewish reader. In this day and age, however, such is not the case with the average student of the Bible. So let's take a quick look and contrast these two terms.
STANDING (POSITION): The is a legal term used in Scripture to precisely describe the believer's spiritual relationship with God. The
unbeliever stands before God as a sinner condemned to death row. He is alienated from the life of God; Eph. 4:18 "Being darkened in their understanding,
alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart". In contrast to the believer, the unbeliever is condemned already:
John 3:18 "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is
condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. "
Whereas in Christ, the believer is once for all reconciled to God through His death and presents us, as our substitute, before God in His own perfection and holiness. Colossians 1:21-22
And although you were at
one time estranged and alienated and hostile-minded toward God,
participating in evil things,
22 yet Christ has now
reconciled you to God in His physical body through death, in order to present you before the Father
holy and blameless and beyond reproach.
Having once accepted Christ as Savior, we stand before God
IN Christ. God does not see us as we were, sinners alienated from Him, but now we stand IN the beloved and are acceptable to God because of the vicarious work of Christ to pay for our sins. Read carefully this wonderful passage in Ephesians 1: 1-7
"He chose us in Christ, actually selected us for Himself as His own, before the foundation of the world, so that we would be consecrated, set apart for Him, and blameless in His sight. In love,
and lovingly planned for us to be adopted to Himself as His own children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the kind intention
and good pleasure of His will;
to the praise of His glorious grace
and favor, which He so freely bestowed on us
in the Beloved, Jesus Christ. In Him (Christ) we have redemption, that is deliverance and salvation, through His blood, which paid the penalty for our sin and resulted in the forgiveness
and complete pardon of our sin, in accordance with the riches of His grace
which He lavished on us."
So our legal standing before God the Father, is the result of the act Jesus Christ performed on the cross in atonement for our sins. It was that singular act of self sacrifice which appeased a righteous God for the sins of all mankind and made possible, for the very first time, the vicarious attribution of Christ's sinless life to any and all who received Christ as their substitute by faith. It was a complete, once for-all-act, planned by God before the foundation of the world, which
declares righteous and without fault all those who place their faith in Him. It's important to note that, although we are not righteous, we were pronounced righteous and without fault because we placed our faith in Him. Now, as regards our relationship with the Heavenly Father, every believer is seen by God to be crucified with Christ, no longer alive, but standing
IN Christ is now seen only as a perfected child through Christ's merit. Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
It is this standing before God that grants us a multitude of benefits as heirs and joint-heirs with Christ. Take a brief look at what we now enjoy as a result of our standing in Christ: "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:1-2). "And ye are
complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power" (Col. 2: 10).
All these, and many more, are part of the inheritance freely granted to us in Christ. It's important to note that these benefits are ours, not because we in any way deserve them nor are they, in any way, rewards for works we have done. All this comes to us by
grace, it is
unmerited favor shown to us by God because of Christ's obedient sacrifice on our behalf. This is the only way it can result to the "praise of the glory of His grace". Eph. 1:6: To the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
Whereas our legal
standing, before God renders us perfect and without blame in the person of Christ, not so with our
state. The word state means: "the condition of a person or thing, as with respect to circumstances or attributes" Is that sufficiently vague? In the context of our discussion today it simply means are current lifestyle, the performance of our Christian values in daily life, the thoughts and actions we do every moment of the day. This is practical Christianity, the thoughts and action we employ every second of every day as we interact with the world around us. It is the status of our thoughts and behavior at any given moment as a measure of growth in Grace and Knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is what we choose to do, based on our current knowledge of the Scriptures and God's Will for our lives. Whereas our standing in Christ before God is always perfect, our state fluctuates from day to day as we attempt to think and do in accord with God's Will. Will we ever reach earthly perfection? No, but that has no bearing on matter. In fact, it is the tension, often uncomfortable, between these two disparate conditions, our attributed perfection through Christ and our actual status in our daily lives, that motivates us ever onward toward Christ likeness. The Apostle Paul sums it up with these words found in:
Philippians 3:12-16: Not as though I had already attained,
either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do,
forgetting those things which are behind,
and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus
minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise
minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us
mind the same thing.
Now before we leave this verse, I want to point out an obvious "contradiction" in this passage. Paul admits, in verse 12, that he was not yet perfect yet in verse 15 he seems to say, "Let us.. those who are perfect, be thus minded". Once again we have to turn to the original language to resolve this confusion. In the first instance in verse 13, Paul acknowledged that he had not attained perfect righteousness nor attained unto that for which he was apprehended by God, that is to become like Christ: Romans 8:28-29
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the
called according to his purpose. (29) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be
conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. So Paul acknowledges that he had not yet reached the pinnacle of Christ likeness but he continued to "press toward that mark for the prize of the high calling of God".
But what of the second use of the word when he says (Verse 15) "as many as be perfect". This word refers to "maturity", having grown in the Lord to the point that imparted wisdom allowed them to understand and be like minded.
Finally, let's conclude this section with a well know illustration of these two conditions:
standing and state. Although not part of our democratic society;, royalty still exists in many parts of the world. When a prince is born to a royal family his is as ignorant and willful as any other child, perhaps even more so. While growing up, there are times when he would be obedient, affectionate, teachable and approved of by his parents. At other times, just like any child will, he might be unruly, disobedient and evoke the disapproval of his parents even to the point of chastening. However, regardless of his particular state at any given moment, his royal standing is never brought into question.
With time, however, it is expected that he will mature and learn the lessons necessary to one day become king. In short, the prince, who was born to the position (standing), will, little by little, learn to become more princely in his behavior (state). Likewise, we are born into the family of God and inherit, by faith, the position of kings and priests: Rev 1:6 "And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father". Now, it's up to us, through the power of God's Holy Spirit, to imitation the life, behavior and goals of the King of Kings, Christ Jesus Romans 8:29