Another essential thing in the Christian life is to understand the difference between position and practice or relationship and fellowship. What we mean by this is that the believer has a new position and relationship before God that is eternal and perfect and unchanging and that depends entirely upon Christ, but the believer also has a practice in this present world that is less than perfect and that depends on his obedience.
Multitudes of professing Christians have become discouraged or even shipwreck from failure to understand this truth. This almost happened to Harry Ironside, the famous Bible commentator. He began his Christian life as a zealous member of the Salvation Army. Believing their doctrine of a second blessing of sinless perfection, Harry set out to obtain this experience. He fasted and prayed and sought God as earnestly as he knew how. Finally he went out into the woods, determining to stay as long as necessary, and he experienced what he thought was the second blessing. He returned to a Salvation Army meeting and stood up to testify that he “had found it.” Soon, though, he realized that the “old man” was still present in his life, and he became so discouraged that he had a breakdown and ended up in a hospital. He determined to forget about the Christian life, since it “didn’t work,” but God sent two believers to instruct him properly in biblical sanctification. He was then able to establish his Christian life on a proper foundation and go on to be a very fruitful servant of Christ.
Relationship and Fellowship
The believer has been adopted into God’s family as a son because of Christ’s blood (Galatians 3:26), and this new relationship will never change. It is a gift that was purchased at great price. God will never “kick” the believer out of His family. At the same time, in this present world fellowship with God depends on whether or not I walk in the light (1 John 1:5-7). If I walk in darkness I am out of fellowship, but this does not change my relationship. God spanks His children to bring them back into fellowship (Hebrews 12:6-10).
Relationship and fellowship can be illustrated by human relationships. I was born into my father’s family and I am his son. Nothing has ever changed that. There were times when I was disobedient and foolish and I displeased my father, and we did not have good fellowship together during those times. My father still loved me and yearned for my fellowship, but I had to repent and honor him before that could happen. The same is true in God’s family.
Position and Practice, Standing and Walk
Another way to describe this is position and practice or standing and walk. Consider the book of Ephesians.
The first three chapters describe the believer’s new position or standing in Christ, whereas the last three chapters describe his practice or walk in this world.
The key phrase in chapters 1-3 is “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:1, 3, 10, 12, 20; 2:6, 10, 13; 3:6, 11). In God’s eyes, the believer is in Christ. He is forgiven, justified (declared righteous), redeemed, adopted, and given eternal life. The believer is “blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). This new position is not based on the believer’s works. It is God’s free gift in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). The price was Christ’s own blood (Eph. 1:7). Therefore, the new position is sure and unchanging.
In chapters 4-6 the subject changes to the believer’s practice in this present world. The key word here is “walk” (Ephesians 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15). This word describes Christian living. If the believer doesn’t “walk” in obedience, he does not have right fellowship with the Lord. If he walks in sin, he displeases the Lord and grieves the indwelling Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). But he does not lose his position in Christ. That is settled and sure and eternal.
The two aspects of the Christian life are seen together in Ephesians 5:8. The believer is a child of light “now.” It is a present possession and position that was purchased by Christ and received as a free gift through faith. Since we are children of light, we should walk as children of light. In other words, since we are saved and have eternal life and are children of God, we should live like it.
1. If the believer does not understand these things, he can become very discouraged and confused when he sins. Those who believe that a born again child of God can lose his salvation do not understand this clear teaching of Scripture.
2. The fact that the believer’s position is not affected by his daily walk is no excuse to sin. We have already seen in these studies the terrible price that believer must pay if he does not walk in fellowship with his Lord. We have also seen that it is possible to be a professor of salvation without being a possessor.
Excerpted from the ONE YEAR DISCIPLESHIP COURSE. This powerful new course features 52 lessons in Christian living. It can be broken up into sections and used as a new converts course, an advanced discipleship course, a Sunday School series, a Home Schooling or Bible Institute course, or preaching outlines. The lessons are thorough, meaty, and very practical. There is an extensive memory verse program built into the course, and each lesson features carefully designed review questions. Following are the lesson titles (some subjects feature multiple lessons): Repentance, Faith (for salvation), The Gospel, Baptism, Eternal Security, Position and Practice, The Law and the New Testament Christian, Christian Growth and Victory, Prayer, Faith (in Christian living), The Armor of God, The Church, The Bible, The Bible’s Proof, Daily Bible Study, Key Principles of Bible Interpretation, Foundational Bible Words, Knowing God's Will, Making Wise Decisions, Christ’s Great Commission, Suffering in the Christian Life, The Judgment Seat of Christ, Separation - Moral, Tests of Entertainment, Separation - Doctrinal, Fasting, Miracles, A Testing Mindset, Tongues Speaking, The Rapture, How to Be Wise with Your Money, The Believer and Drinking, Abortion, Evolution, Dressing for the Lord.
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