[Selected Writings II. Holiness: God’s Way Better Than Man’s. 1999, Invictus for "Truth For Today Bible Fellowship. Lafayette, IN.” Pp. 45-48]
Religion, as distinct from Christianity, is known by several unmistakable marks.
1. It gives its votaries plenty to believe. It makes large demands upon their credulity. Whether in India, China, Rome, or England there is a great deal that has to be swallowed.
2. It gives its votaries plenty to do. Works of all and many kinds are demanded; and gifts and payments have to be made. These works are Incessant and unceasing.
3. But Religion gives its votaries very little to hope for. From the Chinese heavens, which are entered according to merit, to the Mohammedan heaven of glorified licentiousness; Rome’s Purgatory and "four last things,” and the heaven of unconverted Protestants, which consists chiefly in meeting one’s relations again by some "fountain” or at some "gate.” In all these there is very little to hope for compared with "that blessed hope” revealed in the Gospel.
4. But one of the greatest contrasts consists in this – uncertainty as to salvation! In this, Religion and Christianity are exactly opposite. You may always know the profession of religion by this mark. They all practically deny that Christ’s work IS finished, that redemption has been accomplished, and that salvation was completed at the Cross, that He came "to save His people,” and he saved them. That is why religious people, today, talk about people being "saved” now, not knowing that all who are "in Christ” were saved on Calvary.
Even the most religious among Protestant Evangelicals, if asked whether they really believe when they profess and confess again and again with their lips – "I believe in the forgiveness of sins” – will seldom get beyond "I hope so,” or the assertion that "No one can ever know” in this life. They can never speak with certainty about it. Some call this humility and are proud of it, thinking it presumption to take the ground which the grace of God in Christ Jesus has given to us.
But this brings us to the contrast between all this and the Christianity which is revealed in the Church Epistles.
1. Christianity gives us the simplest possible matter to believe. We have to "believe God,” i.e., what God says and has said in His Word, and it is counted to us for righteousness (Rom. -24).
2. It gives us nothing whatever to do for salvation, for Christ has "done it all, long ago”; and what is now done by those who are saved is the irrepressible outcome of the New nature, which knows no joy equal to this.
3. It gives us a great and blessed hope, consisting of "exceeding great and precious promises.” The hope of being caught up to meet the Lord in the air and so of ever being with the Lord, glorified with His own glory.
4. But beside all this, it gives us now and here a blessed certainty as to our present accomplished salvation and a sweet enjoyment of it in our souls.
All who are in Christ are the happy possessors of the New nature, by which they are able to see the incorrigible character of the old nature (Rom. 8:7), and in which they have a standard by which to test it; and have a daily evidence that in ourselves "dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:8). Consequently, while religious people never rise higher than an effort to improve the old nature, the true Christian has learned that the old nature cannot please God (Rom. 8:8), that it is hostile to God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be (Rom. 8:7). While this fills him with daily conflict and at times with much distress, yet it is his one great ground of assurance, the blessed evidence that he is the happy possessor of this wondrous "gift of God” (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8), otherwise he would not know either his ruined condition as to himself, or the perfect standing which he has in Christ.
This was the position of the saints in Colosse, and ought to be the position of every true Christian to-day. The Epistle addressed to them begins with "Grace”: grace which meets with us as lost, delivers us, cleanses us, and sets us in perfect freedom before God our Father. God reveals it, Faith enjoys it, and sets aside all reasoning from feelings or experience.
The saints in Colosse are addressed as being "in Christ” (ver. 2) and therefore as "complete in Him” (ver. 9). "In whom WE HAVE redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (ver. 14). "Who HATH delivered us from the power of darkness and HATH translated us into the kingdom of His beloved Son” (ver. 13).
Thus we are assured of, and are dealt with as having, present redemption, present deliverance, and present translation.
And more than this. Those who possess such wondrous unmeasured blessedness, can only worship. We have nothing to ask or pray for as to our standing in Christ. This, we are assured, is "complete, in Him” (ver. 9), nothing can add to this completeness. We cannot ever grow or increase in it. We can increase in our enjoyment and appreciation of it, but we cannot grow in our relationship to God or our standing in Christ.
Of course, as to our walk and our whole path, now upon earth, it is true that in everything by prayer and supplication we are to let our requests be made known unto God; but if we realize our standing, our prayers will be full of praise, because our heart is so full of rest, and our cup so overflowing with blessing.
Hence, in verse 12, the prayer of the Apostle by the Holy Ghost for us is that we may be occupied in "giving thanks unto the Father, which HATH MADE US MEET to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” Surely we are overwhelmed by "the riches of the grace” which hat done such great things for us.
How few, even of the Lord’s own saved ones, know anything of the extent of the "riches” which are theirs! How few are engaged in counting over and dwelling upon this wealth of grace! Selfishness occupies their thoughts with themselves and their walk; and hence, the inevitable result is that they are looking for some work yet to be done in them or by them to make them meet. Some think that affliction and trials help to do this; others think that holiness of life will do something for them, not seeing that they have been now already "made meet” for glory, and not realizing that it is something not to be done, but which has been done.
The solemn fact is that all such, not only lose the peace and blessing and enjoyment of present certainty as to their standing; but, by taking up a position which implies the possibility of anything being able to add one iota to our meetness for Heaven, they (1) deny the truth as to the ruin of man in the flesh, (2) they set aside the work of God in having made us new creations in Christ, and (3) they call in question the full value of the work of Christ who "by the offering HATH perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14).
There is no limitation in these words in Col. 1. They are true of the veriest babe in Christ; of the humblest, poorest, weakest, and most ignorant believer, because they speak of and refer to the work of God in Christ, and not to our own abilities or attainments. True we may forget this, we may have doubts and fears, and we may through our infirmities be conscious of many failures, but these do not and cannot for one moment affect the work of God in Christ.
No! Ours is now a present meetness, always a perfect meetness. Oh! What rest for the heart! What peace for the mind, and All the work and gift of the Father, and all "in Christ” (Eph. 1:2).
We wait for the redemption of our body; we wait for the inheritance itself. But as to the forgiveness of ALL our sins, righteousness, sanctification, union with Christ, identification with Christ, completeness in Him, perfection in Him, we do not wait for this, because we have it all now, for it is written:
"who HATH MADE US MEET to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”