In Christ Jesus
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In Christ Jesus

Ephesians 2:13  (ID: 3175)

In Ephesians 2, Paul reminded his readers of who they once were, what God had done, and what followed from it. Alistair Begg explains that from God’s initiating work to the believer’s response, salvation hinges upon the phrase “in Christ Jesus.” When we have entered into this vital, organic relationship with Christ, our identity is hidden in Him, we rest in His complete security, and our mentality will be governed by His loving law.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Ephesians, Volume 3

One New Man Ephesians 2:11–22 Series ID: 14903

Sermon Transcript: Print

We’re going to read from Ephesians 2:11 to the end of the chapter. Ephesians 2, beginning at verse 11:

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of … two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”


Father, as we turn now to the Bible, please grant to us the aid of the Holy Spirit, that we might bow down underneath the truth of your Word, that we may take our stand upon it, that our lives may be transformed by it. For we ask it in Christ’s name. Amen.

Well, we’re picking up our study at verse 13 here. And since we’re going to move very slowly this morning—we’re not going to get beyond the opening phrase, “in Christ Jesus”—I think it’s perhaps helpful for us at least to see the big picture and the flow of Paul’s teaching here as we have it in the passage that I’ve just read. You’ll be helped, as I have been, by just noticing transitions. First of all, in verse 11: “Therefore remember,” and here’s the phrase, “at one time…” He comes back to it again in verse 12: “at that time.” “At one time…” And then in verse 13: “But now…” And then in verse 19: “So then…” All right? “At one time…” “But now…” “So then…”

“At one time,” he says. As we saw last time, in his description of the unbelieving gentiles, we had a picture of our pre-Christian reality. And if verses 1–10 explain the fact of our hopelessness, then verses 11 and following express our helplessness. And we saw last time that outside of Christ, the verdict of the Bible is that we are both hopeless and we are helpless. It points that out not to drive us to despair but to drive us to the only solution to our hopelessness and our helplessness—namely, in the gospel of the Lord Jesus. So, that’s the little section in verse 11 and 12: “At one time…”

And then in verse 13, he’s going on to contrast what he has just said was true of them by nature with what they are now by grace. And this contrast in verse 13 is akin to what he’s already done in verse 4. If you look back at verse 4, having in the first three verses outlined their predicament as being enslaved and condemned and dead and so on, he then says, “But God, being rich in mercy…” So God has intervened on their behalf, and things will never be the same again. And that’s what he’s doing once again in verse 13.

And then down in verse 19, when we finally get to it—which won’t be today—he begins to describe the results of what Christ has done. And what he has done is he has brought both Jew and gentile to the same place, to the foot of the cross, he has provided for them the same salvation in the blood of his Son, he has united them in their harmony with one another in Jesus, and he is putting together a whole new dimension of reality, which he describes here in metaphorical terms, in terms of a “holy temple” and a structure being built to the Lord.

When we are united with Christ, we are united with all who are in Christ.

So, he’s pointing out that their identity is directly tied to their experience of community. We try and say this consistently: that although we come to Christ as individuals, we do not live in him in a solitary fashion, but when we are united with Christ, we are united with all who are then in Christ. And it does not make sense to live then in isolation from those to whom we have been united. So, they were formerly stateless, and he’s going to tell them how they have now a whole new citizenship; they were friendless, but now they have a completely new family; and they were once alienated, but now they have been joined together.

Now, all of this actually flows out of this one phrase this morning that I want us to pay attention to, and it’s there in verse 13: “But now in Christ Jesus…” “In Christ Jesus.” This actually is the most common description in the Bible of a follower of Jesus—that he or she is a person “in Christ.” You might be surprised to be reminded of the fact that neither Jesus nor Paul, certainly in their recorded teaching, used the word Christian at all. In fact, Christian only appears in the New Testament three times. Once when Luke explains that the followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch.[1] And they weren’t called Christians in a nice way; they were called Christians in a not nice way: “You Christians. You Christianoús.” It is also when Paul gives his testimony before Agrippa, and Agrippa says to him, “Do you really think you’re going to make me one of these Christians in such a short time?”[2] And the other place, the only place that it’s actually used in any positive dimension, is in 1 Peter chapter 4, where Peter is speaking about suffering, and he says, you know, “If [you suffer] as a Christian…”[3] And he’s using it there simply as we most commonly use it—namely, as a follower of Jesus.

But you know, when you think this out, it makes sense that Paul—and he does this over a hundred and fifty times in his letters. Over a hundred and sixty actually! Not necessarily the exact phrase “in Christ Jesus,” but synonyms for that essentially. He comes to it again and again and again. He understands how vital it is that those who have professed faith in Jesus Christ understand that what has happened to them is that they have been united with Christ, that they live in union with Christ, that he is not an add-on to their profession of faith. They are in him. And it is on account of the fact of their union with him that everything else flows.

So that, for example, when you tell somebody these days, if someone says to you, “Well, what are you?” and you say, “Well, I’m a Christian,” well, they will often come back and say, “Well,” either “what does that mean?” or “what kind of Christian are you?” and so on. And the term itself is not actually particularly helpful. Because you constantly have to go back and explain, “No, not one of those. No, more like this, more like that.” So, we could make a case for saying that we would start to just tell people—they say, “What are you?”—say, “I am in Christ Jesus.” They’ll say, “Well, that’s a strange thing to say.” And you’d say, “Yeah, I did it deliberately, because I wanted to tell you what it actually means.” And they will say, “You mean, does it mean to be inside Christ, the way my keys are inside my glovebox or the way my clothes are in my closet? Inside Christ?” “No,” we will say. “No, it doesn’t mean that at all. It means to be united to Christ the way a limb is part of a body or the way a branch is part of a vine.” In other words, that the union that exists is a personal, organic union that is brought about, as we’ve seen already in Ephesians here, as a result of God’s gracious initiative.

Now, the danger in doing what I’m going to do in the balance of time, in sticking with one phrase, is that it becomes a bit of a rabbit trail. And I confess that. It is a purposeful rabbit trail, which I hope you will agree with by the time I’ve finished. If you don’t, then let me apologize in advance. But let me turn you to a number of passages in the Bible.

First of all, in John chapter 15. Because it is here in John 15 that Jesus uses this very terminology concerning the vine and the branches. In fact, in 14:20, when he’s thinking about leaving his followers, he says, “I [won’t] leave you as orphans”—this is John 14:18—“I will come to you.” Chapter 14. And “yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”[4] That’s quite a thought, isn’t it? That the context in which his followers find themselves is that they are united in Christ, they are included in Christ.

And so, when he goes into chapter 15, he picks a picture that would be familiar to them, the vine and the branches, and he says, “I am the true vine, … my Father is the vinedresser. [And] every branch in me”—notice the terminology, notice the preposition—“every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”[5]

It’s not our purpose this morning to stop here, but let’s just notice in passing that to be in Christ—to be in the in the vine, as it were—is to be pruned. And all pruning is purposeful. Sometimes it is painful. It may often look haphazard from where we’re sitting. But in the economy of God, it never is. The Vinedresser knows exactly what he’s doing. And when he prunes us—when we feel, as it were, the knife of his pruning on us—it is in order, we’re told, in order that we then, the branches, “may bear more fruit.” “Already,” verse 3, “you are clean because of the word I[’ve] spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you.” He goes on to say, “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” Any sensible schoolboy can get ahold of this. “Apart from me,” he goes on to say, “you can do nothing.”

So, the reality of our Christian experience is that we are united with Christ, we are placed into Christ—not inside of Christ. In fact, there are two sides to this, because the Bible also speaks—in fact, Jesus here is speaking of—he being in us by the Holy Spirit and we being in him by the Holy Spirit: two sides of one coin, expressing the fact of our union with Christ. Classically, in Paul, 2 Corinthians 5: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”[6] And of course, Paul is going to go on to speak about this new creation that God is making that comprises all who are redeemed, put in this new family, brought together in a tribe that no one will be able, ultimately, to number, that will have every flavor and category and language and picture and face that we could ever imagine in one great, gigantic jigsaw puzzle of God’s grace.[7] That’s what he’s doing. And every time that another face is added to the collage, as it were, it is a testimony to the wonder of God’s goodness.

To be in Christ—to be in the vine—is to be pruned. And all pruning is purposeful. Sometimes it is painful. It may often look haphazard from where we’re sitting. But in the economy of God, it never is.

Now, the reason this is so important is because it establishes your identity as a believer. You believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is your identity. You are “in Christ Jesus.” You’re not in… It doesn’t mean that because you have an admiration for Jesus, because you like the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount, because you are able to rehearse the creeds… No, it means that you, by grace, through faith, have been personally, organically brought into a relationship with Jesus which can only be described in this terminology, in the mystery of it, in the wonder of it, in the entire nature of it. And it’s vital that we understand it. Because if we don’t understand it as individuals and as a congregation, then we will tell the wrong story, and we will lead people up the wrong path. What we’re talking about here is what God has done for us in Jesus. The authentic follower of Jesus is in him.

Now, Paul has described for these Ephesians, reminded them, the gentiles, of the way in which this came about in their lives. If you go back to chapter 1 of Ephesians, you will recall, I hope, that having spoken of those who were the first to hope in Christ—namely, the Jew, because salvation is first for the Jew and then for the gentile.[8] All the early believers were Jewish. “We”—including himself with that group, Paul says “we,” verse 12—“who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” Then verse 13: “In him”—notice again—“in him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, … believed in him, [and] were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”

So, this is of absolute, vital importance. When these folks rehearsed the story of God’s grace in their lives, they would have marveled at all that Paul has said in Ephesians 1. They would have said, “You know, the amazing thing about this is that I was ‘chosen [in] my Maker,’ I was ‘hidden in my Savior,’[9] and this before even the mountains were formed.” And someone says to him, “Well, how did you personally, you know, engage with this?” And they would have said, “Well”—verse 13—“I heard the Word of Truth, I realized it was the gospel of salvation, I believed it, and I was sealed, I was authenticated, I was marked with the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. God invaded my life. This is something that I actually did. I believed.”

Now, we’ve said this before, and we need to keep saying it: that while God elects to salvation, he doesn’t believe for us. We believe. John chapter 1. You needn’t go there. It’s part of the rabbit trail. But let me quote it to you: “He came to his own, … his own people did[n’t] receive him,” by and large. “But to all who did”—notice the verb—“receive him”—notice the verb—“who believed in his name, he gave the right to become [the] children of God.”[10]

So, for example, you take a religious man like Nicodemus, like some of you people here this morning. You’re religious, like Nicodemus. You’re sincere, as was Nicodemus. You’re well-educated, like him. And you’re quite happy to hang around religious people. But outside of Christ, like Nicodemus, the Bible says you’re blind, you’re helpless, and you’re in need of what only God can do. In need of what? In need of new birth. In need of regeneration. That’s why Jesus says to Nicodemus, “Nicodemus, here’s the deal: unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.[11] Unless a man is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” A lady once said to George Whitefield when he was preaching, she said, “Whitefield, why do you keep saying to people, ‘You must be born again’?” And Whitefield said, “Because you must be born again.” There is no other way!

Well, did you bring about your own birth, physically? No. Spiritually? No! Oh, I know that somebody told you, “You must turn to Christ and be repentant of your sins,” and you did all that, and it seemed like you were doing everything. But now you’ve gone along the road a little while, and you keep looking back, and further back, and further back, and you say, “You know, it’s remarkable that I was even there. It’s remarkable that he gave me that book. It’s remarkable that she shared with me what she did.” And as you trace the line further back, where do you trace it to? You trace it to eternity. In him you heard the gospel, you believed.

Now, the fact is (and this is what Paul is, of course, pointing out in the classic section of 2:8, 9, and 10) that the faith—our faith, our laying hold of the promises of God—is actually rooted in the activity of God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” It’s your faith. “And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”[12] So the identity that is ours in Christ and the mystery of the work of Christ are there with each other.

Now, let me take you to two other places—first of all, to Romans chapter 6, and then to Colossians chapter 3—in order just to make this point.

Paul in Romans, as you know, begins by showing how the whole world is accountable before God: “All have sinned and [have come] short of the glory of God.”[13] He points out that there’s no way that we can work out our condition and put ourselves in a right standing with God. He then says, “But the glory of the good news is that the righteousness of God has been manifested. It’s apart from the law. And it is that which the law and the prophets have testified to, but it is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”[14] Okay?

So, a righteousness that is alien to us, through Jesus Christ, as a result of what Christ has done. He has kept the law in its perfection. He’s the only righteous man that ever lived. He has borne the penalty of sin which we deserve, but he took in our place. And now that righteousness is imputed to all who believe. Therefore, it is not to those who don’t believe. As Calvin says, all that Christ has done for us is of no value to us so long as we remain outside of Christ[15]—so that there is an appropriation, there is an acceptance, there is a gift that is to be received. And whether that takes place instantaneously in a great dramatic moment or whether it takes place over a period of time, whatever way it comes about, eventually the person begins to sing the songs and suddenly says, “You know, I actually believe this! Something has happened to me. I guess I have been born from above, and I believe. And as a result of believing, I know myself to be included in this company.”

Now, by the time he gets to chapter 6, Paul is recognizing the fact that somebody will put up their hand and say, “Well, if this justification-by-faith thing means that I am completely righteous in Christ, that I am now raised with him,” as he said in Ephesians 1, “that I am seated with him in the heavenly places,[16] that the whole thing is signed, sealed, and delivered, why don’t I just sin as much as I want to sin? Actually, I can’t affect the thing at all!”

And Paul says, “Now, listen, let’s just think about this.” “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin”—we’ll just go on sinning—“[so] that grace may abound?” So that we can say, “Look how wonderful God is that he forgives”? “By no means!” Now, what’s his argument? “How can we who died … still live in it?”[17] What do you mean “died”? We’re alive! No, died with Christ in his death.

And then he says, “Picture it in terms of baptism.” “[Don’t you] know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism”[18]—not that baptism achieved this, as the Roman Catholic Church teaches, but that baptism portrayed this.

So, when the person has been brought face-to-face with the Word of Truth, the gospel of salvation, and has believed, has discovered who Jesus really is, as Paul did—Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus—then it follows logically that they would then be prepared to let everybody know that they are under new management, that they have been brought underneath the jurisdiction of another other than themselves. So the baptismal pool, which I stand on top of here—closed, mercifully—but the baptismal pool is like a grave. And it is purposefully like a grave, so that when the person is baptized, the metaphor unfolds: buried with him in baptism, raised with him to newness of life. Nothing special in the water. All accomplished by Christ, but portrayed, then, in this way.

Now, what is Paul’s argument? He says, “You live in a society where they regard sex as just fun with anyone you want, anytime you want. But you have been united with Christ. You now live in a community where Jesus says sex is for the enjoyment of relationships within the commitment of marriage and only within the commitment of marriage. Therefore, since you have been united with Christ, it is absolutely incongruous for you then to engage in that which he who is now your Lord and King has told you is off-limits.”

You can take it all the way down the line. Society says, “You are what you have amassed.” Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”[19] Society says, “It’s the tough guys that win.” Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”[20] Society says, “Give as good as you get. Get ’em back.” Jesus says, “Forgive your enemies, and do nice things to those who can’t stand you.”

“So,” he says, “what is the impetus for this? It is that you are united with Christ.” It is not that you’ve decided to be religious. It is not that you’ve determined to live a better life. In fact, you even surprise yourself! Because you know yourself to be sinful. You know how easy it is to be tempted. And the answer to it is not to pull the shutters up and run for your life. The answer is to remind yourself who you are: “This is who I am: I am a new creation. I died with him. I’ve been raised with him. He ascended, and I ascended with him. I have been seated with him in the heavenly places.” It is absurd; it’s not impossible. But that’s the appeal, you see.

Dementia is a dreadful thing, is it not? When people grow older—especially, I guess, presenile dementia, where there is a loss of identity. People no longer know who they are. You find them in the street. They have no way of identifying where they’re going or what they’re doing. It’s a terrible thing! But what is an even worse thing? It’s for that to happen. In that case, you’ve known who you are, and you’ve forgotten who you are. But in the case of some of us in Jesus, we’ve never known who we are! We’ve never known who we are. We got a kinda dementia as it relates to our identity. And that’s why Paul, a hundred and sixty plus times, says to his readers again and again and again, “You need to know who you are. You need to know that your life is Christ’s life.”

And when you go from Romans 6 into Colossians 3, as I suggested, it comes across with great clarity. Indeed, I’ve already been dipping into it. You can sense that when you turn to Colossians 3. “If then”—or “Since then,” equally good—“if then,” since then, “you have been raised with Christ…”[21] What does that mean? Well, we’ve been united with Christ. That’s his argument in Ephesians 1. “The same power,” he said, “that raised Jesus from the dead is the power that has been unleashed in your life to bring you from death to life. He was raised, and you were raised with him. He has ascended, and you have ascended too.”

As Don Carson told us as pastors at the conference a few weeks ago, as he was speaking tangentially about this, he says this notion of being raised with Christ is the spatial dimension of realized eschatology. You have to love Don Carson for just a phrase like that. But it makes perfect sense. In other words, this is absolutely done and certain. It’s not questionable. We are both in Christ and we are in Cleveland. We are raised, and we’re down here. We are both perfect and horribly imperfect. Perfect in the righteousness of Christ: he looks on us, and he sees us in his Son. Our wives look on us, and they don’t see us like that. We look on ourselves, and if we look inside of ourselves, there’s only reason for discouragement, there’s only reason for disappointment. ’Cause I haven’t done what I said I would do. I’ve done what I said I wouldn’t do. I was going to do this, and I didn’t do that, and I probably did it again, and so on.

So, where do I look? Well, I look to my identity. I am, in Christ, a new creation. That’s what he’s saying: “[Since] then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above. … Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. For you have died”—and here’s this amazing phrase—“and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”[22] My life is hidden with Christ in God.

The marriage of Christ to his church is an irrevocable engagement.

We used to sing it as children: “Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on his gentle breast.”[23] I used to love that song as a child. Such a beautiful metaphor! I’m safe. He’s got me. And he’s keeping me. And he won’t let me go. Why? Because he took the initiative in getting ahold of me, and he didn’t get ahold of me to let me go.

The marriage of Christ to his church is an irrevocable engagement. That’s what makes marriage wonderful, if you can stick with it, you know. That’s why I love songs with the lines like “As long as old men sit and talk about old women, as long as old women sit and talk about…” No,

As long as old men sit and talk about the weather,
As long as old women sit and talk about old men, …
[Honey,] I’m gonna love you forever.[24]

And Overstreet finishes that song, “If you wonder,” he says to his wife, “if you wonder how long I’ll be faithful, well, just listen to how this song ends. ’Cause I’m gonna love you forever, forever and ever, amen.”[25]

Now, on our best day, we can only approximate to that. But God says that. That’s exactly what God says! When he took ahold of you, when he drew you to himself, when you, in childlike trust, opened up your empty hands and took hold of that which he made available to you by his death on the cross, he promised. In fact, way before you even did anything, he had already promised. That’s what makes it so amazing! “I’m gonna love you forever.”

Loved with everlasting love,
Led by grace that love to know;
Spirit breathing from above,
Thou hast taught me it is so!
O what perfect peace is this!

His forever, only his;
Who the Lord and me shall part?
Ah, with what a rest of bliss
Christ can fill the loving heart!
Heaven and earth may fade and flee,
And earthborn light in gloom decline;
But while God and man shall be,
I am his, and he is mine.[26]

That’s what Paul is saying. He’s saying, “This is what has transformed my life. I was a radical Jew. I hated this Jesus thing. But he has transformed me, and I know now that the reason that I tell you this story”—the reason that he says in 2 Corinthians 5, “I say to you, I beseech you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”[27] In other words, “Receive the reconciliation that God has provided for you in Jesus. And when you do, you’ll discover that your identity is just this, and that your security is found in this, and that your mentality will be governed by this.”

Now, we’ll go on from here later on, but for now, we should draw this to a close. And I want to remind you of a story I told some years ago now about a Chinese student that I met on Harvard Square in a coffee shop one morning when I was there for a conference. It was empty. It was early in the morning. I was sitting at a table. I happened to have my Bible out, because I had to give a talk that day. And so this girl came in with a backpack—just a young Chinese girl, as it turned out. And she saw my Bible, and she said to me, she said, “Are you a Christian?” I said yes. At that time I wasn’t, you know, doing what I do now. I said yes. I said, “Are you a Christian?” And she said yes. And I said, “Tell me how you became a Christian.”

And this was her answer, and I’ve never forgotten it: she said, “I enter through narrow gate.” “I enter through narrow gate.” Do you remember what Jesus said? “There is a broad road; it’s completely full. There’s a narrow road; it leads to life. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved.”[28] And the Chinese girl said, “I heard the Word of Truth, the gospel of my salvation. I believed. I enter through narrow gate.”

See, that’s the thing, isn’t it? Somebody says to you, “So, what is this Christian thing you’re on about? What do you mean, you’re a Christian?” What are you going to tell them? Well, what Paul’s going to go on and say is—if you want it just in a phrase, especially for the gentiles—he says, “You who were far away he has brought near.”[29] So, far away, near. I was once far, far away; now I’m near.

As I finished my studies this week, I had one picture, then, in my mind. And it was the picture of Joseph disclosing himself to his brothers in Genesis 45. If you remember—we won’t do the background to the story—but eventually, after all the comings and goings, the brothers are present, and Joseph can’t control himself anymore, because his brothers are there, and he realizes what he’s confronted with. So he shouts out, “Everybody out! Get everybody out of here!”[30] And the record records, “So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so [loud] that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph!’”[31]

What an interesting thing! I mean, where the brothers are like, “Really?” Well, they didn’t know he was Joseph. And I would imagine that when he dispensed with the Egyptians, he probably dispensed with the evidences of his statehood. Perhaps his Egyptian headdress had obscured his visage even from his brothers. And he takes off, as it were, the majesty of his statehood, and he lays it down, and he reveals himself to these guys—“I am Joseph.” That ring any bells for you? Saul of Tarsus is blinded by a light brighter than the noonday sun. He falls on the dust of the Damascus Road, and a voice from heaven says, “I am Jesus.”[32] “I’m Jesus.”

And Joseph says to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.”[33] “Come near to me, please.” It would have been legitimate if he said, “I am Joseph. Welcome to Egypt. The jail is down here. You will only be in it a short while, because most of you will have your heads chopped off as a result of all that you’ve done. You were my enemies. You were opposed to me. You did all these things to me.” But: “Hey, come near to me.”

That’s what Jesus says. That’s what he says to you if you have never actually closed with his offer of mercy. Do you know what he says to you? “Come near to me. Draw near to me.” How do you draw near to Jesus? By taking him at his word. By believing his promises. By receiving him. By being placed in Christ Jesus.

Father, we thank you that your Word is clear. Mine always isn’t. Any confusion is always on our side of the fence. So grant, Lord, that we may have absolute clarity in these matters, so that those of us who profess to know you may have our chins lifted up out of our chests—may realize that when we sing “In Christ alone my hope is found,”[34] we’re supposed to really, really mean that. And help us to marvel again at the wonder of the song that you give us to sing and with which we close. For we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

[1] See Acts 11:26.

[2] Acts 26:28 (paraphrased).

[3] 1 Peter 4:16 (ESV).

[4] John 14:19–20 (ESV).

[5] John 15:1–2 (ESV).

[6] 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV).

[7] See Revelation 7:9.

[8] See Romans 1:16.

[9] Stuart Townend and Andrew Small, “Loved before the Dawn of Time (Salvation’s Song)” (2007).

[10] John 1:11–12 (ESV).

[11] John 3:3 (paraphrased).

[12] Ephesians 2:8 (ESV).

[13] Romans 3:23 (ESV).

[14] Romans 3:21–22 (paraphrased).

[15] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.1.1.

[16] See Ephesians 1:20.

[17] Romans 6:1–2 (ESV).

[18] Romans 6:3–4 (ESV).

[19] Matthew 6:21 (paraphrased).

[20] Matthew 5:5 (ESV).

[21] Colossians 3:1 (ESV).

[22] Colossians 3:1–3 (ESV).

[23] Fanny Crosby, “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” (1868).

[24] Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, “Forever and Ever, Amen” (1987).

[25] Overstreet and Schlitz. Paraphrased.

[26] George W. Robinson, “I Am His, and He Is Mine” (1876). Lyrics lightly altered.

[27] 2 Corinthians 5:20 (paraphrased).

[28] Matthew 7:13–14 (paraphrased).

[29] Ephesians 2:13 (paraphrased).

[30] Genesis 45:1 (paraphrased).

[31] Genesis 45:1–3 (ESV).

[32] Acts 9:5 (ESV).

[33] Genesis 45:4 (ESV).

[34] Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, “In Christ Alone” (2001).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.