“Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (I John 4:17-18)
What an amazing passage this is!
It speaks of the end of fear and then makes another amazing statement.
That we are like Christ in this world.
But what does that mean?
How can that be?!
I have thought long and hard on these verses. And have a couple ideas to help explain what they mean.
Consider the following: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Being already crucified with Christ, I am now dead to the law. And dead to the world. But somehow I still live. How can that be?
The answer is that Christ now lives in me. Because I have also been resurrected with Christ (Colossians 3:1-4).
What that means is that my identity is no longer something separate from the Person of Christ. My life is now literally the Lord who lives within me. Jesus Christ is now my Life.
If this sounds strange or mystical (and therefore rejected by many Christians) it is actually the new reality that we live in as believers.
But, if we fail to understand this, then we will simply spend our lives slugging it out against sin and working in our own strength to do all that Christ commanded us to do. And ultimately failing to do anything in the Spirit.
Life Instead of Things
I once heard an illustration to explain our new life in Christ that goes like this (I think this came from Bob George of People to People and Bob George Ministries).
If you wanted to golf like Tiger Woods, how would you go about it?
Well, you could go out and buy every book that he wrote. And watch every video he ever produced about his technique, philosophy, etc. And then try to duplicate it all. Just giving yourself over, night and day, to knowing everything possible about Tiger Woods.
And, although you would probably become a much better golfer, you would never actually be Tiger Woods.
Because only he is Tiger Woods.
The same problem exists for the Christian.
The Imitation of God?
Many Christians try to focus on imitating Christ. There are even books out there with titles like, The Imitation of Christ. And they all do the same thing. They keep us trying to imitate God. To, in a sense, be like God.
Have you ever seriously considered the implications of the verse, “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy”? (I Peter 1: 15-17)
It is easy to gloss over the real meaning there.
We tend to look at that verse as a target. As a goal we are supposed to shoot for; even though we all know we will never reach it.
And that is how most Christians live today.
We tend to live by picking out some area of the life of Christ we think is most important and then shoot for that as a target. Believing that this is how the Lord wants us to live for Him.
But knowing, deep down, we will fail miserably in reaching that goal.
Yet, somehow, we think that striving for that is what the Lord is telling us to do.
And that, in the end, the Lord will reward us based on how hard we tried to meet that impossible goal. Based on our sincerity, sacrifice, and devotion toward that goal we never actually met.
To Be Or Not to Do
However, the verb used in the above passage is written in the passive voice. It is speaking of a state of being as opposed to a state of doing. It is about what we are and not what we are doing.
And it’s not that our works are unimportant. It’s about getting the cart before the horse.
Holiness is an attribute of God. He is the Holy One of Israel. And He is the Holy Lamb of God.
We are “holy” only because Christ is holy. Or, more accurately, we are holy because Christ Himself is our holiness.
All that we know of Life or of Holiness or of Righteousness or of Love or of any other pure and good thing, we only know because these things have been imputed to us based upon what we have been given in Christ. Based upon who He is.
Because God Says So
“Imputed” means that we have what we have and are what we are because God has declared it to be so. He declares those things which be not as though they were (Romans 4:17).
Take another look at the Galatians passage above: “and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
According to this, whose faith do we now live by? This says that we live “by the faith of the Son of God“. It doesn’t say faith in the Son of God. It says by the faith of the Son of God.
And there is a huge difference.
Words Mean Specific Things
If anyone is reading a Bible translation other than the KJV (And please, forgive me for the taking the opportunity to point out this critical point), they won’t see this. Because, like so many other verses in the new translations, they water down the meaning of verses. Or, they just eliminate verses altogether.
This happens because they have used a generic kind of translation method. Where the words are not as important as whatever meaning the translator has chosen to give to those words.
In other words, the translator chooses to become an interpreter.
This is the primary difference between a Formal translation process versus a Dynamic Equivalency translation process. One gives you a formal equivalent of the word in English (as accurately as is possible in going from the Greek or Hebrew); while leaving interpretation to the reader.
The other method leans toward Interpreting what the verse says. Kind of like what a commentary does. But not as honest as a commentary; which is published as an obvious interpretation of the verses.
Interpretation is the business and right of the Holy Spirit alone; it is He who reveals the truth to the reader. It is not the right of the translator to tell us what the Holy Spirit means. The translator’s job is to faithfully tell us what the words should be in English.
In conclusion, “of the Son of God” is about Christ’s faith or faithfulness. It is about Christ’s finished work.
Such as in the verse that says how Jesus is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Or “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” (I Thessalonians 5:24).
These passages are all about God’s working in us. With the Lord Jesus being our life, our holiness, our righteousness. These things only exist in Him personally.
They do not exist as attributes we can develop by some process; regardless how sincere or dedicated a believer may be.
He, in Himself, is all that we long to be. And all that we long to have — for His sake.
This is both a great mystery and a wonderful blessing as we begin to understand what God has provided for us in the Person of Christ.
When we begin to see this truth and walk in the light and joy of it, our Christian lives will never be the same.
Image by riteshphotography from Pixabay