A Commentary by John Stott
*And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise*. We have seen that in Christ we belong to God and to each other. In Christ we also belong to Abraham. We take our place in the noble historical succession of faith, whose outstanding representatives are listed in Hebrews 11. No longer do we feel ourselves to be waifs and strays, without any significance in history, or bits of useless flotsam drifting on the tide of time. Instead, we find our place in the unfolding purpose of God. We are the spiritual seed of our father Abraham, who lived and died 4,000 years ago, for in Christ we have become heirs of the promise which God made to him.
These, then, are the results of being ‘in Christ’, and they speak with powerful relevance to us today. For our generation is busy developing a philosophy of meaninglessness. It is fashionable nowadays to believe (or to say you believe) that life has no meaning, no purpose. There are many who admit that they have nothing to live for. They do not feel that they belong anywhere, or, if they belong, it is to the group known as ‘the unattached’. They class themselves as ‘outsiders’, ‘misfits’. They are without anchor, security or home. In biblical language, they are ‘lost’.
To such people comes the promise that in Christ we find ourselves. The unattached become attached. They find their place in eternity (related first and foremost to God as His sons and daughters), in society (related to each other as brothers and sisters in the same family) and in history (related also to the succession of God’s people down the ages). This is a three-dimensional attachment which we gain when we are in Christ – in height, breadth and length. It is an attachment in ‘height’ through reconciliation to the God who, although radical theologians repudiate the concept and we must be careful how we interpret it, is a God ‘above’ us, transcendent over the universe He has made. Next, it is an attachment in ‘breadth’, since in Christ we are united to all other believers throughout the world. Thirdly, it is an attachment in ‘length’, as we join the long, long line of believers throughout the whole course of time.
So conversion, although supernatural in its origin, is natural in its effects. It does not disrupt nature, but fulfils it, for it puts me where I belong. It relates me to God, to man and to history. It enables me to answer the most basic of all human questions, ‘Who am I?’ and to say, ‘In Christ I am a son of God. In Christ I am united to all the redeemed people of God, past, present and future. In Christ I discover my identity. In Christ I find my feet. In Christ I come home.’
The apostle has painted a vivid contrast between those who are ‘under the law’ and those who are ‘in Christ’ and everybody belongs to the one or the other category. If we are ‘under the law’, our religion is a bondage. Having no knowledge of forgiveness, we are still, as it were, in custody, like prisoners in gaol or children under tutors. It is sad to be in prison and in the nursery when we could be grown up and free. But if we are ‘in Christ’, we have been set free. Our religion is characterized by ‘promise’ rather than by ‘law’. We know ourselves related to God, and to all God’s other children in space, time and eternity.
We cannot come to Christ to be justified until we have first been to Moses to be condemned. But once we have gone to Moses, and acknowledged our sin, guilt and condemnation, we must not stay there. We must let Moses send us to Christ.