The Doctrine of Standing vs. State A.W.Weckeman
The Dual Reality of Christian Life
In the opening verses of Colossians, chapter three the apostle Paul exhorts the brethren to live out the spiritual reality of co-crucifixion, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live…” (Gal.2:20), which we discussed in our previous article. That which appears contradictory (dead yet alive) is actually paradoxical, two sides of the same truth. As we shall see, by comparing scripture with scripture, Paul is encouraging the believers at Colosse to make their death “in Christ” a practical part of their present lives.
“Set your affection on things above, not on things on earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth…” (Col. 3:2-5)
Upon close examination, it becomes clear that the exhortation involves a deeper truth. In this portion of scripture, Paul is revealing, “…some things hard to be understood” (2 Peter 3:16) by contrasting the two realities, the unseen, “things above” and the seen, “things on earth…” (2 Cor. 4:18). He is comparing the heavenly versus earthly, the spiritual versus the physical, and the eternal versus the temporal.
In Colossians 3:2-5 Paul speaks of TWO DEATHS, one which is past tense,“ye are dead” (co-crucifixion) and another which is continual, “mortify” [put to death] your members which are upon earth” [Emphasis mine]. Romans 6:11 is a companion verse, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” By studying the nature and contrast of this dual reality the critical distinction between the believer’s STANDING & STATE comes into focus.
STANDING relates to the believer’s spiritual position, who we are “IN CHRIST”:
“Therefore if any man be IN CHRIST, he is a new creature…” (2 Cor.5:17) referring to the spiritual dimension of reality. Our standing is the way God sees us, the result of the second birth “…ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:2). “Beloved, now are ye the sons of God”. (1 John 3:1-2) [Emphasis mine]. This concerns the believer’s place in the spiritual realm, speaking of things eternal and heavenly. Consider: (Col.1:13 & Eph.2:6).
Our standing “in Christ” is perfect, “For by one offering he [Christ] hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified”. (Heb.10:14) [Emphasis mine]
Our “standing” is all of God’s grace (unmerited favor); nothing can be added to it or taken away from it. Our standing is, “the gift of God” ( Rom.5:15-18, Eph. 2:8), the result of Christ’s substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection on our behalf and has nothing whatsoever to do with human efforts!
“For by GRACE are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God…” (Eph.2:8)
God’s Righteousness At Christ’s Expense.
Examples of Scripture which refer to our STANDING:
“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is BORN OF GOD” “…NOW are we the sons of God” “…and shall NOT COME INTO CONDEMNATION; but is PASSED FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE” “For ye are DEAD, and your life is HID WITH CHRIST IN GOD. When Christ, who is are life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” “And HATH [past tense] raised us up together, and made us SIT TOGETHER in heavenly places IN Christ Jesus” “…ye were SEALED with the Holy Spirit of promise” “For ye were sometimes darkness, but NOW are ye light in the Lord” “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we STAND, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” 1 John 5:1, 1 John 3:2, John 5:24, Col.3:3-4, Eph.2:6, Eph.1:13, Eph.5:8, Rom.5:1-2 [Emphasis added].
STATE, on the other hand, relates to who we are IN OURSELVES:
It concerns the believer’s earthly existence in the physical body. It is what the Bible refers to as our “walk” (Col. 2:6 & 1 Thess. 4:1) and relates to our temporal lives in our earthly bodies; servants of God as Christ lives in us. Because our state concerns our walk in the flesh it is imperfect (Rom.7:18-25 & Rom.13:13-14). Our state pertains to our service or works for the Lord after salvation (Eph.2:10; Titus 3:8) and is determined by our daily choices regarding obedience or disobedience to the indwelling Holy Spirit:
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither YIELD ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but YIELD yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead…” (Rom. 6:12-13) [Emphasis adedd].
Therefore the believer’s state or manner of living (which involves daily choices), determines gains or losses of rewards in Heaven (Col.3:24-25; 1 Cor.3:10-15) and affects the believer’s joy, peace, and contentment while on earth.
Examples of Scripture which refer to our STATE:
“…man at his BEST STATE is altogether vanity.”“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth NO GOOD THING: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” “…for as ye have YIELDED your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now YIELD YOUR MEMBERS servants to righteousness unto holiness.” “…PUT OFF THE OLD MAN with his deeds” “…we also should WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE” “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to WALK, EVEN AS HE [Jesus] WALKED.” Ps.39:5b, Rom.7:18, Rom.6:19, Col.3:9, Rom.6:4b, 1 John 2:6 [Emphasis added].
To obey the command to, “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim.2:15) it is essential that we understand the critical distinction between our standing & our state. This is especially true regarding Paul’s letters to the Church.
Without knowledge of the distinction between “standing” and “state” various portions of scripture, such as Gal.3:27, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” and Rom.13:14, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” would appear contradictory.
Also, compare Heb.10:14 “For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.” with Phil. 3:12 “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Without an understanding of this truth, we could easily be deceived into believing that what we do determines who we are, which leads to frustration and defeat. When in reality just the opposite is true…it is the recognition of who we are “in Christ” that is to define us!
The Lord wants us to comprehend the critical distinction between the power of our position (standing) in Christ, “Christ in you, the hope of glory…” (Col. 1:27) “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world ” (1 John 4:4) and the corruption that resides in our flesh (our state), “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing…” (Rom.7:18). “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). “No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.” C.S.Lewis
God wants us to fully understand that we, in and of ourselves, are totally incapable of pleasing Him. The Lord is not interested in our abilities or good intentions to serve Him…He is more concerned with our SURRENDER.
He wants us to come to the liberating realization that, “the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63) and learn to yield to His power…the indwelling Holy Spirit. “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us…” (Eph.3:20) “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Gal.5:25).
“The present King of Spain is a little child—presumably as willful and as ignorant as other little children. Sometimes he may be very obedient and teachable and affectionate, and then he is happy and approved. At other times he may be unruly, self-willed and disobedient, and then he is unhappy and perhaps is chastised—but he is just as much King on the one day as the other. It may be hoped that, as time goes on, he will learn to bring himself into willing and affectionate subjection to every right way, and then he will be more kingly, but not anymore really king. He was born a King.
In the case of every true son of the King of kings, and Lord of lords, this growth into kingliness is assured.
In the end, standing and state, character and position, will be equal. But the position is not the reward of perfected character—the character is developed from the position”.
The Scofield Study Bible (The Believer’s Standing and State) C.S. Scofield
son of God servant of God
heir of God joint heirs with Christ
trusting His Cross taking up His Cross
free gift rewards
seated in heavenly places residing in earthly places
“new man” “old man”
Ephesians Chapters 1-3 Ephesians Chapters 4-6
Three chapters concerning Three chapters concerning spiritual
spiritual blessing “In Christ”. warfare “in the flesh” & the world.
See next Lesson: “The Doctrine of Spiritual Circumcision”