Ephesians 2:19-22 says:

“19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,
20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,
21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,
22 in whom you also are being built together into a DWELLING OF GOD in the Spirit.”

God wants a resting place (Isaiah 66:1). He wants to dwell, not just to visit. Can you imagine a homeowner comes to HIS OWN home just to visit it on a regular basis? Do you know the meaning of the word “dwelling”? Dwelling means home. A place where you can rest and feel-at-home. A place where you can call the shots.

And we are God’s dwelling place.

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“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

Our knowledge of our identity as Christian is crucial as to our breathing. As human being needs to breath and so it is with us Christians. We need to constantly
remind ourselves of who really are – as God sees in us in Christ, and where we are standing at. Just like Peter, when the Lord Jesus invited him to walk with him
on the water, when he lost his focus on Jesus – and on what he is actually doing, he began to sink.

I remember a story of a man who was handed a business class air ticket going to the United States. It was his first time to travel via airplane. Sadly, this man
had a misconception about flying: everything in the plane is with a price. It means you gotta buy eveyrthing you want during the flight. Since this man wants to
save his funds during the course of his travel, he decided not to buy anything – including foods and drinks. In other words, he’s hungry and thirsty during the
whole flight. When they are about to land, one of the flight attendants asked him, “Aren’t you gonna eat or drink? I noticed you didn’t asked for anything.”
And he told the attendant his situation. And the flight attendant laughed-out-loud! She said, “Sir, you’re on the business class. Everything here is free.”

This same is true with so many Christians today. They don’t kow how to enjoy the life God already gave them in Christ. They don’t know who they are now
and what they already have.

Based on Paul’s statements, we ARE now what we are as Christians because of the grace of God. We cannot become Christians without grace. John said, grace
and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:16). And we are in Jesus Christ by the Father’s “doing” (1 Corinthians 1:31) as we come to him by repentance and
respond with faith.

Again, Paul said, “But I labored even more than all of them, yet knot I, but the grace of God with me”. Now he mentiones about labor. Grace believers doen’t
neglect the issue of labor. Grace teachers doen’t teach God’s people to be lazy. But laboring in the context of Christ.

The apostle Paul declared, “For it is HE who works IN you, both to will and TO DO, according to His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). In this same letter, he
made a follw up statement, “For I CAN DO all things THROUGH CHRIST who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

In otherwords, Paul was right. We labor. But it’s not actually us. It’s Him IN US and THROUGH US. Why and how?

Do you remember when this same apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians saying “For I am crucified with Christ. It is NO LONGER I THAT LIVE BUT CHRIST LIVES
IN ME and the life which I now live in the flesh I LIVE BY FAITH in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)?

Paul made the following declarations:
1) He’s dead. The old him was dead (cf. Romans 6:6).
2) His life is now Christ (John 10:10).
3) He live his life by faith in the Son of God. Faith is simply defined as “rest” in the Greek language. What Paul means to say is, I live BY RESTING in the Son of God”.

Christ now lives in us. The life we have now is the very life of Christ. Therefore, we are no longer [to be] defined by who we are and what we have done in
our past. We are now “new creations” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are now partakers of His “divine-nature” (2 Peter 1:4). And this so-called “grace”
teaches me to “say no to sin” (Titus 2:11-12).

This is why I am SO passionate about grace!

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COMMUNITY, to my understanding is basically a compound word.

A compound word is a combination of two or more words to form a new word.

In this case, we “community”. Community comes from the words “common” and “unity”.

Common means ordinary and regular. Something we are all familiar of. While unity means “being-one”.

Google defines community as follows:

“A group of people living in the same place or having a particular charactersitic in common”.

Again, the word common is used to define community.

“A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing coomon attitudes, interests and goals”.

From these renderings (even though it is very basic), we can basically conclude that the definition doesn’t only give us the meaning but it also gives us the methodology on how to make a commiunity possible.

Community therefore is a unity as a result of having things in life in common. The keyword is “sharing” and this sharing means “partaking”.

We can have all things in common when we start to share a portion “of us” to another. And the recipient happily partakes of that portion, totally benefitting from it. He takes it to himself and enjoys every bit of it.

You are partaking of one another. You are partaking from One Spring-of-Life. You are enjoying the same benefits.

You have one source of life. You have one life, and i.e. Christ.

28 ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:28)

You have “one Father, one God, one Spirit, one faith, one Lord and one baptism” (Ephesians 4:2-3). God has given us these vast resources. We ought to share it them. Our Lord Jesus said,

“Freely received, freely give” (Matthew 10:4).

With one another, just like the early Christians!

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”. (Acts 2:45-47, NIV)

The early church lived in total community. They have everything in common. Everyday, they continued to meet – even in public places such as the temple. They intentinally hang around with each other. What’s the result? They gained influence! People of the “community” loved them. Soul-winning and evangelism wasn’t difficult. Why? The gospel they are preaching continues to encourage people to believe in Christ because of their lifestyle. Whenever the people see them, they feel heaven has come down! As author Frank Viola used to say about the church:

“It is an interface where heaven and earth meets.”

Hear the words of the late great Apostle Paul!

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizenswith God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundationof the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22, NIV)

This is what we are being in Christ. Once we learned to live this way, Christ is expressed, God’s Kingdom manifests. Soli Deo Gloria!

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As I read the pages of the New testaments, I am beginning to understand the following:


It is not based on laws, rules and regulations. It doesn’t depend on our performances either.

The Christian life is basically living by the life of another person: the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, now living inside each of us.

It is also enjoying and benfitting from everything God has in Christ. He said,

“I came to give life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10)

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will make our home with him.” (John 14:23)

In 2 Corinthians 13:5, the apostle Paul asks the Corinthian believers a question: Or do you not realize about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?” We might find this phrase, “Jesus Christ is in you” surprising, or perhaps we just read over it without thinking too much about its significance. But what does this phrase mean? And what is its importance for our Christian lives today? Let’s take a closer look at what the Apostle Paul said in his letters.

But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Romans 8:10)

We human beings were created by God with a body on the outside and a soul and spiriton the inside. Our spirit is our deepest part, created to contact and receive the Spirit of God. When we received Jesus as our Savior, He cleansed us of our sins and He came into our spirit as life. Thus, because Christ is in us, our “spirit is life because of righteousness.”

Because the God who said, Out of darkness light shall shine, is the One who shined in our hearts to illuminate the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not out of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7).

The apostle Paul describes the believers as earthen vessels that contain “this treasure.” What is this treasure? It is Jesus Christ, in whose face we see the glory of God. Christ lives in us earthen vessels as a precious treasure, revealing to us the glory of God from within.

I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20).

Paul did not say “I live in a Christ-like way,” or, “I glorify Christ through my actions.” No, he declared, “Christ…lives in me,” telling us that Christ indwells His believers. The Christian life is not a matter of acting like Christ, but of letting Christ Himself to live in and through us.

That Christ may make His home in your hearts through faith.” (Ephesians 3:17).

When we believed into Christ, He came to live in our spirit, the deepest part of our being. But Christ also wants to make His home in the rest of our inward being: our hearts and our souls. By living in our spirit, Christ is the new source of our new life. But our soul—our mind, emotion, and will—can still choose to ignore Him as our new source and go on just as before. In this case, Christ is in us, but He’s limited in us, kept only in our spirit. So He cannot be expressed through us very much. The Lord Jesus wants to make His home not only in our spirit, but also in all the parts of our soul.

Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

This verse shows that Christ is in us in a particular way: as our hope of glory. When we believed in Him, Christ came to live in our spirit. Now He is making His home in our hearts. In the future, when He returns, He will even spread to our body outwardly so that God’s glory can shine through us in a full way. The Christ who lives in us is our hope of such glory.

Such a realization will enrich our experience and enjoyment of Christ in a practical, daily way.


They lived as an extended family. They loved one another. They care for one another. They look after one another, as a normal family would do. Their family has just got bigger. Aside form their immediate family, God added someone to their family. And, they accepted him. regardless of their history or background. They simply obeyed the “new-commandment” Jesus gave them.

They lived as a community. They lived a “shared-life” principle. What are they doing? They are with one another. They meet everyday, eveery week. They eat their meals together with “simplicity and gladness of hearts” (Acts 2:46).

Hope to see these happening in these modern times.

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Please take a closer look at the picture, what do you see?

The picture depicts a dilemna. Does this sound familiar?

Before I got saved, that GOd loves me unconditionally. But after I got saved, they handed me a list of do’s and don’ts of Christianity – a list of conditions and instructions!

What the..?! Is this for real? I thought the Christian life is a life of freedom. A life where I can experience God’s unconditional love freely. But now, I have this lists!

Then, a friend of mine made his comments:

“This whole thing is so misconstrued at different levels, I’m not sure where to begin.

How about with “they give me a list of conditions and instructions”?

Who are “they”? And which “list of conditions and instructions”? Because I DO see apostles such as Paul, Peter, John and James giving “conditions and instructions”.

How do you understand Paul’s statement about obedience in Romans 1:5? (Is this idea repeated in 15:18 and 16:26?)

How about Romans 8:13? Sounds like a condition to me. The same idea in Galatians 5:16 and 6:7-8?

Just a sampling of what John says: First John 1:6 & 2:9.

And instructions? One does not need to go far in the epistles to see that it is chock full of instructions. But how about this all-encompassing one from Peter: Second Peter 1:3-11? Pay special attention to vv.9-10.”

His comments are indeed good. An eye-opener. But it doesn’t helped reconcile these two different views. But I thank him for his kind comment.

“Thanks for your comment and exposition. I really admire the way you articulate your points. Well done, brother!

Let me be straight to the point.

The “they” here refers to modern non-grace and mix-grace preachers.

The “list of conditions and instructions” refers to literal lists and instructions that we used to hear being prezched in pulpits every Sunday which focuses on human/self-effort and performance, convincing them to believe that by doing those things we can earn God’s love and attention. “You gotta do this to have this (& that). You gotta do this to please God” etc.

I really want to agree in your statements, but have you considered the following:

1) The immediate context of the passage. To whom is the author basically addressing his letter or statements?

2) The Christological Approach to the Scriptures. Eventhough majority of the New Testament authors were Jews, and are familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures – aside from their rich cultural heritage, whenever the use the Scriptures, please take note that they have only one system of interpretation, and that is Jesus Christ.

Our undertanding of the passages you have just quoted must be interpreted and/or focused on the Lord Jesus Christ and on His finished work on the Cross.

“And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace”. (Romans 11:6)

Upon reading my reply to his comments, he made this reply:

“I suspect we have different understandings of what “grace” and “finished work on the cross” mean. However, these subjects are too wide and deep to be discussed with fairness in this mode of communication so I won’t go there. Anyway, thank you for your gracious words!”

I tried my best to avoid these issues. But in the year 2004 I was led by the Lord to a journey of a lifetime that made me to embrace these conclusions. Year 2010, I was so suprized after I found out that I was not alone embracing thisviews on grace and on the finished work on the cross, and about the New Covenant Theology.

And it was so hard for me to accept these views at first. I came from a classical pentecostal / charismatic background, then I became a pastor of a church belonging to a mainline protestant denomination.

Then, another friend of mine made a follow-up question:

“Pastor can you please clarify, in short and in layman’s term the post (lol :-))? People might interpret it as “because we are saved, we do not need to follow the do’s and don’ts of the new testament anymore”. Why are then we reading the verses that Sir Francis Tan enumerated above. We are under grace no need to do good works, its ok to do wrong. God has already forgiven us. (FOR THE BENEFIT OF YOUR FOLLOWERS).”

Our obedience is based on the obedience of Christ. BY Christ’ obedience, we are already sanctified.

“Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by ONE MAN’s OBEDIENCE many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:18-21).

This is why Jesus said he came not to abolish it the law but to fulfill them ((Matthew 5:17). therefore putting an end to it totally (Ephesians 2:14-15 / Colossians 2:13-14 / Hebrews 8-10)

And our obedience will be based on what Christ through the Spirit, will lead us into (John 16:11-13 / Philippians 2:13). It is the life of Christ IN us who obeys God, not “actually” us.

We are not saying we are not to obey the law, but we need to stop trying because we can’t even if we try. We can’t obey the law perfectly in our own means (Acts 15:10 cf. James 2:10). And everyone who cannot obey the law perfectly is put under a curse (Galatians 3:10). So, this is a real dilemma on our part. We will always be in frustration, falling again-and-again. This, the failure doesn’t end. Then Jesus stepped into the scene. What we cannot do in accordance with the law, Jesus did it for us. That’s why Jesus is the end of the law for righteousness of everyone who believes (Romans 10:4; Ephesians 2:15-16 & Colossians 2:14-15).

That same question of yours was answered by the Apostle Paul in Romans 5 and 6.

The Amplified Bible translates and expound this verse well.

“For Christ is the end of the Law [the limit at which it ceases to be, for the Law leads up to Him Who is the fulfillment of its types, and in Him the purpose which it was designed to accomplish is fulfilled. That is, the purpose of the Law is fulfilled in Him] as the means of righteousness (right relationship to God) for everyone who trusts in and adheres to and relies on Him” (Romans 10:4).

I believe, this verse interprets Mattew 5:17 well..

The, she said:

We do not do or act according to the law because we want to be saved, justified or be righteous, (WE WERE MADE RIGHTEOUS THROUGH JESUS), we do good things ( like do not do idolatry, do not commit adultery, do not covet, etc. Etc) because we love God and JESUS who is now in us (the indwelling Christ), His goodness is now manifested through us. The Jesus who is in us by the power of the Holy Spirit, enables us to do good things. (Philippians 4:13). The laws in the Bible makes us realize how sinful we are and we need Jesus to cleanse us. (Am I right?)

What do youi think is the answer?

To be continued..

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Modern churches seem to be imbalance.

Some focused on being MISSIONAL. They spend most of their time outside winning the lost, planting churches etc. They spend their resources and man-power to push more on “recruiting”. They build big sanctuaries to accomodate their “crowds”. Their goal is to expand numerically. Their satisfaction is based on congregational quantity.

Other churches focused on being COMMUNAL. They focus more on relationship. They enjoy one another’s company. They don’t go out. They don’t bother to win others fto Christ. They do this because they don’t want “corruption” among their ranks. They just don’t want something that will defile the sanctity of their “sanctuary”. They eat regularly. They hang out with each other every now and then but they don’t grow in numbers.

But, if you will read the New Testament, the church is both communal and missional.

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But now we are RELEASED from the law, having died to that which held us CAPTIVE … ~ Romans 7:6 (ESV)
Romans 7:1-6

1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?
2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.
3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.
4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.
6 But now we have been DELIVERED (“RELEASED” ESV) from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

Galatians 4:9-11

9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, HOW IS IT THAT YOU TURN AGAIN TO THE WEAK AND BEGGARLY ELEMENTS, to which you desire again to be in **BONDAGE**?
10 You observe days and months and seasons and years.
11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.

Galatians 3:13-14

13 Christ has redeemed us from the CURSE OF THE LAW, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),
14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through FAITH.

Galatians 3:24-25

24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

Special Thanks goes to my friend JC*

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Leadership, not Ruler-ship

Let’s honestly admit it: “We,” as pastors, like being looked up, to for everything with regards to faith and spirituality.

When people starts to highly-value us, the temptation for manipulation steps in. We start manipulating people, making our instructions and commands the commands of God. When someone starts to question our leadership, we put a label on that person, and that label is “rebellious”.

Let’s take a closer look at what our Bible is saying:

Our Lord Jesus Christ once said,

“And Jesus called them to Him and said, You know that THE RULERS of the Gentiles LORD IT OVER THEM, and their great men HOLD THEM IN SUBJECTION [tyrannizing over them]. NOT SO SHALL IT BE AMONG YOU; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, And whoever desires to be first among you must be your slave– Just as the Son of Man came not to be waited on but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [the price paid to set them free].” – Matthew 20:25-28 AMP

The Apostle Peter said,

““Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;” – I Peter 5:2-3 NKJV

I believe in Christian leadership. But Leadership is technically different from “ruler-ship”!


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The “Grace Teachers” Lead Us Toward A Global Understanding of Salvation

I read an article that coincides with what God has been teaching me for the last 5 years: GRACE TEACHERS LEAD US TOWARDS A GLOBAL UNDERSTANDING OF SALVATION.

A remarkable movement toward pure grace is emerging from both the Arminian (freewill) and the Calvinistic (predestination) realms of the Body of Christ. Whether your bottom line for salvation is man’s freewill or God’s sovereign choice the conclusion is the same: anything that adds to the message that Jesus Christ has done it all is being vehemently challenged. Any message that claims “Jesus+something=your salvation” is immediately suspect of being a different gospel. There is growing a collective mood of zero tolerance for law-based teaching. The radical grace teachers are attacking it head-on. They are teaching us to say no! to the mixture of law and grace. For this we wholeheartedly rejoice!

But there is one fundamental requirement if you want to teach or receive “radical grace:” By definition it can only be true, pure and radical if it’s freely offered to and effectual for all. In other words, it must be true before it is believed it in order for it to be “news” and it must not be a fear-based message in order for it to be “good news.

Radical grace teaching demands a universal application of the Gospel!

I will begin by highlighting the grace teacher Paul Ellis of Escape to Reality blog and author of The Gospel in Ten Words. His is the book I have enjoyed most recently and which gave me the most clarity on how this grace message is being presented in the popular sphere. Even though I disagree with his conclusion that “not all are saved” and that “universalism steals motivation” I was tremendously encouraged and strengthened by his beautiful treatise on the Father’s never-ending love and grace. It is an insightful and refreshing movement toward true grace. We would simply like to see him take it all the way. Indeed the cry for a pure unadulterated Gospel has no option but for it to be taken all the way. And here are a few reasons why…

These “radical grace” teachers lead us toward the paradigm of universal restoration in the way in which they offer us sweeping statements of grace without the necessary qualifications. The following is their conundrum: to give the qualifications would transform what they just said into the opposite of what they just said. The “grace-based” message remains a fear-based message unless it is applied to all.  For example, following are a few statements that I as a Christian Universalist can take at face value. But I worry about those who must consider all the necessary qualifications (if they are honest). For if they or their loved ones do not believe just right or if they are not lucky enough to be among the “elect of God” there still exists some form of eternal destruction or torment still threatening just under the surface of these statements :

“The Gospel is the glad and merry news that God is good, he loves you, and he will happily give up everything he has so he can have you…God is not mad at you. He is not even in a bad mood…God is happy, he is for you and he wants to share his life with you forever…he would rather die than live without us…not even death can separate us from the love that is ours in Jesus Christ…grace must be free or it’s not grace.” (Ellis, pg 6)

But we know that the above statements cannot be made as long as there is a possibility for eternal damnation. There is always the fear of lack of sincerity or strength of one’s faith.

“Forgiveness is not something God does; it’s something He’s already done” (Ellis, pg 31)

But the truth is that most believe that forgiveness can be revoked if you do not believe adequately or continue to believe. (Or some propose that all are “forgiven” even while existing in an eternal hell. Not much comfort!)

“He’s reconciling everything everywhere. The scope of Christ’s finished work is both individual and cosmic: it ranges from personal pardon for sin and individual forgiveness to the final resurrection of our bodies and the restoration of the whole world. Now that’s good news–gospel–isn’t it? As the beloved Christmas hymn ‘Joy To the World’ puts it, ‘He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.’” (Tchividjian, Jesus+Nothing=Everything, pg 83)

But if you are not assured of being one of the elect (Tchividjian is a Calvinist) then none of this applies to you. And it is not really the “world” that is restored but an extremely small percentage of persons. The reality is thatbillions of God’s own image-bearers will be lost and “remain in a cycle of sin and punishment forever” (D.A. Carson). This is not good news unless you redefine “good” and “news.”

“God does not leave you wondering whether you are saved or not. He tells you outright that you are His and that nothing can ever separate you from the love of Christ. Not even sin because His blood is greater than your sin!” (Joseph Prince, Destined to Reign, p.95)

But when and how can you ever fully rest in this subjective statement? How can this statement be made if all are not promised to be loved and kept by God? What if you have never heard that “voice” confirming you are His? Perhaps you have instead even heard, “maybe you are not really saved“? What do we make of that?

“Because a God who is ultimately most focused on His own glory will be about the business of restoring us, who are all broken images of Him. His glory demands it.” (Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel, pg 32)

But this is “scandalous” for Chandler to actually mean what he says! He would have to qualify this to mean rather that God’s sovereign plan is only to restore a few of His image-bearers. The rest He has predetermined will spend eternity in endless separation from Himself falling short of His glorious intention as His image-bearers …forever. (Chandler is a 5-point Calvinist.)


The doctrine of eternal hell leads to self-salvation

At face value the above quotes are absolutely breath-taking affirmations! But teachers like Ellis, Prince, Tchividjian and Chandler believe that those who do not believe in Christ in this life will suffer eternal separation from God in hell. Whether you subscribe to eternal conscious torment or eternal destruction (annihilation) the fear factor remains: You (or if you are a Calvinist, God ) might fail to decide your life is going to be “in Christ” and assurance is immediately hi-jacked. Since I have spent a substantial amount of time in both camps I will be able to show you what both versions look like.


The Arminian view

The Arminian/free-will teachers say that YOU are the only obstacle that would ever keep you from God’s love and salvation (Ellis, pg 9). I appreciate that sentiment on some level for it is better than believing it might be God Himself not “choosing” you for salvation. But it puts assurance in the realm of unstable subjectivity: have I done enough to prove I have saving faith? What if I don’t feel like a Christian?  What if I don’t act like a Christian enough? What if I don’t have a strong desire to pray–is it because I am not saved or is my lack of desire from a faulty view of the Gospel…the “mixture”? How many poor do I have to feed to know that I am a sheep? Am I a sheep or a goat…or both? What if I do more goat things than sheep things? What if I don’t get this “sheep/goat” thing ironed out before I die?

This view puts the enormous weight and responsibility of salvation upon the human frame where it was never meant to be.

The name Jesus means “God Saves”…

but free-will says “I save me…from God.”


The Calvinist view

The Calvinist teachers on the other hand believe God is ultimately responsible for salvation. This upholds His sovereignty while taking the weight off the person and making it entirely of grace including the gift of faith to believe (God sovereignly draws His elect to Himself). God is given all the glory for doing the saving. This would be great news if it applied to ALL people but it doesn’t. It only applies to a few called “the elect” or “a remnant.” This is just as subjective as the Arminian paradigm. One never quite knows if he/she is among the elect. One can feel like a Christian, do all the works to prove to themselves they really are the elect but in the end it creates the same angst and lack of assurance.

This view also puts unimaginable uncertainty upon the believer because the certainty of oneself or one’s loved ones being “elected” is never attainable.

The name Jesus means “God Saves”…

but Calvinism says “God doesn’t save most… only a few.” (…and I can only hope I am one of them.)*

“The true Gospel is rarely ever taught!” say grace teachers

A serious conundrum for the grace teachers is produced by their continual claim that the gospel is rarely being taught accurately in the Church today. Their mission is to rescue the pure grace message from its contamination by the law. I agree with their analysis but they have not faced the implications. Paul Ellis says “the true gospel is almost never preached.”  The reason he wrote his book on the gospel was because “most people haven’t heard the gospel…visit any church or switch on the Christian TV and you will hear anything and everything but the undiluted gospel of the kingdom.” (pg 2,3) What does this imply?

We are told by the grace teachers that God is love and God is good and that He offers free salvation with no strings attached. But, tragically, apparently God has left this message of how we can be saved in the hands of humans who have mucked up the message so badly that it is hardly ever heard accurately in His Church! They hold firm that it is through faith in the gospel of grace that we are saved yet they claim most have never even heard it! Ellis claims that 95% of Christians are unacquainted with the Gospel of grace. NINETY-FIVE PERCENT! (pg 98) Never mind how those who are now Christians became Christians in the first place if 95% have not heard it accurately(!)

According to the grace teachers we are ultimately saved by a Gospel message that is according to them rarely preached and hardly ever understood rightly. Instead it has been a perverted message of grace+law–a polluted message which we are told if you DO believe in, will damn you forever! Somehow God has allowed His Gospel revelation that determines “eternal life or death” to become contaminated with the poison of self-effort but still puts the guilt upon the one who doesn’t get it right. Ellis says, “The Gospel is true whether you believe it or not, but it won’t do you any good unless you believe it…The sole condition for receiving God’s gift of grace is you have to want it.” But if 95% of what the world is offered is a “poisonous mixture” of law and grace then how can they want and have faith in something they have never heard of or been offered?  So either God will judge the world for rejecting a “gospel” they never heard or He is having to save most folks with a half-true, different, gospel.

This is where I am grateful for a powerful bit from my Calvinist past: That it is God’s faith that saves, not ours. Let me explain.

Thankfully it is not our thoughts about God that define Him!

Were we ultimately responsible for finding the “one faith” required for our salvation we would be lost indeed! With 30,000+ denominations the “one faith” Paul talks about in Ephesians 5 seems to be a mockery. How do we walk through this confusion and what hope is there? It is no wonder the world often gives up before even trying to reconcile the Evangelical Christian composite of a God who is shattered into over 30,000 pieces!

I have discovered that “it is not our thoughts about God that define Him but rather His thoughts about us that define us” (Francois du Toit). There is one truth He has proclaimed over us and while the Calvinist and Arminian grace teachers would disagree on their thoughts about God, regarding His thoughts about us they are united: We are the objects of God’s love created in His image for His glory. His death and resurrection were for the redemption of His image in us. The glory of God truly is man fully alive!

Thankfully our “One Lord” does not come demanding faith but supplies the “one faith” which is ultimately His faith. We are told that He is “the Author and Finisher of our faith.” Praise God there really IS only one Lord over ONE faith–and it is the faith of Jesus! He wants to share with us the power of His faith and perfect confidence in His intention “to reconcile all creation to Himself” and “make all things new” restoring His image in us. (Col 1; Rev 21:5) But tragically people are thrown back upon their own faith to believe without the confidence in a God who said He already “reconciled the WORLD to Himself” (2 Cor 5).

The finished work of the cross means only one thing!

Unbeknownst to those who teach it the radical grace message is an astounding voice in support of a universal understanding of redemption. They are not yet aware of its implications but the tension their assertions create have only one solution: If we are going to proclaim the finished work of the cross we cannot back-track into any conditions or we have undermined the very message of grace we are claiming to defend. This amazing movement toward a pure Gospel of grace is one more indication that the Lord Himself is revealing from within His Church the victorious Story of God!

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and ALL are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  Romans 3:23-24

Note: Some examples of popular Arminian grace teachers are:

Max Lucado (Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine),

Brennan Manning (Ragamuffin Gospel and All Is Grace),

Scot McKnight (Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us), 

Joseph Prince(Unmerited Favor),

Steve McVey (Grace Walk),

Paul Ellis (The Gospel In 10 Words, The Gospel In 20 Questions), and

Andrew Farley (The Naked Gospel).

Various examples of popular Calvinist grace teachers would be:

Dr. Timothy Keller (The Prodigal God),

Matt Chandler (The Explicit Gospel),

Jerry Bridges (The Transforming Power of the Gospel),

Tullian Tchividjian (Jesus+Nothing=Everything; One Way Love),

Scotty Smith(The Reign of Grace),

Robert Farrar Capon (“…the Outrage of Grace”)and 

Steve Brown (Scandalous Freedom: The Radical Nature of the Gospel).

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The history of Christian theology reveals that there has been far more written about the believer’s being “in Christ” than has been written about Christ being present and active in, as, and through the Christian. This is to be expected, in part, because there are far more references in the New Testament to our being “in Christ” than there are to Christ being “in us.” But the paucity of emphasis and literature on Christ’s internal action in the Christian individual can also be attributed to prevailing emphases within the two major subdivisions of the Western Church.

Roman Catholic theology has traditionally taught the infused grace of God in the continuing work of Christ, whereby the empowering energy of God is granted to the Christian in order to live righteously. The primary emphasis of Roman theology has not been on the subjective spiritual reality of Christ in individual Christians, however, but on the collective and corporate realities of Christ’s work in the ecclesiastical community of the Roman Church. Those in the church of Rome are regarded to be “in Christ,” and there is no salvation apart from the holy Roman Church. To apply Roman Catholic emphases to the phrases of this study: Christ is in us collectively, for He is in His Body, the Church catholic. Christ is expressed as us collectively, for He expresses Himself as the holy Roman Church. Christ is expressed through us collectively whenever the Catholic Church acts. This collective and corporate emphasis of the Roman church has diminished emphasis on the personal and subjective action of Christ in the Christian individual.

In Protestant theology the dearth of emphasis on the subjective presence and activity of Christ in the Christian individual has often not only been the result of an over-collectivized emphasis on Christ’s contemporary ecclesiastical action (as in the Roman Catholic Church), but even more so the result of an over-objectified understanding of Christ’s work. Reacting against the Roman emphasis on subjectively infused grace, the Reformers reverted to an almost exclusively objectified reference to redemptive realities that are external and outside of the Christian believer. Protestant theology has traditionally taught the historically objectified acts of Christ in His death, burial, resurrection and ascension for us, i.e. on our behalf. In so doing Christ is also said to have died, rose, and ascended as us ­ as our representative substitute, doing so vicariously in our place. Christ’s historical actions become personally efficacious for us when we respond by faith (sola fide) and Christ assumes our place as us before the heavenly Judge, whereupon the Divine Judge pardons and forgives our sins on the basis of Christ’s historically objective actions. In this forensic and juridical framework, God the Judge legally imputes the benefits of Christ’s righteousness to the Christian, declares we are in right standing with Him, and promises a full inheritance of benefits in the future in heaven. All of this action of Christ is outside of ­ external to ­ the believer.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote: “Justification makes no actual change in us; it is a declaration of God concerning us.”1 Louis Berkhof explained that both Luther and Calvin describe justification “as a forensic act which does not change the inner life of man but only the judicial relationship in which he stands to God.”2 Anglo-Catholic, E. L. Mascall, notes that “justification has been envisaged as simply an act of God by which man is accounted righteous without any ontological change being made in him.”3 Louis Bouyer, a French Reformed theologian who became Roman Catholic, lamented, “It was apparently impossible for Protestant theology to agree that God could put something in man that became in fact his own, and that at the same time the gift remained the possession of the Giver. That amounts to saying that there can be no real relation between God and man.”4 These quotations serve to verify that the over-objectification of Protestant theology in general has effectively deterred teaching of the personal and subjective action of Christ in the Christian individual.

A study of the subjective presence and action of the living Lord Jesus in us, as us, and through us is, therefore, outside of the pale of most traditional Western Christian theological teaching, for it runs counter to Protestant over-objectification and Catholic over-collectivization. It is important to acknowledge, though, that there have been individuals and groups throughout Christian history (some affiliated with both Catholic and Protestant communities, while others were independent of either) that have given due emphasis to the internal presence and action of the living Lord Jesus in the Christian individual. They have often been labeled as “mystics” or “heretics”, or both, and many of them paid with their lives for non-conformity to the prevailing and acceptable theological opinions. So, beware ­ this study may be dangerous to your health!

Prior to considering the subjective presence and action of Christ in, as, and through the Christian individual, it will serve us well to establish some parameters of historic Christian thought that should serve as safeguards against rampant subjectivism that does not remain grounded in Biblical tradition. Here are seven (7) proposed tenets of Christian teaching that should not be impinged upon by any consideration of the subjective indwelling and function of Christ in the Christian:

(1) The monotheistic distinction of the Creator God and the creation/creature.(2) The Trinitarian unity of Being and function in the Godhead.(3) The anthropological responsibility of man to derive spiritually in freedom of choice.(4) The harmartiological Fall and alienation of man from God in sin.(5) The historical space and time foundation of the Christian gospel.(6) The Christological singularity of Christ’s person and work as Savior and Lord.(7) The soteriological restoration of humanity in regeneration and sanctification.

The institutional Church, at large, has been fearful that an emphasis on the subjective relationship of Christ and the Christian would impinge upon the basic foundations of Christian thought. But even more than this concern for ideological preservation has been their concern for ecclesiastical preservation. The tendencies to collectivization and objectification in the Western Church have allowed the ecclesiastical authorities to exercise power, maintain control, and “keep a handle on” the Christian enterprise. To allow the grace of God to function freely and subjectively in Christian individuals has been eschewed as a “risky business,” allowing for too much individualism, too much subjectivism, and too much personal freedom.

The “good news” of the Christian gospel is that God in Christ is reinvested and restored in, as, and through the receptive Christian individual. The objective of the gospel is not to formulate an orthodox belief-system, nor to construct and maintain an ecclesiastical organization. The Spirit of Christ is free to express the character of Christ in novel and spontaneous ways in each Christian, and that unto the glory of God. The Holy Spirit must not be imprisoned in church structures, encased in book-interpretations, or relegated only to a judicial courtroom in the heavens. The Spirit of the living Christ is present in the Christian, existing as the identity of the Christian, and functioning to express Himself through the Christian. The documentation of these realities is the objective of this article.

Christ in usDespite the attempts of Protestantism to objectify the benefits of Christ’s work in an almost paranoid aversion to anything other than “alien righteousness,” there have been evangelical Christians throughout the ages who have understood that the Person and work of Jesus Christ must not be only extrinsically applied, but that the living Person and activity of Christ indwells the spirit of the Christian. This fundamental reality of Christ’s actual and spiritual presence within the Christian individual is so well-attested by direct New Testament references that those who “search the Scriptures” and are receptive to spiritual reality invariably recognize the indwelling presence of the living Christ.

Jesus Himself explained that He would give another Helper, the Spirit of truth, and His disciples would know that they were in Him, and He was in them (John 14:20). In His prayer for unity Jesus explained that He would be in His followers as God the Father was in Him, the Son (John 17:23).

The Apostle Paul clearly noted that the mystery of the gospel is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). He asked the Corinthians, “Do you not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?” (II Cor. 13:5), unless you are not a Christian. The essential reality that constitutes being a Christian is the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ. “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9), i.e. is not a Christian. Continuing his explanation to the Romans, Paul wrote, “If Christ is in you,…the spirit is alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you” (Rom. 8:10,11). The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, dwells in the Christian (cf. John 14:17; Rom. 8:9-11; I Cor. 6:19; II Tim. 1:14; James 4:5), and “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16).

The presence of Christ by His Spirit in the Christian is the presence of Himself as spiritual life in the individual. Christ is life. “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), He told His disciples. There can be no spiritual life apart from His presence. Any reference to the Christian having “eternal life” must be understood by the presence of the One who is life. “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (I John 5:12). There is no possession of spiritual life apart from the Person who is life. There is no spiritual benefit apart from the presence of the divine Being of God in Christ. There is no salvation apart from the indwelling presence and activity of the risen and living Saviour.

Christian teaching has long referred to “spiritual regeneration,” but because of its differing theological biases it has often inadequately indicated what this means. To be regenerated is to be “brought into being again” by the reception of divine life in the spirit of an individual. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Being “born again” or “born from above” (John 3:3,7) in “new birth” necessarily implies that the personified life of the Spirit of Christ comes to dwell in the spirit of an individual who is thus constituted as a Christian.

When a person is regenerated a spiritual exchange takes place. The “spirit that works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2), “the spirit of error” (I John 4:6), “the spirit of this world” (I Cor. 2:12), is exchanged for the “Spirit of truth” (I John 4:6), the “Spirit of God” (I Cor. 2:11,12), the personified presence of the Spirit of Christ who works in the Christian (cf. Eph. 3:20; Phil. 2:13; Col. 1:29). The living Lord Jesus explained to Paul at the time of his conversion that this spiritual exchange was a “turning from darkness to light, and from the dominion of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18). Regeneration is a spiritual exchange of spiritual personage within the spirit of an individual.

When the New Testament Scriptures refer to “Christ in us,” the Greek preposition used is en. The primary meaning of this preposition refers to location or place within something. This locative meaning adequately explains the presence of the Spirit of Christ located in the spirit of an individual. A secondary instrumental meaning of the Greek preposition en expands the meaning of “Christ in us,” however. Used in this secondary manner the preposition conveys the meaning of “by means of.” Jesus Christ located in us is more than a static deposit in a particular place in the individual. The living Spirit of Christ is always the divine dynamic who acts and functions “by means of” us. Hence, we begin to see that “Christ in us” is foundational to “Christ as us” and “Christ through us.” When the phrase “Christ in us” is used in the instrumental or causal sense of “Christ by means of us” it begins to anticipate the other phrases, and to merge or meld into the subsequent phrases of this study. This is why “Christ in us” is often employed as a comprehensive phrase to convey Christ’s presence and activity in the Christian individual, inclusive of “Christ as us” and “Christ through us”, as it can also include “Christ by means of us.” The explicit New Testament references to “Christ in us” lend credence to its use as an all-inclusive phrase of Christ’s presence and function in the Christian.

That Paul meant more by the phrase “Christ in you” than just locative placement of the presence of Christ becomes apparent when we examine his statement to the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20. Christ is in us, not merely as a deposit of a commodity called “eternal life,” but Christ lives in us as the personified and living function of the dynamic of divine life. If, according to Paul, I am no longer living, and Christ is “living in me,” then we begin to understand that Christ is living as us.

Christ as usFor some readers this will be a phrase they have not previously encountered in popular Christian literature. They may have heard of “Christ in us” and Christ through us,” but not “Christ as us.” Admittedly, there is no explicit use of the phrase “Christ as us” in the New Testament, and this makes the phrase suspect in the minds of some Christians. The absence of a direct use of the phrase does not negate its legitimate expression of a Biblical and spiritual concept, however. If that were the case, we would have to deny the use of the words “trinity” and “rapture,” for these are words not used in Scripture, but they most certainly express Biblical concepts and are commonly employed in Christian terminology. In like manner, “Christ as us” is a phrase that conveys an important Biblical theme not fully encompassed in the other phrases.

As noted above, “Christ in us” refers in its primary meaning to the location and placement of the presence of Christ within the spirit of a receptive individual. In its secondary meaning it refers to “Christ by means of us,” but still does not carry with it the connotation of what the believer has become because of the presence and function of Jesus Christ within. Are we merely an occupied spirit-space? Or an invaded spirit-being? Or are we something/someone that we were not before we became a Christian? Did the spiritual exchange create a change in us? When we are regeneratively “brought into being again” are we different than we were previously? Or did we just receive an “eternal life” package by the placement of the Spirit of Christ within the location of our spirit?

The Biblical evidence reveals that the Christian becomes something or someone that he/she was not prior to becoming a Christian. Paul explains that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new” (II Cor. 5:17). The unregenerate “old man” (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9), worthy of death by personal accountability for sin, “has been crucified with Christ” (Rom. 6:6). Now by spiritual regeneration Christians have become a “new man” (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10) in Christ. Christians are transformed from being “a natural man” (I Cor. 2:14) into being “spiritual men” (I Cor. 3:1. Whereas they once were “children of the devil” (I John 3:10) and “sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2; 5:6), they are now “children of God” (John 1:12; Rom. 8:16; I John 3:1,2,10) and “sons of God” (Rom. 8:14,17; II Cor. 6:18; Gal. 3:26; 4:6,7; Heb. 2:10). By the presence and function of Jesus Christ within their spirit, believers are identified as “Christians” (Acts 11:26; I Pet. 4:16), indicating that they are Christ-ones.

All of these Biblical expressions and designations evidence the new identity of the one in whom Christ dwells and lives. Regeneration, the indwelling presence of the living Lord Jesus, does have the effect of making a person something that he was not before, a “new creature” with a new identity. Who we are as Christians is based on Who Christ is in us and as us, constituting us as Christ-ones. “Christ as us” is, therefore, a phrase that expresses our new identity in a way that the other phrases cannot convey.

Some might object that the “Christ as us” phrase, dealing as it does with identity, is just addressing a psychological need of modern man to have an individualized sense of self-identity, self-image, self-awareness, self-consciousness, self-concept, self-worth, etc. Not so! The phrase is not used to explain a psychological need or phenomenon, but to explain a spiritual reality of the Christian life that has an abundance of Scriptural statements relating to the fact that the Christian has become something and someone that he/she was not previously. At the very core of our being, in the innermost function of the human spirit, the Christian has become a new person with a new identity. Psychology deals with the distinctive of our individuality in differing personalities, often referred to as a “perceived sense of identity in the psyche,” but the deepest level of identity is always in the spirit of a person, and that in derived association and union with the spiritual being that indwells that person’s spirit.

“Christ as us” refers to our identity as Christians by reason of His real spiritual presence and His being who He is in us. “Christ is our life” (Col. 3:4), and Christians “live together with” (I Thess. 5:10) and “through” (I John 4:9) Him. “Christ has become to us righteousness” (I Cor. 1:30). “We become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21) when we are “created in righteousness” (Eph. 4:24) as a “new man” and are “made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). As “new creatures in Christ” (II Cor. 5:17), Christians are “created in holiness” (Eph. 4:24) and are “holy and beloved” (Col. 3:12) as “holy ones” or “saints” (cf. Rom. 1:7; 8:27; Eph. 1:18; 4:12). In Christ we are “perfect” (Phil. 3:15) and “sanctified” (Heb. 10:14) as “righteous men made perfect” (Heb. 12:23), for Christ “has become to us wisdom and sanctification” (I Cor. 1:24,30).

Jesus Christ becomes the basis of the spiritual identity of the Christian, but we must always understand that this is a derived identity, a derived life, a derived righteousness, holiness and perfection. These are not realities that we have become essentially or inherently in and by ourselves, but only by His presence within us. We are made righteous only because Christ, the “Righteous One” (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; I John 2:1) dwells and functions in us and as us. Christians are only said to be “holy” and “perfect” because Jesus Christ is the “Holy One” (Acts 3:14; 4:27,30), the One “made perfect forever” (Heb. 7:28), who has become the basis of our derived identity.

“Christ as us” is another way of referring to the Christian’s “union with Christ” which has been a part of Christian understanding from the beginning of the Church. Christian thinkers have often struggled, however, to explain and articulate what Paul meant by his statement that “the one being joined to the Lord is one spirit (with Him)” (I Cor. 6:17). Likewise, they have shied away from Peter’s assertion that Christians “have become partakers of divine nature” (II Peter 1:4). Clinging to the Greek humanistic idea of an inherent “human nature,” Christians have often been blinded to the Scriptural explanation that “we were by nature (Greek phusis) children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3) in our unregenerate spiritual condition, when “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2) was indwelling and operative in us, but we are now “partakers of the divine nature (phusis)” (II Pet. 1:4), by the presence and function of “the Spirit of Christ” (Rom. 8:9) within the spirit of the Christian (cf. Rom. 8:16). Being “partakers (koinonoi) of the divine nature” (II Pet. 1:4) and “partakers (metachoi) of Christ” (Heb. 3:14) implies that Christians are participants in Christ, sharing in the commonality of His nature and identity in spiritual union with Him. This participatory fellowship (koinonia) with the living Lord Jesus (I Cor. 1:9), with God the Father (I John 1:3,6), and with the Holy Spirit (Phil. 2:1) indicates a spiritual union with the Triune Godhead.

This discussion of the Christian’s spiritual identity in “union with Christ” raises a question: Is it legitimate to allow the phrase “Christ as us” to mean “Christ is us”? We have previously noted that Paul wrote “Christ is our life” (Col. 3:4) and “Christ has become to us righteousness” (I Cor. 1:30; II Cor. 5:21). Our explanation has been that Christ is the basis of our new identity as a “new creature” (II Cor. 5:17) and as a “new man” (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10) in Him. Christ is the essence of who we are as Christ-ones, as Christians; the essence of our spiritual identity. Does this allow, then, for a legitimate usage of the phrase, “Christ is us”? Our logical syllogisms, grammatical phrases, and spiritual understanding must be carefully stated at this point. Though we might say, “Christ is us,” in a qualified manner, is this to be interpreted in such a way that the equation can be turned around and stated, “We are Christ” or “I am Christ”? Without qualification such statements would be blasphemous! To claim to be God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit is to claim the essence of deity. This violates the monotheistic premise that Who (and what) God is, only God is. To claim to be Christ impinges upon several of the seven (7) foundational tenets of Christian teaching that we noted in the introduction to this study, particularly the monotheistic distinction of the Creator and the creature, the Trinitarian unity of the Godhead, and the Christological singularity of Christ’s person and work. References to “Christ as us” and “Christ is us,” and statements like “I am Jesus Christ in John Doe form” must be carefully explained so that any implication of the Christian’s being equivalent to Christ is avoided. These phrases push the limits of the fine-line of demarcation that allows for a valid expression of the Christian’s “union with Christ” wherein Christ is expressed as us, and the recognition, on the other hand, that the human individual is always a receptive, contingent and derivative creature distinguished from the essence of the Creator, God.

Previous mention was made to the two major branches of the Western Church, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, and how they have avoided reference to the subjective indwelling of Christ in the Christian individual by the over-collectivization of ecclesiasticism and the over-objectification of a law-based theology. There is another major segment of the Christian Church at large that has been long neglected by Western Christianity. The Eastern Orthodox Church, which includes the Greek, Russian, Cyprian and Serbian national churches, has a sustained history from the commencement of Christianity. This branch of the Church has traditionally cited the statements of the early church fathers concerning the Christian’s participation in the divine nature in ways that make the Western Church very uncomfortable. Here are some examples of such statements:

“Our Lord Jesus Christ…became what we are, so that He might bring us to be even what He Himself is.” – Irenaeus c. 180 AD 5

“The man of God is consequently divine and is already holy. He is God-bearing and God-borne.” – Clement of Alexandria c. 195 AD 6

“You will be a companion of God, and a co-heir with Christ… For you have become divine… God has promised to bestow these upon you, for you have been deified and begotten unto immortality.” – Hippolytus c. 225 AD 7

“…from Him there began the union of the divine with the human nature. This was so that the human by communion with the divine ­ might rise to be divine. This not only happened in Jesus, but also in all those who not only believe, but enter upon the life that Jesus taught.” – Origen c. 248 AD 8

“What man is, Christ was willing to be ­ so that man may also be what Christ is.” – Cyprian c. 250 AD 9

“God became man so that man might become God.” – Athanasius c. 325 AD 10

“God has called men ‘gods’ that are deified of His Grace, not born of His Substance.” – Augustine c. 400 AD 11

The Eastern Church refers to this participation of the Christian in the divine nature as Theosis or “deification.” This is strange-sounding terminology to most Western Christians. Eastern Orthodox theologians are careful to explain, though, that neither the early church fathers nor they are advocating that the Christian becomes God. They qualify “deification” by indicating that it is participation in the “energies” of God’s presence and Being, rather than becoming the “essence” of the Being of God. Though they emphasize the intimacy of the union of the Christian with the “divine nature,” they maintain at the same time that the creature always remains essentially distinct from God. They maintain a careful balance of union and distinction.

Protestant evangelicals in the Western Church are reluctantly admitting that the Eastern Orthodox teaching of Theosis or “deification” does not impinge upon the foundational teachings of Christianity, such as the seven (7) basic tenets enumerated in the introduction of this study. Robert M. Bowman, Jr., writing in the Christian Research Journal, states,

“It may surprise some to learn that a monotheistic doctrine of deification was taught by many of the church fathers, and is believed by many Christians today, including the entire Eastern Orthodox church. In keeping with monotheism, the Eastern orthodox do not teach that men will literally become ‘gods’ (which would be polytheism). Rather, as did many of the church fathers, they teach that men are ‘deified’ in the sense that the Holy Spirit dwells within Christian believers and transforms them into the image of God in Christ… Thus, it should not be argued that anyone who speaks of deification necessarily holds to a heretical view of man. Such a sweeping judgment would condemn many of the early church’s greatest theologians (e.g., Athanasius, Augustine), as well as one of the three main branches of historic orthodox Christianity in existence today.” 12

Alan F. Johnson and Robert Webber, theology professors at Wheaton College, write in their book, What Christians Believe:

“The first clearly articulated concept of the application of the work of Christ to the sinful human condition is developed in the East… This view is know as theosis or deification. …This does not mean, as it may appear on the surface, that humanity shares in the essence of God. Human persons do not become God. Rather, because the work of Christ destroys the powers of evil, we are freed from those powers and able to come into fellowship with God… His redeemed creatures have been given the benefits and privileges of divinity through grace. The state of grace is seen as a state of communion with God, fellowship with the Trinity, a partaking of the divine.” 13

F. W. Norris, professor at Emmanuel School of Religion, wrote an article entitled “Deification: Consensual and Cogent” in the Scottish Journal of Theology, indicating,

“…patristic theologians offered a remarkable view of what Protestants refer to as ‘restoration’ or ‘fellowship’. These theologians ground it in a sense of Christian salvation: theosis or deification. …No universal Christian consensus demands that one view of salvation includes or excludes all others. 14

“Poorly-read Protestants have insisted that the Eastern Orthodox idolatrously make us all little gods or that they think of participation in the divine nature only in physical terms. These charges are false. Orthodox theologians keep deification away from Gnostic or Manichaean speculation, or what we might recognize as the worst aspects of Far Eastern mysticism and now so-called New Age musings.” 15

“We Christians have the promise of participating in the divine nature. …Not only Eastern Orthodox but also Western theologians find solace in a sense of deification. Such restoration does not mean that we become God as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are God. Our participation in the divine nature is in God’s energies, not the essence, a participation through grace accepted in faith which includes being participants in Christ’s sufferings.” 16

More than any other in the context of recent Protestant evangelicalism, the British missionary statesman and author, Norman P. Grubb, emphasized the truth of Christ as the basis of the Christian’s identity. It was the distinctive of his ministry to compel Christians to recognize their spiritual identity in Christ. The titles of his later books reveal this emphasis: Who Am I?17 and Yes I Am18. Grubb was very careful, however, to emphasize that the Christian’s spiritual union with Christ did not mean “a relationship of total absorption.”19 “The idea that we can be deified ­ that is blasphemy,”20 Grubb wrote. “The essence of idolatry is to claim to be what only God is…”21 “The creature never becomes the Creator.”22 “The container never becomes the contents.” “We are the creature, He the Creator, neither one becoming the other.”23 “Our oneness with Christ does not alter our two-ness.”24 “The human spirit…can be the container of the Divine Spirit…and yet not lose its own individuality in so being.”25 “The human is forever the human, and the divine the divine.”26 In these, and many other ways, Norman Grubb attempted to balance the union and distinction, unity and diversity, oneness and two-ness of the relationship of Christ and the Christian.

Having considered some Biblical bases for “union with Christ” and some theological background of how others have explained participation in the divine nature, it will now be beneficial to return to the consideration of the phrase “Christ as us” in order to do a brief grammatical study of the English word “as.” In the English language the word “as” can be employed as an adverb, a conjunction, a preposition, and even as a pronoun. Adverbially, “as” means “equivalent to” or “the same as.” Used adverbially, “Christ as us” would mean “Christ is the same as us” or “Christ is as we are (I am).” Used as a conjunction, “as” means “in the same manner” or “to the same degree.” The “Christ as us” phrase would then mean “Christ, in like manner as us.” Our utilization of the “Christ as us” phrase in this study is primarily considering the word in the prepositional usage, where “as” refers to “function, role or capacity.” “Christ serves as the identity of us.” “Christ functions as us.” “Christ expresses Himself as us.” In like manner as the “Christ in us” and “Christ through us” phrases are prepositional, we are using “Christ as us” as a prepositional phrase also.

“Christ as us” means more than “Christ as if He were us” in an unreal and hypothetical fashion. The “Christ as us” phrase also means more than “Christ, as it were, so to speak, us” in a merely figurative and illustrative analogy. If the “Christ as us” phrase is interpreted as “Christ, represented as us,” we must beware of any implications that Christ is just a sign or symbol represented in our lives, or that the Christian is “playing the part” or “taking the place of” Christ. On the other hand, there is legitimacy in the interpretation that “Christ is re-presented as us” in a contemporary manifestation of His life.

The meaning of the phrase “Christ as us,” as used in this study, can be reduced to two (2) primary prepositional emphases: (1) Christ functioning as us in terms of the identity of our being. (2) Christ functioning as us in terms of the instrumentality of our activity. In other words, (1) Christ expressed ontologically as us. (2) Christ expressed operationally as us. The first of these has to do with the Being of Christ serving as the basis of the Christian’s being and identity. The second of these has to do with the activity of Christ serving as the basis of the Christian’s expression and behavior. These two aspects of “union with Christ,” ontological union and operational union, are integrally united in the unity of God’s Being and Action. God’s Being is always expressed in His Action, and His Action is always invested with and expressive of His Being. In other words, there can be no detachment or separation in Who God is and what God does. In like manner, our behavior as Christians should be expressive of who we have become in Christ.

Our study of “Christ as us” has (to this point) focused primarily on the ontological sense of identity, so we now turn our attention to the operational sense of Christ’s functioning as us in behavioral manifestation. Christ operating as us in the expression of Himself will eventually begin to merge into the meaning of “Christ through us,” but in order to differentiate the emphases we will reserve the “Christ through us” phrase for the expression of Christ that extends beyond us to others.

“Christ manifested as us” implies the living reality of the presence of Christ in us, the basis of our new spiritual identity in our union with Christ as us. Christ cannot remain dormant within us as a static deposit of identification. The living Lord Jesus must of necessity express Himself dynamically as who He is in our behavior. The Christian life is not a self-generated expression of moral and ethical behavior that attempts to conform to the example of Christ, and thereby be Christ-like. Rather, the Christian life is the Christ-life, Christ “living in me” (Gal. 2:20), lived out as us. Despite the misconceptions that abound in the religious thinking of many Christians today, the objective of the Christian life is not an imitation of the life of Jesus, but the manifestation of the very life of Jesus. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “We have this treasure (Christ) in earthen vessels (human bodies), that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; …that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body, …manifested in our mortal flesh” (II Cor. 4:7,10,11). The Christian life is not imitation, but manifestation of Jesus as us!

When Christ is expressed as us, manifesting His life and character in our behavior, this creates a unique re-presentation (see above) of Christ’s life. Christians are not meant to be carbon copy, cookie-cutter conformists operating in Xerox uniformity. Utilizing our unique individualities and personalities, Christ lives out His life as us. This is accomplished in the spontaneity of allowing Jesus to function and express His character in whatever role or capacity we find ourselves, whether as husband or wife, employer or employee, leader or follower, etc. By faith the Christian allows for the receptivity of His active character expressed as us.

Ever since the writings of the early church fathers, many have referred to the active expression of “Christ as us” as the incarnational reality of Christianity. The historical incarnation of Jesus has often been made analogous to the relationship of Christ and the Christian. It has been noted that God was in the man, Jesus (Matt. 1:23; Jn. 17:21), incarnated as the man, Jesus (Jn. 1:14; Phil. 2:7-11), and acting through the man, Jesus (Jn. 14:10; Acts 2:22). The Christological incarnation of the Son of God is not identical, however, to the expression of “Christ as us.” The incarnation of the Word of God involved the hypostatic union of God and man unified in one person, who was the singular mediator between God and man (I Tim. 2:5) as the God-man. Whenever the idea of incarnation is applied to Christians it must be in a generalized sense of the life and activity of the living Lord Jesus embodied “in us” and enfleshed “as us” as we functionally express Christ’s life. This does not invalidate references to the contemporary incarnational expression of “Christ as us,” but does reveal the necessity of always recognizing the difference between Christ’s incarnation and the incarnational expression of Christ’s life in our behavior.

The process of allowing for the expression of Christ’s life in our behavior is called “sanctification.” To be sanctified is not to achieve a sanctimonious piety by particular religious disciplines or by peculiar conformity of dress and behavior. To be sanctified is, rather, to allow Jesus, the Holy One (Acts 3:14; 4:27,30), who lives in us as the basis of our new spiritual identity to express His Holy character in the actions of our behavior. Thus, we are set apart to function as God intended, expressing His Holy character “in spirit and soul and body” (I Thess. 5:23).

A verse often cited to document “Christ’s function as us” is found in John’s first epistle. In the context of referring to God’s love being perfected, i.e. brought to its intended end in expression towards others, John writes, “As He is, so are we in this world” (I Jn. 4:17). The contextual meaning seems to be that “just as (kathos) Christ is the functional expression of God’s love to others (mankind – cf. Jn. 3:16), so also we (Christians) are the functionally expressive agents of God’s love within the world of mankind where we live.” John’s underlying assumption is that “Christ as us” (identity) will express God’s divine love “as us” (activity) in consistent expression of the character of God (which is the primary thrust of John’s epistle). This verse does refer to “Christ’s function as us” in expressing God’s love, but should not be wrenched from its context to mean “as Christ is in His essential Being, so we are in our essential being.”

Christ functions as us by actually and actively living His life in us (Gal. 2:20). Christians are “saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10), and set free to function as God intended and as God energizes. Controlled and “filled with His Spirit” (Eph. 5:18), Christians manifest the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22,23), “the fruit of righteousness” (Eph. 5:9; Phil. 1:11; Heb. 12:11), which is the character of Christ. Again, this is not a character that Christians generate or actuate from their own energies and “works,” but Christian character is only and always derived from Christ. Christians allow for the outworking of Christ’s activity to which they are receptive in faith (James 2:17-26), engaging in “good works which were prepared beforehand that they should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10) as God “works in them that which is pleasing in His sight” (Heb. 13:21). Only by “Christ’s function as us” do we “live godly in Christ Jesus” (II Tim. 3:12), to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31; II Cor. 3:18; I Pet. 4:11), which is the purpose for which we were created (cf. Isa. 43:7).

Christ through usJesus Christ functionally expressing His life as us necessarily merges into an understanding of “Christ through us.” As previously explained, the operational union of Christ as us, expressing His life and character through our behavior, was addressed in the previous section, whereas Christ functioning through us in extension to other persons will be the focus of our explanation here. These concepts are obviously integrated and should not be made into rigid categories or definitions. Much of our explanation of Christ’s operational function as us could just as well have been explained as Christ’s functional expression through us.”

Having noted how the character of Christ is expressed in Christian behavior by “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22,23), we now note that the ministry of Christ is performed through us by the “gifts of the Spirit” (cf. Rom. 12; I Cor. 12; Eph. 4:8-16). The “fruit of the Spirit” has to do with the functional expression of the character of Christ, while the “gifts of the Spirit” have to do with the ministry of Christ to others in the context of the Body of Christ. It is most lamentable that in many portions of the Church today the “gifts of the Spirit” are regarded as marks of spirituality or trophies of spiritual possession, rather than as the means of Christ’s ministry through Christians. The “gifts of the Spirit” should not be viewed as separated or detached entities or abilities, but only as the functional grace-expressions by which Christ ministers through any Christian in a given situation of another’s need. (cf. Fowler, Charismata: the so-called “Spiritual Gifts”)

The ministry activity of Jesus Christ during His historical, earthly ministry was accomplished as “the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5) was the “man attested by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him” (Acts 2:22). Jesus carefully explained that He did nothing of His own initiative (Jn. 5:19,30; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10), but declared, “the Father abiding in Me does His works” (Jn. 14:10). How did Jesus do what He did in His earthly ministry? Even the “miracles and wonders and signs” were what “God performed through Him.”

Doctor Luke later writes that “the multitude were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles” (Acts 15:12). In like manner as Jesus ministered by being receptive to God’s activity through Him, the apostles ministered in supernatural ways as God functioned through them. Writing to the Romans, Paul explained, “I do not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit” (Rom. 15:18,19). This is obviously a very explicit reference to Christ’s function through the Christian.

The Greek word used in these references just cited is the Greek preposition dia which has a primary and direct meaning of procession through an object, place, or person. It often conveys the meaning of extension through that goes beyond and out from the object, place, or person. This idea of extension beyond ourselves unto others is important in the understanding of “Christ through us” as Christians. A secondary, instrumental meaning of dia is “by means of, which allows the word to have the same secondary meaning as the Greek preposition en, revealing that these prepositions tend to overlap one another in meaning and must not be treated with rigid precision.

The presence and function of the living Jesus in, as, and through the Christian is not for the purpose or objective of making us spiritually bloated “knowers,” full of pride in our alleged “spirituality” and what we “know” as Gnostic elitists. The only thing, the only One, we know is Him, Jesus Christ, in an ontological knowing of relational intimacy, rather than an epistemological knowledge of data that merely puffs us up in arrogance (I Cor. 8:1). The One we know is Jesus. Jesus is God (John 10:30). God is love (I John 4:8,16). God as love is a Self who has no needs and exists only for others, expressing Himself in grace and love and givingness. Therefore, when Jesus functions in us, and as us, and through us, He is always expressing Himself in grace and love for others.

In the Epistle to the Hebrews it is written, “Christ always lives to make intercession…” (Heb. 7:25), for His is a permanent priesthood (Heb. 7:24). In that case, He must live in us, and as us, and through us to make intercession for others. Christians have long advocated “intercessory prayer” for others, but seldom have they considered what it means to engage in “intercessory lives” or “intercessory ministry” for others. The intent of God in Christ was to provide for “a kingdom of priests” (Exod. 19:6) who would function as a royal intercessory priesthood (I Peter 2:9) as “priests of the Lord and ministers of God” (Isa. 61:6) for others. Christians are that kingdom of priests (Rev. 1:6; 5:10), wherein the sacrificial and intercessory character of God is to function for others.

Without thought for Himself, Jesus “laid down His life” (John 10:17,18; I Jn. 3:16) for others, and as He lives in and through the Christian He will continue to express the same self-sacrifice, self-surrender, and self-giving that is inherent in God’s character. As Christians “lay down their lives for the brethren” (I Jn. 3:16), it is not for the same redemptive and propitiatory purpose which was singularly fulfilled by the Person of Christ, but the same willingness to be an expendable investiture for others remains. Christians thereby begin to recognize that participation and fellowship (koinonia) with Christ is not only the commonality of union with Him in an identity that expresses itself as us, but also involves participating in “the fellowship (koinonia) of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). As Paul invested himself in ministry unto others, he indicated that he was “filling up what was lacking in Christ’s affliction” (Col. 1:24) because Christ continued to suffer in and as him. “The sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance” (II Cor. 1:5), but “we suffer with Him that we might be glorified with Him” (Rom. 8:17), Paul wrote in other letters. “Christ through us” involves being willing “to stand in the gap” (Ezek. 22:30) for others, recognizing that our present physical bodies and lives are expendable since we have the spiritual continuity and perpetuity of Christ’s eternal life.

“Christ through us” is the extension of Christ’s ministry through Christians. The objective of that ministry is not for self-indulgent progression unto knowledge or spirituality, but is always Christ giving Himself to and for others in us, as us, and through us.

ConclusionThe phrases we have considered in this study, “Christ in us,” “Christ as us,” and “Christ through us,” are not necessarily to be understood as progressive, successive or sequential steps or stages of spiritual knowledge or spiritual growth. Though we have differentiated between them, they often meld and merge into an integrated and comprehensive emphasis of “Christ by means of us,” as this is a permissible interpretation of all three prepositions. We should avoid analyzing the meaning of these three phrases too precisely or rigidly, allowing the living reality of Christ to express Himself as He will. It is questionable whether the realities that these phrases refer to should be cast into separate theological categories as some have done, attempting to represent them as justification, sanctification, and glorification; or as regeneration, unification, and ministration. Even illustrative analogies such as John’s reference to “children, young men, and fathers” (I John 2:12-14) are best avoided, as these are often misleading.

When an individual is regenerated by the receipt of the Spirit of Christ into his/her spirit (Rom. 8:9), Christ is in that person, immanently indwelling them; Christ forms their identity, functioning as them, for Christ cannot help but act as the Being that He is; and Christ is living through them, laying down His life in intercessory ministry for others.

Despite the caution of defining these internal spiritual realities too precisely, the following differentiations may be helpful for general definition. “Christ in us” has to do with indwelling; “Christ as us” has to do with identity; “Christ through us” has to do with intercession. The preposition “in” refers to location; the preposition “as” refers to function; the preposition “through” refers to extension. “Christ in us” points to Presence ­ the real presence of the living Lord Jesus in our spirit; “Christ as us” suggests Identity ­ His presence establishes our new identity as Christ-ones; “Christ through us” implies Expression ­ Christ’s presence and function necessitates His expression through us unto others.

In conclusion let us note that Paul wrote of the Corinthians “being manifested as a letter of Christ,…written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God…on tablets of human hearts” (II Cor. 3:3). Christ living by means of us creates a unique living epistle that re-presents Christ to others in the contemporary form of our own lives. Such a presentation of Christ in us, and as us, and through us, may be the only living form of Jesus that another person may ever observe. This adaptation of another’s verse seems to capture the point poetically:

“CHRIST is writing a letter in you each day.The message, that is HIM, must be true.’Tis the only Jesus that some men may see ­The life of Christ expressed as and through YOU.


1    Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn, Romans: Atonement and Justification: An Exposition of Chapters 3:20­4:25. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1970, pg. 55.2    Berkhof, Louis, The History of Christian Doctrines. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. 1975, pg. 220.3    Mascall, E. L., Christ, the Christian and the Church: A Study of the Incarnation and its Consequences. London: Longmans. 1959. pg. 81.4    Bouyer, Louis, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism. London: The Harvill Press. 1956. pg. 151.5    Irenaeus, Against Heresies. Book V, Preface. Series: The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1985 ed., pg. 526.6    Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata. Book VII, Chapter XIII. Series: The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1985 ed., pg. 547.7    Hippolytus, The Refutation of All Heresies. Book X, Chapter XXX. Series: The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1985 ed., pg. 153.8    Origen, Against Celsus. Book III, Chapter XXVIII. Series: The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1985 ed., pg. 475.9    Cyprian, Treatise VI, On the Vanity of Idols. Series: The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1985 ed., pg. 468.10   Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word. Part III, No. 54. Series: A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. Second Series, Vol. IV. 1983 ed., pg. 65.11   Augustine, Exposition of the Psalms. Psalm 50:2. Series: A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. First Series, Vol. VIII. 1983 ed., pg. 178.12   Bowman, Robert M., Jr., “Ye are Gods? Orthodox and Heretical Views on the Deification of Man.” Article in Christian Research Journal, Winter/Spring 1987. pg. 18.13   Johnson, Alan F. and Webber, Robert, What Christians Believe: A Biblical and Historical Summary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House. 1993. pg. 303.14   Norris, F. W., “Deification: Consensual and Cogent.” Article in Scottish Journal of Theology. Vol. 49, No. 4. 1996. pg. 412.15   Ibid., pg. 418.16   Ibid., pg. 428.17   Grubb, Norman P., Who Am I? Fort Washington: Christian Literature Crusade. 1974.18   Grubb, Norman P., Yes I Am. Fort Washington: Christian Literature Crusade. 1982.19   Grubb, Norman P., God Unlimited. Fort Washington: Christian Literature Crusade. 1989. pg. 158.20   Grubb, Norman P., The Key to Everything (booklet). Fort Washington: Christian Literature Crusade.1960. pg. 23.21   Grubb, Norman P., The Deep Things of God. Fort Washington: Christian Literature Crusade. 1974. pg. 9.22   Grubb, Who Am I. op. cit., pg. 95.23   Grubb, Norman P., The Spontaneous You. Fort Washington: Christian Literature Crusade. 1972. pg. 54.24   Grubb, Yes I Am. op. cit., pg. 132.25   Grubb, Norman P., The Liberating Secret. Fort Washington: Christian Literature Crusade. 1978. pg. 39.26   Grubb, Key to Everything. op. cit., pg. 24.

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