Boasting in Christ: Christ Is Our Life

boast-in-the-lordWhat is life? It certainly means more than mere existence. For we say of people who are technically alive, they “need a life,” or the should “get a life,” or that they “have no life.” Generally some might say of those with specific limitations, “that’s no life.” At least, then, in general parlance, we have something more in mind than existence when we speak of life. Life, then, is about living and about a particular quality of living. In the Scriptures Paul clarifies that Christ is our life. Apart from Christ we have no real life of which to speak.

The first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians spells out in detail why we cannot boast in ourselves. We can only boast in Christ. At the end of the chapter Paul clarifies it further with a list of specific reasons we can boast only in Christ. He writes:

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human beingmight boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:26-31)

The actual Greek at the start of verse 30 declares “from Him you are in Christ.” Other translations have phrased it as “He is the source of your life in Christ.” I like that phrasing. It communicates well what God has done for us in Christ – namely given us life.

At one level we could say that Christ is the source of our existence. After all, to the Colossians Paul wrote of the cosmic Christ who has created all things. He said:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)

The creator of all things is this Jesus. We may rightly say, then, that Christ is the source of our physical life. He is the source of our whole existence. But when Paul calls God our “source” of life “in Christ” I am inclined to think he is speaking more in spiritual terms. Christ is the giver of spiritual life. In the preceding verses he is describing how God delights to take the lowly things of this world, things already in existence, and call them to himself that he might shame the values of this world. The connection is taking the existing and devalued creation and giving it new life. This is a spiritual life that Paul has in mind.

Christ is the source of this spiritual life. He is the cause of our new birth. It is through him that we are “made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22; Eph. 2:5; Col. 2:13). You and I could do nothing to bring spiritual life to our dead souls. We could not awaken ourselves from the sleep of death. We could not make spiritual vitality take root in our hearts. This was beyond our help and our capacity. Paul makes this clear to the Colossians, again he says:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses. (Colossians 2:13)

We were dead in our sins and trespasses, he says. He states the same truths to the Ephesians (2:1). There, to the Ephesians, he points out in a particularly graphic manner that we are essentially “walking corpses.” The word used for dead there is “nekros” the same word used for corpse. We are, to quote my favorite graphic novel, “the walking dead.” Apart from Christ we are walking corpses, with no hope to change our condition. Christ is the source of our life. When Paul asks later on, “What do you have that you did not receive from Christ” (1 Cor. 4:7), the answer very literally is nothing! We have nothing apart from him, most especially not spiritual life. What have I to boast in? I have nothing! Without Jesus I would still be dead.

When I think about my life before Christ I can’t imagine how it ever happened that I became a follower of God. I recall my sophomore year of high school saying to a friend, “I know I am going to hell, but I plan to have as much fun as I can before I get there.” Those are the words of a “spiritual seeker.” I was lost and destitute and content to be so. I recall that I went on a youth trip in order to try to hook up with a girl in the youth group. That is not the plan of a man who wants to encounter Jesus. I was cold and frustrated and annoyed through the first day of the conference, but the Holy Spirit was moving anyway. God awoke me from my slumber that weekend! I did not seek Him, I was not interested in Him, I had no desire to become a follower of Christ – but he grabbed hold of my heart anyway. I was dead and could have done nothing to make myself alive, but God caused me to be born again, to a new a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). God is the source of my life in Christ, I am most assuredly not!

Christ is our life. That’s what Paul says to the Colossians: “When Christ, who is your life, appears then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). Friends, if we are truly a live we know that we have nothing to boast in. Christ is our life, apart from Him we are still dead and we are heading for eternal death. We have nothing to boast in, but we may boast in Christ.

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