The Two-Stage Christian Life

by Mike Ratliff

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, (Romans 1:1-5 ESV)

In last night’s post, What the Gospel Is and What the Gospel Does, I made the following statement about Romans 1:1-5 (above), “This is a summary of the two-stage life of our Lord Jesus Christ. The first stage leads up to His death on the Cross then the second stage is a second life when He was raised up in glory by God’s Spirit.” In this post I would like to show how those effectually called unto Christ by the Father are also called to parallel our Lord’s two-stage life. He was incarnate as a human even though He is the second person in the Holy Trinity. In John 1:1-3 we learn, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” This is referring to our Lord Jesus Christ. Even though He is God, He came to earth as one of us, though sinless. From that moment of His incarnation, He lived in the first stage in this sin-sick, and fallen world. He was tempted in every way that we are. He grieved, wept, was rejected, was tortured and was executed though He was innocent. He died and was buried. This ended the first stage of His life as the God-Man. Three days later He was ressrecrecterd from the dead, this began the second stage of His life in glory by God’s Spirit.

All in Christ who are still alive, that is, they have not yet been taken home to be with the Lord, are in the first stage of their effectual calling. Just as our Lord Jesus was perfect and, being God, saw all things from an eternal perspective, He also was in every way a physical person who had to eat. He bathed. He aged. He suffered in this life just like we do, but never because He sinned unlike us. All of us in Christ are in the first stage of the Christian life. We are physical beings in this world. We must eat to live. We must wear clothes. However there is a difference between us and the unregenerate.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:1-10 ESV)

We live in this hybrid state of being alive spiritually, but we live in our fleshly bodies in the temporal and we coexist here with our flesh, our sin nature, who demands that we revert back to living according to the flesh. This conflict keeps us very busy in walking in repentance so that we will be in obedience to the commands of our God. How are we to do this? We must live in the Spirit rather than the flesh.

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 dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:11-15 ESV)

To live in the Spirit is to be led by the Spirit. These who do are true believers. There are many who profess to be Christians who are not and prove it because they live totally according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:16-25 ESV)

Those who are truly in Christ have the Holy Spirit who bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Is there any prerequisite or proof for those who claim this? Those who are truly the children of God and heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ will suffer with Him in order that they may also be glorified with Him. This is the parallel that Christians have in this life with Christ in the first stage of His life as a Man. All who are God’s children are also heirs of His promises, but a willingness to follow Christ in suffering is another sign of being God’s children. Those who are ashamed of the Gospel and are ruled by fear so they deny Jesus as their Lord before men prove their disingenuousness. Like our Lord’s willingness to stand firm on God’s truth in His earthly ministry, regardless of the cost, the true Children of God will follow Him in this because they are led by the same Spirit.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:26-30 ESV)

26ωσαυτως δε και το πνευμα συναντιλαμβανεται τη ασθενεια ημων το γαρ τι προσευξωμεθα καθο δει ουκ οιδαμεν αλλα αυτο το πνευμα υπερεντυγχανει στεναγμοις αλαλητοις 27ο δε εραυνων τας καρδιας οιδεν τι το φρονημα του πνευματος οτι κατα θεον εντυγχανει υπερ αγιων 28οιδαμεν δε οτι τοις αγαπωσιν τον θεον παντα συνεργει [ο θεος] εις αγαθον τοις κατα προθεσιν κλητοις ουσιν 29οτι ους προεγνω και προωρισεν συμμορφους της εικονος του υιου αυτου εις το ειναι αυτον πρωτοτοκον εν πολλοις αδελφοις 30ους δε προωρισεν τουτους και εκαλεσεν και ους εκαλεσεν τουτους και εδικαιωσεν ους δε εδικαιωσεν τουτους και εδοξασεν (Romans 8:26-30 WHNU)

In fact, He not only leads us, we cannot do anything good for God on our own. We can only serve Him and do good in our weakness (ασθενεια) in full dependance on Him. This Greek word refers to one without strength and this is exactly how we are in this first stage of our life as children of God. We are only strong in Him and are only weak and helpless on our own. This is why when we go our own way that we can only produce the things that are bound to the ways of the world. Look at those superstar preachers with their circus churches. Yes, we can do a lot of spectacular stuff in the flesh that appeals to those driven by it, but the only way we can do things God’s way is as our Lord’s δοῦλος (bond slave) who in his or her self is spiritually ασθενεια. Look at the context of these verses. Look how the Holy Spirit is the one who lines us up with the will of God and intercedes for us so we can do good in God’s eyes because we are working within the purpose to which He has called us.

The calling according to His purpose begins with the effectual call to our salvation. It is an eternal call. Before the foundation of the world, God foreknew (προεγνω) us and He also predestined (προωρισεν) us to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ in order that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. The context of Romans 8:26 for the word προεγνω gives us the usage of this being a foreordaining of a specific group of people. The word προωρισεν is used here to describe God’s predefining those in the specific group of people to be conformable to the image of Jesus Christ. In v30 we have the consistency and faithfulness of God revealed in how each of God’s children are taken through the first stage of this life in Christ to fulfillment in glory in the second stage just as our Lord’s two-stage life was fulfilled in glory. All those whom God predestined before the foundation of the world were effectually called at the right time to belief in the Saviour. Through this act of faith they were justified (εδικαιωσεν). This word in Greek refers to the declaring of one to be innocent or righteous. This is the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness to our account. All those predestined, called, and justified are also glorified (εδοξασεν). This word refers to the act of esteeming one highly to glorify them or magnify them. We do not experience this in the first stage of this Christian life. This is what awaits us in the second stage just as it did our Lord in His.

I suggest that you read the rest of Romans 8 for in it you will see how we are still very much in the first stage of this Christian life in which we do suffer as our Lord did, but we are to cling to our Lord in them and understand that it it through these tests and trials that we are partaking of the very things in this life that will be used by God to glorify us in Christ in our second stage.

Soli Deo Gloria!

5 thoughts on “The Two-Stage Christian Life

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  2. To live in the Spirit is to be led by the Spirit. These who do are true believers. There are many who profess to be Christians who are not and prove it because they live totally according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit.

    From what I see……this is 99.5% of the so called churches today. They say one thing, they live another, but are somehow convinced they ARE saved. HA. Can we say delusion to believe the lie!


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