I’m a “one or the other” kind of guy. It’s not that I particularly like that about myself. It’s just the reality. I tend to think in binary terms, like a switch. The switch is either in the on position, or the off position. Or, maybe more appropriately, it is like a construction project. A house is either under construction, or it is complete. It must be one or the other, right?
That makes sense in my mind, but as I read the Bible, I find that I often times come across subjects which aren’t “one or the other,” but instead are “both/and.” That “both/and” nature shows up most clearly in the gospel reality of our union in Christ. This reality of my union in Christ is a beautifully nourishing well that my soul continues to drink from, and one that I try to pour into those closest to me. I was reminded and refreshed anew with this truth when I recently read through Romans 7 and 8.
In Romans 7, Paul seems to tell my story, as he wrestles over the reality of sin in his life. The apostle Paul at this time was most decidedly a true Christian, yet he acknowledges that the remains of the flesh, or the sinful self of his old man, still remain. He still sins, even though he doesn’t want to. It is a struggle within him that I know all too well. My house is still under construction.
Then, I read on to Romans 8 and I find the life giving words that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The Word then goes on to tell me in 8:4 that the righteous requirement of the law has been fulfilled in ME. How could all of this be true for a guy who still struggles with the reality of sin in my life? It sure doesn’t seem to fit in to my “one or the other” way of thinking.
This is where (PRAISE BE TO GOD!) the “both/and” nature of the gospel comes in to play. The righteous requirement of the law has been fulfilled in me, not because of me, but because of Jesus (see Romans 8:3). So it is both. I am righteous in Christ, and I am being made righteous in Christ. What Romans 8 makes clear for me is that this is the work of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of me, calling me to grow into what Christ has already declared me to be.
Have you ever just wanted the task to be completed though? I live in an old house, and sadly I’m not all that handy. There is always something that needs to be done. I love my house, but sometimes I just want to be finished with the projects. In an old house (or a new one for that matter), there just is no end. The work is constant…just like in me. The Word assures me, though, that just as I am still under construction, I am also complete in Jesus. In Him, it is both/and. Thank you Jesus!