Co-Saviorhood: the Third Level
As we continue our exploration of our Spirit-union with Christ, Norman examines how we grow in our recognition of who we are in Christ. He takes us through moving into the third level, as ever using scriptural truths to underpin his message.
We have seen with unmistakable clarity that there are stages in our becoming settled about who we are by grace, and stages through which we must pass; or we can call them grades from which we must be graduated. We have already looked into two of these (whatever name we decide to call them): justification and unification Christ for us and Christ in us.
But the Bible makes it plain that there are three grades, not twoand each equally necessary. We have spent much time on the first two, but it is less recognized that there is a third to be consciously entered into.
In calling them grades or levels of being there is always a danger that we may slip back into the old snare of self-effort and self-development and think of them as something we have to attain to. Growth, also, is a common concept we use to denote what we think of as spiritual progress. How often I hear it said, Well, it has taken you time and will take me time to get there. So we need a constant reminder that spiritual growth, or the attaining of a new grade, is not some form of painfully acquired self-enlargement; rather it is the same old story, nothing but a growth in recognition of what Christ, our last Adam, has attained for us which is already ours. That is why growth is spoken of by Peter in his Second Epistle with these words: Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Growth, therefore, is merely the next stage of recognition of who we already are in Him; and that recognition, as we now know, is always and only by the non-works method of faith, and the Spirit is the one who establishes us.
So with this safeguard, we move on to this third level. The simplest description of the three levels (because he uses a down-to-earth analogy) is Johns, when he writes to his readers as little children, young men, and fathers (1 John 2:1214). He makes brief comments about what he means, spiritually speaking, by these three stages. A little child is totally dependent externally on his parents and knows nothing but what they outwardly are to him. So a little child in grace knows simply that he was a sinner, that he is forgiven through Christ, and thus, now, God is his heavenly Father. A young man has moved from outer dependence on his parents to finding his own inner resources for lifeprogress from outer to inner. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you. This is a plainspoken description of our being established in the on top life which we have spent so long in examining in every detail, and into which we have now moved by the second crisis. We now know we are strongand we know why. Therefore we are no longer tossed about in those old struggles with devil and flesh. We know inwardly, not just outwardly, what first came to us as outer, written word but which now abides in us, fused into our inner consciousness by the Spirit. What a total description of an established, achieved life not of trying, hoping, kind of slipping in and out of it, but being!
I have written unto you, fathers, John states cryptically, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. That brings us back to the realization that knowing in Scripture usually refers not to mere mental understanding, but implies being mixed with the thing we know. That is why the Bible uses the word for sexual intercourse: Adam knew Eve his wife. Spiritually, it is inner know-how; and what you know, that you are. This is eternal life, said Jesus in His great prayer to His Father, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent. And we who are born of His Spirit know that knowing is the inner union. So when John says that we fathers know Him that is from the beginning, he means that, as fathers, we are in inner union with that Eternal Onenot in His beginning, but as the One who now, as from the beginning, is in the process of completing what He has begun; and we are involved with Him in that completing process. Amazing grace! The point, then, is that we now are no longer dependent children, but cooperating sons: Father and Sons, Inc.!
What John has given us on these three levels in such understandable terms is seen all through Scripture in those same three forms. We are united with Christ in His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascensionand Paul wrote letters which concentrate on each of these: Galatians on our identification with Him in His death; Colossians on our being risen with Him; Ephesians on our ascended life, seated with Him in the heavenlies, and its outcome.
From Flesh to Spirit
Pauls Roman letter we all recognize as his fully developed, detailed, and authoritative statement of what he calls my gospel. In this letter the three states are plain enough: chapters 3 to 5justification (little children); 6 to 8unification (young men); 9 to 15 cooperation, co-saviorhood (fathers).
In Hebrews there are the three again. The writer plainly likens Jesus to Moses because, by the new birth, He saves us out of our Egypt, the world; and to Joshua, because He takes us into the land of milk and honey, the promised rest, after we have emerged from the childhood wilderness. Then he stops short very significantly, and says there is a third likeness: to Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God. In this parallel Jesus is our great High Priest. Now whenever there is a high priest, there must be other priests serving along with him. But when speaking here of the order of Melchisedec, the writer does not name anyone as copriests, because those Hebrew believers had a spiritual blockage en route (5:12- 6:2), showed negative reactions to their sufferings (10:32-39), and were tied in knots of self-pity (12:5-13). He does, however, describe the co-priesthood of the third level in his famous list in Hebrews chapter 11 of the giants of faith, who were the intercessor priests of their respective generations. And we are to be such for our God today, a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9).
The most revealing of all analyses of these three grades of experience is by Paul himself in his Philippian letter. In 3:314 he pours out to us some of the Lords dealings with him. He starts by mentioning the many qualifications he had in the flesh, but plainly states that he no longer has confidence in such things. We can sense his thankfulness for his awareness of the false pride he had in his own righteousness, and his disgust as he sees it as the rotten rags of Satanic self-love. He declares: What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ (vs. 7). Here he is alluding to his Damascus road conversion experience. There the truth had first pierced his honest heart like an ox goad. There the contrast between his own hate and rage and the glory and rapture on the face of Stephen, the battered but forgiving martyr, had been clearly revealed. There, on the Damascus road, in a blinding flash Paul had seen that same supernatural love in the face of the ascended Jesus, who spoke to him not in wrath or retaliation but in loving appeal: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? Dont you know I love you? There he had exchanged the rags of his self-loving self for the eternal gain of Christs own garment of self-giving self.
Christ Takes Over
But then Paul made a startling and costly discovery: the ascended Jesus, now a marvelous Savior to him, was much more to him. Christ made it plain that He had come to take over Pauls whole life and express His own loveselfhood through Paul. Yea doubtless, continues Paul (vs. 8), I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord . This was something altogether more revolutionary and advanced than merely Jesus as his Savior and Justifier, marvelous though that was. Now this One is to manage his whole lifetake him overso that Paul becomes an embodiment of Jesus Christ formed in him as well as revealed to him. And this Paul jumped into! Everything earthly must go to the winds for that, whatever the cost. There was pain in it: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things. There had been the painful cutting-off from all his ambitions as a leading young Jew of his day, with a great future among his own people. This was the paying of the disciple price, where we hate father, mother, wife, children, houses, lands, physical well-being, and in fact, all that we have, to be a disciple. Paul paid that, and at that time it was a sacrifice. And this conditioned Paul for his great Galatians 2:20 revelation, which was his unique contribution to the body of Christ through all the coming centuries. This was Paul as a young man (1 John 2:13), in the second stage where he now found himselfwhich meant finding Christ as the exchanged self in him.
A Renewed Mind
Now comes the most revolutionary change of attitude. He suddenly says that the things it cost him to surrender would now be a stench in his nostrils toretain! What was once precious is now disgusting to him. What he had called suffering the loss of all things he now says he counts as stinking dung! I count them but dung, that I may win Christ . A total reversal. And why? Because he was no longer concerned with getting his own inner need settled. This was now completed in Christnot only Christ for him, but now Christ in him, as him. Now hes free to be one with whom Christ would delight to share His inner self and His purposes. A great ambition had seized Paulto win Christ. Winning Christ means not depending on Christ for my own convenience any longer but being privileged, rather, to reach a place where He can share with me as His companion, bosom friend, and intimate cooperator what He came down on earth to do. And how supreme this ambition is! But it is not attained through any methods of the flesh, but only through the faith of Christ. For Paul continues: and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith (vs. 9).
Then Paul explains what these highest ways in Him are: That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death . To thus know Him means an inner understanding of His ways as the Savior: living by the power of His resurrection, as a heavenly man in every earthly condition or daily demand, as Jesus did; fellowshipping with Him also in His sufferings, not now the joys of union but in Jesus costly identification with the world in its needs, as well as meeting its antagonism. Finally, it means pouring out ones life, not in some quiet retirement, but in Gods appointed wayspiritually or physically dying that others may live. This Paul now embraced and lived out in his co-saviorhood, right to its last limit and into its final glory. As he wrote, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from among the dead (literal Greek). In this he did not refer, of course, to his share in the bodily resurrection (which is a gift of God to all believers) but to a death like that of Jesus which brings resurrection to othersthat bringing many sons to glory for which the Captain of our salvation tasted death (Heb. 2:10).
To gain thisthat by his dying many should livePaul, now in his old age, pressed toward the mark in that high calling. As he wrote, Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. He lived to take hold of that for which Christ had taken hold of him. People often mistakenly interpret this saying of Pauls as if he wasnt perfect in the sense of sanctification, not yet in the full victory life, and had yet to attain that one day. Not so. Paul had long passed through that second, young man stage of handing his whole life over to the Lordship and indwelling of Christ. That was settled forever, as with us who now know our second stage. But here he was in his co-saviorhood with Jesus who Himself had also said that He had a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! As Jesus cried out triumphantly on the cross, It is finished, Paul also in his final letter to son Timothy, when facing his execution, wrote, I have fought a good fight, I have finished my coursethe glorious course of a gained intercession. Paul the father, Paul the co-priest, Paul carrying right through the purpose for which he was seated in the heavenlies in Christ yes, Paul the corn of wheat sown in the ground and dying, and bringing forth much fruit.
We Are Living Sacrifices
Now we see what this third level means in our own experience, and that it is to be taken seriously as a third crisis of faith and experience. As seriously as the first and second crises. The key scripture summoning us from the second level, to move into the third, is Pauls Romans 12:1: I beseech you therefore, brethren that ye present your bodies [as] a living sacrifice. (For intercession involves the body, as we shall see later.)
The second stage had been thoroughly established with its final triumphant shout of no separationno separation possible from our eternal union. Pauls Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? I am persuaded that [nothing] can separate us (Rom. 8:3539). But now a shock! There is a new and glorious reversal from no separation to a voluntary separation from God if necessary even going to hell that our brother humans may be saved. For Paul immediately thereafter writes about his great heaviness for his own people: I could wish myself accursed [i.e., separated] from Christ for my brethren. This was Paul the intercessor, and it is as such that he calls on us allall who are redeemedto present our bodies now as living sacrifices on the altar of selfgiving for others. While death works in us, life will come to them. And from this point on in his Roman letter, nothing is spoken about except how the light and life of Christ reaches out by us to the world, and how we thankfully use the various gifts with which the Spirit has equipped usabout eighteen in all. What this means is a total move over, by the compulsion of the Spirit, to a life of unceasing love-activities in spirit and bodyfrom the discipleship to the apostleship level, from the apprenticeship to the proficiency level, from the school of faith to the life of faith yet all (as ever) on the cant help it level, with all the zest of living, the enthusiasm, the gaiety-at-heart of a permanent seriousness, where the zeal of Gods house has eaten us up.
So this is as much a total entry into a fully meaningful relationship with Christ on this third level as was the entry into the replaced life. It is entering into the final and total meaning of our portion of suffering in this life. From the suffering in our sin condition, to the suffering in our striving condition, to the suffering in our self-giving condition. It is revolutionaryand to those not settled and at home with the Trinity in our union relationship, it will again appear blasphemousbecause we are really now saying that we are cogods with God, just as the man Jesus said this to the Pharisees opposing Him (John 10:3435).
So we see how we have now been permitted to share in the true purpose of sonship: no longer just the privilege of fallen sinners being sons and brothers with the Son, but joining with the Father in His eternal love-purposes for the final reconciliation of all things, when Hell be known as God all in all. But if that is glorious for us, it is also most serious; for it means that as sons in this present moment of history, we are co-saviors, co-intercessors, in completing the number of His elect, colaborers with Him in the harvesting. That also means co-sufferers with Him in filling up that which is behind [i.e., still lacking] of the afflictions of Christ for His bodys sake (Col. 1:24). Were on the saving level with Him, and boldly accepting ourselves as such, carrying out the details of His plans, pressing toward the mark, paying the price, and knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord.
For many years after his retirement as General Secretary of the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, Norman Grubb traveled extensively sharing the truth of our union with Christ. He also carried on a huge personal correspondence with individuals throughout the world. He was the author of many books and pamphlets, a number of which are available through the Zerubbabel Book Ministry. Norman lived with his daughter, Priscilla, in Fort Washington, PA. Norman P. Grubb entered the Kingdom at 98 years of age.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 21 No 1
- I Was a Fool
- Gods Great PurposeBy Us
- Here We Stand
- Moses Stage 4: The Intercessor
- Seeing Through the Lie
- NO EXCUSES FOR FAILURE
- Editors Note
- Tape Talk
- Are We Still on Target?
- Further Reflections of a 12-Year-Old Scribe
- BIBLE STUDY:The Letter to the Romans
- A Look at a Book
- Letters from Norman
- Co-Saviorhood: the Third Level