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Biblical Stages of the Christian Life

written by Ken Walker

This study has just gone through a major revision which will appear on
http://www.goodnews.org.au/fullness/index-2008.html
On November 1st 2008.

This is the second article written by the author on the subject of fullness of life in Christ. The first article Searching for the Promised Fullness of God is listed on the Internet at http://www.vicnet.net.au/~gnaust/life/index-gr.html being one of the articles on that page. That article examined how a correct understanding of Romans 7 opens the doorway to both and full and proper understanding of the Gospel and the operation of faith in a believer. It is hoped that this present article will unfold another aspect of the Biblical stages of development of the believer.

When reading Norman Grubb's last book, Yes I Am, written in 1984 I noticed constant reference to mentions of stages of development in the Christian life. These references to stages by Grubb asserted that the Bible itself outlined the three stages of development, an idea I had not heard of previously. I had read of stages in the sense of second blessings and baptism of the Spirit, and similar descriptions. However, the wide range of views on those and related subjects within Christendom had left me unsatisfied as to the accuracy of their interpretation and to what God had intended as His full Gospel.

Using Grubb's writings on this topic and using the terminology provided, I searched for Biblical references to elements of these 3 stages and found plenty of support. What was even more encouraging to me was that these 3 stages were described from a variety of points of view, ten in all, these complementing each other and providing a more complete understanding of each stage. As spiritual insights sometimes come when information is laid out in logical format, I began to assemble the information in a concise fashion. The following chart resulted.

Description of chart

Horizontally, the chart below shows these three stages highlighted by Grubb as being in scripture. The ten elements shown in each of the three stages are closely related rather than being considered identical. Also, it should be understood that the stages most often overlap and do not necessarily represent three sequential steps. Moreover, substantial movements from one stage to another are spiritual movements brought about by the Holy Spirit, full appreciation and understanding for the believer coming from Him alone.

The first stage is variously described as, or includes the new birth, as children, Christ taking hold of us, Christ for us, Jesus formed in us, our justification and our crucifixion. The second stage is variously described as, or includes the promised rest, as young men, Christ indwelling us, Christ in us and unity with Him.

The third stage is variously described as, or includes us being Priest's of God, as fathers, Christ fruiting through us, Christ as us, we sacrificed through Him, co- operation with and completion through Him. Further descriptions - Behavioral characteristics of these stages are provided below the chart.

Vertical elements of chart

Vertically, varying descriptions of the three stages are mentioned 10 times in this writing. The scriptural basis of these is shown in column 3. I have grouped these 10 description into 5 aspects of the Work of Christ

1 Our rescue and placement 2 Our spiritual formation 3 Our spiritual unification 4 Our identification and status 5 Our suffering and self-sacrifice

 

Summary of Work of Christ in relation to Stages of the Christian Life. (short version)

The Work of Christ 

 

First Stage

 Second Stage

 Third Stage

 

 

Our rescue
and
placement

 

(Grubb referencespp 148, 153,
154)

 

 

 

The New Birth

 

John 3:5-6 (NKJV)

Galatians 1:4 (NKJV)

 

The Promised Rest

 

Hebrews 4:9-11 (NKJV)

As Priests of God

 

1 Peter 2:5 (NKJV)
1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV)

 

 

Christ - Taking hold of us

 

Galatians 4:4-5 (NKJV)

 

Christ - Indwelling us

 

Ephesians 3:17-18 (NKJV)

Christ - Fruiting through us

 

John 15:4-5 (NKJV)

 

Our Spiritual


Formation

 

(Grubb referencespp 150, 151)

 

Christ - FOR us

 

John 1:12 (NKJV)

 

Christ - IN us

 

Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)

Romans 8:10 (NKJV)

 

Christ AS us

 

(Christ our life)

Colossians 3:3-5 (NKJV)

 

 

God's Spirit is within us

 

Galatians 4:6-7 (NKJV)

Titus 3:5 (NKJV)

 

Christ revealed and being formed in us

 

Romans 8:11 (NKJV)
Galatians 4:19 (NKJV)

We, as living sacrifices.

 

Romans 12:1 (NKJV)

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NKJV)

 

Our spiritual unification
and sanctification

 

(Grubb referencespp 146, 148)

 

Justification by Faith


1 Corinthians 6:11 (NKJV)
Galatians 2:16 (NKJV)
Romans 3:24 (NKJV)

 

Unification – the state of unity


Ephesians 4:13(NKJV)
Ephesians 4:3 (NKJV)
Romans 6:5 (NKJV)
John 15:5 (NKJV)

 

 Co-operation


John 15:17 (NKJV)
John 15:10 (NKJV)

 

Justification – By His grace


Romans 4:25 (NKJV)
Romans 5:16 (NKJV)

 

 

Sanctification


John 17:17 (NKJV)
John 15:2 (NKJV)
2 Timothy 2:21 (NKJV)
1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NKJV)
1 Peter 1:2 (NKJV)

 

Completion


Colossians 1:19 (NKJV)
Colossians 1:22 (NKJV)
Corinthians 3:5 (NKJV)

 

Our Identification
and status.

 


(Grubb references pp 148 )

 

 
>>>>>>>

 


Primary three steps of

spiritual development

 

 

>>>>>>>

 

 

 

Crucifixion


Romans 6:6 (NKJV)
Colossians 3:3 (NKJV)

Resurrection


Romans 6:5 - 6

Romans 6:11 (NKJV)
Philippians 3:10

 

Ascension


Ephesians 2:6 (NKJV)

Identification with Him


Romans 6:4 (NKJV)
Romans 6:5 (NKJV)
Romans 6:8 (NKJV)
Romans 7:4 (NKJV)

 

Risen with Him


Romans 8:11 (NKJV)
Ephesians 2:6 (NKJV)

Seated with Him


Ephesians 2:6 (NKJV)

 

Children


1 John 2:12 (NKJV)
1 John 2:13 (NKJV)

 

Young Men


1 John 2:13 (NKJV)
1 John 2:14 (NKJV)

Fathers


1 John 2:13 (NKJV)
1 John 2:14 (NKJV)

 

Our suffering &

self-sacrifice


(Grubb referencespp 154)

 

 

Suffering in our law
-inspired condition


Galatians 3:5 (NKJV)
Galatians 3:3 (NKJV)
Galatians 3:22 (NKJV)

 

Suffering in our more mature but
still striving condition.


2 Peter 2:20 (NKJV)
1 Corinthians 12:26 (NKJV)

 

Suffering in ourself -

 giving condition

1 Peter 2:21 (NKJV)
Philippians 3:8-10 (NKJV)
2 Corinthians 1:6-7 (NKJV)
1 Peter 4:13-16(NKJV)

 

  

Behavioral characteristics of these three stages.

A reminder is necessary here. It should be understood that the stages most often overlap and do not necessarily represent three sequential steps. Moreover, substantial movements from one stage to another are spiritual movements brought about by the Holy Spirit, full appreciation and understanding for the believer coming from Him alone - as he cooperates with the Lord in this process. Also bear in mind that these characteristics are not formulas or descriptions that would apply to all believers, but just suggestions or characteristics as to the nature of our preparation for the work that God has for all believers.

Stage One.

Born again - As children - Christ taking hold of us - Christ for us - Christ initially formed in us - Christ for us - Justification - Crucified - Identification with Him - Suffering in our sinful condition

The Bible seems to describe Stage One as being born again and having a knowledge of salvation as it applies to going to heaven. Jesus Christ is recognized as Saviour but not necessarily Lord.

The Christian at this stage may not (and some may never ) realize the full import of the truth of "Christ in you" which is needed to develop a lifetime of real faith and trust in Jesus Christ. This being so some may never develop an awareness of, or be witnessed to by the Spirit as to the full indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ may well be considered as being out there (in heaven) rather than within the human soul and body.

Although the first flush of salvation may produce authentic initial works of service, such service does not develop to what is possible when the Lord is able to lead the believer toward the full application of the Cross in their life. Although the believer belongs to Christ they still have that tendency towards being self oriented for self for self's sake, being as yet unaware of the full nature of the gospel and the role of true faith.

All this is not so surprising given that the new believer is a babe in Christ. Even Paul allowed for it, suggesting a milk diet instead of meat. However, given true interpretations of scripture and a right attitude before God, any believer at this first stage can move on with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Stage Two

Christ in us - Christ revealed in us - Christ Indwelling us - As young men - Resurrection - Unification - Sanctification - Risen with Him - The Promised rest
- Suffering in our mature condition.

The Spirit of God has now witnessed to our Spirit that Christ does indeed dwell within us. There is a real experiential knowing that the old self is dead and gone and that he is resurrected into the newness and fullness of the Christ life in him. There is full knowledge and experience that a resurrection of the Christ life has taken place within the believer. Galations 2:20 begins to become a valid life experience.

The promised rest spoken of by Joshua and in Hebrews begins to be experienced. However, there may still be some old self striving as though the old man is still there, with resultant suffering because the believer has not yet fully learned his full position in Christ by not yet having learned the fullness of faith that is both necessary and possible.

There will almost certainly be struggles and wars in our internal trenches that seem pointless and unjustified. They are however, God's way of bringing us to where He needs us to be to fully participate as a follower in service as He defines it. In the midst of the apparent hopelessness and never ending traumas of life, the believer has to stand firm in his knowledge of God and in full trust and faith in His care and godly wisdom that reigns far above anything that man could consider or devise. Having been perfected in this stage, the believer may well now be faced with God's call for true sacrificial service, which has nothing to do with self desired works.

Stage Three

Christ our life - Completion - as Fathers - Cooperation with Him - Ascension - Seated with Him
Priests of God - Sacrificing through Him - Christ fruiting through us.

Having reached the promised rest and fully experiencing who we are in Christ, we now reach the stage where Christ can use us fully in His service. Christ can now use His witness of Himself in our lives to bring about a fuller reliance on Him for everything - for every part of our daily lives.

We begin to apply the sort of faith and trust in Him that pleases God and lessens or eliminates our self-striving. We become priests of God, complete in Him and cooperating with Him bringing fruit from His life in us. We fully know and utilize the fact that although we have spirit, soul and body, Christ communicates His life through our Spirit - He is Christ our life. We have ascended with Him and are seated with Him in the heavenly realms and we do His will.

Suffering for others in our self-giving becomes the normal life where we participate with Him in the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ. The Lord uses His presence in our being to use us as His vessels and branches to draw the people's of the world to Himself, using His death to our life and His life in our life to bring life to others, just as Jesus Himself did when He was on earth. Death to us but- life to others.

This is the true and right self for a child of God whose sanctification has reached a new level - one where the Potter's hand has made him a useful receptacle to be filled and used by the Spirit of God - a present tense reality on this earth before the ultimate state in heaven.

Possible uses for this understanding

How can a believer use this analysis of scripture in respect of their life in Christ?

1 We can know that God's Word itself describes three stages and the characteristics of each stage, therefore providing clues as to how we may co- operate with the Lord to move through them.

2 We can analyze the various aspects of the stages

   2.1 To see what is possible in the Christian life
   2.2 To see where we are in Christ
   2.3 To help us explain our experience of the Christian life and the difficulties we may have.
   2.4 To see what work God might be doing in us.
   2.5. To see how we can better co-operate with Him in fullness of faith

3 We can analyze an individual Christian life or the life of a church from its stated beliefs, teachings and quality of true fellowship.

4 We can look at the difficulties of an individual Christian life, or the life of a church.

5 We could use these understandings to plan teaching, preaching, study or any other learning.

6 We could look at what is possible at each stage of the Christian life and the fullness that is possible through Christ, so as to expect what should be true for each stage of the Christian life.

7 Finally, it would help a counsellor, bible teacher,or pastor to assess and guide a believer, who is not sure why he or she is not progressing in the Christian life. An understanding of the three stages would also be of great use in being

realistic about where we are in our Christian walk, so as not to expect to perform in the higher stages before God has equipped them.

Conclusion

This is a very brief summary of what amounts to what I am now believing to be biblical teaching of the full gospel of Jesus Christ. It is meant to introduce believers to what may well amount to be new ideas of how to bring about the fullness of God in their life.

When I wrote this article in 2001 I was very much a learner in these things and did not profess any great degree of knowledge, wisdom or experience in these things, apart from what the Holy Spirit has granted me by His grace. It is now 2005. Since this writing, and in consequence of a continuing and growing faith, I can say that I have observed that these things now seem to be true and I am very glad I have taken the pathway I have.

Even if these ideas do nothing else than provide an alternative to the limited Gospel as it has been taught in churches of my experience - and perhaps yours - it will perhaps provoke deeper searches into the mysteries that have been revealed since Paul's revelations in New Testament times.

A good start into the subject would be to meditate on the deeper meaning of three central scriptural verses, which are:

"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who 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 delivered Himself up for me. (Gal 2:20)

"Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Col 1:25-27

When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.(Col 3:4)


Ken Walker

kgww @tpg.com.au (leave out space before @ to make address effective.

June 2001
Updated March 2003
Updated October 2005
Updated August 2008