Ye are Christ's

"Ye are Christ's" (1 Corinthians 3:23). These three words will be enough for my purpose at this time. I invite you to dismiss from your minds all popular notions as to what our relations with Christ are, for the more popular the notion is the more likely it is to be false, and come back to the clear, unmistakable words of Scripture. They are not Christ is yours, but "Ye are Christ's." I am not aware of any passage in the New Testament that says Christ is yours. We are His possession; His claims are absolute; He is Lord; this is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Many things are ours, before we reach this arresting statement, we are told, "All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours," and popular Christianity would crown this glorious heritage by saying, "And best of all Christ is yours." But the Scripture does not say that at all. What it says is, "YE ARE CHRIST'S, and Christ is God's." Just as Christ was and is and ever will be altogether at God's disposal, the willing Servant of His good pleasure, so are we to be at Christ's disposal, to be pleasurable to Him both now and for ever.

There is a great deal of unhealthy sentiment, I had almost said unholy sentiment, expressed in hymns often sung in modern "revival" and other gatherings, about Christ being ours. This sentiment is the product of a religion that has self for its centre and object, and one's own blessing and happiness and feelings and experiences and doings as its sole concern, instead of Christ and His rights, and these hymns and the sentiment behind them help to perpetuate a worldly, selfish, emasculated Christianity that the apostles knew not. From it may the Lord deliver us and bring us back by a gracious revival to the fact that we are Christ's, and to what that great fact means. We did not choose Him, but He chose us, we did not buy Him, but He bought us, and great was the price that He paid; and since He chose us and bought us we must belong to Him — spirit, soul and body. Yes, body as well as spirit and soul. It is this that is emphasized later in the epistle when the apostle, full of surprise that his Corinthian converts were forgetting it and of indignation at the conduct that resulted from their forgetfulness, urges, "What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your bodies, which are God's" (Chap. 6:19-20, N.Tr.). Our bodies belong to God because they are Christ's and Christ is God's. Not only purchased but taken possession of — purchased by blood and possessed by the Holy Ghost. What else could be true but this, "Ye are Christ's"?

There was no selfish challenge to this great fact when first the apostles proclaimed that God had made this same Jesus both Lord and Christ. So real was it to those who yielded themselves to Him that they put all they possessed at His feet; they kept nothing back: lands, houses, everything belonged to Him if they were His; and without delay or regret they surrendered all to the disposal of their Lord. Was that because they were a generous and large-hearted people? Not likely; they were Jews. It was because they wholly recognized the claims of Christ. Nor was the truth less effectual amongst the Gentiles who believed, for the churches of Macedonia, though in great poverty, first gave their own selves to the Lord and then placed what else they had at His command. So it is recorded for us in 2 Corinthians 8.

The Christians at Corinth had not fully owned this fact. It is probable that they boasted that Christ was theirs. It seems certain that they did, for they were taking the benefits and gifts that they had received because they were Christ's and using them for self-exaltation. They were laying hold of these benefits and saying they are ours, and they were puffed up thereby, and producing all kinds of strife, and envy, and ill-blood where peace and love should have held sway. They were reigning as kings, these people who could boast that Christ was theirs, white Paul and his fellow-apostles, men who fully owned that they were Christ's, were the offscouring of all things, for so we learn from chapter 4 of this epistle; they could not reign where Christ was crucified, they must be as their Lord.

The sort of Christianity that the Corinthians showed is the sort that is popular today, and just as they needed to have the truth pressed upon them that they were Christ's, so do we. There can be no advance in grace and truth, no walking and growth in the Spirit apart from this, "Ye are Christ's" must gain its proper ascendency in our lives if we are to be what the Scripture shows us that Christians really are.

Now before proceeding to speak of the blessedness of this fact, it is not my intention to take from anyone any definite blessing or joy that they may have derived from thinking of Jesus as theirs. There is a certain measure of truth in that side of things; the trouble is that it is forced wholly out of its place to the detriment of souls. It is true that the Lord Jesus has placed Himself at our disposal. All the grace and love that fills His heart flows out without limit for us, in that sense He may be said to be ours; but was there ever a Christian who really got the benefit of these things apart from owning the claims of the Lord? It is only as we are owning that we are Christ's that we can be in the joy of what He is to us. We rejoice to speak of Him as our Saviour. Yes, but what did He save us for? That we might belong to Him, "He gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us to Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" — that we might be His peculiar treasure. We rejoice to speak of Him as our Lord; but that means not that He belongs to us, but that we belong to Him; it is not our claiming Him, but our owning His claims over us. We delight in the fact that "The Lord is my Shepherd." True, but does the Shepherd belong to the sheep or the sheep to the Shepherd? His own account of this blessed relationship is very definite. "I am the good Shepherd; the good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep … I am the good Shepherd and know My sheep, and am known of Mine … My sheep hear My voice … neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand … My Father gave them Me." There is no part of Scripture that emphasizes the great fact that we are Christ's more than John 10, and, oh, the preciousness of it! We are His because of the great love that fills His heart for us, love that has flowed forth and proved itself by His death for us. He gave Himself that He might possess us for Himself for ever without a rival. We are His because His Father gave us to Him, and we are more precious to Him because of this than thrones and kingdoms; we are the Father's love gift to His well-beloved Son. We are His because He can keep us. He can hold us against the threatenings of every hostile power. In His right hand dwells omnipotence, and in that hand we are, for we are His. The sheep belong to the Shepherd. "Ye are Christ's."

We may begin, and often do, like the bride in Canticles who sang in her new-found joy, "My beloved is mine, and I am His," but if we advance in the knowledge of the Lord we shall speedily change our song as she did, and rejoice with a greater joy to sing, "I am my beloved's, and His desire is toward me." The first is a sort of half truth in which self has a place of prominence, the last is the whole truth, in which Christ is all. There the heart loses sight of all but the greatness and tenderness of Him who has been spoken of in poetical language as "this tremendous Lover." Then it is realized that the only response to love such as His is to yield ourselves to Him, and it becomes the joy of life to own that we are His.

This means much to Him; if we would know how much we must measure the travail of His soul when He gave Himself to save us and as we endeavour to do that which is impossible, we must remember that His joy in possessing us will compensate Him fully and for ever for all that He has suffered to make us His. But consider the Lord's intercession on behalf of His own in John 17. He is speaking to His Father. In that full and blessed communion that ever existed between the Father in heaven and the beloved Son upon earth, He makes requests for His own. Hear Him say, "the men Thou gavest me out of the world; Thine they were and Thou gavest then Me." … I pray for them which Thou gavest me; for they are Thine, and all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine … Keep through Thine own Name those whom Thou hast given Me." When He spoke to His disciples, He could not tell them all; He was straitened and restricted, but here what was in His heart could flow out without any reserve, and could anything affect us more deeply? Could we possibly listen to that wonderful prayer and not gladly and fully own that we are Christ's indeed? His because His Father gave us to Him, His because He bought us with a great price, His because possessed on His behalf by the Holy Ghost. Yes, the truth, the whole truth is this, "Ye are Christ's." Much is involved in it of which I cannot speak now, the fact itself is enough for the time being. Let it fix itself in our hearts and minds, and produce in our lives its own true and blessed fruit.