In my last post, I outlined 7 stages of religious opposition to the genuine experience of Christ. In this post, I extend that discussion to show that Jesus had parallel experiences in all 7 stages of opposition. Then I reflect on the nature of this correlation and its implications.
There are two ways to view the relationship between Christ’s experience and ours.
Imitation of Christ
Looking from one angle, we can say that Christ has been tempted in all respects like us and thus can intercede for us and sympathize with us as we go through similar experiences (Heb. 4:15).
This perspective is 100% accurate, but not 100% of the truth. Its main shortage is that it tends to separate Christ and the believer conceptually by individualizing their histories. Then, as separate individuals, the only link made between Christ’s experience and the believer’s is emotional reciprocity. Christ sympathizes, intercedes, and sustains us as we “tread the path our Master trod” (a reoccurring theme in hymns from around the 1800s).
Here is the image of the Christian as a lonely pilgrim, a self-denying ascetic, imitating the life of Christ.
Incorporation into Christ
From another angle, which reveals greater depth, we can say that we enter into Christ’s experience of these things, so that His biography becomes our history.
Paul takes this approach often in the New Testament because he realized that Christ is all and in all in God’s economy (Col. 3:11). God wants a corporate reproduction of Christ as His expression (Rom. 8:29). He desires that Christ occupy the first place in all things (Col. 1:18). Thus even in our experiences He is the forerunner and prototype and He incorporates us into Himself so that we experience Him, become one with Him, and express Him. In this way, all our spiritual experiences are experiences of Christ and not of things per se.
God has put us into Christ (1 Cor. 1:30). Therefore, in God’s view, we pass through Christ’s experiences with Him and in Him.
Ephesians 2:5-6 shows this:
Even when we were dead in offenses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up together with Him and seated us together with Him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.
We were made alive, resurrected, and ascended WITH Christ. In other passages, Paul tells us we were crucified WITH Christ and buried WITH Christ. We are identified with Him in these experiences because we are IN Him.
In his classic, The Normal Christian Life (currently FREE from Bibles for America), Watchman Nee elaborates:
It is the history of Christ which is to become the experience of the Christian, and we have no spiritual experience apart from Him… All the spiritual experience of the Christian is already true in Christ. It has already been experienced by Christ. What we call “our” experience is only our entering into His history and His experience… Every true experience means that we have discovered a certain fact in Christ, and have entered into that… The history of Christ becomes our experience and our spiritual history; we do not have a separate history from His… God has done all in His Son, and He has included us in Him; we are incorporated into Christ.
From this dual vantage point, the verses below show that Christ can fully identify with us in our experience and that we have fully been incorporated in His experience.
And when they saw Him, they worshipped Him, though some doubted. –Matthew 28:17
The high priest then questioned Jesus concerning His disciples and concerning His teaching. –John 18:19
And he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing. –Luke 23:9
For compare Him who has endured such contradiction by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary, fainting in your souls. –Hebrews 12:3
You who destroy the temple and build it up in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross! –Matthew 27:40
And the tempter came and said to Him, If You are the Son of God, speak that these stones may become loaves of bread. –Matthew 4:3
Who being reviled did not revile in return; suffering, He did not threaten but kept committing all to Him who judges righteously. –1 Peter 2:23
If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before you. –John 15:18
Therefore also Jesus, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Let us therefore go forth unto Him outside the camp bearing His reproach. –Hebrews 13:12-13
1. Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life, pp. 74-76
- 7 Stages of Religious Opposition to the Genuine Experience of Christ in John 9 (conversantfaith.com)