Quarterly Reprint 16

SPIRITUAL FITNESS

It goes without saying that a great deal of emphasis in our society today is placed upon physical fitness, and not without a number of good reasons. The message that we need to take care of ourselves physically can be heard in just about any circle in which we move. From government agencies right on down efforts are made to raise our health consciousness and to promote lifestyles that achieve and maintain a level of physical fitness that is beneficial to our well‑being. The issue of physical fitness has gone beyond being something that was only taught in school gym classes. It is now something that consideration is given to, and provisions are made for, in many facets of everyday life. The term `fitness freak’ is hardly heard anymore, as the importance of physical fitness is realized by more and more people, and the attractive benefits of it are desired.

As important as physical fitness is for our personal physical health, there is a fitness which we, as Christians, have received from God that far exceeds it in value and importance. This far more important fitness is the one the apostle Paul speaks about in Colossians 1:12.

 “Giving thanks unto the Father, WHICH HATH MADE US MEET TO BE PARTAKERS OF THE INHERITANCE OF THE SAINTS IN LIGHT.” (Colossians 1:12)

We, through the riches of God’s grace unto us in Christ Jesus, have been made “meet,” or fit, “to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” This is a spiritual fitness, so to speak. The value of it, along with its grandeur and magnificence, ought to cause us to be ones who are constantly “giving thanks unto the Father” for graciously giving it unto us. And indeed we should be ones who are “giving thanks unto the Father” for it. Because before God ushered in this present dispensation of Gentile grace, and before we trusted Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we were anything but “meet,” or fit, “to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” Instead, we were completely unfit.

In Colossians 2:13 the apostle Paul reminds us of how we stood before God in our former natural status before we trusted Christ as our Saviour.

 “And you, being DEAD IN YOUR SINS AND THE UNCIRCUMCISION OF YOUR FLESH..” (Colossians 2:13)

Notice Paul says we were “dead.” But notice that we were TWICE dead. Dead in our sins, AND dead as Gentiles. We were both individually and collectively dead before God, and therefore anything but fit to be utilized by God in His plan and purpose. Being “dead” is the epitome of unfitness. Nothing is more unfit or useless than something that is dead. And that is just what we used to be — dead before God. But again twice dead. Our unfitness to be utilized by God in His plan and purpose was doublely compounded by our individual `deadness in sins’ and by our `deadness as Gentiles,’ being the Uncircumcision and “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.”

In Ephesians 2 the apostle Paul sets forth in detail the reality of this double deadness of unfitness that we possessed. First, he presents the details of our individual deadness and unfitness.

“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2:1‑3)

Then, Paul goes on to declare the deadness and unfitness we possessed as “Gentiles in the flesh.”

“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:” (Ephesians 2:11‑12)

What deadness! What complete unfitness before God! Individually we were alienated from God by our sins, and were loyal followers of the course that Satan has charted for this world. Being so, we were for all practical purposes only fit for God’s wrath, being “by nature the children of wrath.” But that is only half of the story! Being Gentiles in the flesh we were “without God in the world.”

We were the “Uncircumcision,” and as such were alienated from God’s program and covenanted dealings with the nation Israel. Being “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel” we had no claim upon God’s attention. God’s program was with His nation Israel and we as Gentiles were excluded from “the commonwealth of Israel” and were “strangers from the covenants of promise.” Nor did we possess any measure of fitness, or capacity for fitness, which could ever make us think that we as Gentiles could be specially utilized by God in His plan and purpose. We were indeed “dead in (our) sins and the uncircumcision of (our) flesh.”

But as Paul says, “Giving thanks unto the Father, WHICH HATH MADE US MEET…”. God, out of His great love and by His matchless grace, through the genius of the cross of Christ Jesus, has done not only what we could not do, but He has done what never was even imagined could have been done with us. He Himself has made us fit to be utilized by Him in His plan and purpose. He Himself devised a way to overcome our double deadness.

Notice the words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 2 which immediately follow the descriptions of our two‑fold deadness.

“But God,…” (vs.4)

And, “But now in Christ Jesus…” (vs.13).

We were dead, but God undertook for us. As Paul describes, God out of His great love and according to the riches of His grace, through the cross work of the Lord Jesus Christ, provided for both the bringing in of this dispensation of Gentile grace and for our reconciliation to Him. God, through and in Christ Jesus, has “quickened us” and made us fit to be utilized by Him in His plan and purpose. By means of the genius of Christ’s cross, God has overcome our double deadness and eliminated our unfitness.

Now, “in Christ Jesus,” we possess perfect spiritual fitness. As God’s “workmanship” and the masterpiece of His grace, we are not only saved from the debt and penalty of our sins. But we are also “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” for both now and for His purpose with us in the heavenly places in the ages to come. We are indeed “made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” Though we possess perfect spiritual fitness before God, there is one aspect of our fitness that we await the realization of. When we receive it, then we will embark on functioning in the heavenly places in accordance with the vocation unto which we have been called.

We await the changing of our bodies at “the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him.” Right now our bodies are unfit to exist and function in the heavenly places. We do need a perfect physical fitness. But what we need is not something that can be attained through diet and exercise. Instead, it too is something God must accomplish for us. And He will do so, having also provided for this fitness through the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ in our behalf. As Paul teaches us in I Corinthians 15:50,…

 “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (I Corinthians 15:50)

Our present bodies need to be changed and fashioned by the Lord into bodies fit to exist and function in the heavenly places. This is just what we await and eagerly look forward to taking place at the end of this dispensation.

 “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (I Corinthians 15:51-52)

In changing our bodies the Lord will make us physically fit to fulfil the vocation He has for us in connection with our heavenly citizenship.

 “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21)

In that day our “vile body,” now presently unfit for the heavenly places, will be changed and made perfectly fit for that realm. In that day, our perfect spiritual fitness “in Christ” will be joined together with the perfect physical fitness of our changed bodies and we will begin to function in the heavenly places in accordance with our inheritance and vocation.

For ones who were “dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh” this is an astounding change. We have gone from being completely and hopelessly unfit in God’s sight, to being made perfectly fit to be used by God to His honour and glory. And this all through the riches of God’s grace unto us in Christ Jesus. What praise and thanksgiving ought to flow from our hearts to God for the magnificence of what He has done for us. Little wonder Paul exhorts us to be ones who are…

 “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Colossians 1:12)

– K.R. Blades