Our Legal Standing In Christ

God is the combined Supreme Ruler and Judge of all created responsible beings and in future there will be the Final Judgement. As Psalms 89:14 and 97:2 show, perfect righteousness and perfect judgement are two of the main foundations of God’s Throne. God’s Throne and His Court are combined into one. This is similar to how throughout history, there have been emperors or kings who combined the functions of highest ruler and supreme judge together. Before any human court, there are only three legal standings:


·         accused.

·         guilty and condemned (with punishments ranging from probation to the most severe).

·         innocent and acquitted.


Before God’s combined Throne and Court, every human has a legal standing of being guilty and condemned to eternal punishment and deserving of all the earthly punishments recorded in Deuteronomy 28:15-68. This is unless they have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. There is not one person who has ever lived, except Jesus Christ, who has a legal standing of being innocent and acquitted before God the Supreme Ruler and Judge. All humans except Christ are regarded by God as condemned criminals when judged by His much higher standards. Jesus Christ has never been charged with sin before God and therefore has never needed to be acquitted.

Every human who has not received Jesus Christ has the legal standing of a disobedient, unfaithful, self-centred rebellious traitor who deserves nothing but eternal punishment. James 2:10 shows just one crime against God is enough to make a human guilty before Him.

There is another legal standing before God the Supreme Ruler and Judge not found in human courts:


·         guilty and condemned, then later declared acquitted of all charges and perfectly righteous. This is the legal standing God has provided for believers through Jesus Christ being willing to take the punishment, which is deserved by all humans, upon Himself through His death on the Cross. Because Jesus loves every guilty human, He longed to act as their substitute in the taking of their punishment on to Himself. God the Supreme Ruler and Judge agreed to this. He set trusting faith in Christ as being the condition for receiving this awesome legal standing in Christ. Our standing in Christ refers to what God the Supreme Ruler and Judge regards and declares we are from the moment we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Our legal standing is linked to God’s grace. Therefore, our legal standing in Christ is totally undeserved or unmerited.


Our legal privileges in Christ


Our legal standing in Christ can also be called our “legal rights in Christ”. We need to be very careful, however, when using the word “rights” not to interpret it in a humanistic, self-centred ways which are obviously not based on total submission to Jesus’ rule in our lives. This is why the words “legal privileges in Christ” or “privileges in Christ” are probably better to use.


The prosecuting and defence lawyers


Revelation 12:10 reveals Satan accuses believers to God the Supreme Ruler and Judge: “…for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night…’” Therefore, Satan acts like a prosecuting lawyer towards believers. (The Scriptures do not record if he acts like this towards unbelievers.)

1 John 2:1 reveals if believers sin, Jesus Christ acts as their advocate or defence lawyer before God the Father – the Supreme Judge: “…And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Jesus uses His own willing death as the grounds for asking the Father to not hold the sins of born-again Christians against them.


It is perfect and complete


Our legal standing before God is perfect or complete at the moment we are born again. It can have nothing added to it, no matter how obedient or committed to Jesus we become after we are converted. This is because:


·         it is given to us purely on the basis of God’s undeserved grace and mercy. It is not something we can earn or deserve. It is received by faith.

·         it involves the total cancellation of our previous legal standing of guilt and condemnation before God the Supreme Ruler and Judge and the crediting to us of Jesus’ perfect legal standing before God the Father.


Various outstanding features of our legal standing in Christ


On the basis of Jesus Christ’s death, you as a sincere believer in Him can say with certainty:


·         God has totally forgiven me of all my sins (see Colossians 2:13).

·         God has legally pardoned me of all my past wrongs similar to how human kings sometimes pardoned their subjects who had committed treason and other crimes against them (see Exodus 34:9, Psalm 25:11 and Micah 7:18).

·         God has freed me forever from all His condemnation of me in relation to the sins and evil in my life (see Romans 8:1 and 8:33-34).

·         Because the sinless Jesus Christ died in my place while suffering the punishment I deserved (see Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45, Romans 5:6, 5:8 and 1 Timothy 2:6), the legal claims of sin, Satan and eternal punishment over me are finished (see Romans 6:22, 8:2, John 3:15-18, 5:24 and Hebrews 2:14-15).

·         God has credited me with Jesus Christ’s perfectly right legal standing and as a result declares I am righteous in Christ (see Romans 3:24).

·         I have been legally adopted by God as His cherished child (see Romans 8:15).

·         God has freed me from the curse of the Law of Moses (see Galatians 3:13). This curse was a result of me previously as an unbeliever not perfectly obeying the Law every moment of every day.

·         I can approach God confidently without fear of eternal punishment (see Ephesians 3:12). This confidence is not self-confidence but confidence through Christ.

·         God is for me and not against me (see Romans 8:31).

·         I have been given a wonderful inheritance through Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 1:11).

·         I have total authority through Christ over Satan and all demons (see Mark 16:17 and Luke 10:19-20).


To really knowingly operate in the full benefits of the above outstanding features of your legal standing in Christ, you should think about and say these to yourself often.

Note also that even though the above truths do relate to our legal standing before God as the Supreme Ruler and Judge, some of them cannot be limited to that. This is because God is not a Supreme Ruler and Judge alone. He is also a loving Creator and Father.

For example, God’s adoption of believers and giving them a wonderful inheritance relate to Him being a Father and not just a perfect Judge. Also the truth about believers having total authority over Satan and all demons has its roots in God being the Creator and not just in Him being a Supreme Ruler and Judge.


Two wrong extremes


There are two extremes in the church. There are those who know much about God’s New Testament commands about prayer, loving others, witnessing, forgiving others, helping the needy, not stealing, not lying, not being immoral, disciplining children, attending church regularly, praising and worshipping God and so on. But they know little about what Jesus’ death achieved and about their legal standing in Christ. Others know much about believers’ standing in Christ, but to them it is only a list of truths to confess not related to practical living. They can recite many wonderful verses about what Jesus achieved on the Cross and what is believers’ legal standing in Him. But they live like the Devil in practice. They use believers’ legal standing in Christ as a handy religious excuse for being dominated by sin. Such latter people are usually not really saved.

Most of the New Testament teaching about what Christ’s death achieved and our standing in Him is found in Paul's letters. But note Paul never separates teaching about Jesus’ death and our resulting standing in Christ from God’s commands about how we should live each day. Unless we link these three things together in our daily living, we will end up heretics in either doctrine or practice or both.

Our legal standing in Christ was not given as an excuse for living an insipid, defeated, flesh-controlled worldly life as a Christian. Instead our legal standing in Christ was given by God partly as a foundation or platform through which genuine (though imperfect) victory in Christ over sin and the flesh could be normal Christianity for all of us.





Bible Study Questions


1.         What are the three legal standings before human courts?

2.         What are the two legal standings before God’s Throne and Court?

3.         Why is it possibly better to call our legal standing in Christ “our legal privileges in Christ” than “our legal rights in Christ”?

4.         Who are the prosecuting and defence lawyers before God the Supreme Ruler and Judge? Provide verses to support your answer.

5.         List the various features of your legal standing in Christ as a believer.

6.         Explain how some aspects of our legal standing in Christ also relate to other features of God’s character than Him being the Supreme Ruler and Judge.

7.         In what way can the Biblical teaching about our legal standing in Christ be abused?

8.         What is the right relationship between our legal standing in Christ and our practical daily living as believers?



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