Here is one of the most wonderful and helpful principles of Bible understanding. The New Testament cries out with it from one end to the other, and yet the appalling ignorance of this simple truth has caused no end of confusion and false doctrine. The writer will never forget the first time he ever heard this term used, while just a babe in the faith. A question had been asked about a certain thing that a believer might fall into, and the speaker had replied: "It would affect his state, but not his standing." This seemed clear to the older saints, but to some of us just saved, it was quite puzzling.
Briefly stated, the believer’s standing is the way God sees him in Christ, as perfect in Him. But his state is the way God sees him in his daily walk, which is sinful and erring, and needs to be improved and corrected. Now for scriptures that make use of these terms:
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom we have access by faith into this grace WHEREIN WE STAND" Romans 5:1-2
"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and WHEREIN YE STAND" 1 Corinthians 15:1
".....the true grace of God WHEREIN YE STAND" 1 Peter 5:12
"That I may be of good comfort when I know your STATE. For I have no man like-minded who will naturally care for your STATE" Phil. 2:19-20
"For I have learned in whatsoever STATE I am, therewith to be content" Phil.4:11
"All my STATE shall Tychicus declare unto you" Col. 4:7
Nearly all the present day false doctrines that teach some form of human works or merit for salvation, are based upon scriptures that deal with the believer’s state and have nothing to do with salvation at all. It must be apparent to any reasonable mind that God’s Word would not be complete if it did not teach both the sinner how to be saved and the believer how to conduct himself after he is saved. Many of the difficulties of understanding the scriptures would disappear if we would always ask, "Is this verse about our standing or our state?"
One notable instance of this principle of Bible understanding is found in the first epistle of the Corinthians. In the first chapter, Paul refers to them as saints who "are sanctified." But in the third chapter he says they are carnal, or fleshly, because of the envy, strife, and divisions that rage among them. As to their standing, they were sanctified in Christ Jesus - perfect in Him. But in their actual earthly walk or state, they were carnal. In their standing they are safe, as secure and as perfect as the blood of Christ can make them. But in their state they needed exhortation and improvement.
Again, in Col.2:10 we read: "And ye are complete in Him." This refers to the perfect standing which the believer has in Christ. It cannot be improved upon; it is already "complete" in Christ. Yet in our walk we cannot say that we are sinless, for "if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves" (1John 1:8).
God looks upon every saved person as if he were already in heaven, as far as his standing is concerned. This blessed truth is brought out in Ephesians 2:6; "And hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." But as far as his earthly state is concerned while he is awaiting the home-call, the believer is admonished thus: "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth" (Col.3:5). So we see that the believer is said to be both in heaven and on the earth. "Standing and State" is the only explanation of this.
One of the most outstanding portions of the Word concerning this subject is the book of Ephesians. It contains six chapters and is divided evenly into two parts, three chapters in each part. The first part ends with the word "Amen," in the end of the third chapter. This word means "Be it so," and is often used to show the end of a certain thought or message. We use it in this way in closing our prayers. But in the middle of the epistle to the Ephesians it is most significant. The first three chapters deal with the believer’s standing in heaven, wherein God "hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." This whole subject of the believer’s standing in Christ is covered in these first three chapters in a wonderful fashion, and then the word "Amen" marks the end of that section. The fourth chapter then starts out with the word "walk" in the first verse, and the believer’s walk, or state, is the subject all through the last three chapters.
"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (Romans 6:12-13).
Obviously, much more of the Word is given to instructions for the believer’s state than to his standing. His standing is heavenly, eternal, and perfect. It was accomplished by the work of Christ on the cross, and is God’s free gift to the sinner. His state is earthly, temporary, and imperfect. The believer should be "zealous of good works," not in order to get saved but because he IS saved. It is the Father’s desire, and the constant beseeching of the Holy Spirit, that he endeavour to make his earthly state conform more and more to his glorious, heavenly standing.
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15