Faith Column: Examining the language and relationship of living ‘in’ Christ
The plan of redemption was revealed to the Apostle Paul in a supernatural encounter with Jesus. This led P.C. Nelson to state that the letters of Paul are the advanced teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul uses the terminology “In Christ” about 130 times in his letters as a technical term to describe how Jesus saved mankind and what the believer now has as a result.
One writer stated that the key to the gospel is in the prepositions. Prepositions are seemingly small words in the English language that denote relationship. If you change the preposition, you change the relationship and thereby change the picture.
For example, you could say, “I walked ‘in’ the house.” Or you could change the preposition and say, “I walked ‘by’ the house,” “I walked ‘over’ the house,” or “I walked ‘with’ the house.” See how the preposition changes the picture?
“In Christ” is simply a preposition and the word Christ. It denotes our position once we believe in Jesus. It also shows us the method that God used to produce salvation in man.
In his book, “In Christ Jesus,” A.J. Gordon makes the following statements: “No words of Scripture, if we except those, ‘God manifest in the flesh,’ hold within themselves a deeper mystery than this simple formula of the Christian life, ‘in Christ.’ Yet great as is the mystery of these words, they are the key to the whole system of doctrinal mysteries. Like the famous Rosetta Stone, itself a partial hieroglyph, and thereby furnishing the long sought clew to the Egyptian hieroglyphics, these words, by their very mystery, unlock all mysteries of the divine life, letting us into secrets that were hidden from ages and from generations. And thus, through these two words ‘in Christ’ we get a profound insight into the divine method of salvation. God does not work upon the soul by itself; bringing to bear upon it, while yet in its alienation and isolation from Him, such discipline as shall gradually render it fit to be reunited to Him. He begins rather by reuniting it to Himself, that through this union He may communicate to it that divine life and energy, without which all discipline were utterly futile. The method of grace is precisely the reverse of the method of legalism. The latter is holiness in order to union with God; the former, union with God in order to holiness.”
Every religion demands holiness first before reaching God’s presence. But Christianity starts with the union with Christ. Through the union, we receive a new heart and the power to change. Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 says: “Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation.” The word “new” here is a Greek word that means new in kind, not new in time. So the believer is actually a new kind of person — a God-inside person. It is this ingrafting into Christ that imparts eternal life to the human spirit.
I heard the story of a fireman whose hand was severely burned, and doctors thought it may need to be amputated. As a last resort, they decided to cut open his side and insert the hand into his own body. He walked around with his own hand sewed into his side for a few weeks. Once opened up, they saw that new skin had begun to grow. This is how God saves the sinner. He cut open Christ and put us in Him.
Jason Haskell is pastor of New Creation Church in Craig and a missionary to the nations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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