What does it mean to be in Christ? Why is this term, in Christ, used so frequently in the New Testament? How can knowing what it means help you be a more effective leader and a better Christian?
In the article “Spiritual Schizophrenia,” Ralph Mahoney explained how God has already helped you win the battle with your own sinful flesh nature by causing your ‘old man’ to die in Christ. By continuing to walk in Christ by the Spirit, you will experience continual victory over this, your most ferocious enemy. This truth will set you free!
But the truth of what you are and have in Christ is also an important Christian truth. There are four kinds of Christian truth: Personal, propositional, practical, and positional.
- a) Personal truth: Jesus said, ‘I am the truth “(John 14:6). Jesus is the “radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3). Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” and “in Him all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 1:15, 2:9). Jesus, the Word of the Father, is the highest form of God’s self-expression. Jesus is ultimate truth. This is what we mean when we speak of personal truth.
- b) Propositional truth: Jesus said, “Thy (God’s) word is truth” (John 17:17). Propositional truth takes the form of statements of declarations. The Bible as God’s word is the purest example of propositional truth.
- c) Practical truth. John the apostle said, “For I was very glad when brethren came and bore witness to your truth that is how you are walking in truth. I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 3, 4). To “walk in” means to live out, or “Practical” means engaged or experienced in actual practice. “Practice” and “practical” are both derived from the Greek word which means to do, or act. Practical truth is propositional truth demonstrated through actual practice. For Christians, to do truth is to live out God’s word in our lives.
- d) Positional truth. Paul wrote, “But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus” (Eph. 4:20, 21). Jesus taught we can only succeed if we abide in Him (John 15). Paul affirmed this when he taught we can experience our inheritance from the Lord only if we are in Christ. The Bible teaches we have been repositioned through the cross: We were in Adam, but now we are in Christ. This is positional truth. Since positional truth tells us all the things we are and have in Jesus Christ, it is some of the most important teaching in the Bible. By knowing positional truths, we open doors to tremendous spiritual conquest. God has said, “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Isa. 4:6). What you don’t know will hurt you. A great many believers suffer daily defeat at the hand of their enemy because they don’t know he is already defeated. As we learn all that is involved in being in Christ, we will become equipped with undefeatable spiritual weapons. By knowing what we possess in Christ Jesus we need never again suffer the ravages of the Thief (John 10:10a).
Following is a brief overview of what the Bible tells us we are and have in Christ Jesus. Study these verses, meditation them (that is, turn them over and over in your mind’), and practice them. These truths will set you free to triumph in Christ Jesus as God has always intended.
1. Your Past in Adam, and Your Present in Christ
“Therefore, just as through one man (Adam ) sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned . . . death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam” (Rom. 5: 12-14).
“For since by man came death . . . in Adam all die” (I Cor. 15:20- 21)
“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (I Cor. 1:30).
“But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Jesus “(Eph. 2:13).
According to God’s way of reckoning, everyone is born in Adam. As the father of the whole human race, he was created with the potential of every human being in his body. When he sinned, he ‘broke the mold ‘ – the possibility for anyone to be born who could please God was forever lost.
As a result, our future was rather dismal in Adam. We were destined to death and Hell. But God made a way of escape.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was unstained by sin. Born of a virgin, He was the One Man not in Adam. Through His sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection, He triumphed over death , and Hell, and the grave and became the second, spiritual Adam. This victory made it possible for all men to escape eternal damnation.
God took the whole human race and put them into Christ on the cross. When you believe in Jesus, repent from your sins, and follow Jesus in obedience, you become joined to Jesus and share His victory. You are thus no longer in Adam, but in Christ.
Jesus Christ’s atoning death was sufficient for all mankind: it propitiated (that is, satisfied) the legal demands of God’s righteousness. But until you believe it and accept it for yourself as God’s gift to you individually, it does not apply to you.
2. Your Placement in Christ
“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).
“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:4) “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:27).
“Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God” (2 Cor. 1:21).
“Therefore if any man is in Christ he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Cor. 5: 17).
When you repent from your sins and obey Jesus in water baptism, you appropriate God’s provisions for yourself. You are joined to Christ and God has placed you into Christ. This spiritual reality becomes real to you through your obedience.
The Bible says God established us in Him. It means He has grafted us in to become an integrated part of Jesus Christ. As a part of the new creation in Jesus Christ, every aspect of your experience takes on a “newness of life.”
3. Your Position in Christ
“So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of it” (Rom. 12:5).
“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ ” (1 Cor. 6: 15)?
”And what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right and in the heavenly places . . . and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:19-20 ; 2:6).
“And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true and we are in Him who is true, in His Son-Jesus Christ” (1 John 5 :20).
In Christ, we are a part of His body. This is literally true. The church is the physical expression by which Jesus makes Himself known in time and space. But this doesn’t only relate to our present age. It is also eternal. If you are in Christ, you are seated at God’s right hand both now and forever. It is from this position we reign with Christ and have authority over every work of the enemy. Let this truth sink into your heart and it will release tremendous power in to your life.
4. Our Protection in Christ.
“For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from, the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38, 39).
“In Him, you. also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation –having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise ” (Eph. 1 :13).
You died in Christ, and God raised you up with Him and you are now seated with Jesus in a heavenly place, safely hidden in God. Nothing could, be more secure than such a position, so unreachable by your foes.
5. Your Practice in Christ
“For this reason I have sent to you Timothy. who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and lie will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church” (I Cor. 4: 17).
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2: 10).
“For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3).
”And keep a good conscience so that in the things in which you are slandered , those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Pet. 3:16). no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3).
(Read also 1 Cor. 2:17; 11 :3; Phil. 2:5; l Thess 5: 18; 2 Tim. 1:13; 2:1; 3:15).
The practice of a believer who abides in Jesus Christ can be described in two words: good works!
Just as luscious grapes grow on branches which are connected to the vine, so good works naturally result in the lives of believers who abide in Jesus.
But the good works that glorify God can only result in the lives of those abiding in Christ. You cannot produce them yourself. Many believers make the mistake of thinking like this: “Now that I’m a Christian, I have to do the best I can at living for God.” The good works are in Jesus. As part of the new creation we can express these good works only by maintaining a vital, abiding relationship with the source of good works, Jesus Christ.
This is where legalism can spring its deadly trap. Legalism happens when you try to earn God’s favor through outward conformity with the acceptable code of behavior. True Christian behavior – our practice in Christ – comes from the heart, although it is outward and visible.
6. Your Possessions in Christ.
”Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
“. . . to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus” (ICor. 1 :2).
”Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
(Read also Rom. 8:2; 11 Cor. 3: 14; Gal. 2:4; Eph.1:6, 11, 7; Col. 1:27; II Tim. 2: 10).
You don’t possess your possessions in Christ merely because you once believed. You do so only when you abide in Him and walk in His Spirit. If you fail to abide, then your hold on these spiritual blessings will eventually begin to weaken. If you persist in this disobedience (failing to abide is disobedience) you will lose the sense of the peace and joy in the Holy Spirit which is yours when you stay close to Him.
7. Your Purpose in Christ.
”But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifest through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (II Cor. 2:14).
” I press on toward the goal for tile prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3: 11).
(Read also Eph. 1:9; 3: 11; II Tim. 3: 12)
God originally created man to express Him and glorify Him forever. Whatever God’s ultimate purpose is in creation, He intends mankind to be central in it. Satan intended to thwart God’s purpose by tempting man in the Garden and causing him to fall.
And he did temporarily. But through Christ, God has caused His purpose to triumph and now through His wonderful plan, we have been incorporated into this purpose. Our purpose in Christ is to be a willing instrument through whom God can accomplish His eternal purpose.
8. Your Promise in Christ.
”If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (I Cor. 15: 19).
“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22).
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God,· and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (I Thess. 4: 16).
(Read also Eph. 3:6; II Tim. 1:1).
Our promise in Christ isn’t only victory in this life, but life in eternity. When we were baptized into Christ and were thus united with His death, we were also united with His resurrection. As we continue to abide in Him, we will surely partake of this Victory of victories. Can there be a greater promise than that? No! There is no other promise so great as that which says we shall share in Jesus’ resurrection!