The above expression is often found in the New Testament. The preposition "in" or "en" in the Greek can be defined as: "Of that in which any person or thing is inherently fixed, implanted, or with which it is intimately connected. Of a person to whom another is wholly joined and to whose power and influence he is subject, so that the former may be likened to the place in which the latter lives and moves. So used in the writings of Paul and John particularly of intimate relationship with God or with Christ" (Thayer pp. 209-212).
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1)
The above verse reveals that this is an essential relationship, if one is going to be saved. The verse infers that outside of Christ, there is condemnation. The word "condemnation" means "damnatory sentence" (Thayer p. 332). Therefore, "in Christ" one has been completely forgiven of their sins; has completely escaped from the wrath of God, which is coming upon man’s rebellion (Romans 5:9).
"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses" (Ephesians 1:7)
"In Him" contextually is "in Christ" (1:6). The term "redemption" means "lit., a releasing, for (on payment of ransom)". The payment for our release from the penalty due to our sins (Romans 6:23), was the blood of Christ. Other passages connect the blood of Christ to this idea of redemption or ransom as well (1 Peter 1:18-19 "redeemed with…precious blood…the blood of Christ"). This redemption is in Christ Jesus, which means that one doesn’t come into contact with the benefits of Jesus’ death until they do whatever is necessary to be "in Christ". "In Christ" is where the blood of Jesus is available, therefore, one hasn’t benefited from the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross until they are "in Christ". So whatever stands between a person and being "in Christ" stands between them and the blood of Christ. In contrast to what the Bible says, there have always been voices in the religious world that tried to argue that the benefits of Jesus’ death are automatic to the entire human race. In the later writings of Karl Barth, he argued the idea of universally effective redemption, that is, Christ did indeed reconcile all persons to God through His death, so all do receive that benefit, all have actually been reconciled, but may not be aware of it. The term "trespasses" describes our sins that we have committed. The term itself reveals the following truths about our sins: 1. They are definite violations of what is right (1 John 3:4; Ephesians 6:1). 2. They deserve condemnation. 3. For many of them we cannot plead ignorance or that we didn’t know any better.
"To the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6)
In Christ is also where we truly come into contact with God’s unmerited favor. While the grace of God appeared to the entire human race in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ
(Titus 2:11), one isn’t saved by grace until they are "in Christ". Therefore, there isn’t any saving grace outside of Christ. In addition, Paul says further, "according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us" (Ephesians 1:7-8). The term "lavished" means: "to super abound, be in excess, more than enough and to spare".
One simply cannot have lived so badly as to exhaust God’s storehouse of forgiveness as they become a Christian. God never says to a humble and repentant person, "I can only forgive you this much". Points to Note: 1. One problem that people run into is that of failing to appreciate their salvation. Do we feel that God has "lavished" His grace upon us in forgiving us, or do we feel only slightly blessed? Do we feel blessed to the point of excess? That God has simply done too much? 2. Since His grace is bestowed upon those "in the Beloved", therefore whatever it takes to get "into Christ" is the same thing that it takes to receive God’s grace. 3. More grace is available to the person in Christ! "In order that in the ages of come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:7). Bruce puts it well, when he said, "It implies one age supervening on another like successive waves of the sea, as far into the future as thought can reach. Throughout time and in eternity the church, this society of pardoned rebels, is designed by God to be the masterpiece of His goodness" (p. 288). Our present salvation is just the tip of the iceberg. God, in the ages to come, desires to demonstrate the generosity of His kindness. Even in the ages to come, God will continue to display His kindness toward us in Christ. This means that God will never tire of us, rather, for eternity we will be the objects of His kindness. Does that sound refreshing and comforting? " It excels men's kindness. Men tend to sulk and withdraw from those who violate their trust, but God offers grace out of His kindness"(Caldwell p. 80).
"Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him" (Ephesians 1:4)
Before God created the universe or mankind, God decided to save man (after he had sinned) "in Christ Jesus". Specific individuals are not predestinated for salvation or damnation, rather, the realm of salvation and condemnation were. Individuals who chose to remain in sin will be lost (John 3:36; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Romans 2:3-5). Individuals who opt to be "in Christ" will be saved. Note: This realm of salvation was chosen before the world was created, therefore, it cannot be changed and another realm cannot be added, there is only one place where salvation is available (Acts 4:12). Therefore, being "in Christ" means finding our true place in God’s eternal plan. I have found my purpose for being here, my purpose for living, when I am "in Christ". If I am in Christ, then I cannot complain that I am an oddball or that I don’t fit in. "In Christ" I am at the heart and center of what this universe is all about. Paul will further note, "With a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth" (Ephesians 1:10).
The term "administration" lit., means "household management". That is, God has an orderly plan that took place at the right time, to sum up all things in Christ. The expression "to sum up" means: "'To bring back to and gather round the main point" (Vincent p. 367). "To gather up" (Bruce p. 261). "Since Christ is preeminent in God's purpose in the whole universe as well as in the church, the individual who does not have Christ preeminent in his life is entirely out of harmony with the purpose of the Father" (Coffman p. 128). The "things" in the above passage could be "people", for only "people" are reconciled. Hence, this verse may be teaching the same truth as found in Hebrews 9:15, that is, reconciliation to God for anyone (even the O.T. faithful or O.T. moral Gentile), will only be because of Christ. In another sense, every part of the physical and heavenly creation exists for Christ. That is, the physical universe only exists, to provide mankind the opportunity to obey Christ (Colossians 1:16-17). Even Christians can forget that the only reason we are really here is to be saved so that we can be with God in eternity. So many people forget that this life is not the sum total of their existence, and neither is this life the only chance to "do something". This is just a temporary stopping point between our birth and eternity (Hebrews 11:16). How foolish therefore to become convinced that the sum total of one’s meaning and purpose is to be found in some job, career, relationship to another human being, recreation, or entertainment.
Christians are often viewed as "not with it", "outside the loop", "missing the cultural buzz" or "behind the times". But according to these verses anyone "in Christ" is right at the heart of where everything meaningful is happening. If anything, our modern culture is outside the loop and is completely missing what this life is all about.
"Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17)
From the above passages, the person "in Christ" is a new creature because they have been forgiven of all their past sins. In addition, I would argue that such a new life is only possible in Christ because in Christ you have all the motivation and tools you need to actually become a new person. 1. You have been forgiven of the past; you don’t have to be burdened by guilt. 2. God gives you a detailed description concerning what needs to be removed from your life and what needs to be added (Galatians 5:19ff), you haven’t been left on your own. 3. The qualities that God wants you to add are directly related to your salvation, for example, who can’t become loving and kind in view of the immense kindness that they are already received from God? Who can’t become a completely different and better person when they realize that they have received every spiritual blessing in Christ? (Ephesians 1:3) 4. "In Christ" you finally have some real help in resisting temptation. For example, how many people yield to sinful temptations because they feel "unloved, lonely, bored, frustrated, depressed, isolated, hurt," and so on? Should any Christian, who has been forgiven, adopted into God’s family, lavished with God’s love and grace—should they feel unloved? Should they feel neglected?
The Heavenly Place
A couple of passages describe this relationship with God, known as "in Christ" as a heavenly place (Ephesians 1:3; 26 "raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus"). What does this mean? "Places" is supplied, the Greek meaning "in the heavenlies"' (Vincent p. 364). This expression is found five times in this letter (1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). "The realm of spiritual things, a realm of reality which reaches beyond the earthly" (Caldwell p. 15). 1. Vincent said, "The meaning is that the spiritual blessings of God are found in heaven and are brought thence to us" (p. 364). I think he is on the right track. Spiritual blessings exist in heaven, such as fellowship with God, communication with God, true sonship with God, grace, and the freedom to worship God. I am forgiven in heaven, God hears my prayers in heaven, when I worship or pray, I draw near to the throne of God (Heb. 4:14-16), being "in Christ" is as near as one can come to God, while still in the physical body! 2. Being "in Christ" is a heavenly place, that is, the church is a little colony of heaven upon the earth. "In Christ" we are given a taste of heavenly realities and blessings in this life. 3. To be successful, Christians must accept and live in this higher reality. Our decisions concerning what we say, believe, or do on earth, must always take this higher reality into consideration. Here is where our "mind" must be focused (Colossians 3:1-2). Only when we embrace this reality, can we properly evaluate the worth or value of any earthly object or goal. Temptation can only be successfully resisted, when we are focused on this realm (James 1:2-4; 12). Or, in other words, only when we meet the devil on this spiritual plane can we be consistently successful against his attacks(Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Peter 5:9 "But resist him firm in your faith..").
The Scriptures make it very clear that faith (including repentance and confession) and baptism are the requirements for entering "into Christ", "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ"(Galatians 3:27); Ephesians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:11-12; Romans 6:3-4 "Baptized into Christ Jesus".
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017