A few months ago I started to notice something: Paul uses the phrase “In Christ” in a very interesting way. At first I was only aware of a few places where he used the phrase and I was often quoting his use in Romans 8:1:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus..”
Over a few weeks of time I found myself reminding people that they are “in Christ” and because of that fact, this verse was true of them; they were not under any condemnation whatsoever.
Eventually, I started seeing a few other verses where Paul used the phrase, like:
“…the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord” [Rom.6:23]
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” [Rom. 6:11]
“For I am convinced that neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Rom. 8:39]
“…so in Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” [Rom. 12:5]
What I started to realize was this: Paul had in mind a positional reality where those of us who were “in Christ” were beneficiaries of a specific set of blessings or conditions that those who were outside of Christ did not have.
To further research my theory, I searched online for the phrase “In Christ” and I found over 33 verses in the New Testament – mostly from Paul – which described what life looks like if, and when, we are found “in Christ”.
There are honestly too many verses to unpack individually here in a single blog article, unfortunately, but the truth is that Paul held a consistent belief about being “in Christ” and he constantly referred to it in his writings and teaching.
I’m not suggesting there’s some “hidden” teaching here. I’m saying that Paul believed that being “in Christ” was possible, and that it produces a specific set of realities that he plainly and very openly communicates all through his letters. What’s happened, I believe, is that we have glossed over the phrase “in Christ” as if it were some sort of religious terminology without fully taking the time to think about what Paul means by it.
Simply put, what Paul believes about the experience of being “in Christ” is hiding in plain sight. All we have to do is start paying close attention to how and when Paul uses this phrase – and he uses it quite a lot – to understand what it really means for us to be “in Christ”.
One example of this is powerfully expressed in 2 Corinthians 3:14:
“But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.”
That is profound stuff because he’s letting us know that being “in Christ” opens our eyes about the old covenant and allows us to see clearly. It means that if we are not looking at the old covenant through the eyes of Jesus, we are blind. Jesus reveals everything we need to know about the old covenant scriptures. It also means we don’t try to use the old covenant scriptures to modify Jesus. Why? Because only “in Christ is [the veil] taken away”, not the other way around.
“If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!”[2 Cor.5:17]Jesus makes into new creatures – right here and right now. This is a present experience we can enjoy today, if we are “in Christ”.
I think the results will be quite edifying.
Be sure to let me know what you learn in the comments below.