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Being “in Christ” is one of Paul’s favourite phrases that describes the state of a Christian believer. (“In Christ,” or almost identical expressions, are used over 170 times in the New Testament.)
I understand that being “in Christ” means belonging to Jesus, being in union and in unity with him, but the phrase has not really “gelled” with me.
What does it really mean to be “in Christ”? In what way(s) are we “in Christ”?
As I was thinking about these questions, I came up with a list of other “ins” that have helped me to understand Paul’s phrase of “in Christ” a little more. These “ins” say something about ourselves.
~ “In” can describe our welfare: We may be in love, in pain, in good health, in dire straits, etc.
~ “In” can be about our geographic location: We may be in Sydney, or in Nairobi, or in Colorado Springs, etc.
~ “In” can relate that we belong to (or are positioned within) an institution or organisation: We may be in school, in church, in hospital, in prison, etc.
~ “In” can tell what occupation we are in: We may be in the army, in “ministry”, in teaching, in banking, etc.
~ “In” (or more precisely, into) can tell what our passions and hobbies are: We may be into golf, into crafts, into astronomy, into music, etc.
All of these “ins” tell us a bit about who we are. They give us information about our state of being, about our self.
Does being “in Christ” comprehensively describe your state of being? Does it define who you are? Is Jesus Christ being formed in you (Gal. 4:19)?
There is a wonderful mystery to being “in Christ”. It involves a profound partnership and union with him which we cannot fully understand. Moreover, words cannot adequately express this union. Perhaps this is why the phrase “in Christ” still leaves me a little baffled. Baffled but delighted.
© 24th of July 2010, Margaret Mowczko
Postscript (October 15 2015)
I love what Ben Myers says about being “in Christ”.
That phrase “in Christ” just keeps tolling like a bell through all the Pauline letters. It’s not that Christ was an instrument that God used to fix things up. Rather, for St Paul, Christ is himself our salvation. Christ is humanity made new, he is the place where human nature now resides, he is the new Adam who includes all human beings within himself, he is the oldest brother of many adopted siblings, all of whom now share in his status. Christ is God’s child by nature, and we are God’s children by grace. We get to share by grace everything that belongs to Christ by nature. . . . (Source)