Tuesday, November 20, 2018

What Does It Mean to be “In Christ”?


We hear it a lot — I say it a lot — but what does it mean? Simply put, to be “in Christ” is to be in union with Christ, one with Christ. To be in union with Christ is to be in union with God, one with God, because Christ is God become human. He did not become merely one like us — he became one with us. Christ is fully human, as well as fully divine, and participates fully with us in our humanity, so that we may share in his divinity, sharing by grace what Christ is by nature.

In the modern Western world, we are used to thinking of ourselves and others very individualistically: You are you and I am me, and apart from close biological relationships, we recognize no real connection to each other, only whatever social or psychological associations we decide to have with one another.

But the truth is that there is only one humanity, and we all partake of it. This means that we are all vitally and deeply connected to one another. Whatever happens with one of us ultimately affects all of us, and the loss of one of us diminishes all of us. There is no “us” and “them,” there is only us.

The apostle Paul recognized this profound connection when he compared Christ with Adam. We can see this, for example, in Romans 5:18, where he says, “Consequently, just as one trespass [Adam’s] resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act [Christ’s] resulted in justification and life for all people.” And again in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

Just as Adam’s act of disobedience affected all humankind, bringing mortality upon all, so the faithful obedience of Christ resulted in justification and life for all. In both instances, this could only be because the humanity in which we all share is a deep and abiding connection, a union we all have with one another. So, when Christ became human, it was not a union with only some of us but with all of us.

The great mystery of the gospel is that the God who created this one humanity has joined with us in it by the Incarnation of the Son, Jesus Christ. Christ is our union with God. This is not something we must strive for — or even can strive for. But through the Incarnation, we now have this union with Christ, and so with God, purely by the love, will and desire of God. It is not even our faith that puts us “in Christ” or in union with God, but it is solely the grace of God, the faithfulness of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit that has done this.

What this means for us is that we are “accepted in the Beloved,” as the old King James Version puts it in Ephesians 1:6. The Greek word behind that means that we are fully graced and highly favored by God, and this is though Christ’s union with us. Our faith did not bring this about; the faithfulness of Christ has done it. But it is by faith that we begin to understand and live out the truth of what Christ has already done for us.

So, when we read in Paul’s letters about being “in Christ,” it has nothing to do with what we have done or ever could do, not even our faith, but has everything to do with what Christ has done. It is about the union with God every human being has because of Christ, the Incarnation, and the victory of the cross and resurrection that inevitably resulted from that union.

1 comment:

  1. Tommyhawk@live.com8:10 AM

    So, since we have the same nature as God (Love nature) that makes divine?

    Tommy

    ReplyDelete