Look at this blog’s title: “One in Christ.” Only one of those three words is shrunken in size. “Christ”, of course, is an important word. And “one” is an important word in this phrase. That poor, little preposition gets overlooked as we focus our attention on the words that surround it.
But today we’re going to give attention and significance to that little word in.
The more I read the New Testament, and the more I realize the extent of our union with Christ, the more the word in sticks out to me. Now I see it all over the place. Typically a word we gloss over to get to the important words, I have realized the importance of in. I’m still learning the importance of in.
It’s pervasive throughout the New Testament. In Christ. In Jesus. In God. In Him. In the Spirit. In, in, in, in, …in!
What’s so significant about in?
To be in something is to have your being partake or reside in it. You’re indoors, or in school, or in trouble, or in love. If reflects your present state of being.
To be of or from something signifies the source. With is alongside something and to refers to a destination.
It’s true that believers are of, from, with, and give ourselves to Christ. Christ is our source, He is alongside us, and we are being moved toward Him by continual transformation. All these express the relationship between two entities that are external from each other. But in…in expresses that which is experienced. That which is within. That which is internal.
Within. Internal. In describes something that is coexistent.
Christ is in believers. Believers are in Christ. “Abide in me and I in you…” (John 15:4).
Why not use for? Christ is for us. We are for Christ. We are of Christ. Christ is with us. All these are true statements. But in describes a relationship that is much more intimate. Intimate.
In describes the intimacy of the Godhead: “I am in the Father and the Father is in me…” (John 14:11). Can’t be much more in anything than God being in God. But the same is also said of us.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 ESV)
“Those who are in Christ Jesus.” Not simply with Him or for Him or about Him. In Him!
We have a tendency to describe ourselves as followers of Christ. Or disciples of Christ. Okay, good. I’m not going to dispute that. But our being followers/disciples of Christ is a result of our union with Him. We are disciples because we have been brought into union with Christ. In fact, Spirit-indwelt believers are more often referred in the New Testament epistles as being “in Christ” than being disciples.
Interestingly, the term disciple is only used in the Gospels and Acts. Once we get to the epistles the word disciple disappears. Paul doesn’t use the term. Nor did the writer to the Hebrews, nor Peter, nor James, nor Jude, nor John in his letters. The term was used to identify certain people in the narrative accounts, but when it came to writing letters to fellow believers the concept of being disciples was replaced by an even more intimate connection: our union with Him. More specifically, our union in Him.
What is our identity? Even more than our identity being a believer or a follower or a disciple, our identity is that we are in Him.
A TUB FULL OF WATER
How is it that we are in Him and He is in us?
Fill a bath tub with water. Take an empty, open jar and hold it underwater. Immediately, the water will fill the jar. The result? The jar is in the water; the water is in the jar.
We are in Christ; Christ is in us.
Take a second jar and a third jar and put them in the tub. Each jar is in the water. The tub has enough resource of water to fill each jar. The water is not consumed. Nor has its supply been exhausted. Put enough jars in a tub and the water supply will eventually be exhausted, unlike Christ whose supply of Himself will never be exhausted.
Now go to the ocean. Put several jars in the ocean water. Millions, yay, billions of jars could never exhaust the supply of water. The ocean provides an enormous, inexhaustible water supply. How long would it take us to exhaust the ocean water with a whole bunch of jars? That is a depiction of the inexhaustible source of the divine life of Christ that He imparts to believers.
Many jars are in the water. The water is in each jar.
This is us, dear fellow member in Christ. We have each individually been immersed into Christ. A portion of Christ’s infinite supply of Himself has been dispensed into us.
so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:5 ESV)
Let the word “in” stick out to you in the verse quoted above.
Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, (Romans 16:3 ESV)
Not merely fellow workers for Christ. In Christ. See also verses 9 & 10 in Romans chapter 16. In verse 7 Paul wrote of a couple others: “they were in Christ before me.” He doesn’t simply state that they were believers before him, or disciples before him. They were in Christ before him.
Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians (1:3-14) with a powerful, beautifully effervescent description of the work God is doing with, for, to, in, and through His redeemed humanity. Observe these select portions (with my emphases):
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, … he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, … to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance … In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:3-4, 6-7, 10-11, 13 ESV)
In, in, in, in, … IN!
Our mutually being in Christ is what makes us one! One in Christ!
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 ESV)
We’re not one external from Christ. It’s only because you are in Christ and I am in Christ that we are mutually in Christ, and one in Him because we’re both in Him.
Our new state of being is that we are in Christ. We have been newly created in Him. It is only by being brought into Christ, like a jar submerged in water, that we have been brought near to God.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. … But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:10, 13 ESV)
We were once far off, but now that we are in Christ we have been brought near. Our position goes from being an empty jar out of the water to a jar that is in, and has been filled by, the water.
Paul wrote to “all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi” (Phil. 1:1), to those “in Christ” at Colossae (Col. 1:1), and those “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” at Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:1). That is our new identity. The new us. We are in Christ.
Our being in Christ is mutually experienced by God who is in us. Because we are in God (through Christ) and God in us (by the Spirit), we abide in fellowship with the Godhead.
Paul well understood the believer’s union with Christ, and thus the believer’s union with fellow believers. The only Biblical writer who accentuated this mutual union more emphatically and more pervasively was John. John viewed our fellowship with each other and our fellowship with God as the same fellowship. Observe this mutual fellowship between Christ and those who are His:
that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3 ESV)
Believers are in fellowship with one another because we are mutually in fellowship with God the Father and the Son (by the Spirit).
Also observe John chapters 13-17. John devotes enough material from Jesus’ teaching in that singular evening that men of ages past split it into five chapters. The other three gospel writers provide, in comparison, little or no teaching from Jesus that night. But John surely remembered the profound teaching Jesus provided that evening.
Jesus’ teaching from that night was most assuredly John’s greatest learning moment of his discipleship. The concepts John recorded from Jesus’ teaching that night are evidenced all throughout his first epistle.
Read chapters 13-17 of John’s gospel account, then read his epistle. Many of the same concepts are duplicated and expounded upon. For example:
Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 John 3:24 ESV)
This is totally reminiscent of chapters 14-16 in John’s gospel account. John well understood the concept of in. Paul certainly understood it as well, as did the other biblical writers, but John devoted himself to that concept most fervently of all.
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:15-16 ESV)
Some observations from this passage:
- God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God.
- Those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God abide in God.
- Those who abide in love abide in God.
- God abides in those who abide in love.
John is all about abide and in. It’s the core doctrine of John’s theology: abiding in Christ.
From now on, when you read the New Testament don’t simply gloss over the word in. Think about whether it is being used to describe the believer’s new identity. And when it does, consider the depths of truth that are found within that simple, little two-letter word.
Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (1 Peter 5:14b ESV)