- God’s People Are ‘in’ Jesus Christ
- The Significance of Being ‘in’ Jesus Christ
- God’s People Are One Body ‘in’ Jesus Christ
- Epilogue: God’s People Relate to God through Jesus Christ
Arguably the most fundamental change in the standing of God’s people in relationship to him that followed what Jesus Christ accomplished, is that they are now “in” Jesus Christ. Being “in” Jesus Christ involves the association or correlation of believers with Jesus Christ, by which God views them in association with his Son.
Due to this connection with Jesus Christ, they participate with him in such things as: his victory over sin and death; his life; and other blessings he has secured. As such it has great significance in the relationship of believers to God – and of their relationship to Jesus Christ.
Note that expressions like “in Jesus Christ” sometimes have other meanings, such as “through Jesus Christ”. While the great majority of verses in this section quite probably use such expressions to speak of believers being “in” Jesus Christ, in some instances the meaning is debatable.
Eph 1:1 From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints [in Ephesus], the faithful in Christ Jesus. NET
1Cor 1:30 [Paul, to believers:] And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, … ESV
God’s people are “in” Jesus Christ because of what God has accomplished through Christ for his people, such as securing for them “righteousness and sanctification and redemption”.
Matt 25:40 Then the King will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me.’ NCV™
The King in this parable represents Jesus Christ himself. Commentators generally interpret “my people” to be referring to Christians.
2Cor 13:4 [Paul, to believers:] For indeed he was crucified by reason of weakness, but he lives because of God’s power. For we also are weak in him, but we will live together with him, because of God’s power toward you. NET
John 14:20 [Jesus, to his disciples:] You will know at that time that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you. NET
Eph 3:16-17a [Paul, to believers:] I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, 17that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, … NET
Generally speaking at least, the spiritual standing and blessings that Christians have are based on them being “in” Jesus Christ, by which they are associated and even identified with him. As referred to earlier, this means that they are granted by God the standing and blessings that Jesus Christ has attained on behalf of those so associated with him.
Note that not all of the verses in the following subsections specifically refer to being in Jesus Christ, but they do at least speak of associated concepts.
2Tim 2:10 [Paul:] So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory. NET
This may be meaning that salvation comes to those who are “in” or “belong to” (CEV) Jesus Christ – hence its use here. However it could simply be referring to salvation coming through Christ (cf. GNT).
Col 1:13-14 [Paul, to believers:] He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. NET
2Cor 5:21 [Paul, to believers:] God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God. NET
“In” Jesus Christ believers share in the righteousness of God (cf. GNT).
1Cor 1:2 [Paul:] To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: … ESV
Col 2:11-13 [Paul, to believers:] In him you also were circumcised – not, however, with a circumcision performed by human hands, but by the removal of the fleshly body, that is, through the circumcision done by Christ. 12Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead. 13And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he [God] nevertheless made you alive with him [Christ], having forgiven all your transgressions. NET
Verses 11-12 speak of one’s sinful nature being cut off through one being buried and raised with Christ. Following on from this, Paul speaks of believers being given life with Christ (v. 13).
1Cor 1:4-5 [Paul, to the Corinthian believers:] I always thank my God for you because of the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus. 5For you were made rich in every way in him, in all your speech and in every kind of knowledge – … NET
John 16:33 [Jesus, to his disciples:] I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage – I have conquered the world. NET
1Tim 1:14 [Paul:] But the grace of our Lord was fully given to me, and with that grace came the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. NCV™
This appears to be speaking of the faith and love “that are [to be realized] in Christ Jesus” (AMP), “in union with Christ Jesus” (GNT). However it has also been interpreted as referring to this faith and love as coming from or being of Jesus Christ (cf. NIrV, NLT).
1Jn 5:11b-12 [John, to believers:] God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12The one who has the Son has this eternal life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this eternal life. NET
Verse 11 may be speaking of eternal life having its source in Jesus Christ (cf. GNT), rather than being realized through one being “in” him. However v. 12 certainly has the believer’s union with Christ in view.
1Pet 5:10b He [God] called you to share in his glory in Christ, a glory that will continue forever. NCV™
Gal 3:28 [Paul, to believers:] There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female – for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. NET
Oneness in Jesus Christ takes primacy over all distinctions. In him “there is no difference” (GNT, NCV) between contrasting groups such as Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free people, and males and females. For no group is spiritually superior to another, and all are equal before God (cf. Eph 6:8-9). Note that the use of “Greek”, as opposed to “Jew”, appears to denote all Gentiles.
Eph 1:23 Now the church is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. NET
The description of the church as the “body” of Christ figuratively depicts the spiritual union of Jesus Christ with his people, and points to the oneness that his people have together in their relationship to Christ. Note that the phrase “the fullness of him” (v. 23) has a few possible meanings. It may mean that: the church is filled by Christ’s presence and/or by the blessings he gives it; the fullness of Christ is manifested in the church; or the church is the complement of Christ, in a sense the completion of what he represents.
Rom 12:4-5 [Paul, to believers:] Each one of us has a body with many parts, and these parts all have different uses. 5In the same way, we are many, but in Christ we are all one body. Each one is a part of that body, and each part belongs to all the other parts. NCV™
Eph 2:21-22 [Paul, to the Ephesian believers:] In him the whole building is joined together and rises into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. 22You, too, are being built in him along with the others into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. ISV
The “building” is composed of “members of God’s household” (v. 19 ⇓).
Eph 2:20 [Paul, to non-Jewish believers:] You are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone. GW
Col 1:18 He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things. NET
2Cor 11:2 [Paul, to the Corinthian church:] For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy, because I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. NET
The portrayal of Jesus Christ as the husband of the church points to both his headship of it and his oneness with it (cf. Gen 2:24 et al.).
Verses which speak of God’s people relating to God (e.g. praying to him) “through” Jesus Christ appear to have in view one or more of the following three concepts: Jesus Christ’s death opening the way into God’s presence; Jesus Christ’s priesthood; and God’s people being “in” Jesus Christ. Bear in mind that these three concepts or interpretations are not mutually exclusive and all three are aspects of Jesus Christ’s mediatory role in a believer’s relationship with God. The following three paragraphs discuss these three concepts further.
By his death, Jesus Christ’s consummate sacrifice removed sin forever as a barrier between God and his people – opening the way into God’s presence for God’s people. Thus it can be said that God’s people approach God “through Jesus Christ” by what he has accomplished in his death.
In his ongoing high priestly role Jesus Christ mediates between God and God’s people, representing the people before God. It would appear that this includes him doing so in conjunction with individual believer’s approaches to God. As such, just as under the old covenant people approached God by having a priest go before God on their behalf, now believers approach God “through Jesus Christ” in his role as high priest.
Additionally, it can be said that one relates to God “through Jesus Christ” by being “in” Christ (as per the theme of the preceding sections). Believers have the right to approach God because of their relationship with Jesus Christ, being “in” him (cf. Eph 3:12). For it is because of this union with Jesus Christ that what they say is sanctioned to be spoken before God. (See also the introductory comment below on God’s people ask God for things in Jesus Christ’s “name”.)
Heb 10:19-22 So, brothers and sisters, we are completely free to enter the Most Holy Place without fear because of the blood of Jesus’ death. 20We can enter through a new and living way that Jesus opened for us. It leads through the curtain—Christ’s body. 21And since we have a great priest over God’s house, 22let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, because we have been made free from a guilty conscience, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. NCV™
The reference to Jesus Christ’s body as “the curtain” (v. 20) is drawing a parallel between: his death, which opened a way for believers to confidently enter into God’s presence; and the curtain which the high priest went through to enter the Most Holy Place of God’s presence on the Day of Atonement, in the tabernacle and later in the temple.
Eph 2:18 [Paul, to believers:] It is through Christ that all of us, Jews and Gentiles, are able to come in the one Spirit into the presence of the Father. GNT
Here “through Christ” may be speaking of how people are to approach God. Alternatively it could be referring to being able to approach God because of what Jesus Christ has done (cf. NLT) – i.e. his reconciliation of people to God by his death (cf. v. 16).
Col 3:17 [Paul, to believers:] And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. NET
Heb 13:15 [The writer, to believers:] Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, acknowledging his name. NET
Jesus Christ’s role as high priest is in view here, with him being the one through whom we offer such sacrifices.
John 16:23b, 26 [Jesus, to his disciples:] I tell you the solemn truth, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. … 26At that time you will ask in my name, and I do not say that I will ask the Father on your behalf. NET
Being “in” Jesus Christ and relating to God “through” Christ (as per the previous couple of subsections) are connected to the concept here of relating to God in Jesus Christ’s “name”. The latter embodies relating to God under or by the authority of Jesus Christ. It is because of a believer’s relationship with Jesus Christ – in which believers may relate to God “through” Christ – that a believer can make requests of God in Jesus Christ’s “name”, on his authority.