Intermediate Edition

II. Being ‘in’ Jesus Christ


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Chapter 16  Part II

Being ‘in’ 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.

It is based on, or at least connected with, their spiritual union with Jesus Christ – in which they participate with him in such things as: his victory over sin and death; his life; and other blessings he has secured. (See also the comment below in God’s people are united with Jesus Christ.) As such it has great significance in the relationship of believers to God.

Note that expressions like “in Jesus Christ” sometimes have other meanings, such as “through Jesus Christ”. While the verses in this section have been interpreted here as using such expressions to speak of believers being “in” Jesus Christ, in some instances the meaning is debatable.

God’s People Are ‘in’ Jesus Christ

God’s people are “in” Jesus Christ

From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints [in Ephesus], the faithful in Christ Jesus.   Ephesians 1:1 NET

Jesus Christ identifies himself with God’s people

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.’   Matthew 25:40 NCV™

The King in this parable represents Jesus Christ himself. Commentators generally interpret “my people” to be referring to Christians.

God’s people live with Jesus Christ

[Paul:] For we also are weak in him, but we will live together with him, because of God’s power toward you.   2 Corinthians 13:4b NET

The Significance of Being ‘in’ Jesus Christ

Generally speaking at least, the spiritual standing and blessings that believers have are based on them being “in” Jesus Christ. 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.

“In” Jesus Christ God’s people are redeemed and forgiven

[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.   Colossians 1:13-14 NET

“In” Jesus Christ God’s people have righteousness

[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.   2 Corinthians 5:21 NET

“In” Jesus Christ believers share in the righteousness of God (cf. GNT).

“In” Jesus Christ believers are identified with him in his death, resurrection and life

[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.   Colossians 2:11-13 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).

God’s People Are One Body ‘in’ Jesus Christ

All believers – including Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free – are one body “in” Jesus Christ

[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.   Galatians 3:28 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. Ephesians 6:8-9). Note that the use of “Greek”, as opposed to “Jew”, appears to denote all Gentiles.

The church is the body of Christ

Now the church is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.   Ephesians 1:23 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.

Jesus Christ is the head of the body

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.   Colossians 1:18 NET

Epilogue: God’s People Relate to God through Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ’s death and priesthood have opened the way into God’s presence for God’s people

[The writer, to believers:] 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.   Hebrews 10:19-22 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, in the tabernacle and later in the temple.

God’s people have access to God through Jesus Christ – by the Holy Spirit

[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.   Ephesians 2:18 GNT

Verses such as this 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. All three are aspects of Jesus Christ’s mediatory role in a believer’s relationship with God.

Pray for persecuted Christians