Rethinking Being in Christ

Rethinking Being in Christ February 26, 2023

Being ‘in Christ’ is one of those doctrines denominational groups interpret in different ways. It wasn’t a core teaching of the church of my youth, which focussed more on being a sinner than a life of spiritual empowerment, but it is an absolute tenet of other movements I’ve been a part of. In some it was taken too far, in my view, but more of that later.


How we interpret being in Christ depends on our view of what was achieved at the cross. In essence, being in Christ is a positional matter, summed up by a host of Biblical statements. Before looking at what this means in the lives of believers, it’s helpful to understand the position itself – what we inherit and who we become upon receiving Christ.


Biblical statements about being in Christ


It is likely that many readers will be familiar with the following verses, but familiarity can mean missing out on truths we are yet to perceive, hidden within the words we know so well. I hope each reader will pause on these statements, reading them slowly and listening to the Holy Spirit. Lord, open our eyes to fresh revelation.


Being in Christ is a done deal. We are new creations – a fresh work of the Father, breathing spiritual life into us. 2 Corinthians 5:17


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.


We are set free from condemnation, including self-judgement and the judgement of others. Romans 8:1


There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.


We’ve been adopted into God’s family. Whatever our background and circumstances, we are beloved children of God. John 1:12


But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,


Even if we judge ourselves unimportant and lacking anything to give, the Lord has lined up a host of good works for each of us – chances to make a real difference in the lives of others; a calling to walk in love; the opportunity to discover who we really are and all that we can become as we walk with God. Ephesians 2:10


For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.


Being in Christ means that Christ also lives in us, giving us access to his love and power. Galatians 2:20


I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.


We have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. He can be resisted, quenched, and grieved, but he is within all of us, which is why when anyone seeks new depths of connection with him, his answer is a resounding yes. The Holy Spirit within us is also the absolute guarantee of our heavenly inheritance. Ephesians 1:11-14


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, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.


Christ in us stirs up the hope, the certainty, of the glory to come. Colossians 1:27


To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.


We are, right now, seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. We have access to the glory of Heaven, and to Christ himself. This is our spiritual reality, and we can become increasingly aware of it through a close walk with the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 2: 4-7


But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.


We have become the very righteousness of God. Our own righteousness (or more to the point, lack of righteousness) is no longer a defining factor of who we are. We hand that over at the cross and receive the righteousness of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21


For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


We are blessed with every blessing God can come up with. Learning to walk in them is another matter, but the riches of Heaven are ours. Ephesians 1:3-4


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, that we should be holy and blameless before him.


We can break free of behaviour that harms us and other people (also known as sin). We are no longer powerless. Romans 8:2


For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.


We are part of a global family; divisions, hatred, and rivalry can be abandoned and unity can thrive. 1 Corinthians 12:13


For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.


We have been made co-heirs with Christ; everything that is his is also ours. This is a deep truth that challenges limited notions of the generosity of God. Romans 8:17


And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.


I could have picked dozens more verses but I hope the scope of the transformation we’ve stepped into is already clear. We are sanctified, justified, forgiven. We have become the righteousness of God, can break free of harmful habits and behaviour, shrug off condemnation, and live of a life of good works, lovingly prepared for us by God himself. We are children of God, core members of his family, and have even been granted the honour of being named co-heirs with Christ. We have become part of a global community, within which the walls of division can be torn down. We have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, through whom we have access to the power and love of Christ. Christ in us is the certainty of our glorious Heavenly destiny, and right now, we are blessed with every last blessing in the heavenly realms.


What an extraordinary exchange! There’s enough in these few verses to keep us rejoicing for the rest of our days!


How are we to respond to this?


If you will, please ask yourself a question – given the abundant generosity of God, should we still seek to receive from God? If a blessing is already ours, should we still be asking for it?


For me, this is of crucial importance. In recent weeks, I’ve had numerous discussions about this, especially with Progressive brothers and sisters. The focus of those discussions has been on whether or not we should seek to walk more closely with God, and ask to receive spiritual gifts. The emphasis from those I’ve spoken to is that because we already have the Holy Spirit, there is no need to seek greater intimacy with him.


I couldn’t disagree more, but to keep this article at a manageable length, I’m going to leave the discussion of why we should continue to seek the Lord for next time. For now, let’s bathe in the glory of the promises of God, rejoicing in all we’ve been given in Christ. Thank you Lord, for the limitless outpouring of grace we’re privileged to know.


Note from the author: I love writing about faith and will continue to do so for as long as Patheos’ welcome is extended, but to be clear, doing so is a personal sacrifice as well as a passion project. The time devoted to putting out spiritual articles could be spent earning a crust, so I’m hoping that some who are ministered to or otherwise helped by my writing will become partners/financial supporters – any regular amount pledged through Patreon will be gratefully received, as well as a considerable encouragement.




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