Paul and Being in Christ

Every man who writes or speaks has his favorite phrases, and for Paul it was “In Christ.” It is not so much the essence of his theology but the summary of his whole religion. The phrase appears in all but one of his letters, 2 Thessalonians. It is something to be known by every Christian man and woman.

Paul never uses the phrase “In Jesus:” He does use in Christ, in Christ Jesus, in Jesus Christ and In the Lord. The phrase has to do uniquely with the risen Christ. It is not describing a physical relationship, but a spiritual one.

Paul thought of the church as a whole, and of each of the churches as being in Christ:

  1. Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. (1 Thessalonians 1:1)
  2. And I was [still] unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; (Galatians 1:22)

Not only churches, but individual members were in Christ:

  1. Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: (Philippians 1:1)
  2. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. (Philippians 4:21)
  3. And that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. (Philippians 1:14)
  4. To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ [who are] at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Colossians 1:2)
  5. Therefore receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; (Philippians 2:29)
  6. But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, (1 Thessalonians 5:12)

There is a source of unity for members to be in Christ: we must understand that Christianity is not being in a church, but being in Christ.

  1. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26)
  2. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)
  3. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
  4. So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:5)
  5. With a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, [that is], the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. In Him (Ephesians 1:10)
  6. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. (Philippians 4:2)

For Paul, life was lived in Christ:

  1. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. (1 Corinthians 4:17)
  2. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet [you would] not [have] many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. (1 Corinthians 4:15)
  3. Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? (1 Corinthians 9:1)
  4. For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 2:17)
  5. All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you. [Actually,] it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ; and all for your upbuilding, beloved. (2 Corinthians 12:19)
  6. But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. (Philippians 2:19)
  7. And I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall be coming shortly. (Philippians 2:24)
  8. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. (1 Corinthians 16:24)
  9. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows–such a man was caught up to the third heaven. (2 Corinthians 12:2)
  10. So that my imprisonment in [the cause of] Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, (Philippians 1:13)

Not only Paul wrote like this – Tertius, who wrote Romans at Paul’s dictation sends his greetings: I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord. (Romans 16:22)

Sometimes “In Christ” simply means “Christian:” (Romans 16:2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)

The great Christian qualities are in Christ:

  1. If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, (Philippians 2:1)
  2. But [it was] because of the false brethren who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. (Galatians 2:4)
  3. I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, (Romans 9:1)
  4. [to be specific], that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, (Ephesians 3:6)
  5. For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
  6. To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their [Lord] and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2)
  7. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. (1 Corinthians 4:10)
  8. Therefore if any man is in Christ, [he is] a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  9. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. (1 Corinthians 7:22)
  10. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
  11. And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:1)
  12. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, (2 Corinthians 1:21)
  13. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk in Him, (Colossians 2:6)

Christians hold fast during persecution and peril in Christ:

  1. For now we [really] live, if you stand firm in the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 3:8)
  2. Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long [to see], my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. (Philippians 4:1)
  3. So that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:26)
  4. Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things [again] is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. (Philippians 3:1)
  5. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
  6. But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned [before,] but you lacked opportunity. (Philippians 4:10)
  7. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. (1 Corinthians 4:17)
  8. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and [who are] faithful in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 1:1)

Every good thing that we experience or attain is in Christ:

  1. [and I pray] that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake. (Philemon 1:6)
  2. Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly [places] in Christ, (Ephesians 1:3)
  3. 11. In Greek the phrase is en Christo – usually “by means of” or “through the agency of” Christ.
  4. Metaphorically we can talk about two people being “wrapped up” in each other, which fits well here.
  5. Analogy of the way in which we live in the air – just as all men live in the air, and cannot live without the air, so all Christians live in Christ.

Other pictures Paul uses about the Christian experience:

  1. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27)
  2. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to [its] lusts. (Romans 13:14)
  3. My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you– (Galatians 4:19)
  4. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the [life] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)
  5. Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Colossians 2:12)

This material is from William Barclay, the Mind of St. Paul, 1975.

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