What does it mean to be in Christ?

417 what does it mean to be in Christ?An expression that we have all heard before. Albert Schweitzer called the "being in Christ" the main mystery of the teaching of the apostle Paul. And Schweitzer finally had to know. As a famous theologian, musician and eminent missionary, the Alsatian was one of the most outstanding Germans of the 20. Century. 1952 was awarded the Nobel Prize. In his 1931 book The Mysticism of the Apostle Paul, Schweitzer emphasizes the important aspect that Christian life in Christ is not God-mysticism but, as he himself says, Christ-mysticism. Other religions, including prophets, fortune tellers or philosophers, seek - in whatever form - for "God". Schweitzer realized, however, that for Paul the Christian's hope and daily life have a more specific and more secure orientation - namely, a new life in Christ.

In his letters, Paul uses the term "in Christ" no less than twelve times. A good example of this is the edifying passage in 2. Corinthians 5,17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old has passed, behold, something new has become. "Albert Schweitzer was ultimately not an orthodox Christian, but few people described the christian spirit more impressively than he did. He summarized the thoughts of the Apostle Paul in these words: "For him [Paul] the believers are redeemed by entering into the supernatural state in the communion with Christ through a mysterious death and resurrection with him already in the natural world time in which they will be in the Kingdom of God. Through Christ we are removed from this world and placed in the mode of being of the kingdom of God, though this has not yet appeared ... "(The Mysticism of the Apostle Paul, p. 369).

Note, as Schweitzer points out, that Paul sees the two aspects of the coming of Christ interconnected in an end-time arc of tension - the Kingdom of God in the present life and its consummation in the future life. Some may not approve of Christians messing around with expressions such as "mysticism" and "Christ mysticism" and more amateurishly engaging with Albert Schweitzer; It is undeniable, however, that Paul was certainly both a visionary and a mystic. He had more visions and revelations than any of his church members (2Kor 12,1-7). But how does all this relate concretely and how is it to reconcile with the most important event in human history - the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

The sky already?

To say it straight away, the subject of mysticism is crucial to understanding such eloquent passages as Roman 6,3-8: "Or do you not know that all we who are baptized Christ Jesus are baptized into his death? So we are buried with him by baptism into death, so that, as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we also walk in a new life. For if we were united with Him and became like Him in His death, we will be like Him in the resurrection ... But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him ... "

That's Paul, as we know him. He regarded the resurrection as the linchpin of Christian teaching. Thus, through baptism Christians are not only symbolically buried with Christ, they also symbolically share the resurrection with him. But this is a bit beyond the pure symbolic content. This aloof theologizing goes hand in hand with a healthy dose of harsh reality. Look how Paul understood this subject in his letter to the Ephesians in the 2. Chapter, verses 4-6 goes on to say, "But God, who is rich in mercy, in his great love ... has also brought us, who were dead in sins, to life with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and he raised us up and helped us in heaven in Christ Jesus. "How was that? Again, read: We are in heaven in Christ?

How can that be? Well, again, the words of the apostle Paul are not meant literally and concretely, but of metaphorical, even mystical significance. He points out that, thanks to God's manifested power in the resurrection of Christ, to redeem ourselves, we may already enjoy the Holy Spirit of participation in the Kingdom of Heaven, the abode of God and of Christ. This is promised to us through life "in Christ", his resurrection and ascension. Being in Christ makes all this possible. We could call this insight the resurrection principle or resurrection factor.

The resurrection factor

Once again, we can only look with reverence on the immense driving force that comes from the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, knowing that it is not only the most significant historical event, but also leitmotif for all that the believer in this world is hope and expect. "In Christ" is a mystical expression, which however, with its far more profound meaning, goes beyond the purely symbolic, rather comparative character. He is closely related to the other mystical phrase "instituted in heaven".

Keep in mind the significant remarks made by some of the outstanding Bible verses on Ephesians 2,6. In the following Max Turner in The New Bible Commentary in the version of the 21. Century: "To say we have been made alive with Christ seems to be the short version of the statement that we should be resurrected with Christ to new life," and we can speak of it as if it had already happened, because the ultimate event of the First, the resurrection [Christ] is in the past, and second, we are already beginning to partake in that newly created life through our present communion with it "(p. 1229).

United with Christ, of course, we are by the Holy Spirit. That is why the world of ideas behind these exalted ideas opens up to the believer only through the Holy Spirit himself. Now, look at Francis Foulkes' commentary on Ephesians 2,6 in The Tyndale New Testament: "In Ephesians 1,3, the apostle stated that he had God blessed us in Christ with all spiritual blessings in heaven. Now he makes it clear that our life is there now, placed in heavenly reign with Christ ... Humanity has been lifted to heaven through Christ's victory over sin and death and through his exaltation, from the deepest hell '(Calvin). We now have civil rights in heaven (Phil 3,20); and there, the restrictions and limits imposed by the world unmarried ... is true life found "(p. 82).

In his book, The Message of Ephesians, John Stott comments on Ephesians 2,6 as follows: "What astounds us is the fact that Paul does not write about Christ here, but about us. He does not confirm, for example, that God raised Christ, exalted and instituted him into heavenly dominion, but that he awakened us, elevated us and put us into heavenly dominion ... This idea of ​​communion of God's people with Christ is the basis of New Testament Christianity , As a people that is in Christ, it has a new solidarity. By virtue of his communion with Christ, it is indeed part of his resurrection, ascension, and institution. "

By "staging," Stott refers in the theological sense to the present reign of Christ over all creation. Thus, according to Stott, this whole talk of our common reign with Christ is not "meaningless Christian mysticism." Rather, it was an important part of Christian mysticism and even went beyond it. Stott adds: "'In Heaven', the invisible world of spiritual reality where the powers and powers rule (3,10; 6,12) and where Christ rules all things (1,20), God has blessed his people in Christ (1,3) and with it Christ set in heavenly dominion ... It is a living testimony that on the one hand Christ gave us a new life and on the other hand a new victory. We were dead, but spiritually alive and alert. We were in captivity, but were put into heavenly rule. "

Max Turner is right. In these words lies more than pure symbolism - as mystical as this doctrine seems. What Paul is explaining here is the real meaning, the deeper meaning of our new life in Christ. In this context, at least three aspects should be highlighted.

The practical effects

First of all, as far as their salvation is concerned, Christians are "as good as at their destination." For them, who are "in Christ," their sins are forgiven by Christ Himself. They share with him death, burial, resurrection and ascension, and to some extent already live with him in the kingdom of heaven. This teaching should not serve as an idealistic lure. It was originally addressed to Christians who lived under the most terrible conditions in corrupt cities without those civil and political rights that we often take for granted. The death by the Roman sword was quite possible for the readers of the Apostle Paul, although one must not forget that most people of that time were already 40 or 45 years old anyway.

Thus, Paul encourages his readers with another thought borrowed from the core doctrine and characteristic of the new faith - the resurrection of Christ. To be in Christ means that God, when he looks at us, does not see our sins. He sees Christ. No teaching could make us more hopeful! In Colossians 3,3 this is emphasized once again: "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Zurich Bible).

Secondly, being "in Christ" means living as a Christian in two different worlds - in this world of everyday reality and in the "invisible world" of spiritual reality, as Stott calls it. This has an impact on the way we see this world. Thus we shall live a life justifying these two worlds, whereby our very first duty of loyalty is to the kingdom of God and his values, but on the other hand we should not be so far-sighted that we do not serve the earthly good. It is already a tightrope walk and every Christian needs the help of God in order to be sure of it.

Third, being "in Christ" means that we are the triumphant sign of the grace of God. If Heavenly Father has done all this for us and has, so to speak, given us a place in the kingdom of heaven, it means that we should live as ambassadors of Christ.

Francis Foulkes puts it this way: "What God, in the understanding of the apostle Paul, means with his church extends far beyond himself, the salvation, the enlightenment and the new creation of the individual, their unity and their succession, even their testimonies beyond this world. The church should bear witness to the whole of creation rather than the wisdom, love and grace of God in Christ "(p. 82).

How true. To be "in Christ", to receive the gift of new life in Christ, to have our sins hidden from God before God - all this means that we should behave in a Christian manner towards the people with whom we deal. We Christians may go different ways, but we encounter the people we live with on earth, in the spirit of Christ. With the resurrection of the Savior, God has not set us a sign of His omnipotence, that we may go vainly uplifted head, but every day bear witness to His goodness, and by our good deeds show a sign of His existence and His limitless care for every man put this globe. Christ's resurrection and Ascension significantly influence our attitude towards the world. The challenge we face is to live up to that reputation 24 hours a day.

by Neil Earle


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