Who is in Christ? And Who is Christ in?
Many people consider the description “in Christ” or having “Christ in you” to be synonymous with having been “saved” or being a “believer” or a “christian.”
I believe this kind of reading of the New Testament comes from a dualistic mindset that divides humanity into “them” and “us”; those who are in Christ and those who are not; those who have Christ in them and those who don’t.
Is this really the case?
Before you stone me for even daring to question such a distinction, let me say that I understand that there are those who believe and those who do not. That’s not what I’m questioning.
What I’m questioning is the following. Was it really our believing that put ourselves in Christ? Was it really our asking Jesus to “come into our heart” that caused him to do so? Was is really dependent on our initiative?
It’s not difficult to find statements in bibles that seem to assert that some people are not in Christ or do not have Christ in them. Knowing that many of us have come to the scriptures with the dualistic perspective that we have been taught, however, it is not surprising that many have interpreted such passages in a divisive way. I’m willing to bet that most people haven’t even considered whether there is another way to understand them.
I maintain that, in general, such passages are referring to people’s understanding, experiences, and ways of living rather than their being.
Objectively (ontologically), all are in Christ; subjectively (experientially), not all are.
Do people know and believe that they have been redeemed? Have they realized that they were included in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, that they have been put in Christ and Christ in them? If not, even if it is true, it will not benefit them; they will keep operating under their false perceptions of reality that they have always believed in. They will not experience relationship with God because they are not aware of his presence with them.
Some might object: if everyone really is in Christ, why is the phrase used so often in the New Testament? What’s the use of pointing out something that is true of everyone? That’s like telling a group of people that they are all humans. Useless!
There’s another way of looking at it.
Imagine speaking to a room full of parents and saying, “if you have children, you know that feeling when you held your first newborn baby in your arms.” Here, the purpose in saying “if you have children” isn’t to distinguish between those that do and don’t have children but to emphasize that because you indeed do have children, you know the feeling.
In like manner, the “if” in “if you are in Christ” is not a conditional if but a conclusive if, as in “if it is true that you are in Christ (which it is), then [insert awesome thing that results from being in Christ].” The phrase is not used to communicate something believers have but unbelievers don’t. Drawing such distinctions is useless. The point in including such a phrase is to remind the reader of their source; it is because they are in Christ that all these amazing things are true about them. Further, this phrase is used to communicate what should be obvious to the readers. It’s like saying, “how could you not be such and such…I mean, you’re in Christ. Come on!”
Does this sound too good to be true?
If so, good! Because the Good News indeed is.
You were put in Christ when you were created. The entire universe was created in Christ (Ephesians 2:10, Colossians 1:16).
The entire universe exists in Christ and is held together by him (Colossians 1:17).
That is why Paul tells pagans that they live and move and have their being in God (Acts 17:28).
We don’t get into Christ by anything we do. It is by God’s doing that we are in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Thus could Paul write that God was pleased to reveal Christ in Paul so that Paul could preach Christ among (same Greek word as the “in” of “in Paul” just before it) the Gentiles (Galatians 1:16). Christ was already in Paul as well as in the Gentiles; it was simply a matter of God revealing it and Paul realizing it.
“God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among (in) the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, emphasis mine).
There are no longer any significant dividing lines between people. What matters is the common denominator of Christ in all.
“There is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, uncivilized, slave or free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).
When God comes to humanity in the history of Jesus Christ, humanity at the same time is brought to God in that history objectively. It is not faith which incorporates humanity into Jesus Christ. Faith is rather the acknowledgment of a mysterious incorporation already objectively accomplished on humanity’s behalf. “One had died for all; therefore all have died” (2 Cor. 5:14). That all have died in Christ (and been raised with him) is the hidden truth of humanity as revealed to faith. Our true humanity is to be found not in ourselves but objectively in him. – George Hunsinger
I can no longer look at anyone from a merely human perspective anymore (2 Corinthians 5:16). God reconciled the entire cosmos, including all humanity, to himself (v. 19). The same people on whose behalf Jesus became sin became the righteousness of God in Christ (v. 21).
The Father of all is in all (Ephesians 4:6).
“When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:28, emphasis mine).
“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22, emphasis mine).
And I could on. But I think you get the point.
There are no outsiders.
All humanity is exploring the wonderland of Christ.
We are not magically brought into Christ by fulfilling some condition such as confessing, repenting, or believing. These things have their place, but they are not prerequisites for inclusion.
Do you see Christ in everyone? Or are you only looking at the outward appearance?
Steve McVey on humanity’s inclusion
Quotes on the inclusion of all humanity in Christ