What does it mean to be “in Christ”?


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In Christ

This term is a New Testament expression which describes the closeness of the personal union that exists between the Christian and Christ. John describes this union as being “in him” (1 John 2:5, 6, 28; 3:24; 5:20). And Peter speaks of being in Christ (1 Peter 3:16; 5:14). Also, Paul applies it to churches (Galatians 1:22; 1 Thessalonians. 1:1; 2:14) as well as to individuals (1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:1).

Daily relationship with the Savior

“In Christ” means more than to be dependent on Him or just to be His follower. It means having a daily relationship with Him (John 14:20). Jesus emphasized the closeness of this union by His parable of the Vine and the Branches (John 15:1–7). He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

This abiding in Christ is necessary for growth and bringing spiritual fruits. It means that the soul must be in daily communion with the Lord and must live His life (Galatians. 2:20). For it is impossible for a person in his own to escape the bondage of sin and to bring fruits of godliness (Romans 8:7).

And this abiding is mutual (John 15:4). As men abide in Christ, He dwells in them and they become partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Their minds become so identified with His mind that their requests are made in harmony with His will (1 John 5:14).

Fruits of the union

He who professes to be in Christ is expected to bring fruits of righteousness. These fruits are called “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9), or “fruits of righteousness” (Philippians 1:11; Hebrews 12:11). These fruits are revealed in the character and the life of the believer.

The fruits are the product of hearing God’s words and applying them in the life. As believers feed upon God’s word, it enlightens their minds. And as they make a choice to obey it fully through God’s enabling power, Christ, the hope of glory, is formed within them (Colossians 1:27).

Disconnecting from Christ

Jesus adds a warning, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:5,6). When the “good fruits” (James 3:17) are absent it becomes necessary to cut the fruitless branch.

The delusion, “once in grace always in grace,” is denied by this state of disconnection. Thus, it is certainly possible for those who have been in Christ to sever their connection with Him and be lost (Hebrews 6:4–6). Therefore, salvation is conditional upon abiding in Christ until the end.

The Christian represented by the severed branch may carry on a form of religion. But the divine strength is missing (2 Timothy 3:5). In temptation, the shallowness of his profession is exposed. As the cut branches are eventually gathered and burned, so the unfruitful Christian will suffer eternal death (Matthew 10:28; 13:38–40; 25:41, 46).

No condemnation on the believers

The good news of the gospel is that Christ came to condemn sin, not sinners (John 3:17; Romans 8:3). A believer who accepts Christ’s salvation and commits to a life of obedience, Christ offers justification and victory over sin. There may yet be deficits in the believer’s character, but when he purposes to obey the Lord and puts efforts to this end, Jesus accepts his effort as man’s best service, and He makes up for the deficit with His own divine merit. For this Christian, there is no condemnation (John 3:18).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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