NOTE! if you are seeing an image at the top of this article (a diagram), it is the wrong format! click on the link to the blog post page on the top of the left column – Being “in Christ” – to get the proper format. The home page shows the image at the top with the text in one large paragraph. This is incorrect!! The image/diagram should be down the page under a few paragraphs of text – this is the correct version.
Being “In Christ”
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Some Biblical truths are hard to explain, and then there is the language barrier or the fact that the author was speaking, thinking and writing in another language, and of course, there is the fact that the words were written a long, long time ago. Even the translation was written long ago considering the way that languages change. Fortunately, there is the Holy Spirit who both inspired the words being written, knowing all of these condition, and Who is present today and can aid us in finding the truth.
In the second chapter of 2nd Corinthians, Paul uses the term “in Christ” in a number of places and seems to be referring to a condition that Christians are in. He also uses the expression with regards to himself and other Apostles, that they speak “in Christ” when they were speaking to the Corinthians.
It is my belief that Paul was talking about an important place that Christians need to be in, but this place is hard to define. It is a place that is only found by the use of our faith. It is a spiritual place. It is a mental condition and attitude.
I find that sometimes a picture is the best way to communicate something like this. Below I have inserted a picture that I feel describes this well. Let me also talk through what I have shown.
Notice the top rectangle – this represents the created world, including the entire universe. Within the world there is a world system that has been established (the brown rectangle). This world system has to do with how mankind functions and thinks. It revolves around this physical world and the duration of our lifespan. It is based on our senses of sight, feeling, hearing, and smell, along with our reasoning, observation, and accumulation of knowledge.
The stick figure at the top of the world rectangle represents a person at birth. We are born into the world, and then are acclimated into the world system. We inherit this way of thinking and functioning from past generations back to Adam and Eve. We become strongly dependent on our senses to guide our decisions, and to establish our philosophy of life, giving us our motivation and reason to live.
It’s important to note that at some point in our life, while being acclimated into the world system, we came to the realization that we were going to die, I mean that it really became a reality to us. This most likely happened when we were rather young, possibly when someone close to us died. I believe that at this juncture in our lives we were faced with determining a purpose and meaning for our existence. We are complicated beings and each is unique, so it may have occurred over a span of many years. Ultimately, the philosophy that we adopted put us into the bondage of the world system, with no real hope, and deceived by the many lies that the world and the devil present to us.
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Hebrews 2:14-15
Again, I think it is the hopelessness and fear of death that puts us in a place mentally, in our world view and philosophy of life, that allows us to be in bondage to sin and the devil, and we are trapped in the cycle of sin and death.
When a person encounters the good news of Jesus Christ the Savior, and what God has made available to us in His promises, and this person believes the message, and places their hope now in these promises, they die to this world system and move instead to a place where they are awaiting their deliverance from this world. This is the place that I believe that Paul is referring to as “In Christ” (the blue dash line rectangle). This is where we truly become a new creation. This is where we are transformed by renewing our minds and thinking, no longer conforming to the way of thinking of the world system. This happens by us dying with Christ Jesus. We are to consider ourselves as dead to this world.
When we are “in Christ” we have hope. This hope is the key to us becoming spiritual, as we set our affections on the things in heaven, and store up our riches in heaven. In time the transformation frees us from the bondage of sin. We can truly live a holy and righteous life as we change our way of thinking, continuing in our pilgrimage towards the promised hope of eternal life in heaven. The passions and strong desires that were based on our physical perspective while in the old world system can no longer hold us in the cycle of sin and death. We are free when “in Christ”. With the attitude that we are just temporary residents, passing through this world, awaiting our true and permanent home in heaven, we can live a victorious life.
The bottom rectangle is the new heaven and new earth that Jesus will establish when He returns at the end of the age. When we die, or if we are here when He returns, we are then transferred to the new kingdom of heaven (the green rectangle), which is a new system with Jesus as the source of life. There will be no more tears and sorrow, and we will have eternal life with a resurrected, immortal body.
I was recently reading the book of Ecclesiastes, written by king Solomon, who was given great wisdom by the Lord. The Scriptures say that he God gave him wisdom so that he was the wisest man who ever lived. When I read the first chapter, it hit me like never before that Solomon was defining the condition of the curse put on this world. His term was “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” The word “vanity” used here means: “that which is empty, without permanent value, that which leads to frustration”, according to one Bible scholar (Spurgeon). In my words, Solomon is saying that everything in this world just repeats itself continually without reaching any new added value. The sun rises and sets, continually. The rivers run into the oceans, continually. The wind blows from the north to the south, then back, continually. Nothing new happens, really. Everything continually repeats.
I don’t think that God originally created this world to function this way and I think that the new heaven and earth will not have this same continual cycle that leads to only frustration. Heaven will be a completely different creation beyond our imagination.
I must mention that, sadly, many Christians remain in the world system. They may have come out for a short time, but like the seed that falls on shallow ground or that is choked by the thorns and thistles, they go back to the carnality of the world system. As a result, they become ensnared again in sin, and lose their hope, becoming depressed and disillusioned with their life with Jesus. I strongly believe that the root problem is that they are not really “in Christ”.
I believe it is plain to see that the emphasis on the grace and forgiveness of God in Jesus is not enough to bring someone out of the world system. They must understand that their death with Christ to this world and their shifting of their hope from the hopes of this world to hope in Jesus is the only means of transforming them from the world system to being “in Christ”. The Gospel needs to include this important message of death to this world system and hope in the Promises of God.
Remember that even now we can consider ourselves to be citizens of this new heavenly kingdom. It takes an effort to keep in this mindset. We need to keep encouraging one another in this journey of faith towards this blessed hope. Life is short and before we know it our life will be done and our efforts will be rewarded. Continue on and be strong!
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of is 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 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 towards us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7