Ch. 5. The Mystery of Being In Christ

“It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God: our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.   1 Cor. 1.30

“On that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.”  Jn. 14.20 

It is impossible to overstate, but quite easily underestimate, the magnitude of this spiritual truth of being in Christ.  The apostle Paul wrote, “In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ.”  Eph. 3.4    No such claim is being made here, for Paul’s understanding of the mysteries of Christ is far more superior and complete as can be in this life. None can add to it, but only expound upon and enforce its reality. For one thing I do know, is that spiritual mysteries, such as being in Christ, remain hidden as in darkness only to the unbeliever, for they lack the necessary regeneration of the spirit to understand spiritual revelations.  However, with regard to the believer in Christ Jesus, it is written, “But God has revealed it to us by the Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”   1 Cor. 2.10   So Godly mysteries are not unknowable. The understanding of such is not based upon one’s level of intelligence or degree of education, but is made known through revelation, i.e. because ultimately God reveals it.  Be encouraged therefore to strive after, as all believers must, for such revelations and understandings, for we seek true insight; if we do not seek, we will not find.  “God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”  Acts 17.27.

A Simple Analogy: The Seed

Before considering further the spiritual reality of being in Christ, let us first make a simple analogy, from the realm of the natural to the realm of the spiritual.  After all it is always easier to relate first to the natural; this was the intent and design of parables used by Jesus.  For example, consider when Jesus spoke a parable involving a wedding guest not wearing a proper wedding garment. (Mt. 22.11-12)  His real intent was not that of an article of appropriate clothing offered to the guest by the wedding host, but a spiritual clothing of holiness offered by God to sinful man. One cannot come before God dressed in his own righteousness, it is totally unacceptable. First the natural, then the spiritual.

And so the analogy goes as follows. My grandfather came to America from Italy when he was about 12 years old.  He settled in the little town of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Little did he consider at that time that in two generations there would be a grandson bearing his name. As was the custom, I was named after my grandfather. But there was a connection to my grandfather beyond having the same name.  You understand, I was physically and historically in my grandfather when he sailed the Atlantic Ocean and came to America.  I was in his seed (semen, Gk. sperma) and this seed would be passed on to my father, and then on to me. It may be difficult to understand, but it is as God spoke to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”  Jer. 1.5   And, it is as God saw Jesus Christ as the Son of Man in the seed of Adam when He prophesied to the serpent (the devil) of his eventual demise, And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He (Jesus Christ) will crush your head, and you will strike His heel. ”  Gn. 3.15

Therefore, I have a part in my grandfather’s history and in his genetics because I was “in him.”  And because I was “in him,” I was born in America, a citizen of the United States.  Being in him influenced my physical appearance and stature, my cultural surroundings and upbringing, even being susceptible to certain physical strengths and weaknesses. Being in him, by extension, I even have a sense of some kind of connection to his little home town of Palombaro, Italy and its residents, perhaps some distant relatives—although I have never visited.    Having made no choices, having no say over anything, my life was profoundly influenced and somewhat determined simply because I was “in him,” my grandfather.

In like manner was I in Adam both before and after the Fall.  Adam’s seed was passed on to Seth, and then eventually through the generations to my grandfather and eventually to me. “When Adam was 130 years old, he had a son in his own likeness, after his own image; and he named him Seth.” Gn. 5.3And so, I, and all mankind, share not only in the genetics of Adam, but also in the history of Adam, even in his fall from grace, being alienated from God, stained with elements of sin and the curse, including eventual death, and the need for a savior.  This is the physical side of the parable.  Now, for the spiritual side.

Oh, the great revelation of this mystery of being in Christ—“It is because of Him (God the Father) that you are in Christ Jesus…”  1 Cor. 1.30   This too involves a seed but of it being in the spiritually genetic nature and history of Christ!  However, it is altogether different and of a higher order than of the physical seed of man.  As Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Flesh is born of flesh, but spirit is born of the Spirit.”  Jn. 3.6   Adam, my grandfather, my father, were all of the flesh with a fleshly seed.  And, I was born of this fleshly seed.  But now, the Redeemer has come, has “…canceled the debt ascribed to us in the decrees that stood against us. He took it away, nailing it to the cross!” Col. 2.14  The debt from sin is cancelled. Even as there is now the New Covenant in Christ, there is a new decree.  By grace there are declarations made by God to all who believe and make confession of Christ, a decree of unearned holiness and righteousness. But all of this is on the divinely “legal” side of redemption. This declaration now qualifies the believer to become…in Christ, to be born of His seed.

“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”  1 Pet. 1.23 

So now, believers in Christ also have a share, a partnership, in the history of Christ Jesus, and in His spiritual genetics: including His spiritual stature, His divine birth, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection…and, as you will see, even His ascension.  And as such, believers have now a share in His own life and relationship with the Father.

We Must Become a Spiritually Minded People

All of our natural life we have lived according to the “flesh.”  This means, our manner of life, our knowledge gained, and dreams envisioned, are all according to our ability to 1) learn logically with a sense of reasoning,  2) to sense through our physical senses of sight, hearing, tasting, feeling, and smell; and 3) by response to our emotions, which can be subtle or quite passionate.  However, one must now enter an altogether new dimension of the spirit, which is by faith.  Two quotes by Jesus instantly come to mind.

“But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”  Jn. 4.23-24,and

“Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world; if it were, My servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jews. But now, My kingdom is not of this realm.”  Jn. 18.36

To say that one must worship in spirit and truth means that our new life must be by faith, which, according to Hebrews 11.1, is treating the unseen and intangible realm of God and the Kingdom of God as (spiritual) reality…truth, absolutely factual.   These are things that cannot be observed or entered into by natural means. We have to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch now in a spiritual way, without logic and emotions. This is very strange and foreign to our natural man.  Hebrews 6.4-5 hints at this,  It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,  who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age— ”  Senses like tasting, and hearing, and feeling in the natural have their counterpart in the spiritual.

Thus, to be a spiritual man (or woman) is to be spiritually minded.  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”  Rm. 12.2   We must have our way of thinking transformed (Gk. metamorphoo –which is the word scientifically used to describe the process by which a caterpillar completely transforms into a butterfly; an altogether different creature)  For example, one can easily sense, in the natural, sitting in a church service.  However, if the Word of God says that, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” Eph. 2.6, regardless of how remotely possible this must seem in the natural, it is a spiritual fact and we must consider it as Godly truth.  It is factual! We must receive it into our hearts by faith, and live our lives accordingly. We are not only sitting in a physical church service, but spiritually present, with Christ, in the heavenlies. We will take this verse up again very shortly.

The Call to Spiritual Maturity.

“Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works,and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms,…”  Heb. 6.1-2

This call to maturity has a threshold over which one must cross to begin his/her walk to spiritual growth.  If that threshold is not crossed, true spiritual maturity cannot be entered into, but becomes but a concept, an idea, or even a doctrine that has no life in itself. Soon to follow would be a life of dead works in which all our energies are spent attempting to “do good,” but in reality our works have no life in them and do not serve the higher purposes of God.  Two words complete this verse: faith and baptisms. These two foundational principles comprise the threshold over which one must cross into maturity.  They are as the narrow gate that opens into the narrow way that leads to life.

I have alluded to this word faith many times in my writings, so I will not elaborate here. Simply put, this faith means to believe and have confidence in the unseen or invisible and intangible spiritual world about us, the Kingdom of God, and its Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit  and to receive the holy scriptures, and teachings of them, as the Word of God, as noted by Paul to the church of Thessalonica, “And we continually thank God because, when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as the true Word of God—the Word which is now at work in you who believe.”  1 Thes. 2.13   I have capitalized the word “Word” here because the meaning of this Greek word, logos, relates to all expressions of the mind, and will, and purposes of God,  in text, in speech, and in the flesh as Jesus Christ, the living manifestation of the Word of God.

But also hidden in the scripture, in the plural word baptisms, is the profound realities of both spiritual and water baptisms.  I believe this to be one of the keys to unlocking the “narrow” gate to spiritual maturity. We must become spiritually minded in our understanding. In the following explanation we will take our understanding of “Spirit baptism” beyond its traditional Pentecostal/Charismatic sense.

Two Baptisms: Water and Spirit

“Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, well versed in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord and was fervent in spirit. He spoke and taught accurately about Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.  And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him in and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”  Acts 18.24-26

Water Baptism

Apollos was a Hebrew Christian, well-schooled in the Word, and a defender and proclaimer of faith in Christ.  But it says here that he “though he knew only the baptism of John,” which is the baptism in water and accompanying repentance of sins. Paul experienced the same with some disciples he encountered at Ephesus.  (See Acts 19.1-7)  That is, they knew only the water baptism of John the Baptist.  Baptism in water is an outward baptism, it occurs in a physical setting in which all that of natural man is involved: his understanding, physical senses, and emotions all interact in this experience.

It was written that Apollos “had been instructed in the way of the Lord .”    I tend to associate baptism in water to the wide gate and way and many enter in through it. (See Mt. 7.13-14)   This way of the Lord consists of knowing the historical Christ, His advent in a manger, His life, teachings, and miracles, and His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension; and of His eventual second advent when He comes again.  There is nothing wrong in all of this, it is the fundamentals of our faith but constitutes only the Religion” of Christianity.  But there is something higher and better—something that aligns itself with the eternal purposes of God, that passes through a narrow gate and narrow way.

Spirit Baptism

There is a baptism into Christ, a spirit baptism, that does not involve the outward man, but only the inward of the heart.  It does not require the use of the physical senses, emotions, or logical thinking. Things of the spirit are invisible and intangible, requiring faith in their existence.   It is written above that Pricilla and Aquila “took him (Apollos) in and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”   The “way of God” is the more narrow way, for “small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Thus, the way of God via the Spirit, is life—that which finds its source from within and then emanates outward. For the believer in Christ, the way of God is always first and foremost spiritual, looking into the eternal purposes of God in Christ Jesus.  God’s highest, and best, and narrowest, is a Spirit baptism into Christ. It is a faith that works in you.

Baptism into Christ—Its spiritual reality

“Or aren’t you aware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We therefore were buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may walk in newness of life.”  Acts 6.3-4

Earlier in this essay an attempt was made to explain how all mankind was in Adam (of his seed) when he fell from grace in the Garden, and thereby all have a share in his history, sin, and curse.  But now, all true believers who are born of the seed of Christ, were in Christ when He overcame sin and death at the cross and now share in the history of Christ.

Baptized into His Death

“Or aren’t you aware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?   As we all were “in Adam” in creation, all believers were “in Christ” when He died on the cross.  We have a share in His history.  Being “baptized into His death” demands faith, to believe, to exercise a “work of faith” that this death of our old man (nature) is a spiritually fact, and that he (our old man) is no longer responsive to the enticements and lure of the world and fallen humanity. With death, the soul is no longer responsive to elements of immorality, quest for prestige and power, vanity and pride, to hatred and selfish demands, to the evils of the kingdom of darkness. I like the old King James word to reckon, consider as a fact, our co-death and burial in Christ. The verb were is in the past tense, as is all history.  It is now a part of our history.

Newness of Life

“…just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may walk in newness of life.”  There is a resurrection from this grave of burial, but not a physical one.  That is yet to come at the second coming of our Lord. This is the resurrection of the spirit into newness of life.  Please, we must not minimalize this as a religious decision to change one’s lifestyle, or in any way lessen its power.  Something wonderful and marvelous has happened with this miracle of the rebirth. One of the most powerful scriptures unveiling this mystery is found in 2 Corinthians:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!”  2 Cor. 5.17

One may “know” this verse, but does he/she really “understand” its significance to our spiritual life?  I do not wish to become academic here.  However, so significant is this verse of scripture that it deserves, no it requires, an in depth word-by-word examination to bring out its depth and quality of understanding. Literally it means that in this miracle of being born again one actually becomes a new species in Christ, and that the old life has passed away, terminated, never to be held in judgment by God or by ourselves.  A new life has begun.

If… expresses conditional, yet viewed as factual.

anyone… whoever, irrelevant is race and color, male or female, free or slave, etc.

in Christ… properly, in (inside, within); in the condition (state) in which something operates from the inside (within).

new… unused, “not found exactly like this before.”

creation… (creature), that which is founded from nothing; creation out of nothing.

old… the original.

pass away… pass out of sight; rendered void, disregarded.

behold… especially calls attention to what follows.

new… unused, “not found exactly like this before.”

has come…means to come into being, signifies a change of condition or state.

Thus, what was not before has become a child of God, “those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— children born not of blood, nor of the desire or will of man, but born of God.” (Jn. 1.12-13)  And, you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. And if we are children, then we are heirs: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”  Rm. 8.15-17

This beloved, is the miracle of our salvation.  This is the foundation to build our lives upon. This is the basis of our eternal hope in Christ.  This is crossing the threshold into the Kingdom of God, by which we have been “translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His dear Son.” Col. 1.13   This is the point from which believers look back to (the beginnings of) their salvation and forward to the consummation of all things in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 1.10)  This is the unveiling of the greatest mystery ever known to man.  And, now this opportunity has come to each one of us. And yet, this marvelous mystery does not end here.  There is a further consideration that the believer has been raised with Him and now sits with Him (spiritually) in heaven.

Ascension

Yet there remains a further revelation of the mystery of being in Christ—that of our (spiritual) ascension in Christ into the heavenlies. It is true that our bodily resurrection and our gathering up together with Christ will occur at the time of His second coming (the “Parousia”). However, there is presently a spiritual ascension that every believer is part of, in Christ, and may enter into by faith.  Prayerfully consider the following:

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved! And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Eph. 2.4-6

The unseen and intangible fact is this: If you are a regenerated believer, you have been spiritually risen with Christ and are now seated with Him in the heavenlies. One may not understand how this can be, and may not feel it is so, and may only be caught up with the natural reality of being a church service surrounded by other believers.  But spiritual reality takes us outside the realm of the natural mind, emotions, and senses. Even amidst our earthly surroundings, we believe we are seated in Christ in the heavenly realm. Inconsequential is the fact that this realm is invisible and intangible.  Inconsequential is our logic of how this can happen, and how we feel emotionally.  We are, by faith, in the presence of the living God and the Lamb.

“Therefore, since you have been raised with Christ, strive for the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  Col. 3. 1-3

The epitome of our ascension would be that our spiritual senses become trained to discern this heavenly environment—that we would have eyes to see, ears to hear, and to “taste the heavenly gif… and the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age.” Heb. 6.4-5   That we would no longer allow worship to be only of the natural setting of church buildings, with congregations, orchestrated music, of rituals and programs.  The awesome truth is that we are in the glorious and magnificent presence of our Father God, and the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.  Surrounding us are innumerable angelic beings worshipping the One who sits on the throne as well as those saints that have gone before us.  (Reference Heb. 12.22-24)  This is the environment of our worship, our prayers, our thanksgiving, our adoration.  Our lives must respond accordingly.

Thus…

We have just considered the spiritual reality of being in Christ, as written in Romans 6. 3-4 and Ephesians 2.4-6.  That, as believers we have died, were buried, raised from the dead, spiritually resurrected, and are ascended into the heavenlies, all in Christ.  And now we (should) walk in newness of this life and this new life is not new in the sense only of repentance, or involvement of religious activities and rituals. It is new in the sense that all of the old life has been terminated, and a new life received, one born of God as our Father. This is not a new doctrine to memorize and learn, but a mystery revealed as divine truth to be received and acted upon by faith. One must understand their position enshrouded in the Christ. This, brothers and sisters, is reality and sound truth regarding our status in Christ. Any consideration of faith outside of this truth denigrates Christianity to a religion, and apart from true spiritual life. The moment one stops considering this heavenly truth, he/she is immediately absorbed by the natural realm of our existence, and reacts accordingly.  The world has little notion of this truth, it is beyond the ability of the natural mind to comprehend such a marvelous miracle. Jesus addresses this truth when He said to Nicodemus,  “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  Jn. 3.3  And, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”  Jn. 3.5    This is the way of the Spirit!

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