What does it mean to be “in Christ”?

Steven Lawson & Derek Thomas
1 Min Read

LAWSON: To be in Christ, first of all, means that we have a saving relationship with Christ and are brought into union and communion with Him in such a way that, as we are in Christ, what is true of Christ becomes true of us. His grace and His resources become our experience and possession.

When you read Ephesians 1–2, that phrase “in Him” or “in Christ” is repeated over and over. It says, “We were chosen in Christ,” and, “We were predestined in Christ.” It goes all the way down to the Holy Spirit—we are sealed by the Spirit in Christ.

So, the life of Christ is now in us by virtue of our being in Christ and Christ in us. It’s a double union, if you will. My entire life is now lived for Christ, but the life that I live is lived by virtue of being in Christ. His grace, His sufficiency, and the riches of His mercy are now available to me. That is just to explain this in a very simplistic way. If Dr. Ferguson were here, he would soar to the heights of heaven and be adding so many other caveats. He would be sitting and leaning back, as he does.

THOMAS: He’s probably watching right now.

LAWSON: He’s asleep in Scotland right now with the time change. So, Derek, add to that.

THOMAS: I often wonder: What is the source of en Christō, or “in Christ,” in Paul? It’s a dominating feature for the Apostle Paul. It’s a feature by which he understands his identity and the identity of other Christians. He is in Christ and other Christians are in Christ.

It was the encounter with Stephen in which, as Saul of Tarsus was persecuting this Stephen figure, he heard a voice saying, “Why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4; see Acts 7:54–8:3). When Saul laid a finger on Stephen, he was, in effect, laying a finger on Jesus Christ. Saul was so identified with Jesus and Jesus was so identified with Saul that I can’t imagine Paul ever went through a twenty-four-hour cycle without remembering what he did to Stephen and others. I think that is probably the genesis of the metaphor he uses to identify what a Christian is. Fundamentally, a Christian is somebody who is in union and communion and fellowship with Jesus.

This is a transcript of Derek Thomas’s and Steven Lawson’s answers given during our 2020 Dallas-Fort Worth Conference, and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email ask@ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.