3 QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO BE “IN CHRIST” by Jonathan Landry Cruse for Core Christianity
While you may never have heard of the phrase “union with Christ,” you have certainly read of it if you have ever skimmed through the New Testament. While we never come across that particular phrase in Scripture, we do encounter phrases like “in Him,” “in Christ,” “in the Lord,” and so on. In fact, once you start looking for it, you will be amazed by just how often the phrase “in Him” or one of its variations appears in the New Testament. You won’t be able to miss it! According to one trusted scholar, there are no less than 160 mentions of believers being in Christ.
One of the reasons this doctrine is so important is that it is teaching us something fundamental about our own identity and self-conception. For the Christian, our identity is not something we find inside of ourselves, it is something that is intrinsically outside of ourselves in the person of Jesus Christ. He becomes our identity. Put another way, everything that we have and everything that we are is found in the person of Jesus Christ. According to Scripture, who we are really isn’t about us, it’s about Jesus. This might offend our sensibilities. To be in Christ could sound like who I am and what I do does not matter. In a world that prizes individual expression, is this doctrine saying Jesus takes that all away? Here are a few important questions to consider that will help you understand what this doctrine is and appreciate who you are in Christ.
1. Do I Become God?
To be clear, union with Christ does not mean we become Christ. To say we are “in Him” is not advocating some form of deification where we slowly turn into gods or become one with the divine essence. This is mysticism, not the Christian religion. Nor are we literally or physically united to Him, as though we become conjoined twins attached at the hip. Union with Christ ultimately comes down to this: it’s a Spiritual union, a work done through the power of the Holy Spirit.