Fellowship with Jesus: Part Three – Identity “in Christ”

To this point in the article series, we have looked at the overall concept of “fellowship with Jesus” and the idea of praying to Jesus. At this time, I would like to step back and focus more on a concept from the first article: identity “in Christ.” As we do so, we will be asking ourselves the question: what is our true identity?

What does it mean to be “in Christ”? Let’s begin by contrasting “in Christ” with “in Adam,” our former identity.

I Corinthians 15:20-23 (ESV) – emphasis added
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

One man, Adam, brought sin and death to the entire human race. Another man, Jesus Christ, brought life to the entire human race. When Adam sinned, all of mankind became dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Humanity was in a state of enmity with God (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21). Humanity was in a state without hope and without God (Ephesians 2:12).

So, when each person is born into the world, they are born “in Adam.” They do not have a connection with God. They do not have holy spirit operating in them. How did God provide a way to escape the reality of “in Adam”?

Romans 5:12-19 (ESV)
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned–
for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.
Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.
For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Adam’s sin led to the worst circumstances for the human race—we were dead in our sins. Even if we didn’t sin like Adam did—breaking a direct commandment of God—we were all still identified in Adam. But God’s grace in Christ extended far beyond those worst circumstances. God’s grace abounded more than the consequence through the free gift of salvation in Christ. Adam’s condemnation and judgment were replaced with Christ’s justification and acquittal, leading to Christians passing from death to life.

As we have seen so far, we were formerly identified “in Adam.” Now, Christians have been identified with their Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Let’s look at a few verses that indicate that reality:

Colossians 1:13-14 (ESV)
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

In Christ we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. God has transported us from the domain (or kingdom) of darkness to the kingdom of Christ.

I Corinthians 1:30 (ESV)
And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

Because of God, we are now “in Christ.” Christ is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

II Corinthians 5:14-21 (ESV)
For the love of Christ controls [or “compels,” as in the CSB and NIV] us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;
and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Christians, those who are “in Christ,” no longer live for themselves. Christians live for Christ. They are a new creation. This allows Christians to be ambassadors for Christ, reconciling others to God.

Galatians 2:4 (ESV)
Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in–who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—

We have freedom in Christ Jesus. This also brings to mind II Corinthians 3:17: “where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” We have the freedom to do what God always wanted us to do, not anything we please. In times past, we were bound up by our sin nature (we were “in Adam”) and could not please God. Now, we have the freedom and the ability to do what God desires in every situation—that’s true freedom.

Galatians 3:28 (ESV)
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Christians are united in Christ Jesus. There is no difference based on ethnicity, former religious status, socioeconomic status, gender, or any other human division of people.

Ephesians 1:3 (ESV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

God has blessed Christians in Christ. Christians have been given every spiritual blessing in heavenly places through their identity with Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:13 (ESV)
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Christians were once “in Adam”—far away from what God intended for their lives. Now, Christians have been brought close to God and in communion with Him by the blood of Christ.

So much has been conferred on the Christian believer “in Christ.” We will now return to Romans to sum up what we have seen so far.

Romans 6:1-6 (ESV)
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

As we saw at the end of Romans 5, death was conferred upon humanity as a result of Adam’s sin. This was the worst possible outcome for us. Out of all proportion with that evil, God redeemed man “in Christ.” The grace abounded much more than the judgment conferred upon humans by the sin of Adam. So, in verses one and two of chapter six, Paul made it clear that Christians should not continue sinning so that grace can abound even more. Christians are dead to sin; we can walk in newness of life! Our old self was crucified with Christ so that we would never have to be enslaved to sin again. Paul puts it another way in Colossians chapter two.

Colossians 2:11-13 (ESV)
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

Christians were circumcised with Christ, buried with him in baptism, raised with him. In Christ, we have been forgiven all trespasses. This circumcision is not an allusion to physical circumcision, which was an outward sign of Abraham’s faith in God. Instead, the circumcision in Christ is the circumcision of the heart promised by God in Deuteronomy 30:6. This circumcision allows us as Christians to live life to the fullest, loving God with all of our heart, leaving our sinful pasts behind us (not perfectly, but faithfully). Let’s head back to Romans chapter six:

Romans 6:11-19 (ESV)
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

Since the old self, the self that was “in Adam,” was crucified with Christ, Christians must consider that part of themselves dead. Christians are dead to sin. Christians are to be slaves to righteousness. In times past, humans could not fully do God’s will, because they were “in Adam.” Because of the relationship that Christians have with God “in Christ” through the spirit, Christians have the potential now to do the Father’s will in any situation.

In Romans chapter seven, Paul discussed how he sometimes did things that he did not want to do. Although Christians are still confronted by sin in daily life, some commentators believe that Paul was describing his life before he had the spirit. Despite the fact that he likely had the Old Testament completely memorized, he could not perform the Law perfectly. He continued in sin, but not by choice. No matter how you read this section, whether it refers to those trying to do the Law before Christ or whether this section is referring to the sin that still attacks the believer, something allows Christians to walk uprightly to a greater degree than ever before. What gave Paul’s the potential to perform what God wanted in every situation? After Paul became born again, he had access to God through the spirit. We now have the same access to God through the spirit!

Romans 8:1-13 (ESV) – emphasis added
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

The spirit of life set Paul free from sin and death. Truly living is living in the spirit, living free of the deeds of the old man. Living according to the flesh leads to death; living according to the spirit leads to true life.

We have seen so far that God has redeemed us from being “in Adam,” identified in a state of enmity with God. Now, Christians are identified “in Christ.” Let’s take a deeper look at the blessings given to us “in Christ.”

Romans 12:5 (ESV)
So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Christians are identified with Christ; through our relationship with Christ, we are identified with one another. We are part of the Body of Christ collectively!

II Corinthians 1:21-22 (ESV)
And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us,
and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

God has established us in Christ, anointing us, and giving us His spirit. We have the seal, the mark that we have been sent by God. In ancient times, when a king sent a decree, he put his seal on the letter so that the recipient of the letter would know that it was official. The king’s word was to be trusted and obeyed. Similarly, we have been “sealed” and anointed.

Ephesians 2:4-22 (ESV) – emphasis added
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–
and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands–
remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

What a powerful section about our identity in Christ! We were resurrected when Christ was resurrected and seated at God’s right hand when he was. The greatness of our future is available because of our identification in Christ. Verse 10 underscores the reason that we have been created “in Christ” – to do good works, the ones that God has prepared for us to do. Verses 11 and 12 go back and highlight our past “in the flesh” (“in Adam”), separated from Christ, without God, and without hope. Because of the work of Christ and our identification with him, all Christians have been brought near to God. Gentiles have been called to full fellowship. All Christians, regardless of background, have access in the spirit to the Father through Christ.

Before I close this article, I wanted to mention something that will come into play as we continue this series. Just because we have been identified with Christ does not make us completely perfect in our relationship with God. Being “in Christ” does not make us mature necessarily. Some Christians are mature in Christ and others are babes in Christ; hopefully, the babes in Christ grow up into maturity!

I Corinthians 3:1 (ESV)
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.

 

Colossians 1:28-29 (CSB)
We proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
I labor for this, striving with his strength that works powerfully in me.

Being “in Christ” indicates that we have been identified with Christ, but it takes growing up and developing ourselves spiritually to be mature in Christ. This takes dedication and effort. But as we grow up and look to the example of Christ, we know that his energy (Christ’s energy) is working powerfully in us through the spirit. We are not perfecting ourselves—we have the help of the spirit, along with a real relationship with God and with His Son, Jesus the Messiah.

In this article, we have seen that born again Christians are no longer “in Adam”—Christians are “in Christ.” We have been identified with Christ. We were buried with him, raised with him, and now are seated with him in the heavenlies. We have direct access to God because of what Jesus did. Because of Christ, those from any background can accept the free offer of salvation and experience a relationship with the Creator. And since we have accepted that offer, we have a responsibility to grow and show others what is available to them in Christ. In the next article, we will look at the ability that we have because Christ is in us, learning more about our fellowship with Christ.

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