Fellowship with Jesus: Part Four – “Christ in” Ability

To this point in this series, we have looked at “fellowship with Jesus” by addressing the concept of fellowship generally, the concept of prayer to Jesus, and the identity that we have “in Christ.” Now, we will turn to the powerful ability that we have because Christ is in us. The gift of holy spirit has many benefits for the Christian. It provides a way to communicate with God Almighty. It provides a way to pray for situations beyond our knowledge and control. It provides a way to manifest the power of God in any situation. It provides a way to express true, abiding love, patience, thankfulness, and joy. How does this happen? And why would this reality be expressed in Scripture as “Christ in you”? These questions will be our focus in this article.

Before we get too far, I want to define some terms. The holy spirit is the gift that God through Christ gives the believer at the moment he or she becomes born again (Acts 2:33, Acts 8:17, Acts 10:44, Acts 19:6, among others). There are several ways to think about the holy spirit. First, it is the connection between Christians and God. God can communicate to Christians through the spirit—this process is sometimes called revelation  (Ephesians 3:3). Christians can communicate to God through the spirit as well. One way Christians can speak by the spirit is through speaking in tongues (I Corinthians 14:2). Another way that Christians can speak by the spirit is through inspired praise and inspired prayer. Examples of inspired praise and prayer can be found throughout the psalms, including Psalm 9:1 and Psalm 104:33, as well as throughout the Bible. Christians can also communicate God’s will and thoughts to others in the spirit, which is generally called prophecy (I Corinthians 14:6, Luke 1:41-55, II Samuel 12:1-14). So, in a very real sense, the spirit is what connects us to God.

Second, the holy spirit is what connects Christians to other Christians. As we saw in the first article in this series, all Christians were made to drink in one spirit (I Corinthians 12:13). We all have the fellowship of the holy spirit (II Corinthians 13:14). Practically speaking, we can have fellowship with other Christians as we walk in the light together (I John 1:3-7) and as we work hard to keep the unity of the spirit (Ephesians 4:3).

A third way to understand the spirit is to understand the phrase “Christ in” the believer. As we saw in the first article in this series, the phrase “Christ in” is used occasionally in the Scriptures, and when it is used, it highlights the fact that the spirit is what allows the Christian believer to live the fullness of life that God desires. Jesus lived a perfect life, always doing what God wanted him to do. Similarly, the Christian believer, although formerly a slave to sin, is free to live the life that God always intended. Christians do not have access to Jesus’ personality or memories, but his ability and the fruit of his life are resident inside of the spirit that God gives the believer. Here are some of the verses that signify these realities:

Galatians 2:20 (ESV)
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

 

Romans 8:9-11 (ESV)
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.

 

I Corinthians 2:16 (ESV)
“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

 

II Corinthians 10:1 (ESV)
I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ–I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—

Paul said that Christ was living in him—it was no longer his life! In Romans 8, the spirit is called the “spirit of God,” the “spirit of Christ,” “Christ in,” and “life” in the span of two verses. Because Paul had the spirit, he claimed that Christians could have the “mind of Christ” and exhibit the “meekness and gentleness of Christ.” The spirit allows Christians to live as Jesus lived, to love as he loved, to obey as he obeyed, to serve God as he served God. In short, the spirit allows Christians to experience the fruit and power of Jesus’ life. The spirit is “Christ in us!”

As we saw in the previous article, the phrase “in Christ” is generally used in Scripture to denote the identity that Christians have been given. All people begin life “in Adam,” identified together with sin nature. When someone is born again, they are no longer “in Adam;” they are “in Christ.” Because the Christian is “in Christ,” he or she has another startling reality—Christ is in them! Christians can enjoy the life of Christ. The spirit, this connection that we now have with God the Father, allows us to say that we have Christ in us! The ability of Christ (Galatians 2:20), the divine nature (II Peter 1:4), is part of us now. Let’s look at some major occurrences that use the terminology “Christ in.”

Romans 8:10 (ESV)
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

 

II Corinthians 13:5 (ESV)
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

 

Galatians 4:19 (ESV)
My little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

 

Colossians 1:27 (ESV)
To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

 

Colossians 3:11 (ESV)
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

 

There are three aspects to this phrase: “Christ in.” First, Christ is in us through the power of the spirit. This reality is directly related to the idea of being “in Christ.” Because we are identified with Christ (being born again, being God’s son or daughter), we have been given the spirit. That spirit is Christ in us, the new creation, the sinless reality, dwelling within us.

Second, we can and should develop in our Christian walk to be more Christ-like every day. Paul’s ministry was designed to help new Christians become mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28). As we develop in our Christian walk, “Christ is formed in us” (Galatians 4:19). We have the raw ability to be like Christ (“Christ in,” holy spirit, our new identity “in Christ”). Now, we renew our minds, we put on the mind of Christ, and we grow up into him.[1] We are to abide in Christ (John 15:4), to remain in him, to obey his words (John 15:10, 14; Luke 6:46).

Third, when the Greek preposition “in” (en) is used with a plural noun, it can mean “among.” Colossians 1:27 is a verse where “in” is used with a plural pronoun, “you.” So this verse has a double meaning. One meaning is that Christ is within the individual through the power of the holy spirit. Another level of meaning here is that Christ is among us in the Body of Christ. In other words, the Body is built up and strengthened by all of the members functioning, just as your body is built up and strengthened by all of the body parts functioning. In the case of the Body of Christ, the Body functioning leads to Christ dwelling among us. Christians make up the Body of Christ! The community of faith displays the glory of Christ to the world!

Let’s return to Romans chapter eight to see the relationship between “in Christ” and “Christ in.”

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.

Because of our identity in Christ, we have been given the gift of holy spirit, which is Christ in us! Because we have Christ living in us, we now have the opportunity to put to death the deeds of the body and live and walk by the spirit. We have been given everything that we need: the spirit, righteousness, and life. However, we must decide that we want to walk in this newness of life instead of the way we lived before Christ was in us.

Here is the same idea succinctly expressed in Galatians:

Galatians 2:20 (ESV)
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Paul had declared that his old life was over. Paul no longer considered himself alive as he had previously. Who lived in Paul? It was Christ who was alive in Paul! The great apostle Paul said: “I no longer live. Christ is the one living in me!” May we all be able to echo these words of Paul through our own lives!

This concept of “Christ in us” broadens our perspective of what it means to have fellowship with Jesus. As we saw in the second article in this series, most Christians will not speak directly to Jesus in this lifetime. Even so, our relationship with Jesus is incredibly profound. The spirit, God’s pure life living inside the Christian, is expressed as “Christ in us!” We have seen that this is not literal. I do not have Jesus’ memories or his personality residing inside of me, just as the fullness of who God is does not fill me. “Christ in us” is the connection that Christians have with God through the spirit. This spirit allows us to live the life of Christ in every way. How much more can we understand the life of Christ as we walk in his steps! We have the mind of Christ, we can experience the meekness and gentleness of Christ, and we can develop our understanding and application of the love of Christ. Wherever we go, Christ is in us. That is remarkable fellowship!

I think that it is important to consider the fruit of the spirit in light of this discussion of “Christ in us.” Having the spirit gives us the ability to manifest the fruit of the spirit. Put another way, having Christ in us has changed our nature, from only being able to produce the fruit of a sinful life to being able to produce the fruit of Christ’s life. For example, we are no longer limited to our broken ability to love, we have the opportunity and ability to love as Jesus loved.

John 13:34-35 (ESV)
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

John 14:21-24 (ESV)
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

 

John 15:13-17 (ESV)
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

 

Galatians 5:13-14 (ESV)
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

Ephesians 5:2 (ESV)
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

 

Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV)
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,
so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

 

I Thessalonians 3:11-13 (ESV)
Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you,
and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,
so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

We now have the ability to love as Christ loved. We can obey the words of the Messiah, the ones that he received from his Father. God wants us to bear much fruit, and we should bear fruit as a result of having God and Christ living within us! Through this love, we are to lay our lives down for others, serving others in love, walking in love. Our love can continue to grow day by day.

This is just one example of the fruit of the spirit. What are some other evidences that we have Christ in us?

Galatians 5:22-24 (ESV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Christians are no longer limited to their natural self-control, their peace, their patience, and their kindness. Because the life of Christ is resident inside of the believer, the believer can show forth the fruit of that life. Because each Christian has the spirit, he or she has the ability to show the world the true nature of God and His Christ, Jesus. Did Jesus ever lack peace, self-control, love, joy, or any of these fruit listed? No! Look at the opportunity that we have to experience the life of Christ through the spirit! In other words, Christianity is about Christians fully representing Jesus in this world. This new creation, this new reality, this connection between God and man allows the Christian to experience conformity to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). We can think as he did. We can love as he did. We can experience and evidence joy as he did. We can control ourselves as he did. We can live as he did!

II Corinthians 5:16-21 (ESV)
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 [identity], he is a new creation [ability]. 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.

Because of our identification with him (being “in Christ” instead of “in Adam”), we have Christ within us—we are a new creation. We have been reconciled to God. We have been given the ministry of reconciling others back to God through Christ. We are sent to be ambassadors in Christ’s stead. Christians can expect to manifest power and unveil the nature of God for others just as Christ did.

Just think about the transformation that occurred in the life of the apostles. These men had been with Jesus—they knew the political and spiritual attacks that he had faced. After Jesus’ crucifixion, they were in hiding due to fear (John 20:19). Even though they had previously experienced a connection with God through the spirit being upon them (John 14:17), they had not experienced the fullness of what God wanted to bring about in the life of the believer. On the day of Pentecost, these men received Christ in them! And look at the transformation—formerly timid and scared men were openly and repeatedly preaching in public despite all manner of intimidation and violence being perpetrated against them. The spirit, Christ within the believer, causes a transformation in ability and in character. This is not a mixing of something old with something new. This is not a clean shirt on a dirty body, covering up the bad with the good, showing only the good to the outside world. This is about the life of Christ being replicated in us and replacing the old man, Adam! Just like a seed replicates the life of the tree or plant that produced it, Christians can replicate the life of Christ (John 12:24).

Through the spirit, the Christian can live Christ’s life. We have his power, his love, his soundness of mind (II Timothy 1:7). We experience the fruit of his life as we walk by the spirit, abiding in the vine (John 15:4). We can pray for our love to grow and abound, for our discernment to develop, and for wisdom in any situation so that we can be the best ambassadors for Christ. We represent God and His Son to the world. To help us accomplish our mission, God and Jesus Christ have come to make their abode in us (John 14:23). May all Christians fully experience the beauty and power of Christ within them, enjoying the true life of Christ every day and hour!


[1]However, this does not happen by acts of the flesh. There is nothing we can do by the flesh to further this process. This is a spiritual process of development where we become more attuned to God’s will for us in every situation in life. We can discipline the mind and body, we can become more selfless, but ultimately, it is through the working of the spirit that this is accomplished. With all the discipline in the world, this process would be impossible without the spirit.

 

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  1. Pingback: Fellowship with Jesus: Part Seven – What is Jesus doing now? – Study Driven Faith

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