no phrase or formula which occurs with greater frequency
in the New Testament than this, "in Christ." It
sometimes varies in translations when "by" and
"through" and "with" are used, and
sometimes in the original text it changes in form, e.g.
"in Christ Jesus," "in him," etc.,
but in all the two hundred times of its occurrence the
principle is the same. In the whole range of Christian
dogma there is nothing more expressive, and yet nothing
less understood and appreciated.
consummate declaration we are told that God has purposed
to sum up all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10) and that
outside of Him there is nothing which has any place in
the eternal purpose and intention of God. The plan, the
method, the resources, the times, the eternities, are
Creation is in Christ.
The Life is in Christ.
The Acceptance is in Christ.
The Redemption is in Christ.
The Righteousness is in Christ.
The Sanctification is in Christ.
The Hope is in Christ.
The Spiritual Blessings are in Christ.
The Consolation is in Christ.
The Peace is in Christ.
The Effectual Prayer is only in Christ.
The Strength and Riches are in Christ.
The Eternal Purpose is in Christ.
The New Creation is in Christ.
The Promises are in Christ.
The Escape from Condemnation is in Christ.
The One Body is in Christ.
The Perseverance is in Christ.
The Gathering into One is in Christ.
The Bonds of Suffering Believers are in Christ.
The 'No Separation' is in Christ.
The Perfect Man is in Christ.
The Helpers Together are in Christ.
There are the Churches in Christ.
There are the Dead in Christ.
There is the One New Man and the Perfect Man in Christ.
We are Complete in Christ.
context of this formula ranges from eternity, through the
ages, to eternity.
eternity past we were chosen and elected together in Christ.
Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 5:13.
time, by the Cross, this eternal heavenly fact is wrought
in literal and experimental form expressed by different
terms implying specific progressive spiritual truths, but
always the same principle.
together in the likeness of his death. Rom.
"Quickened... together with Christ." Eph.
"Raised... up together... in Christ." Eph.
"Made... to sit together... in Christ." Eph.
"All things to be gathered together... in
Christ." Eph. 1:10
"Perfected together." 1 Cor.
"Fitly framed together" in Christ. Eph.
"Knit together," Col. 2:2.
"Builded together" in Christ. Eph. 2:20.
"Live together with him." 1 Thess.
"Working together with him." 2. Cor.
"Striving together." Phil. 1:27.
comes a climax, at the end of this time, when all the
foregoing is accomplished and we are "together...
caught up." 1 Thess. 4:17.
the eternity to come looms into view and we see that we
are to be "glorified together" with Him.
call to mind the Pauline couplet - which is strictly not
Pauline but of the Divine Spirit of truth - namely
"in Adam" and "in Christ." On the one
side - our relation to Adam, the old creation, by nature
- we see one set of conditions; and on the other - by our
incorporation in Christ - we see a new and different set.
Lord God... breathed into his nostrils the breath of
life." Gen. 2:7.
"The first man Adam became a living soul." 1
"In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt
surely die." Gen. 2:17.
"As in Adam all die." 1 Cor.
"The law of sin and of death." Rom. 8:2.
"He also is flesh." Gen. 6:3.
"The flesh profiteth nothing." John
"I" - Failure. Rom. 7.
"The old man that waxeth corrupt." Eph.
"The mind of the flesh." Rom. 8:6.
"In my flesh... no good thing." Rom.
"Of the flesh... corruption." Gal. 6:8.
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh." John
"The end... death." Rom. 6:21.
breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the
Holy Spirit." John 20:22.
"The last Adam... a life-giving spirit." 1
"Newness of life." Rom. 6:4.
"In Christ shall all be made alive." 1
"The law of the Spirit of life." Rom.
"Spirit" - Victory. Rom. 8.
"The new man... created in righteousness and
holiness of truth." Eph. 4:24.
"The new man." Col. 3:10.
"Newness of the spirit." Rom. 7:6.
"In the likeness of his resurrection." Rom.
"Have crucified the flesh." Gal. 5:24.
"Our old man was crucified." Rom. 6:6.
this, which is nothing more than quoting Scripture, will
serve to emphasize the Divine inclusiveness and
exclusiveness, and will help, we trust, to a recognition of
the great fact that no man can live the Christian life; there is only One Who can live that life, and that is Christ Himself. We must have such an experimental
incorporation into Him that He lives His life through us
as members of His one Body, so that "to me to live
is Christ" and "it is no longer I... but
Christ." As the blacksmith's iron is in the fire and
also the fire is in the iron, so first we must realize
our position in Christ through the Cross ere Christ can
manifest Himself through us.
Christ to be Expressed Through Believers
very important to recognize a truth upon which Christ
laid considerable emphasis, that is, that in a sense, He
never intended to be out of this world again during the
age, after having once come into it as His rightful
heritage. He came to redeem it, to secure the judicial
right to sovereignty in it, and to initiate, continue,
and complete the restoration of it to His own dominion.
This is all to be done by His own presence in it in one
or other of the forms of His manifestation. While He said
much about going away, and returning to the Father, He
also made His abiding very clear in the words, "Lo,
I am with you always, even unto the consummation of the
age." Paul later said that the central feature or
reality of "the mystery... hid from the
ages..." is "Christ in you, the hope of
personal physical presence of Christ in the world was
firstly to manifest the nature, method, means, laws,
purpose, and power of His abiding presence beyond the
days of His flesh; and secondly to make this possible and
actual by the work of His Cross. He Who was born out from
God shows what is the necessity for and the nature of
being "born of the Spirit" if the will of God
is to be done on the earth as it is done in the heavens.
Then right at the commencement of His ministry He puts
the Cross in the figure of baptism. From that time all
that He said and did was in the light and power of the
Cross. The teaching of Christ can never be effectual, and
the works of Christ can never be continued, unless the
Cross is the basis. To try to propagate "the
teaching of Jesus" or to effect the work of Jesus
without having as the basis all that He meant by His
Cross, is to labour in vain and without the acceptance of
the Father. It will be necessary to return to this
connection again at a later stage. So far, however, it
leads us to the point where we see that, having in His
personal physical presence established the basis and
nature of His permanent work, He by the Cross effected
that which made possible the bringing of men on to the
same plane or into the same realm, and then changed the
separate and individual presence for the corporate and
universal. Thus "the church, which is His body"
was brought into being as the abiding instrument
of His world-incarnation. This is the only kind of
"church" which He recognizes, made up of those
who have been "joined unto the Lord... one
spirit." The nature of this joining remains also for
later consideration. The word or term "Body" is
not mere metaphor. The members of His Body stand in
relation to Christ just as our physical bodies stand in
relation to our own selves - the means of manifestation,
expression, and transaction. This truth is very
discriminating, and goes to the root of all matters of
life and service. "Working for the Lord,"
"praying to the Lord," etc., will be seen to
have a deeper law which governs their effectiveness.
cannot take up work for Christ - plan, scheme, devise,
organize or enter upon Christian enterprise - and
so command the Divine seal and blessing. We cannot pray
as we incline, even though it be to the extent of passion
and tears, and so secure the Divine response. Failure to
recognize this is bringing multitudes of people to
despair because of no seal upon their ardent labours, and
no answer to their prayers. In the unfolding of the laws
of His own effective life the Master put tremendous
emphasis upon the fact that the words that He spoke, and
the works that He did, were not of (out from) Himself, it
was the Father both speaking the words and doing the
works. A thorough study of the Gospel by John will
convince that this was so. Said Christ, "The Son can
do nothing out from himself, but what he seeth the Father
doing..." and this knowledge of the transactions of
the Father as to what, how, and when - all most important
- was, as He made clear, because He abode in the Father.
So for all the future of His work He prayed that His
disciples might abide in Him. Thus the law of effective
and fruitful life, service, prayer, etc., is that there
shall be such a oneness that we only do - but surely do -
what He is doing. We must know in our spirit just what
Christ is doing, how He is doing it, the means which He
will use, and His time for it. Moreover, our prayers must
be the prayers of the Lord Himself prayed in us and
through us by the Holy Spirit. This is surely made very
clear as being the realm in which the Church in apostolic
times lived. This will demand a considerable
sifting of all undertakings in the name of Jesus, and
will require that nothing is done until the mind of the
Lord has been made known. But this will secure a hundred-percent effectiveness, and issues which will never
perish. For the practical purposes of God in this age
Christ is the One Body holding fast the Head, and the
business of every member is to realise more and more
fully the meaning of this incorporation and oneness of
expressly told in the Word that we are to "put on
the new man" and that this "new man" is
Christ. This is but another form of expressing the truth
of "in Christ," but it carries with it a whole
revelation of practical provision.
is our Redemption. He "was made unto us...
redemption." 1 Cor. 1:30; Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7; Col.
is our Righteousness. 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 4:24; Phil. 3:9.
is our Sanctification. 1 Cor. 1:2,30.
is our Faith. Mark. 11:22 ("Have the faith of
God," lit. trans.); Acts. 26:18; Gal. 2:20 (R.V.);
Eph. 1:15; Phil. 3:9; Col. 1:4.
Christ is our Peace. John 14:27; John
16:33; Eph. 2:14.
This line can be followed on numerous
characteristics, e.g. Love, Hope, Wisdom, Mind, Power and
Might, Authority, Glory. We suggest a comparison of
translations in the references, best of all in the
original. The point is that, on all these matters, under
given conditions the natural outfit will break down and
will have to be laid aside, but in Christ we have a new
equipment at every point. For instance, our faith will
not take the strain of the requirements of a deep
experience of trial and adversity, but if we "live
by the faith of the Son of God," the issue will be
different. All tests will prove whether we are living by
His faith which should have become ours, or whether there
is a weakness in our union with Him. The same is true on
all points. It is blessed to realize that "in
Christ" we have a whole new and saving endowment of
virtues and graces. Thus it is that we "put away...
the old man... and put on the new man, that after God
hath been created in righteousness and holiness of
truth" (Eph. 4:22-24).
Some Significant Prepositions
So far we have been led in our theme by
three simple Greek prepositions, namely: ek - out
from; en - in; and sun -
These three fragments really summarize the
truth and nature of corporate union with Christ, and lay
down the essential laws and vital principles of all true
and effective spiritual life and service. Some further
consideration of this may be well before proceeding
further. Christ took great care to repudiate any
suggestion and to remove any notion that anything which
characterized His mission as Son of man was of His own
(a) As to Himself. He repeatedly affirmed
"I came out from God." (John 7:29; 8:42; 17:8,
(b) As to His apostleship (Heb. 3:1), He
describes Himself as "sent" by God (Gr.
apostello) (John 3:17,34; 5:36; 6:29,57; 7:29; 8:42;
10:36; 11:42; 17:3, 8, 18, 21, 23, 25; 20:21).
(c) As to His vision: "What he seeth
the Father doing... these the Son also doeth." (John
(d) As to His works: "The works of my
Father" (John 5:36; 9:3,4; 10:25,32,37; 14:10).
(e) As to the words: "I speak not of
(out from) myself" (John 8:28,38; 12:49; 14:10;
(f) As to the Kingdom: "My kingdom is
not of (out from) this world" (John 18:36).
(g) This can all be gathered up under a
statement in which a different preposition is used in the
Greek but one conveying a similar thought: "Now they
know that all things... are from thee" (John 17:7.).
The main principle which these
all-embracing declarations establish is that only that
which proceeds out from God is recognized by God, fulfils
the Divine purpose, reaches the Divine standard, and
returns to God. This implies that there are other sources
than God. Over against some of the foregoing statements
regarding Divine origins the Master has placed such as:
1. "Ye are of (out from) your father
the devil." "Ye do the works of (out from) your
father," etc. (John 8:44,41).
2. "Not of (out from) myself"
(John 14:10). This was said, of course, in His capacity
of representing man as "made in the likeness of
sinful flesh," not as Son of God on the side of
Deity. It was ever the enemy's endeavour to get Him to
act in the flesh, as man would act, so that the enemy
might have ground upon which to wreck Him, but He refused
to act on the principle of the flesh. Thus it is clear -
and all the Scriptures combine to show it - that the
flesh is a source of things which have no acceptance with
God, even though they operate through religious forms and
3. Further, "the world" is
spoken of constantly as producing much which God refuses
and only hands over to judgment. See the occurrences of
"of" (out from) as to the world in John 17, and
look further in John's Epistles, with a general
comparison with the teaching of Peter and Paul.
Thus we are brought to see that a special
Divine significance attaches to that which is "of
Now what is true of Christ has to have a
counterpart in all who are to be either owned of God or
used to the fulfilment in any way of His eternal purpose.
of (out from) God.
(b) Commissioned of (out from) God.
(c) Have a spiritual revelation and vision of (out from)
(d) Speak the words of (out from) God.
(e) Do only the works of (out from) God.
(f) Seek first the Kingdom of (out from) God.
(g) Be sure that in their case "all things are of
(out from) God." (2 Cor. 5:18).
This was the apostolic basis. The Holy
Spirit had come to make this both possible and actual.
This accounts, therefore, for the effectiveness of their
testimony and labours. They knew what it meant to be
baptized "in one Spirit... into one body," of
which Body Christ is Head, so that really the Sovereign
Head but carried on His work through the members thus
incorporated. They had no independent action, no
self-laid plans, no schemes or enterprises or
undertakings which were the product of their own thought,
reasoning, devising, or enthusiasm, even though it were
"for Christ," or "for the Kingdom,"
or "in His name." All had to come by revelation
of the Spirit from the Head.
Now the second preposition shows how this
was so in Christ's case and must be so with us.
For Christ, en represented a
spiritual position in which He abode.
This spiritual position is suggested in
passages, such as the following:
"The Son... who is (not, was) in
heaven." (John 3:13).
"I am in the Father" (John 14:10).
It must, of course, be recognised that
this relationship was the work of the Holy Spirit. From
the time of the Spirit's lighting upon Him at the Jordan,
all the movements were by the Spirit; even the Cross was
wrought out "through the eternal Spirit." He
abode in God, and on the side of His humanity this was
maintained by the Spirit. There were suggestions,
temptations, opportunities, possibilities, methods,
means, ideas, provocations, emotions, sentiments, and all
the activities of intellect, soul, body, but it
was His way to hold these in the Divine Spirit and not to
act or proceed upon them as such. He would not commit
Himself to any of them or to any man save as He had the
Spirit's witness that the urge to do so proceeded from
God. Thus He was saved the remorse, confusion,
disappointment, shame, failure, and chaos, which always
follow upon the uprising of the "natural (soulish,
Gk.) man" into the spiritual world. Thus, having
been anointed by the Spirit, He abode in God and refused
to be drawn out. This is everything in the matter of
fullness of life and effectiveness of service.
We shall not attempt in this brief
treatise to deal in any detail with the particular
significance of this preposition. It relates in a special
way to the corporate character of the Body of Christ. Its
importance is immense, but this is not the place for
embarking on so large a theme. We merely remark here that
its use emphasises the fact that in the thought of God
those who are "born from above" are not merely
so many individuals but are related to one another as the
members of a body. They are "together" with one
another and "together" with Christ as Head of
the one Body, and were so regarded by God in every phase
of Christ's redemptive work. The words of Ps. 139:15,16
express this mystery. The practical outworking of this
truth is dealt with in greater detail elsewhere.
The general ground of "in
Christ" has been presented, but we must emphasise
this essential counterpart of Christ's life. As the
Father is the Head of the Son, so the Son is the Head of
the Body; and as He abode in the Father, so He declares
that we must abide in Him. We must not be led to act upon
anything from within our natural lives, or anything from
without as acting upon us, until we have judged it in the
spirit. This applies especially to religious matters, for
it is in this realm that we may make the greatest
mistakes. The response of our natural emotions, or
reasoning powers, or will, to the impact of some
suggestion may lead to much evil. The danger of much
evangelistic work, spiritual teaching, and missionary
propaganda is in its tendency to stir the emotions and
offer spiritual prizes, instead of bringing the
imperative note of Christ and the apostles.
Many a decision has been made under these
conditions which has proved incapable of taking the
inevitable strain of testing and to be something less
than a real work of the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps there never was a time when there
was more of what is called "Christian service,"
when there was as much organisation, machinery,
advertisement, expenditure of time, energy, and means in
"Christian" enterprise, or when there were more
people interested; but it is doubtful whether - speaking
comparatively - there ever was as little real spiritual
effectiveness. The root question is, how much of all this
proceeds directly by revelation and initiation from God
by the Eternal Spirit? Of how much may it be truly said
that it came by revelation of the Holy Spirit, or that
"the Holy Ghost said," or that "it seemed
good unto the Holy Ghost"? On the other hand, how
much of it is the product of human discussion, devising,
impulse, enthusiasm, imaginativeness, philanthropy,
interest in a good cause, etc.? The measure of the
identification of the instrument with Christ in corporate
union is the measure of the real work of God accomplished
through it. There may be much which looks like success
and impresses with a sense of real accomplishment, but
when "the fire" has done its work it may be
found that the real as against the apparent is very
small. In the long run "the flesh profiteth nothing,"
though it may seem to get great results. It is not what is
done for God, but what is done by God that will last.
Ours it is to see that we are utterly in Christ, and
living by the Spirit. All the rest will be spontaneous.
There can be no abiding until there has been a real
incorporation, and this brings us to where we can proceed
to show how this union is effected.