In God, In Adam, In Christ
There is a comment that Jesus made to the disciples that has struck me with some force, it is this: ‘I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.’ If you go to a bible search website and search for “in Christ” you will be surprised how often this phrase appears in the New Testament. I want to take a bit of a detour from John 16 to explore this a bit more.
- In God
The Apostle Paul was in Athens. It was an occasion of some importance: word had got around that there was a new idea in town and the philosophers of the day wanted to know more. Paul was taken to the Areopagus and invited to tell them more. The Areopagus was originally the location of the court of appeal where both criminal and civil cases were heard, in Paul’s day it seems to have been a suitable place for a religious lecture and debate. Paul was happy to oblige. He had been preaching about Jesus and the resurrection. Interestingly, the account of Paul’s discourse at the Areopagus does not mention him making any specific reference to Jesus, instead Paul tells them about the ‘unknown god.’ He informs them that God made the world and everything that is in it – he is not a God who has needs, rather he is a God who gives. What does he give? He gives everyone life and breath and everything else. The life of Paul and those he addressed came from a single man: Adam. Paul went on to explain that God has been at work in history. He has formed the nations from one man and has appointed times and boundaries for the nations. He has done this so that men and women would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him – he is not far from anyone! Paul was telling these hard-boiled godless philosophers that they could find God! Paul next quotes some of their own poets and he uses their words to reveal something remarkable about all of us without exception: ‘In him (God) we live and move and have our being.’ In fact we are all the ‘offspring’ of God.
Paul says two important things to the Athenian philosophers. First he says that they are ‘in God’ and second he says that we are his offspring. The impact of this is that they (and we) have God-given attributes – we live and move and have being. This is a tremendously important idea. Human existence comes from being in God and being his offspring: created in his image. We owe our capability to exist from God. Sadly we teach our children the biggest lie of all time: that the universe come from nothing, that the complexity of biology was self-assembling and that we are merely bags of biochemicals. As for our being, it is just a series electric circuits in our brains. This view on how we came to be is not only dehumanising, it is impossible and it robs us of any meaning and purpose. It is a lie. The truth is that we owe our existence to the creative power of God. But it’s more than that! We are created in the image of God, we are in him, we are his offspring.
When do we become ‘in God’? We become in him when we are born.
- In Adam
If you are a Christian you may be surprised to learn that we are all offspring of God and we are all ‘in God.’ Many Christians teach that we are somehow completely worthless and completely dead. Read Paul’s address to the Athenians in Acts 17 again! But it is true that whilst we have some attributes of God, something clearly has gone wrong.
We are in Adam. God’s original creation was perfect. Adam and Eve were indeed created in the image of God and their lives on this earth were not only blessed with perfect physical surroundings, they had a close relationship with the creator. This all went wrong when they both disobeyed God and rebelled against his specific instruction. The result is the mess we see today.
We are in Adam. Actions that Adam took have a present impact on us. Just as actions our parents took have an impact on us – so the actions of Adam affect us because we are in him. So what exactly was the impact of Adam’s actions on us? Paul writes to the Corinthians and in chapter 15 of his first letter: ‘For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die.’ Why do people die? Because we are in Adam. The death that Adam experienced was a double death. He first of all died to God – this was a spiritual death – a death that separated him from God. In spite of this death, Adam was still capable of responding to God and you may remember that he remained capable of conversing with God. I think there is good evidence that Adam experienced a change of mind and was reunited with God after the fall. But lasting damage was done which would be transmitted to his descendants. The second death hardly needs mention – we all die physically. Why do we all die? Because we are in Adam.
When do we become ‘in Adam?’. At birth. This affects us all. I don’t really know when a person becomes affected by this, is it at conception or sometime before actual physical birth or is it at birth itself. I suspect our ‘in Adamness’ comes very early in the process.
- In Christ
Our theme has been prompted by some of the things Jesus said about being in the disciples and the disciples being in him. The wonderful news is that there is a solution to the problem of being in Adam and it is being ‘in Christ.’
Before we think about the benefits of this, we can learn something from the way God has already worked with Israel. You will remember that God chose Abraham. The word ‘chosen’ carries the idea that Abraham was precious to God. God chose Abraham at a point in time, his offspring were to be blessed and that blessing was fixed in Abraham. The election of Abraham is inherited by every Jew at birth. They are ‘in Abraham’ in that sense. This is not about personal salvation, it is about being part of the nation that was chosen in Abraham. To be an elect Jew you need to be born as a descendent of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Please try to bear this model in mind as we think about what it is to be in Christ.
The great passage on this theme is Ephesians 1. In this letter Paul explains all of the benefits of being in Christ.
Probably the most misunderstood of the benefits that Christians have, is mentioned by Paul in verse 4 of Ephesians. Most people misquote this verse as follows: ‘he chose us before the creation of the world.’ Having then misquoted Paul, these well-meaning Christians then go on to praise God for his love and mercy that they should be found amongst the group chosen before the creation of the world. They go on to say that this is a marvelous work of God’s grace. What they will often fail to say is that the group that are not chosen, are damned to hell before the creation of the world! If you are in the chosen group, praise God and if you are in the unchosen group you’re damned to hell because you are a sinner and there’s not a thing you can do about it. If questioned about this they simply claim that it is all a mystery, but God is glorified in this process of arbitrary choice. Can this really be true?
Please get out your bible, turn to Ephesians 1, and read verse 4. You will see read what Paul actually says: ‘For he chose us in him before the creation of the world.’ Did you notice two important words, which are so easily forgotten: ‘In him.’ Have a read of the rest of the chapter. You will see more than one mention of the phrase ‘In Christ’ or ‘in him.’ Many, many benefits are derived from being in Christ, including being chosen before the creation of the world.
We’ve seen, as described above that when we are physically born, something that took place in the past had an effect on us in the present. We’re ‘in God’. When we are born, attributes of God become expressed in our birth: we live, we move, we have being. Moreover, when we are born we are ‘in Adam’: we are subject to the sin nature and the spiritual and physical death that this brings. When a Jew is born he is ‘in Abraham’ and inherits the benefits that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It can be said that every Jew is chosen in Adam, but this is only expressed when the Jewish person is born.
The question that this raises is how to we become in Christ? We are not born into this world being ‘in Christ.’ Paul specifically noted that there was a time when he was not in Christ (See Romans 16: 7). He notes that two of the believers in Rome were in Christ before he was! Paul had been a persecutor of believers and was most certainly not in Christ at that time. If he was not in Christ he was most certainly not chosen before the foundation of the world! So how do we become in Christ? Ephesians 1 has the answer. Verse 13 and 14 say the following: ‘And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.’ There seem to be two specific acts required. First to hear and second to believe. All of the remarkable benefits of being in Christ come from this: hear and believe. This is the new birth, that Jesus spoke of when he had a conversation with Nicodemus. You may remember, he said ‘you must be born again.’ Just as physical birth places us in God and in Adam, so spiritual birth places us in Christ. Were you chosen before the creation of the world? If you are in Christ, yes you are!
Are you in Christ? Hear the message and believe.