The Objective Facts of the 'In Christ' Motif
- Most reliable New Testament scholars today recognize that the "in Christ"
motif is the central theme of Paul's theology. For example, in Grace Unlimited,
edited by Clark H. Pinnock, several scholars admit that the "in Christ" motif is
at the heart of Paul's theology (see, for example, page 176); and John R. W. Stott
states "to be 'in Christ' is a familiar and favorite expression of
Paul" (The Gospel and the End of Time, page 27).
- The apostle Paul was called of God to evangelize the Gentile world, but, unfortunately,
none of Paul's evangelistic sermons preached to the nonChristians have been recorded
or preserved. All that we have are his epistles to believers who had already accepted the
truth that is "in Christ."
- But, in spite of this, there is enough evidence in these epistles to show that he gave
the "in Christ" motif an objective application that included all of mankind.
That is to say, Paul does not limit the "in Christ" motif only to believers but
to the entire human race that was redeemed "in Christ." To Paul, believers are
those who are faithful to the truth as it is "in Christ" (Ephesians 1:1; note
also the expression "in Christ," in Romans 16, applied to the faithful believers
Paul knew in Rome).
- The following evidence clearly proves that Paul gave the "in Christ" motif an
- Paul reminds believers that they were chosen and redeemed "in Christ" before
their conversion (Romans 5:6-10; Ephesians 1:4, 2:5,6).
- He points out to the Corinthian believers that, just as in Adam all die, likewise,
"in Christ," all will be made alive - some to everlasting life (believers)
and some to everlasting damnation (unbelievers). This second statement, made to the
Corinthian believers, was because some of them questioned the resurrection (see verse 12).
The point Paul is making is that Christ is the source of the resurrection for all mankind
(1 Corinthians 15:21-23).
- Paul refers to Christ as the "last Adam" (1 Cor. 15:45). The word
"Adam" in Hebrew means "mankind" and is used in the majority of cases,
in the Old Testament, to mean the solidarity of mankind in Adam. When Christ assumed our
corporate humanity at the incarnation, God placed the human race that needed redeeming
into Christ and qualified Him to be our substitute and representative. Thus Christ became
the Saviour of the world (John 3:16).
- Paul's universal texts indicate an accomplished salvation for all men "in
Christ" that is made effective by faith (Romans 5:18; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; 1 Tim. 2:6,
4:10; Titus 2:11; Heb. 2:9).
- In most cases, Paul's subjective application of the "in Christ" motif to
believers, as well as himself, is based on an objective truth already accomplished
"in Christ" (Gal. 2:20, 6:14; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; Eph. 1:3-6; Colosians 2:20; 2 Tim.
2:11). If, because of our faith, God puts us into Christ, then faith becomes a form of
works. But, by faith, we abide "in Christ" (John 15:4-8).
- To Paul, baptism, as a subjective experience, is always "into Christ." By it
the believer is confessing his or her faith obedience to an objective truth that took
place some 2,000 years ago "in Christ" and Him crucified, buried, and
resurrected (Gal. 3:27; Romans 6:3-8).
- All these facts point to the "in Christ" motif as the very heart of the gospel
message Paul preached in his evangelistic efforts. When the good news of salvation is
presented in the context of the "in Christ" motif, men and women will come to
the realization that god has already reconciled them to Himself "in
Christ" (Romans 5:10). What is left is for them to be reconciled to Him (2 Cor.
5:19-20). It is this goodness of God that leads to true repentance and conversion (Romans