2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Paul never described himself as a Christian but delighted to refer to himself as “a man in Christ” (2 Cor. 12:2). That simple phrase occurs 165 times in his letters, and as such is no vain repetition, but takes Paul and ourselves to the very heart of our Christian faith, and the blessings that can be ours because Jesus was crucified and rose again.
The promises of the Gospel are “exceeding great and precious” (2 Pet. 1:4 A.V.). Yahweh has only one way of conveying them to us and that is through our being “in him”. John Calvin puts it thus: “We must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us.”
Being “in Christ” spells a relationship of intimacy. It is relational but it is also reciprocal. “Abide in me and I in you” is Jesus’ word to his disciples (Jn. 15:1A.V.). If the poker is in the fire the fire is in the poker! With this in mind we can explore what being “in Christ” means.
“Now I belong to Jesus....and Jesus belongs to me”
Nailing the truth down more firmly, belonging to Jesus means that we belong to a new humanity. We no longer belong to the first Adam but to the last. In addition, though we belong to an earthly kingdom, our proper citizenship is in Heaven. (Phil 3:20) Earth is only our temporary home (1 Pet. 1:17). This is wonderful but, if anything, it is exceeded by our second strand: Jesus belongs to me.
Paul’s choice phrase “in Christ” indicates the binding and bonding of his heart to his Saviour, a bonding we are to treasure also. A saving faith in Christ immediately binds us to him in a spiritual union effected by the Holy Spirit. We are engrafted into him so that “Heaven is in us before we are in Heaven!”
As well as being organic, this union is also specific. We cannot be united to our Saviour without being united to him in his death and resurrection. In his key chapter of Romans 6, the apostle is at pains to emphasise that this union is with Christ in his atoning death for our sins followed by the resources of resurrection life for our sanctification.
For reflection: As believing Christians, our true identity now is not in our parentage, our education, our job, our status, not even our race; but in the privilege of our being “in Christ”. This is the self to which we are to be true.