We seek to show, by a few examples, the boundless range and scope of one brief phrase of two or three short words: in Christ, or, in Christ Jesus. A very small key may open a very complex lock and a very large door, and that door may itself lead into a vast building with priceless stores of wealth and beauty. This brief phrase — a preposition followed by a proper name — is the key to the whole New Testament.
Those three short words, in Christ Jesus, are, without doubt, the most important ever written, even by an inspired pen, to express the mutual relation of the believer and Christ. They occur, with their equivalents, over one hundred and thirty times. Sometimes we meet the expression, in Christ or in Christ Jesus, and … sometimes this sacred name, or its equivalent pronoun, is found associated with other prepositions — through, with, by; but the thought is essentially the same. Such repetition and variety must have some intense meaning. When, in the Word of God, a phrase like this occurs so often, and with such manifold applications, it can not be a matter of accident; there is a deep design. God’s Spirit is bringing a truth of the highest importance before us, repeating for the sake of emphasis, compelling even the careless reader to give heed as to some vital teaching…
If there be one truth of the Gospel that is fundamental, and underlies all else, it is this: A new life in Christ Jesus. He, Himself, clearly and forcibly expressed it in John 15:4: “Abide in me and I in you.” By a matchless parable our Lord there taught us that all believers are branches of the Living Vine, and that, apart from Him we are nothing and can do nothing because we have in us no life. This truth finds expression in many ways in the Holy Scripture, but most frequently in that short and simple phrase we are now considering — in Christ Jesus.
Such a phrase suggests that He is to the believer the sphere of this new life or being. Let us observe — a sphere rather than a circle. A circle surrounds us, but only on one plane; but a sphere encompasses, envelopes us, surrounding us in every direction and on every plane. If you draw a circle on the floor, and step within its circumference, you are within it only on the level of the floor. But, if that circle could become a sphere, and you be within it, it would on every side surround you — above and below, before and behind, on the right hand and on the left. Moreover, the sphere that surrounds you also separates you from whatever is outside of it. Again, in proportion as such a sphere is strong it also protects whatever is within it from all that is without — from all external foes or perils. And yet again, it supplies, to whomsoever is within it, whatever it contains. This may help us to understand the great truth taught with such clearness, especially in the New Testament. Christ is there presented throughout as the sphere of the believer’s whole life and being, and in this truth are included these conditions:
- first, Christ Jesus surrounds or embraces the believer, in His own life;
- second, He separates the believer in Himself from all hostile influences;
- third, He protects him in Himself from all perils and foes of his life;
- fourth, He provides and supplies in Himself all that is needful.
… The more we study the phrase [in Christ Jesus] and the various instances and peculiar varieties of such recurrence, the more shall we be convinced of its vital importance to all practical holy living.
…We shall see a further evidence of the vital importance of the phrase, in Christ, in the fact that these two words unlock and interpret every separate book in the New Testament. Here is God’s own key, whereby we may open all the various doors and enter all the glorious rooms in this Palace Beautiful, and explore all the apartments in the house of the heavenly Interpreter, from Matthew to the Apocalypse, where the door is opened into heaven. Each of the four Gospel narratives, the book of the Acts, all of the epistles of Paul and Peter, James and John, and Jude, with the mysterious Revelation of Jesus Christ, show us some new relation sustained by Christ Jesus to the believer, some new aspect of Christ as his sphere of being, some new benefit or blessing enjoyed by him who is thus in Christ Jesus.
[ May everyone who repents and receives Christ as personal Lord and Savior take great consolation in being “in Christ Jesus”!]
From In Christ Jesus, Arthur T. Pierson, (Chicago: Moody Press), pp. 11-15. (Originally published in 1898)
“Arthur Tappan Pierson (1837 – 1911) was an American Presbyterian pastor, Christian leader, missionary and writer who preached over 13,000 sermons, wrote over fifty books, and gave Bible lectures as part of a transatlantic preaching ministry that made him famous in Scotland, England, and Korea.” (Wikipedia)