by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
1 Corinthians 1:30-31:
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
I am convinced that it is impossible to fully, correctly, and clearly understand and appreciate the everlasting gospel — which is the Three Angels’ Messages or the important doctrine of substitution or the glorious truth of Christ Our Righteousness — without first clearly understanding the “in Christ” motif. That’s a strong statement, but I am convinced of that. In view of that, I believe that what we are covering in this study — along with the next two studies, Christ Our Substitute and Christ Our Righteousness — is absolutely crucial. This is an area that is probably new to many, yet it is a crucial area. It is the central theme of Paul’s theology. Paul is the one whom God set aside to explain the gospel.
When Christ came to this world, he did not come primarily to explain the gospel. He came to be the gospel. It is Paul whom God set aside to explain the gospel. You cannot understand Paul’s theology or his wonderful truth of “righteousness by faith” that he explains in Galatians and Romans unless you have understood the “in Christ” motif.
We will divide this study into four parts. First we will define that phrase “in Christ motif,” then, since this is the central theme of Paul’s theology, we will go to Paul and look at his understanding of the “in Christ” motif. Then we will look at the “in Christ” motif typified in the sanctuary and its services, discovering the blessings and riches that are ours through this wonderful truth.
When we talk about the “in Christ” motif, we are talking about the “in Christ” idea. The “in Christ” idea is based on the Biblical truth or concept of solidarity. This is where the problem lies. The Africans have no problem understanding the “in Christ” idea, but I have discovered that it is one of the most difficult things to get across in the west. Not because the they are dumb, but because we are all victims of our culture. Our thought patterns are based on our upbringing. The western mind thinks in terms of individuals, which is a contradiction to the basic way of talking in terms of solidarity.
Here is an example. Once I was listening to an economist describing his views on the trade war between Japan and America. He made a statement which pricked my ears. I said, “This man has an understanding of the corporate concept.” First of all, he made the statement that the heart of the trade war problem is based on greed. He was right when he blamed both Americans and Japanese as being greedy. He said, “The difference is this: Americans are greedy individually and the Japanese are greedy corporately.” This man has understood the solidarity concept. We emphasize in the west the rights of the individual and we think in terms of the individual, but the Bible presents much of its teachings in the concept of solidarity. It presents creation, condemnation, and redemption in the concept of corporate oneness or solidarity. Here are some examples so that we understand that the “in Christ” motif is based on the Biblical concept of solidarity.
The first example in the Bible is Romans 9:12. As we read, put on the Biblical cap. Take the Bible way for now. One of the things about teaching the first three grades is that when you tell them something they believe it. They don’t question you. As young people get older, in academy and especially in college, when you tell them something they will say, “Prove it.” The proof is the Word of God. We need to wrestle with this truth and ask the Lord to give us understanding.
In Romans 9:12b, Paul is quoting a statement made by God Himself to Rebekah, the wife of Isaac:
...She was told, “The older will serve the younger.”
He is quoting Genesis 25:23:
The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”
When we look at that statement, we ask, what did God mean? The older here is Esau. The younger is Jacob. But that is not what God meant. If He did, we have a problem. There is nowhere in the Bible or in history that Esau has ever served Jacob. But God did not meant that. Listen to what God says Himself to see what He meant.
Read the original text, Genesis 25:21-22. God was using a solidarity statement:
Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.
She had twins and they were having a civil war within her womb. That is what the problem was. “And she said, ‘Why is this happening to me?’” What’s the meaning of this struggle? It was painful. Verse 23:
The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb...”
Not two individuals, not two babies, but “two nations.”
The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”
Now we have the statement, “and the older will serve the younger.” God was speaking in terms of solidarity. He never meant Esau would serve Jacob. He meant the descendants of Esau the Edomites would serve the descendants of Jacob the Israelites and that is a historical fact. This is a solidarity statement. God is talking in terms of corporate oneness. The “in Christ” motif is based on this.
Here is another example that will help us understand this “in Christ” motif. In Hebrews 5, the writer is discussing Jesus Christ as our priest. Remember that he is writing to Jewish Christians who are reverting back to Judaism. In chapter seven, the writer of Hebrews, which I believe is Paul, is trying to prove that Jesus Christ as a priest is better and superior than the Levitical priesthood. Now Christ could not belong to the Levitical priesthood simply because He was born as a Jew under the tribe of Judah. The Levitical priesthood, according to the law of Moses, belonged to the tribe of Levi. So Christ could not be a priest according to the Levitical priesthood. But we are told in Hebrews 6:20:
...Where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
So Christ is a priest after the order of Melchizedek. So he has to prove that Melchizedek is superior to Levi. And how does he do that? He uses the tithing system on the basis of solidarity.
Here are two priests, Melchizedek and Levi. If Melchizedek paid tithe to Levi, he would be admitting that Levi is superior and visa versa. Now we know from Scripture that Melchizedek never paid tithe to Levi. The question is, did Levi pay tithe to Melchizedek? And the answer is yes — according to the concept of solidarity. Hebrews 7:9-10:
One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.
That’s a solidarity statement. What did the writer mean by “through Abraham”? He was yet in the body of his father. Levi was the son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac. Now Levi was not existing as an individual when Abraham met Isaac, neither was Jacob or Isaac. This incident took place even before Isaac’s birth, the grandfather of Levi. Where was Levi? He was in the body of Abraham. He was “in Abraham.” Therefore, he participated in the tithe paying. Abraham paying tithe to Melchizedek is identical to Levi paying tithe to Melchizedek. That is foreign to western thinking, but that is solidarity.
With this explanation, let us look at a quick example of creation, condemnation, and redemption. I think you will agree that we are created beings. God created us. Now comes the question: When did God create you: when your mother conceived you or when God created Adam? When were you created by God? If you say that you were created when your mother conceived you, you have a problem, because you and I were born sinners. We were born with a sinful nature. If God created you when your mother conceived you, then we have to blame God for this sinful nature. But the Bible doesn’t teach that. The Bible says that God created you when He created Adam. This is a Biblical teaching.
Let us start with Genesis 2:7:
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
In the Bible, that verse would say that God formed Adam out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life. The original text does not use the word “life” in the singular but in the plural. He breathed into Adam “the breath of lives.” In other words, the life that God breathed into Adam was the corporate life of the human race. Acts 17:26 brings this out in the New Testament:
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
God created all men in one man and who that one man was was Adam. In Hebrew, “Adam” means mankind or corporate man.
Satan ruined the whole human race in one man but God redeemed all men in one Man, Jesus Christ, and that is the wonderful truth. Here are some statements concerning condemnation and redemption. In Romans 5:18:
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people,...
That is a corporate statement. You may say, “Why should I be condemned for one man’s sin?” Well, let us read the second half. If the first half is unfair, the second half is unfair too, if that’s the way you think (the rest of Romans 5:18):
...so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
That’s the good news! It is a solidarity statement. One man brought condemnation and one man brought justification.
In 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, we have the same idea:
For since death came through a man [m-a-n, not m-e-n], the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man [m-a-n].
Here are two men, one bringing death and one bringing life. Verse 22:
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
There we have the solidarity statement again. That is what the “in Christ” motif is all about.
Now we will see how Paul applies this concept in terms of our salvation. We read in 1 Corinthians 1:30:
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
The Revised Standard Version says:
He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
Let’s look at two other translations, the New American Standard Version and the New English Bible. They are both bringing it out in a little clearer way. The NASV puts it this way:
By his being you are in Christ Jesus who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
The NEB puts it still better:
You are in Christ Jesus by God’s act.
Please notice that you did not put yourself in Christ. God did it. You are in Christ Jesus by God’s act, for God has made Him our wisdom, our righteousness. In Him we are consecrated and set free.
Let us look at a simple illustration. Write a text on a piece of paper. You have the Bible. The Bible is the Word of God and, in John, the Word of God is identified with Christ. This paper represents you. Put this paper into the Bible like God put you into Christ two thousand years ago. Send this Bible to Russia. Does the paper go to Russia too? Yes or no? Yes, because it is in the Bible.
Now there is a law in communist countries (I lived in one for five years) that you cannot import Bibles. The customs officer examines everything that comes in the mail. He sees this Bible and he says, “This is illegal,” so he takes it out and burns it. What happens to the paper? It gets burned too. Why? Because it is in the Bible. In other words, because the paper is in the Bible, the history of the Bible now also becomes the history of that piece of paper. That is exactly how God redeemed us. He put us into Christ. God the Son and we became one in the incarnation. Why? Through this union we could be redeemed. Here are a few quotations. First some from some New Testament scholars and then an inspired statement from Selected Messages.
H.P. Lideon (British Scholar):
As human nature was present in Adam when by his representative sin he ruined his posterity so was human nature present in Christ our Lord. Our nature is His own. He carried it with Him through life to death, He made it do and bear that which was utterly beyond its native capacity.
Brook Foss Wescott, a famous Greek Scholar, makes this statement:
Christ was not one man only among many men. He was not just an individual but, in Him, all humanity was gathered up. Christ was a corporate man. That’s why he is called a second Adam. He is a second mankind. And, thus, now, as at all time, mankind are, so to speak, organically united with Him. His acts are, in a true sense, our acts so far as we realize the union. His death is our death. His resurrection is our resurrection. [University Sermons, pp.225-226]
One more statement from a very famous scholar, who gave his life for Christ at the age of 39, a young man living under Hitler, Deitrich Bonhauffer:
When God’s son took on flesh, He truly and bodily took on, out of pure grace, our being, our nature, ourselves. This was the eternal counsel of the Triune God. Now we are in Him. Where He is, there we are, too, in the incarnation, on the cross, and in the resurrection.
And Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:6 we are sitting in heaven in Christ:
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus....
Now let us go to Selected Messages I by Ellen G. White, pp. 250-251. (Also, p. 396 has the same thought.)
By His obedience to all the commandments of God Christ wrought out a redemption for man. This was not done by going out of Himself to another [Which, by the way, is Roman Catholic theology. Roman Catholic theology is that God infuses grace. God comes into you, makes you good and takes you to heaven; but Sister White says this is not how it was done. —EHS] but by taking humanity into Himself.
So Ellen G. White understood the “in Christ” motif even though she does not use that expression, which is a theological term. She was not a theologian. She was a servant of God. She continues:
Thus Christ gave to humanity an existence out of Himself. To bring humanity into Christ, to bring the fallen race into oneness with divinity, is the work of redemption.
We have seen how Paul teaches the “in Christ” motif. God put us into Christ and God rewrote our history in Christ. In Christ, you and I stand perfect. That’s the good news of the gospel. In ourselves, we are sinners as individuals. In Christ, “God looks at you as if you had never sinned,” to quote Steps to Christ (Ellen G. White). God is not lying. In Christ you have never sinned.
Now let us see how Christ was typified in the sanctuary. It is very simple. The courtyard was surrounded with a white wall approximately nine feet high. Within this courtyard, everything pertaining to the sanctuary — its sacrifices, its building, its services — took place. Nothing took place outside the courtyard in terms of our salvation. The people lived outside the courtyard. In fact the nearest tent was 2,000 cubits, which was approximately two-thirds of a mile away. When an Israelite sinned and was filled with guilt and distress and no hope, he would bring a sacrifice, but the moment he entered the courtyard, he was totally surrounded by the righteousness of Christ. He was in safety.
The courtyard was the refuge. That is what the sanctuary means — a refuge. A bird sanctuary is a place where birds can find refuge. Our refuge is not in ourselves. It is not even in our denomination. It is in Jesus Christ. That is our refuge. When you entered the courtyard, nobody could see you. In whatever direction you faced was a white wall — the righteousness of Christ surrounded you because you are now in Christ.
We saw in the last study that the humanity of Christ was the sanctuary. Now we need to go one step further. The humanity of Christ was the corporate humanity of the human race. And that is solidarity. Let the Bible speak and you will discover that the Bible is full of this truth. There was a time when New Testament scholars felt that the central theme of Paul’s theology was justification by faith, but today modern Biblical research is discovering more and more that only two books of Paul deal with justification by faith — Galatians and Romans. But if you take all of his writings, which is almost half of the New Testament, they are coming up with the conclusion that the “in Christ” motif is the central theme of Paul’s theology. You can never understand justification by faith taught by Paul unless you understand the “in Christ” motif. I have been visiting a number of Sabbath School classrooms and I have noticed that some of the statements were made because they have not understood the “in Christ” motif. We need to come to grips with this truth. It is crucial.
Let us look at some of the blessings that are ours through this wonderful truth. Where do we begin, because the Bible tells us that it is full of truth? Let us start with the negative in Romans 8:1. Here’s a blessing that all of us need desperately. Remember that in Romans 7 Paul is dealing with a struggle, a struggle that all of us are facing. Romans 8:1-2:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus....
Paul says there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. There is no condemnation! That is good news! No condemnation — not because you are good but because you are in Christ.
Now the second half of this verse is debatable because we are not sure whether Paul wrote the second half or not. Not all the manuscripts have the second half — “who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” That is found in verse four in all the manuscripts. That’s why some modern translations will not have the second half of the verse. But the key statement is “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” But that is negative. Let us turn to something that is more positive.
Ephesians 1:3,4,7. Starting with verse 3:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Notice the past tense in the Greek aorist historical tense. He has already blessed us with all spiritual blessing pertaining to heaven. He has blessed us in Christ before the world was created. Notice He chose us in Him before the fall. Verse 4:
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
Now look at verse 7:
In him [in Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.
That is good news. We are holy, we are blameless, we are forgiven. There is no condemnation in Christ.
We read in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Christ made us new. If any man be in Christ he is a new creation. Old things are passed away. All things are new. Before, you were a sinner; now, you are righteous. Before, you stood condemned; now, you are justified. All this comes in one parcel and that parcel is Jesus Christ. Verse 18:
All this is from God, who reconciled [past tense] us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation....
What Paul is saying here is that in Christ, not only us, but the whole world has been reconciled to God. The trouble is we know it, they don’t. Who is going to tell them the good news? If we don’t tell them, who will? Well, who has God ordained? He has ordained the believers to tell the world. And that’s the ministry of reconciliation.
God is telling the world, “Look, you are no longer my enemies. I have already reconciled you to me through my Son Jesus Christ. Why are you afraid of me? Why are you running away from me? I have redeemed you already in my Son. Stop running away.” The world needs to know this but before we can tell the world we must know it ourselves, otherwise we have nothing to witness.
We must remember that the gospel is not good advice. Our young people are tired of good advice. They want good news. Let’s give it to them. We are losing them. All our entertainment that we give them in the church is failing. It is costing us a lot of money. It will take more than buildings to keep our young people in the church. It will take more than volleyball and basketball to keep our young people in the church. They need to know their security is in Christ Jesus.
Let’s give it to them but, first of all, let us be clear ourselves. Let us not keep telling them, “You must be good before God will accept you.” That’s a lie. God accepted me in His Son long before I was born. Before the foundation of the world He chose me in Christ that I may be holy, without spot and blameless. And that’s the good news. 1 Corinthians 2:9:
...“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him....
Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has it entered the mind of men but God has revealed it to us believers. Now we must reveal it to the world. It is my prayer that our church will be on fire for Christ, not because of promotional programs but because the truth has set you free.