The Objective Facts of the
In Christ Motif
By E.H. Jack Sequeira
Most reliable New Testament scholars today recognize that the in Christ
motif is the central theme of Pauls theology. For example, in Grace Unlimited, edited by
Clark H. Pinnock, several scholars admit that the in Christ motif is at the
heart of Pauls 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 Pauls 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 objective application:
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).
Pauls 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, Pauls 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 2:4).