As I have previously stated, I am spending the summer researching Paul’s understanding of being ‘in Christ.’ Much ink has been spilled over this phrase and I want to guard the amount of time I spend swimming into the wormhole of literature. My plan was to read through Con Campbell’s new book Paul and Union with Christ as a guide to my studies.
But as I began reading I realized he was doing all the heavy lifting. In other words, I had not examined the phrase in Paul’s writing myself. So, I decided to work through Paul’s letters before I returned to his book. (Disclaimer: I am using his book to help identify the various ways Paul incorporates these ideas into his letters.)
This series of posts will record my initial findings. I have categorized each usage of the phrase within three lines – the use of the preposition εν; the main referent or object of the phrase; and its place within Paul’s already/not yet framework. The first set of posts contain Paul’s use of εν Χριστω, starting with Romans and Galatians.
- 3:24 – means, cause: justification via redemption: already
- 6:11 – state, cause: alive to God: already
- 6:23 – state, cause: eternal life: not yet
- 8:1 – location*, state: no condemnation: already
- 8:2 – state, cause: set free: already
- 8:39 – state, cause: love of God: already
- 9:1 – cause, agency: truth: already
- 12:5 – state: one body: already
- 15:17 – state: my work for God: already
- 16:3 – location*: fellow workers: already
- 16:7 – location*: were…before me: already
- 16:9 – location*: fellow workers: already
- 1:22 – location: churches of Judea: already
- 2:4 – state, cause: freedom: already
- 2:17 – means, cause: justified: already
- 3:14 – means, cause: the blessing of Abraham: already
- 3:26 – location*, state: sons of God: already
- 3:28 – state, cause: are one: already
Few initial thoughts:
1. The phrase is consistently tied with the already portion of Paul’s thinking. “In Christ” seems to be a present reality for Paul, not a future hope. Thus, in trying to understand Paul’s usage we need to identify the ways it impacts life in the here and now.
2. Being “in Christ” is tied with both Christ as cause and our state of being joined with Christ. I have often pushed back on those asserting participation as a key to understanding Paul, especially Douglas Campbell, because I felt the term was imprecise. Examining the phrase may help to clarify what it means to participate with Christ, especially since cause and state seem to be closely knitted together.
*Location simply means Paul may be using phrase to identify a “Christian”