Paul: becoming like God δια Χριστος

This week, in my continuing saga to understand Paul’s ‘in Christ’ language, I am looking at a similar phrase – δια Χριστος. Paul’s usage of this phrase is not as nuanced as ᾽εν Χριστος’ but it provides some interesting material.

For the most part, δια Χριστος is connected with the instrumentality of Christ’s work. A great example is 2 Cor 5:18, “All this from God, who through Christ (δια Χριστου) reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” In this one verse, all three themes highlighted in earlier posts on ‘in Christ’ are found – God’s activity, Christ as Cause, and our being joined with Christ.

  • God’s activity: The reconciliation comes from God and it is not just ‘us’ being reconciled, God is working for the sake of all creation. (v 19 – “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself”)
  • Christ as Cause – It is ‘through Christ’ and ‘in Christ’ that reconciliation is made available. I have resisted the urge to use what is seemingly the more natural phrase, Christ as the means, because I think this phrase is too limiting. To be the means opens the door to thinking that Christ is simply a tool used in the process. Christ is a tool, but even more so he is the cause; he is involved in all aspects of God’s reconciliation: source, work, and goal.
  • Our joining with Christ – Ultimately, ‘through Christ’ and ‘in Christ’ lands on us, through Christ we in Christ enter the orbit of God. In 2 Cor 5, we gain the ministry of reconciliation (5:18) and the message of reconciliation (5:19) so that we are ambassadors for Christ (5:20). Yet, it is not just that we now have a part to play, but God is making his appeal ‘through us’ (5:20 – δι ημων). We have been joined through Christ, in Christ with the activity of God. To be in Christ means we become involved in the activity of God because we are united with God in Christ. It is a very real union with God based in his mission and on our becoming like him (5:21 – we might become the righteousness of God).  Thus, it is not enough to claim to be in Christ because we are striving to bring reconciliation. God is now working in and through us and, like Christ, we become involved in all aspects of God’s reconciliation – source, work and goal. In Christ we are not just a means but a cause.

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