I recall noticing how different life was after I came to know Christ as my savior when I was a senior in high school. Whereas before I had merely attended church, now my life had become integrated under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
I can readily confess to you that, as life goes on, I do continue to feel the fragmentation that life can bring. Still, the fact of the matter is that, when we are in Christ Jesus, all of our lives–whether it is our work, our home, our material goods, or even something as simple as a greeting–all of life is now in Christ Jesus. Nothing that we say or do is ever outside the canopy of His lordship.
Here’s what it means to live in Christ Jesus.
The more you read the letters of Paul, the more you come to realize that the phrase “in Christ Jesus” is a loaded term. Paul uses this and other, related phrases to refer to a sphere of power–a spiritual kingdom or domain. When Paul refers to things that are in Christ Jesus, he is referring to this new order that, though it is yet invisible, has begun by virtue of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.
If you start to look for this in Paul, you will discover that it is everywhere. Paul has these two spheres in mind in Romans 8:5, the sphere of the flesh and the sphere of the Spirit. For example,
For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 7 we see another similar phrase: “In the Lord.”
A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:39)
“Only in the Lord.” We could easily take this to mean that a Christian must marry a fellow Christian, and that is, at one level, the clear meaning, but the phrase means even more than that. Paul is arguing that marriage is something that takes place in the sphere of Christ Jesus, in the redemptive order.
Don’t act as if you still live in the sphere of the flesh.
These two spheres have interesting implications for 1 Corinthians 6 when Paul addresses the men who visit pagan prostitutes at the temple in Corinth. He tells them that their actions are a horror and a terror because, on the one hand they are in Christ, and, on the other hand, they have joined themselves to prostitutes in the sphere of that which is outside of Christ.
We see something similar in 2 Corinthians 5:
Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the sphere of the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him in this way no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:16)
For Paul, all of life is changed by virtue of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a transforming historical event. All those who hear and believe the Gospel are taken into Christ, and now nothing can ever be the same again. All of life has been utterly transformed.
In biblical theology, life is lived out in its entirety in the sphere of God’s redemptive love and power. When you have confessed your faith in Christ Jesus, you have been drawn into the order of redemption. There is no part of you that you can hold back for yourself. There is no part of you that belongs to the world.
The preceding was adapted by Rachel Motte from a sermon Dr. Sloan delivered at Tallowood Baptist Church on May 13, 1990.