You are “in Christ” (Colossians 1:28) and “Christ [is] in you” (1:27).
How can we be “in Christ” and at the same time have Christ in us? When we hear the word “in” we think spatially, and being in something and that something being in you do not seem to be possible at the same time in the same way. But our union with Christ is not a spatial reality, but a relational and spiritual reality. This, however, does not make it any less real.
Realizing that no illustration is perfect (including this one), allow me to paint a picture which might crack the door of our understanding. Christ is infinite (1:15ff). The Pacific Ocean seems infinite to us. The Pacific Ocean is not infinite, but it seems to be from our perspective. The Mariana Trench reaches depths of over six and a half miles. Whether you are four foot eleven or seven foot six, the water definitely would be over your head. Thus for the sake of illustration the waters of the Pacific might help us.
Picture a helicopter flying you into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You ask the pilot to bring the helicopter to a standstill, hovering just above the surface of the water. Then you leap from the helicopter. You are now “in the Pacific.” You signal the pilot and he turns the craft and speeds away. Your entire identity is now wrapped up in the fact that you are “in the Pacific.” You are surrounded by seemingly endless miles of open water. There are an estimated 622 million cubic kilometers of water in the Pacific. You are now in those waters. This now defines your existence. This answers the question of your identity.
But this only helps us with one line of this foundational truth of our union with Christ. It aids us in seeing ourselves “in Christ.” But what of the other essential strand of truth—“Christ in you”?
Picture yourself now taking an action that will be completely counter-intuitive. It will go against everything that you’ve come to deem rational and logical. It will cut cross-grain against everything you’ve ever known as sanity and in accord with reality. It will defy what seems to be “life.” Yet now, by an act of your will, you draw in a deep breath, turn yourself downward and swim with all your might. You kick and use your arms—going as deep as you are able with one breath. There you are, twenty or thirty feet below the surface of the Pacific. You are “in the Pacific.” Now you open your mouth and . . . draw in a huge breath!
To this point you have been “in the Pacific.” But now “the Pacific is in you”!
“Ah,” you say, “but now I am also dead!”
Precisely. You have died with Christ (Col. 2:20; 3:3). In fact you were buried with Him (2:12a). But you have also been made alive with Him (2:12b; 3:1). In fact it is “Christ who is your life” (3:4a, ESV)! This has been and continues to be actualized by His indwelling Spirit (1:8). “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (3:1-2). In other words, think in accordance with reality—the new reality established for you by God in bringing you into union with Christ! A reality that provides you . . .
- A New Identity: You “in Christ”
- A New Presence, and thus a new power, and thus an entirely new potential, and thus a life is defined by completely new possibilities: “Christ in you” (pp.40-41, Colossians and Philemon for Pastors)