This, in a nutshell, is an explanation of our union with Christ. The Christian’s identity is about Jesus. What happened to him identifies and defines us. What’s true of him becomes true of us. So Christians, let’s make it crystal clear: The reason you and I are forgiven is not just that God forgives. It’s because Jesus literally bore your actual sins and you in a sense died on the cross with him with your sins 2,000 years ago. You now cannot go to hell because your old self and sins died there. You were crucified with him (Galatians 2:20).
Being “in Christ.” Unified “with Christ.”
It is one of the most important ideas in the New Testament. Paul alone uses the phrase “in Christ” (or some variation, like “in Jesus” or “in him”) over 160 times. And as we’ll see below, we can sum up Christianity with these words “in Christ.”
What I’ve noticed, however, is that we can hear this terminology often, especially in gospel-centered circles, but not clearly know what it means. We hear that our “identity is in Jesus,” that we’re “united to him,” that “it’s all about Jesus,” but what does this mean?
I hope in this post to give a helpful, succinct answer. We’ll look at one paragraph in the Bible, containing four major “in Christ” truths, to understand what this phrase means. We’ll see why our lives as Christians truly are—not in some vague sense, but in rock-solid reality—“all about Jesus.”
“Christ Is Your Life”
The paragraph is Colossians 3:1-4. Paul’s letter to the Colossians is mainly about Jesus and about how the Christian faith is focused on who he is.
This Christ-centeredness comes full force in Colossians 3:1-4. It’s a paragraph in which Paul even goes so far as to tell each Christian that “Christ is your life.” Here’s the paragraph in full:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).
Christ “is your life.” What does this mean?
4 Ways Christ Is Your Life
We see him explain it in this one paragraph with four truths about the Christian:
- “You have died” (v. 3)
- “You have been raised with Christ” (v. 1)
- “Your life is hidden with Christ in God” (v. 3)
- “You also will appear with him in glory” (v. 4)
Now ask yourself: Who died, rose, is in God’s presence, and will appear in glory?
Clearly, Jesus himself.
Yet notice, here it is us Christians. We have died, been raised, are in God, and will appear in glory.
But importantly, why? The reason why is because in each of these we are connected “with Christ.” “You have been raised with Christ.” “Your life is hidden with Christ in God.” “You also will appear with him in glory.” (The link is implied, as we’ll see, in the “you have died” statement.)
So, here we have Paul explaining what it means that “Christ is your life.” He’s showing the importance of having our identity in Christ, being united to Christ.
But we’re still in the land of vague explanation. Let’s break it down more, because by doing so we start to see why Christ defines us and why it’s so precious.