Part IIa: “In Christ” and Soteriology

As unbelievers, under the constant state of oppression by sin, living as “dead” sinners, and under the continual wrath of God, the “in Christ” motif breaks all spiritual barriers. As argued in Part I, the “in Christ” motif extends beyond a single systematic theological concept; it extends beyond a purely Christological understanding. Rather, “in Christ” is a “linking” concept into multiple systematic categories. In the following post, observations of “in Christ” as it relates to soteriology (salvation) will be given.

After all the New Testament verses have been analyzed, the “in Christ” motif is primarily concerned with concepts under soteriology and a close second being sanctification. Moreover, a primary element of the “in Christ” motif and soteriology is the idea of a believers “union with Christ.” As unbelievers obey and are controlled by the powers of the air, those that are “united with Christ” experience an abundance of blessings. For starters, their identity is changed, the granting of redemption and declaration of righteousness are closely associated, and sanctification is now possible.

Title of Salvation and New Identity

“In Christ” is given as a title for believers. Paul mentions how he knew “a man in Christ” (2 Cor 12:2). Moreover, in the long list of names Paul greets in the Roman letter, he mentions Andronicus and Junia as being “in Christ before me” (Rom 16:7). Furthermore, Paul mentions Apelles who is  “approved in Christ” (Rom 16:10). The idea of “approved” my signify “some particular trial or test through which Apelles had come strongly.”[1]  Continuing in the list of Roman greetings, Paul mentions three people who are “fellow workers in Christ” (Rom 16:3, 9); most likely fellow workers in association with Gospel. The phrase “in Christ” refers to people having “fallen asleep,” demonstrating the belief and identity of dead believers (1 Cor 15:18; 1 Thess 4:16). Being used to critique the Corinthian believers, he chides them for being “infants in Christ” (1 Cor 3:1).

Not only a title for individual believers, “in Christ” is expressed towards specific local churches or groups of saints. Paul relates his relationship to the “churches of Judea that are in Christ” (Gal 1:22; cf. 1 Thess 2:14). As Paul composes both letters to the Thessalonians, he addresses it to the church “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1).

Rather than addressing the ekklesia“church,” in three of Paul’s first Roman imprisonment letters, he addresses the plurality of people within the church as “saints” (Phil 1:1). The letters to the Ephesians and Colossians are similar by adding two qualifying statements about the church in Christ, they are “the saints and faithful in Christ” (Eph 1:1; Col 1:2). Rather than defining “faithfulness” in the sense of obedience, it is more likely to define them as “believing in Christ.”

Christ, as the object of Faith

One of the non-union concepts associated with salvation is the “in Christ” referring to the object of faith. Rather than believers being joined or located in the person of Christ for salvific reasons, two verses demonstrate the object of faith as Christ. Paul states how he has “heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus” (Eph 1:15) and “since we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus” (Col 1:4). The placement of faith and belief must be directed towards to the single object of Christ. Justification or the declaration of righteousness is now manifested and revealed through the expression of “faith in Christ” (Rom 3:22).

On a more nuanced expression, there are two places in Pauline thought that expresses a similar concept of “faith in Christ” but through the means of hoping “in Christ” as a means of salvation. In Eph 1.11–12, there is a slight eschatological element of the fruition of our election, resulting in us serving as God’s inheritance. This should result in us praising the glory of God. However in v.12, Paul describes “us” as being “those who formerly hoped in God.” With the perfect verbal form, a stative idea is most likely present with “hoping.” Moreover, in a negative context, Paul condemns himself and others if the Resurrection of Jesus is a hoax (1 Cor 15:12–19). If the Resurrection didn’t happen his preaching is vain, your faith is in vain, your misrepresenting God, and your still in your sins. He then finishes with the statement of encompassing the entire group believes as a people to be pitied. However, the means of describing the people are: “we have hoped in Christ” (1 Cor 15:19).

Christ is the object of salvation. Moreover, if we have faith in Christ or hope in Christ, they are adequate means of salvation.


[1] Dunn, Romans 9–16, 896.

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One thought on “Part IIa: “In Christ” and Soteriology

  1. Pingback: Part IId: “In Christ” and Soteriology « Doctrinaeue Coram Deo

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