“In Christ” The Meaning and Implications of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - page 1

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From the Summer 2007 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

"In Christ"
The Meaning and Implications of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

by John R.W. Stott
Address given in 1983 at the Leadership Luncheon following the National Prayer Breakfast, Washington, D.C.


hen we meet some people we know immediately and instinctively that they are different. We are anxious to learn their secret. It is not the way they dress or talk or behave, although it influences these things. It is not that they have affixed a name tag to themselves and proclaimed themselves the adherent of a particular religion or ideology. It’s not even that they have a strict moral code which they faithfully follow. It is that they know Jesus Christ, and that he is a living reality to them. They dwell in him and he dwells in them. He is the source of their life and it shows in everything they do.

Not merely in the words you say,
Not only in your deeds confessed,
But in the most unconscious way

Is Christ expressed.
Is it a beatific smile?
A holy light upon your brow?
Oh no! I felt his presence
When you laughed just now.

To me, ’twas not the truth you taught,
To you so clear, to me still dim,
But when you came you brought
A sense of him.

And from your eyes he beckons me
And from your heart his love is shed,
Till I lose sight of you and see
The Christ instead.

  These people have an inner serenity which adversity cannot disturb; it is the peace of Christ. They have a spiritual power that physical weakness cannot destroy; it is the power of Christ. They have a hidden vitality that even the process of dying and death cannot quench; it is the life of Christ.
  To use Biblical expressions, “The peace of Christ rules in their hearts,” “the power of Christ is made perfect in their weakness,” and “the life of Christ is made manifest in their mortal flesh.”
  The commonest description in the Scriptures of a follower of Jesus is that he or she is a person “in Christ.” The expressions “in Christ,” “in the Lord,” and “in him” occur 164 times in the letters of Paul alone, and are indispensable to an understanding of the New Testament. To be “in Christ” does not mean to be inside Christ, as tools are in a box or our clothes in a closet, but to be organically united to Christ, as a limb is in the body or a branch is in the tree. It is this personal relationship with Christ that is the distinctive mark of his authentic followers.
  The word “Christian” occurs only three times in the Bible. Because of its common misuse we could profitably dispense with it. Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul never used the word, or at least not in their recorded teaching. What distinguishes the true followers of Jesus is neither their creed, nor their code of ethics, nor their ceremonies, nor their culture, but Christ. What is often mistakenly called “Christianity” is, in essence, neither a religion nor a system, but a person, Jesus of Nazareth.
   Now let us explore some of the implications of being “in Christ.” First, to be in Christ brings personal fulfillment as a human being. All around us are men and women who are unfulfilled and alienated, who are asking what it means to be a human being. They are seeking the secret of satisfaction, of happiness, and are searching for their own identity. Where is it to be found?

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