THE IN CHRIST MOTIF
Written by Slawomir (“Swavak”) Gromadzki
The incarnation of the Son of God and the ‘in Christ’ motif
Fortunately, God who ‘is love’ (1John 4:16) in His mercy decided to give us a wonderful opportunity to regain what we have lost in Eden. He did it by giving us His own beloved Son who came to our sinful and ruled by God’s enemy world, assuming the same human nature which is the core of our sinfulness (Hebrews 2:16-17; 4:15). And, the fact that Jesus took the same nature we have (including the ‘law of sin’), gave Him legal right to become our great representative in the battle with sin and death.
That is also why Apostle Paul calls Christ the ‘last Adam’ (1Corinthians 15:45). Since the Hebrew word ‘Adam’ stands for ‘humankind’ it means that, like the first Adam, also Christ – the ‘second Adam’, was the head and representative of the whole humankind. It also means that we all were united with Christ, and that in a sense we were even in Him.
Thus, whatever the first and the second Adam (Christ) did we did it in them and we also bear the consequences of their accomplishments! Therefore, since the first Adam, who was ‘humankind’ and our first representative, sinned and had to die, we also are born condemned, suffer the consequences of his sin, and have to die.
Likewise, because Jesus Christ who assumed our representative fallen human nature came as the second Adam (second ‘humankind’), perfectly obeyed God’s holy law and finally died on the cross as our representative (as us), then we also did all this in Him and can now bear the consequences of his perfection and death in the form of freedom from condemnation and eternal death!
Ok, I know that in our modern western culture it is difficult to grasp this truth, but the fact that Jesus took our representative sinful nature and became the ‘second Adam’ (second humankind) actually and truly means that He became you and me! And this is exactly what some of the most renowned Christian theologians and writers such as Professor William Warren Prescott, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Anders Nygren, Jack Sequeira, Francis Nichol, Watchman Nee and others teach. Below you will find some short quotes in which they express this unique, most precious, and greatest idea:
“In taking Adam’s place Christ became the head of the human race and died on the cross as its representative. Thus, in a sense, when He died the entire race died with Him. Since He represented all men, so His death stood for the death of all. In Him, all men died. This does not, however, mean universal salvation, for each individual sinner must accept the atonement provided by the Saviour in order to make it effective” (Francis Nichol, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, comment to 2Cor 5. 14);
“Jesus Christ had exactly the same human nature that we bear, – nature of sin, nature in which we sin, nature, however, in which He did not sin. We were all in Jesus Christ. He was our representative; He became we. All humanity was brought together in Jesus Christ. He suffered on the cross, then, it was the whole family in Jesus Christ that was crucified” (William Warren Prescott, The Bible Echo, January 6, 1896).
“We have to remember that although our sinful acts may be forgiven and blotted out through the blood of Christ, but sinfulness (sinful nature) cannot be forgiven, it must die. God, for example, is able to forgive us our selfish acts; but He cannot forgive selfishness. It must be crucified, and this is why God included you and me in the cross of Christ. And just as we cannot obtain forgiveness from our sins unless we see Christ bearing all our sins on the cross, so likewise we cannot know deliverance from the power of sin unless we see Christ bearing us on the cross” (E. H. “Jack” Sequeira, Beyond Belief);
Also, famous German martyr and young very talented theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who (at the age of 39) was killed by Hitler just before the end of the World War Two, seemed to have exactly the same understanding, which can be proved by the following quote from his book Life Together: “When God calls you, he calls you to die… God’s Son took on our nature, ourselves. Now we are in him. Where he is, there we are too, in the incarnation, on the Cross, and in his resurrection. We belong to him because we are in him. That is why the Scriptures call us the Body of Christ.”
The same amazing truth about our corporate union with Christ and our death in Him is also found in the writings by famous Chinese Christian preacher and martyr by the name Watchman Nee, who because of his faith in Jesus was kept by the communists in prison for 20 years, where he finally died in 1972. In the book Dying With the Lord he wrote:
“Christ died in my stead, but He bore me with Him to the Cross, so that when He died I died. Let me tell you, you have died! You are done with! You are ruled out! The self you loathe was on the Cross in Christ! And ‘he that is dead is freed from sin’ (Romans 6:7). This is the Gospel for Christians.”
The Bible many times tells us that by taking our representative corporate sinful human nature Jesus identified Himself with us and thus when He died then we died and were already punished in Him too:
“I have been crucified with Christ, therefore, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20);
“Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with” (Romans 6:6);
“Now, if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him” (Romans 6:8);
“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3);
“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died” (2Corinthians 5:14).
Our victory and death in Christ
Since Jesus identified Himself with you, me, and whole humanity He became representative of all of us! Therefore, according to the Bible, whatever Jesus did and accomplished in the holy history of His life and death, we did it in Him too! That is also why so many times in the New Testament apostle Paul uses the famous expression ‘in Christ’.
For example, have you noticed that whenever our national football team wins a match then all the football fans in the country get excited and say, ‘we won’! Why do they say ‘we won’, in spite of the fact that they did not physically participate in the match? Or, why are we so proud, touched and often have tears in our eyes when we listen to our national anthem and see athletes represented our country standing on the highest step of the podium with gold Olympic medal on their chest? We are proud, touched, and have tears of joy in your eyes, and we have the right to say ‘we won’, simply because those athletes or football players represent our country, the whole nation, and all of us! Their victory, therefore, is our victory!
Likewise, when Jesus came into this scary and ruled by the angry and powerful prince of darkness world, He came in our weak human nature as the representative of all sinful human beings. He came to play the match with Satan and his team – sin and death. And although Christ himself was God, yet He never used His divine power to win the match and to overcome sin in our sinful nature (Philippians 2:6-8). The only weapon He used was the same one that is available to all of us, which was the power of Holy Spirit He could receive through studying the Word of God, fervent prayers, and communion with His Father.
Yet, in spite of the immense risk He took, and although He “has been tempted in every way, just as we are” (Hebrews 4:15) in the very same nature we are tempted and lost the battle so many times, He perfectly overcame the indwelling ‘law of sin’ and its powerful egocentric tendencies on our behalf. Thus, by perfectly overcoming sin as our representative the Saviour scored the first life-giving goal against Satan and his team on our behalf. But, in order to legally save us, He also had to go through the horrible experience of the second death and overcome it too. And, He did it by taking our representative sinful nature (including the law of sin and death) to the cross where it was condemned by God and destroyed forever (Romans 8:3).
The cross of Christ
But, please remember that in order to legally save you Jesus had to go through indescribable suffering and the horrible experience of the second or eternal death! There was no other way to save you because since you are already a sinner the holy and changeless law of God demanded eternal death from you. And the shocking truth is that this price you have already paid in Jesus two thousand years ago on the cross as God put you in Him by the fact that He was willing to take your condemned sinful nature which is the core of our sinfulness and which had to be annihilated forever. And, the Word of God confirms this truth by saying that Christ became a curse for us:
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law having become a curse for us, as it is written, Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Galatians 3.13).
It means that while hanging on the cross Jesus had to feel like a condemned, cursed, and dying forever sinner. The careful analysis of all the Bible verses dealing with the plan of salvation leads to the conclusion that in order to save us the Son of God was willing to say goodbye to His eternal life so that we could live forever. And, the fact that He did it, is the most magnificent truth of the Bible the prince of darkness does his best to hide because he knows that those who learn it are often so impressed by this amazing love that they are willing to give their whole hearts to God and are never the same again.
In the book of Revelation (20:6), Apostle John wrote that “blessed and holy is he who has a part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him.”
If you believe in Christ and accept God’s free gift of salvation then it is not the first and common death people are dying now but the second or eternal death which ‘has no power over you’. And if Jesus saved you from the second and eternal death then which death He was experiencing on the cross in order to save you? Do Christians die with the first death? Yes, they do. So from which death Jesus saved those who accept Him as their Saviour? He saved us from the second or the eternal death, which of course means that He decided to say goodbye to life forever so that we could live!
I myself was amazed when I first discovered this glorious truth reading the following beautiful passage from the book Desire of Ages by Ellen G. White:
“Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race.”
The wonderful good news is, however, that our Lord, in spite of unbelievable sufferings and anguish, still as our representative, stayed on the cross until He died as a result of a broken heart. But Satan was not able to keep Him in the grave, as Jesus overcame death and resurrected with the new and glorious humanity which will sit with Him on the throne and rule over the whole universe forever (Revelation 22:5).
By putting our representative corporate sinful humanity to eternal death on the cross and resurrecting in the new and glorious humanity Jesus scored the second goal for us and against Satan and his team! Thus, He has won the whole match 2 : 0! And, because He did it as our representative and because He was us and we were in Him, it means that His victory is our victory, and His death was our death in Him! So, knowing all this, now we can rejoice and shout, “we won!”