In Christ Jesus



Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.

Jesus, we belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 

Ephesians 3:14–21

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”


Have you been slowly memorizing the Prayer for Union and Love in Ephesians 3:14–21? By repeating the entire passage day after day, we are getting it in our hearts and minds. Let’s look at one more phrase in verse 21 before we move on—”in Christ Jesus.”

Many years ago I visited St. Petersburg, Russia, as part of a team coordinating a national arts festival. On one of our days off, we made our way to an outdoor market where local artisans were selling their crafts. Looking for a gift for my oldest daughter, I was drawn to a set of meticulously painted matryoshka dolls—better known as Russian nesting dolls. One doll opens in the middle to reveal another, smaller doll. Then another. Then another, and so on. This goes on until one gets to the smallest doll.

When I read the phrase, “in Christ Jesus,” as we see it in verse 21, I often think of those nesting dolls. While it is a limited metaphor (as all metaphors are when talking about big theological ideas), being “in Christ” could be understood to mean we are “inside Christ.” 

Using the nesting dolls as a simple but helpful visual image, we are nested inside Christ—inside his family, inside his heart, inside his promises, inside his covenant faithfulness, inside his righteousness, inside his care, inside his death, inside his resurrection, inside his love. Like many truths of the Scriptures, there is a level of mystery to all this. But it’s a beautiful mystery we must explore to embrace all that living in Christ means for us—and for the world God loves (John 3:16).

In its shortest and clearest form, we can understand being “in Christ” as Paul’s special way of talking about our union with Jesus—us abiding in Christ (John 15:4–5) and Christ abiding in us (John 15:4; 17:23).

By the Holy Spirit, Paul expands throughout his letters on all the benefits we experience being in this mutual, abiding relationship—this participation in the life of Jesus.

While we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s list just a few New Testament ideas that are connected to being “in Christ.”

  • Being “in Christ” means that Jesus is in us, and we are in Jesus (John 15:4–5; 17:23)
  • Being “in Christ” means we are united with Jesus in his death and resurrection, alive to God and dead to sin (Rom. 6:5–11)
  • Being “in Christ” means we are united with Jesus, and are one with him in spirit (1 Cor. 6:17)
  • Being “in Christ” means that we were included in Jesus when we heard the gospel, believed, and were marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13)
  • Being “in Christ” means that we flourish within Jesus’s care as we live every aspect of our lives in intimate relationship with him (Acts 17:28)
  • Being “in Christ” means we are incorporated into the body of Christ, the family of God. We are joined to God’s people as one body and are the benefactors of his promises (1 Cor. 12:12–27; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 3:6)
  • Being “in Christ” means we are “members” of Christ himself (1 Cor. 6:15), united with him and with one another as the body of Christ (Rom. 12:4–5).
  • Being “in Christ” means that we are co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17), made alive in the Second Adam, Jesus (1 Cor. 15:22)
  • Being “in Christ” means we are not condemned to or by sin; we are free from the law of sin and death and live by the law of the Spirit (Rom. 8:1)
  • Being “in Christ” means we are a new creation in him (2 Cor. 5:17)
  • Being “in Christ” means that we are reconciled to God; our sins are not counted against us and we have the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18–19)
  • Being “in Christ” means that our life is hidden in Jesus and will appear with him in glory (Col. 3:3–4)
  • Being “in Christ” means that we are seated with him in heavenly places, experiencing his riches and kindness (Eph. 2:6–7)

And there is so much more to what it means to be in Christ!

We must begin to think differently about who and whose we are as we move through this world, my brothers and sisters! Who you are, and who I am, is someone who is in Christ. As N. T. Wright put it, “It is a strange idea to most of us, but for some a very necessary one; that you might begin again from scratch to learn who you are.”1 Let’s learn who we are together.

With the words, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen,” Paul concludes his Prayer for Union and Love. But how did Paul come to see both his and our relationship with Jesus in this “in Christ” way? We will find some answers in the story of his conversion—coming up next.


Lord Jesus, I am in you and you are in me. To live in you, as you live in me, is my heart’s desire. Teach me what it means to live “in Christ,” and help me to understand all that is our inheritance as those united with you. In Christ Jesus, I pray, amen.


Have you ever thought about the phrase, “in Christ”? Do you find the idea of being “inside Christ” helpful, and if so, in what ways?

For the Awakening,
Dan Wilt 


  1. N. T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 24, emphasis mine.


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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

2 Responses

  1. In my opinion, to be in Christ brings an end to the vain human attempt’s to earn one’s way into heaven. Faith in Christ Jesus means that our “self’s “ must decrease as His “Self “ within us must increase until we are totally filled with His presence. Corporately, as the sanctified Body of Christ, we the people of God, literally become the hands and feet of Jesus.

  2. I’m not who I used to be. My old desires, feelings, and thoughts no longer define or dominate who I am. They’ve been pushed aside by a mighty inner flow of new desires, new feelings, and new thoughts that gush from my innermost being. I’m being changed day-by-day and from glory to glory to be like Jesus who came to live inside me and surround me with His presence. Being caught up in Christ is so wonderful, I never want to leave or be distracted from His majesty.

    No matter where I go, there Jesus is making Himself known to me. I’m continually in awe of Him. My greatest desire now is to not hinder the rivers of living water that the risen Jesus releases within me and to allow His inner current to carry me wherever He desires. Moment-by-moment I seek to let go of my will and be swept along in Christ’s river.

    If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

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