With this post we are continuing the series, “Prepositional Realities – The Church in Relation to Christ”. In these initial installments we are looking at the preposition “IN”, and are considering four words in particular that relate to the Church being “IN” Christ.
In part 1a, we considered the word, “intimacy”. I began that post with an illustrative story about bottles in the ocean. We’re going to refer to that illustration in this and the next two posts in this series, so if it is unfamiliar to you, I invite you to visit the post to read it here. The second word we will now consider in relation to the preposition “IN” is the word, “incorporation”.
The Online Etymology Dictionary defines the verbal form, “incorporate”, as, “To put (something) into the body or substance of (something else.),” …”unite into one body.”
Let’s begin with our illustrative story to begin exploring the meaning of this word “incorporation.” The bottles in this story were originally independent of the ocean, and of one another, but when they were carried off by, filled with, and sank into the depths of the ocean, they were all incorporated into the same “body” of water. They all became one with and united in the same “substance”. They have experienced “incorporation.”
Two Aspects of Incorporation
Having become incorporated into the ocean, the bottles have become identified with two aspects of that ocean: location and conditions. Being “IN” that specific body of water, they are, first of all, in the same location as that body of water. If the ocean happened to be in the northern hemisphere, the bottles of necessity, would be in the northern hemisphere. If it happened to be in the southern hemisphere, the bottles must also be in the southern hemisphere. Being “IN” the ocean, they have become identified with the ocean’s location. This is the first aspect of their incorporation.
The second aspect is that of conditions. The most obvious in this example is that of the ocean’s inherent condition of wetness. The bottles being “IN” the ocean have become fully identified with the wetness of the ocean, being in full contact with it both within and without. A second condition is that of temperature. If the ocean is warm, the bottles will be warm; if the ocean cools, the bottles will cool. Inside and out, the bottles are incorporated into the same conditions that are inherent to the body of water they have become immersed in and filled with.
Being “IN” the ocean, the bottles, therefore, are identified with both the ocean’s location, and also it’s inherent and transient conditions.
This may seem elementary, but it becomes very helpful when it comes to comprehending the Church’s incorporation into Christ. A physical ocean’s location and conditions are pretty much static, so that doesn’t get very exciting, but the “Ocean” we have been baptized into, is quite another story. In the rest of this post we will explore our incorporation into Christ as it relates to four different locational and conditional changes that Christ experienced, and that we have been affected by as well, being “IN” Him.
Incorporation Into the Eternal Christ
Our incorporation into Christ begins in the eternal counsels of God, before the creation of the world. According to the infinite foreknowledge and eternal pleasure of the Father, He chose to incorporate us into His Son before time began. “For He (the Father) chose us IN HIM (Christ) before the creation of the world that we should be holy and blameless in His sight.” (Ephesians 1:4) Paul also said, “This grace was given us IN CHRIST JESUS before the beginning of time.” (2 Timothy 1:9) This incorporation into Christ existed in eternity past, in the mind, will and heart of the Father, and will be carried out into eternity future by Him. This choosing, therefore, is an eternal vocation to be “IN” Christ. There will be a progressive unfolding of this purpose and calling in time, but our incorporation into Christ from the beginning is the foundation and surety of all that will be.
So, how does this relate to location and conditions? Christ is, first of all, locationally, in God, engulfed in the Father and the Spirit. When His unfolding purpose has been outworked in us personally, we will find that we too will be found to be locationally “hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)
Secondly, as to conditions, Christ is, among other things, “beloved” and “chosen”. He is the One ordained of the Father to be the Centerpiece of His eternal purpose, and the One through Whom it will be carried out and consummated in. We, being incorporated into Him, likewise, are beloved and chosen, and are partakers “IN” Him of all of God’s focused affection, attention, and actions throughout the endless ages and aeons of time and eternity. In addition to our being incorporated into the Centerpiece of God’s purpose, all of the infinite attributes (conditions) of Christ are ours by our incorporation “IN” His very Person. How great is this incorporation into the Eternal Christ!
Incorporation Into the Incarnate Christ
As we move into the epochs of time, following the creation of the world, we come to an epic transition when there is a cataclysmic locational and conditional change in the “Ocean”, which is Christ. The Ocean translocates from the Heavens to the Earth, from the bosom of the Everlasting Father, to the womb of a teenage girl. The Boundless Ocean becomes a grain of sand. The water of the WORD becomes the dust of FLESH.
“His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross by which He put to death their hostility.” (Ephesians 2:15-16)
With the Incarnation of Christ, we have the beginning of the historical incorporation of Man into Christ. It begins very broadly, but will narrow in time. Christ comes into the world as “the last Adam” and “the second Man” (1 Corinthians 15:45,47). He comes as the Consummation of the old humanity; He comes as the Representative Head of a new humanity.
Incorporated into Himself, as “the last Adam”, is all of the former Adamic, race, comprised of both Jew and Gentile, in order that He may take all of fallen humanity to the cross and bring it into death. Incorporated into Himself, as “the second Man,” is all of the new race, comprised of neither Jew nor Gentile, but a “new creation”, that He may bring forth a new humanity after His own likeness and identity in resurrection. As those men and women whom God has chosen, we were “IN” Him on both accounts.
In this representative respect, wherever Jesus of Nazareth was locationally, we were counted as being. As He was baptized in the river Jordan, we were baptized in the river Jordan; as He was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, we were in Him being tempted by, and overcoming the devil; as He fully submitted to the Father in all things and did the Father’s work, we, likewise, were “IN” him fully pleasing the Father. Ultimately, as He surrendered to the Father’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified and buried, we were, likewise, representatively in Him surrendering, suffering, dying and being buried.
These were the cataclysmic locational and conditional changes that affected the One we are “IN”, and with which we were identified and vicariously partakers of because of our incorporation into the Incarnate Christ.
Incorporation Into the Enthroned Christ
Following the death of the Incarnate Christ, over a period of approximately forty-three days, the most wild, extreme and fantastical locational and conditional changes imaginable took place to this Consummate Man we are “IN”.
Plunging into depths of Sheol, we descended in our Conquering Redeemer to the place where the souls of those who have gone before were held captive awaiting the Judgement Day. There He took the keys of Death, Hell and the Grave and released the prisoners, taking captivity captive. Three days later, the power of God laid hold of Him, and we “IN” Him, and raised us up together back into the empty, lifeless, body of Jesus of Nazareth, lying in a borrowed tomb, wrapped in burial clothes. In a flash, His broken and bloodied body became infused with resurrection power and surged to life, transformed from corruptible to incorruptible, from perishable to imperishable, from natural to spiritual, from death to life. The stone was rolled away and out walked the Living One, the Son of the Living God, and us “IN” Him, the “One New Man”.
For forty days He, and we vicariously “IN” Him, appeared to the disciples, walked the streets of Jerusalem and surrounding countryside, appeared to over five hundred people at one time, showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs, taught and instructed the disciples concerning the Kingdom of God, and gave them His parting instructions to wait in Jerusalem until they are clothed with power from on high.
On the fortieth day, from the Mount of Olives, the Son of Man ascended up from the earth in a brilliant cloud and was transported bodily into the third heavens, into the very throne room of God. In full radiant glory, with trumpet blasts, angelic shouts and thunderous heavenly praise, He came before the Ancient of Days and was coronated King of kings and Lord of lords. Concurrently, as Sacrifice Lamb and Eternal High Priest, He took His own blood and sprinkled it on the altar in heaven, making everlasting atonement once, for all. Having completed His work of redemption, He sat down at the right hand of the Father on the Throne in heaven, with all authority in heaven and on earth given to Him.
And…positionally, representatively, vicariously and judicially we were “IN” Him!
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We pause for a minute at this stage of the history to point out that everything to this point has been fully enacted and wrought by God without man’s willful participation or even conscious awareness of all that has transpired. All that has gone before, from the eternal counsels, through the incarnation, life, death, burial, descension, resurrection, ascension, glorification and enthronement of Christ, along with us being reckoned as “IN” Him, has been accomplished by God alone.
The work now is finished. Christ is seated, enthroned in the position of rest, having completed all that was to be done. Now those whom God foreknew and chose “IN” Christ from before the creation of the world can be brought into the fullness of what He intended from the beginning. Now, those who, by the grace of God, put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and receive His divine life into themselves are spiritually united with Him. They are baptized, immersed, engulfed, and incorporated into Christ by the Spirit so that all that Christ is and has done becomes their immediate, vital possession. They are now spiritually “IN” the Eternal, Incarnate, Enthroned Christ, with all of the immensity that signifies.
As this is accomplished, a fourth and final aspect of incorporation simultaneously takes place…
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Incorporation Into the Corporate Christ
Within the next ten days after Christ’s ascension to the Throne, the Father gave the Holy Spirit to the Him to send upon the waiting disciples in Jerusalem. When the day of Pentecost came, the Spirit was poured out on those gathered in the Upper Room, and the Church was born.
In this new, unprecedented development, Christ took on yet another locational and conditional change. Now He has come by His Spirit back to earth and taken up residence within a corporate body. Not only is He bodily present in heaven at the right hand of the Father, now He is also bodily present on earth in a newly fashioned, many-membered Body. Now He is not merely an individual Man; Now He is a corporate Man.
As men, women and children put their faith in Christ Jesus for salvation and are being incorporated into the Enthroned Christ in heaven, they are also, at the same time, being incorporated, by the Spirit, into the Corporate Christ on earth, the Body of Christ.
“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)
Incorporation into Christ, therefore, integrates the heavenly and the earthly, the spiritual and the natural, the individual and the corporate all together in one. This is the beauty and the mystery of being “IN” Christ.
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At this point, incorporation into Christ is complete. All that has gone before that was intentional, representative, positional, judicial and the like, has now been made experiential in the life of the believer. All that lay in the realm of mere potential, has now been made actual and effectual. All that was historic, has now been made immediate.
Not only is this so individually, but incorporation into Christ is also a collective reality. All that Christ is individually, is now being worked into, and manifest out through, His Body corporately. Christ’s life is becoming our life. Christ’s righteousness is becoming our righteousness. Christ’s unity is becoming our unity. Christ’s ministry is becoming our ministry. Christ’s authority is becoming our authority. Christ’s love is becoming our love.
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Like the bottles in the ocean, we have become immersed “IN”, and, thereby, INCORPORATED into the Ocean of Christ. All of the locational and conditional changes that have affected this Consummate Man, from eternity to now, have, likewise, affected us and are now our present inheritance.
May we take time to contemplate these profound and glorious mysteries that are all bound up with this immense, little preposition, “IN”!
__________Related posts and pages: “Prepositional Realities: The Church in Relation to Christ” – Introduction “IN”: Intimacy “IN”: Identity “IN”: Inheritance “Audio Series: “Prepositional Realities – The Church in Relation to Christ”