When the Apostle Paul begins talking about being “In Christ”, I wonder if he is extending the image of today’s text. Jesus gives us a powerful run of images describing our relationship with both the Father and Himself. We are “in Him” and He is “in The Father”. Yet also He is “in us” and the Father is “in Him”. And always, the Holy Spirit is “in us”. But as is the case with many theological metaphors, it’s not the physics but the message that matters.
With God in us, we are empowered to act on His behalf and with His guidance. One of the ideal images of scripture is the perfectly obedient Child of God doing exactly what God would do were He in complete control of the person. With it’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” vibe, this image can be disturbing to our control-mandated culture, but it is what we strive for nonetheless.
The flip side, being “In Christ”, is far more comfortable and more prevalent in the New Testament. When Paul says we are “In Christ” he is juxtaposing this with our natural state of being “In the World”. This is a change in spiritual geography, Prof. Klyne Snodgrass says. We move from the world, which is ruled by The Flesh, The Devil, and Sin, “into Christ” which is ruled by Him alone. This is a world governed by grace, truth, and life as opposed to the world governed by judgement, lies, and death.
We understand the image of moving to a new land with different rules much better than being taken over by another being, and so Paul pushes the former image more than the later. But either way, the truth is the same: as Christians, we live a different life, with different rules than the world around us.