In, In God, In Whom
(The Figure of Speech)
When discussing the topic of God being “in” Christ many churches teach: Jesus was God incarnate. Meaning that God was literally “Christ” and subsequently Jesus was God. This teaching reduces the humanity of Jesus to nothing more than God appearing in his own fleshly container.
This teaching is not supported by scripture.
In fact, this teaching destroys the necessary free will sacrifice of the man Jesus Christ. It removes a human example of how to overcome sin. It also removes the human sacrifice needed (1 Corinthians 15:21) to redeem man from his fallen state. A man (Adam) fell and the man (Jesus), was needed to redeem mankind from that fall.
The word “in,” a preposition, is commonly used figuratively in speech (i.e. Jesus lives “in” our hearts; I am so “in” to music, etc.). There is a vast difference between a word being used figuratively and a word that is used literally.
(2 Corinthians 3:3) states “…ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ…” yet we literally do not fit in an envelope and a postage stamp affixed to our forehead will not get us far. This same verse continues to say we were, “…written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not “in” tables of stone, but “in” fleshy tables of the heart.” We are not literally letters, our lives are meant to be visible examples that can be witnessed by those observing us, and (we are figuratively God’s letter to the world). The spirit of God has not literally written on the flesh of the heart that lies within our chest pumping blood; this scripture is written figuratively to help us understand an unseen internal change in our thoughts/will that is a direct result of submission of our human will to God’s perfect will.
How is that literally accomplished?
In, is not always used as the direct placement or location of an object or person literally, otherwise scripture would be claiming at times to place our bodies directly inside somebody/something else literally (i.e., God).
Several scriptures for consideration:
(1 John 4:15) – “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.”
(1 John 4:16) – “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
(Galatians 1: 24) – “And they glorified God in me.” (Paul writes)
If the scriptures above are to be taken literally that state, “God dwelleth in him” or “God in me,” is God now considered to have been incarnated in John and Paul? Of course not; yet daily this concept is incorrectly applied regarding Jesus. The church has for generations applied an arbitrary interpretation in error vs. sound doctrine based on verifiable scriptures.
“God in me” certainly did not make John or Paul God. God’s spirit indwelling in us does not make us God either. Clearly, we are “in God” and “in the Father” in the same manner Jesus was in God, and in the Father, figuratively. When we are in the will of God, the will of God is in us, in other words we are one with God.
This is not incarnation but unification. This denotes the joining of two spirits agreeing as one (on one accord)
In the same way, when Jesus Christ submitted his human will to God, God’s will was then “in” him; Jesus laid aside his human will in order to be united to God’s perfect will. “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42)
The spirit of God was in Christ in the same way God’s spirit is in those who serve him today. Having the “in”-dwelling of God’s spirit does not make us God/gods.
When we are doing God’s will, following his leading we are “one” with God. Thus we, I and my father (spiritually), are indeed one (unified). We are also one with Christ (you and I).
Similar language about being “in” Christ is used both of Christ and of Christians and it is understood the same way.
(John 10:37-38) – If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. 38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
(John 14:10) – Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
(John 17:21-22) – That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
The same figure of speech is used for Jesus.
(2 Corinthians 5:17) – Therefore if any man be “in” Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. Yet we all know that this verse is not literal; man is not literally inside another individual, this is figuratively spoken. Man is also not a new physical being but a changed spiritual being. Man’s old way of thinking, living and behaving die/change and his thoughts, actions, and life become new/different.
When used in the sense of “in God,” or “in Christ,” the word “in” refers to a close communion, a tight fellowship. This manner of speaking was part of the language usage of that day, just as the phrase “cut off ” (found 194 times in KJV) does not always involve the literal “physical” act of cutting something (Numbers 19:13; Proverbs 2:22; Jeremiah 7:28).
(2 Peter 1:17) – “For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Even if you take “In whom” literally the scripture clearly verifies these facts:
- God was not all in Jesus, for the voice came from heaven;
- God declared this man was his SON, not God himself; and
- The Father is praising his son, the word states: “he received from God the Father honour and glory…”
How much more literal can you get? To claim incarnation instantly destroys these TRUTHS.
There is no scripture to support Jesus was a ventriloquist, so this separate voice that came from heaven was God and he clearly stated their relationship (Father and Son) This voice did not say, this is my incarnated body/flesh in whom I am well pleased, or I am pleased with myself. God was a witness to the fact he was pleased with his son. The phrase “in whom” did not mean this God was in Jesus but that he was please or proud of his son. This was the ultimate “That’s my boy!” statement.
There are those that would assert Jesus had to be God because the Bible tells us that God will not give his glory to another.
(Isaiah 42:8) “I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.”
Of course, God will not give his glory (worship/praise) that is due him to another or to idols. This passage is clearly spoken in the sense of worship being given to God. The word clearly states we are not to worship anything/anyone other than God. 1 Kings 9: 6-7 tells us that God will make an example out of Israel if they turn from him to serve and worship other gods.
(1 Kings 9: 6-7) “But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people:”
In the context of worship God will not share what is only his.
However, we are direct reflections of God’s glory (his nature). Many things/people are given glory from God or are allowed to reflect “God’s glory,” but again that in and of itself is a figure of speech. According to Webster, glory can also mean a distinguished quality or asset. The following verses are examples of that usage:
(1 Corinthians 11:7) “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.”
(1 Corinthians 11:15) “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.”
Man was the distinguished asset of God and woman was the distinguished asset of man. A woman’s long hair is also a distinguishing quality or asset to her. This use of the word glory is clearly different from God’s glory which he refuses to share with another.
Jesus was given glory from God (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:38; John 17:22; 2 Corinthians 4:6). Being given glory from God is not the same thing as being given the glory due only to God. All men (including Jesus) are “the image and glory of God” (1 Corinthians 11:7). Being the image and glory of God allows the actions and lives of Jesus and men to glorify God.
(Philippians 2:11) “And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord [Not God], to the glory of God the Father.
In Philippians 2:11 the fact that every tongue should confess Jesus Christ is Lord will bring glory to God the Father. God’s plan for redemption will be acknowledged and verbalized in the confession of Jesus Christ as Lord. Jesus is Lord, but God clearly gets the all the glory here.
(Revelation 19:10) “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Only God is to be worshipped. However, glory also means honor and the word explicitly tells us to give honor to whom honor is due.
(Romans 13:6-7) “For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”
God gave honor to Jesus Christ when he acknowledged him as his son and stated that he was well pleased with him. Many Fathers never openly acknowledge their children or give them praise and encouragement, God did both for Jesus “in whom” he was well pleased.