Summary: What is it like to live the life of "In-Christ"?
In the language of the New Testament our text is one long sentence, so I’m going to break it up as we go along. The phrase, "IN CHRIST" provokes questions. Why is "in Christ" so important that Paul uses it over 170 times in his epistles? What does it mean? Short answer: it means “to be saved, ransomed, redeemed, and pardoned”. To be “in-Christ” is the picture of me, wrapped up in Jesus’ embrace, safe from Hell, bound-together with a forever family.
In this "never-ending sentence" we hear what seems to be the opposite, "Christ-IN-YOU." In reality, it is not the opposite, but simply the extension of the greatest reality of the Christian faith:
ONCE YOU ARE "IN CHRIST," HE IS IN YOU!
It means that, for someone in Christ, there is safety, fellowship, love, the promise of Heaven later, strength now, and a place of service – all because of accepting "Christ in you" now! It means we’re pressed together, Jesus and me, or me, or anybody who comes to him.
Another question: What are people like who are "in Christ," who have "Christ in them;" what is it like to live a life like that? The answer to that is what this morning’s baptism was all about. You will see certain CHARACTERISTICS of a life trained-up in, and lived in-Christ. It is the fleshing-out of the baptismal covenant. We see these characteristics exhibited in the life of the apostle Paul:
Baptism Leads to People-Serving
Colossians 1:24 – 25a (NRSVA)
I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. 25I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you,
Paul considered himself a servant of the church. His suffering came as a result of his service. As an itinerant missionary, Paul suffered hard times, opposition and personal affliction. Plowing "new fields" is not for wimps!
I often have to ask myself, Russell, are you a people server? In the name of Christ, do you go out of your way to love others, even when they’re not quite lovable?
People servers very rarely get mentioned in the bulletins and Annual Conference publications. When you serve, often you will get served-up on the world’s platter, but heaven knows the genuine article. But, when you’re "in Christ," He’s "in you," and the hope of glory makes the suffering pass away. That is the reality of living-into our baptism; following Jesus obediently makes serving a joy, even if there is suffering involved.
Baptism Shares Priceless Secrets
Colossians 1:25 – 27 (NRSV)
I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. 27To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Paul could even rejoice over the suffering he’d done to bring the truth of the Word of God to the Gentiles. This priceless secret, or mystery, was the revealed propositional truth that Jesus was the Messiah, God-incarnate, who had visited planet earth.