In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us … (verses 7-8)
If you haven’t read through the entire passage today, please do. Keep your eyes open, hunting for the most significant word. Which would you choose?
For my money, the most significant is one of the smallest in the text. It’s made up of only two letters, whether reading in English or in Greek. The word is incredibly small, but absolutely profound because of its theological insight, specifically helping us grasp the reality of our God-given identity.
The word, in all its wonder and weightiness, is the little word “in.”
Paul wrote in Greek. If you had his original text in front of you, you would discover this word used fifteen times in this one, long, run-on, reverberating sentence. That’s a lot of usage! It’s a teeny word, but it does mighty work, since it so often causes us to look to the heights, as in: “in Christ” … “in him” … “in the One he loves.” This is a word that focuses our eyes on Jesus.
But it also highlights our own grace-filled position through him. Remarkably, we ourselves are “in him.” What does that mean? Many illustrations come to mind. I think of a space-walking astronaut safely alive simply because he or she is “in” a spacesuit. Or, I think of having access to the rec centre as a kid simply because my parents had spent the money to join, and I was “in” the family. Or, changing the preposition slightly, I think of what it would be like to be on the brink of death, and then, at the last minute, receiving a death-denying blood transfusion from a close friend – their blood “in” me would mean life, which I would now live “in” their debt.
But none of the illustrations really do justice. They can’t capture the deep reality. And so, I think it’s best to simply plunge into the passage at one point – in the verses above – to get a taste of what Paul has in mind.
Speaking of Jesus, Paul tells us we are “in him,” and then highlights three words: “redemption … forgiveness … grace.”
To be redeemed means to be bought back. The implication is that we had gotten ourselves into disastrous circumstances, like falling into slavery, where our life was forfeit, not our own. But now Jesus, the Redeemer, has come and purchased us back, paying with his own life’s blood. That purchase means we are now “in him” – our life, newly freed, is caught up in his own life. What he has won for us is infused into our very being. This is our new identity – “in him.”
There’s more. “In him” we have forgiveness of our trespasses. Not just a few. All of them – all those times we stepped outside the bounds, broke our own best intentions, betrayed trust with God, plunged into guilt, earned condemnation. All of them. But now, “in him,” all of that is forgiven. We are washed spotlessly clean, the slate wiped and renewed, the guilt removed, the shame lifted. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Roma 8:1). Yes!
But there’s more. This redemption and forgiveness have not been given in small measure. They have not been doled out in limited quantity. No. Rather, it’s according to the lavish riches of his grace. Remember, we’re talking here about Almighty God who created all things, who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, of whom it is truly said, “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). How rich do you think he is? And when he gives lavishly, how lavish do you think that might be?
This gives just a beginning taste of what it means to be “in Christ.” We are enveloped, embraced, filled, revitalized, resurrected, cleansed, renewed, blessed.
Oh, the incredible wonder of that little word “in.”
Thank you, Lord Jesus, that by your choice and sacrifice, I am now “in you.” Open to my eyes the wonder of this reality. Let me walk in it more and more. To your glory. Amen.
Reflect: Take a few moments to simply soak in the reality of being “in Christ.” Embrace redemption. Embrace forgiveness. Embrace lavish grace. Renew the reflection throughout the day.