What it means to be a member.

by | Nov 6, 2020 | Meditations | 0 comments

One of the interesting phrases the New Testament uses to describe what it means to be a Christian is “in Christ.” As believers, we are “in Christ.” There are so many layers to this idea. Here’s one:

In 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, Paul writes,

“Of Him you are in Christ Jesus,
who became for us wisdom from God—
and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—
that, as it is written,
“He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”

In his commentary on these verses, Anthony Thiselton explains one of the nuances contained in the phrase:

Foremost among these distinct nuances in this verse is that of objective status and corporate solidarity. “Being-in-Christ” here is “no private Christian existence,” but is to be a sharer in the status and state of “belonging” which finds expression in the way in which the limbs of a body belong to the body.

What Thiselton is pointing out is that part of being “in Christ” is not that I would only think, “I individually am in Christ,” or “I am connected to Christ,” but that I would think, “I am part of the body of believers who are, collectively, in Christ. We are in Christ, and since I am part of that we, I am in Christ.” This is what we actually mean when we say we are members of the church.  And Paul uses this exact idea later in his letter, when he writes: “As the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ,” and, ” You are the body of Christ, and members individually.” 

To be “in Christ” is to be a “member” of Christ, or, to put it another way, it is to be one of the “members of Christ’s body.” Of course, the word “member” can be a little misleading for us today, because of how we typically use the word. For us it usually just means something like, “I officially belong to a group.” But that’s not what the bible means when it uses the word “member,” as the language of “body” shows us. Thiselton explains:

…however, the notion of being “members” of a body has nowadays become an insipid metaphor for belonging to a social club, not that of a limb which constitutes part of the very being of the body in the solidarity of co-suffering or co-well being. Paul began to understand this identity when Christ as Lord described his persecution of the church as “persecuting me” (Acts 26:14; cf. 9:4, 5).

In other words, the way a person is a “member of the church” is not like the way a person who pays dues to a golf course is a “member of the Country Club.” It is like the way your arm is a member of your body. It has real living connection, and a necessary, important role to play. If you trust Christ, if He is your lord, then you are in Christ, and that means you are a member of his body, and that means that you have a real, living, important connection with both the Christians who live near you who you go to church with, and the world-wide family of God.

We are all in Christ.