|dc.description.abstract||In Paul's thirteen letters the 'in Christ' phrase, with its variants (in the Lord etc.),
appears about 167 times. Since Deissmann's foundational study of the phrase over 100
years ago scholars have suggested many theories seeking to explain Paul's meaning in its
use . Their findings range over several disciplines, but are inconclusive.
Our study takes a fresh theological look at the phrases, and seeks to test the
hypothesis that "Paul uses the 'in Christ' phrase principally in a mystical sense".
Christian mysticism is defined as "union with God through Christ in the power of the
Firstly, eight models of mysticism are constructed from various disciplines and
examined to give an overview of mysticism, i.e. historic (Judaism and Apocalyptic,
Neoplatonic), anthropology (Synderesis), ecclesiastic (Eastern Orthodox, Holy Spirit /
Charismatic), personal (Schweitzer, Calvin), and Postmodern. Jewish mysticism is found
to exist from about 300BC in two forms - contemplative and chariot. Christian
mysticism derives from Jewish mysticism and has the same goal- union with God.
Secondly, a study of Paul's background reveals parallels in his theology showing
possible influences from contemporary sources. Thirdly, Paul's 'in Christ' phrase and its
variants with different prepositions indicate that the phrase probably derives from the
early church's baptism liturgy and focuses in particular upon the new creation which
replaces the old. Fourthly, of the many theories advanced to account for the 'in Christ'
phrase five are examined, all of which can make a contribution towards understanding
the phrase better.
Fifthly, an original theory which is mystical is proposed in which Paul's 'in
Christ' phrases are divided into those that relate to God's Work in Christ 66 (40%), and
to Believers' Work in Christ 101 (60%) . The first category phrases are indicative,
objective and positional; the second are imperative, subjective and practical. The
twofold division is typical of Paul's letter - writing style, with encouragement and
practice following doctrine. Both categories are further subdivided.
Paul's theology is Christocentric as revealed to him after hisconversion and call
by Christ. The 'in Christ' phrase may be said to be the answer to all the problems of the
early church for it is axiomatic that God can accept nothing that is not in Christ. This is
evident from Paul's outline of God's pre - history plan for His creation which is fulfilled
when all things in heaven and on earth are united 'in Christ' . Since Christology takes
precedence over other theological doctrines which are derived from it, so the 'in Christ'
phrase may be seen as central to Paul's theology in pre - history, through time and into
eternity again. As the analysis of mysticism reveals, it has many similarities with the 'in
Christ' phrase, and both doctrines could be defined in the same way.
The mystical interpretation seems to provide the fullest understanding of
scripture, and thus when Paul's phrase is examined mystically its true intentions seem to
be revealed for the believer's lifestyle, for maintaining church unity and fellowship with
fellow believers, and for providing the closest relationship with God through the beatific
vision, mystical union, spiritual marriage or deification.
In church history the 'in Christ' phrase and the mystical element were slowly
replaced by scholasticism and institutionalism, but from the beginning of the twentieth
century the world -wide charismatic revival is restoring them hence the present .
phenomenal church growth and ecumenical outreach. The hypothesis that Paul uses the
'in Christ' phrase principally in a mystical sense may be said to be confirmed.||en