An extended excerpt from Church Dogmatics

Karl Barth

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 Articles, Excerpts & Quotes

By: Karl Barth

Not by way of addition, but to give the most precise expression possible to what we have already stated in various ways, we must now take a further step. This is not merely because certain passages of the New Testament clearly direct us beyond the point already reached, but because the matter itself imperiously calls for further reflection. What is the nature of this fellowship of Christians with Jesus Christ if we have correctly understood it as the relationship of discipleship and possession, and finally as the powerful work of the Holy Spirit? Are we not justified in asking whether the word "fellowship" is not too weak to embrace everything that is involved between Jesus Christ and the man called by Him, whether the word is not transcended and thus rendered unusable by the content which it acquires at this point? Yet this is not the case. From all these different angles the relationship is always one of fellowship because, for all the intimacy and intensity of the connexion between them, there can be no question of an identification of the follower with his preceding leader, the possession with its owner, or the life of the one awakened by the Holy Spirit with the One who gives him this Spirit. There can thus be no question of an identification of the Christian with Christ. We have still to show, however, to what extent the fellowship of the Christian with Christ is one which is uniquely close and direct in the perfection of the mutual address of the two partners, so that it cannot be interchanged with any other.

We may begin by stating that it belongs to the perfection of this fellowship, and must not be overlooked or denied, that in it Christ does not merge into the Christian nor the Christian into Christ. There is no disappearance nor destruction of the one in favour of the other. Christ remains the One who speaks, commands and gives as the Lord. And the Christian remains the one who hears and answers and receives as the slave of the Lord. In their fellowship both become and are genuinely what they are, not confounding or exchanging their functions and roles nor losing their totally dissimilar persons.

A delimitation is required at this point. In particular relation to its perfection, the fellowship here described, which is the goal of vocation, has often been linked with the concept of mysticism both in exposition of the relevant New Testament texts and elsewhere. As is well known, even Calvin referred once to a unio mystica (Instit., III, II, 10). But we should never do this unless we state precisely what we have in view when we speak of "mysticism"-and it would have to be a mysticism sui generis in this context. There can certainly be no question of what is usually denoted by the term in this relationship. That is to say, there can be no question of an experience of union induced by a psychical and intellectual concentration, deepening and elevating of the human self-consciousness. For while it is true that in his fellowship with Christ, now to be appreciated in all its perfection, the Christian acts as well as receives, neither his receiving nor his acting in this fellowship is the product or work of his own skill, but both can be understood only as the creation of the call of Christ which comes to him. Again, there can be no question of a disappearance of the true confrontation of God and man, of the One who addresses and the one who is addressed and answers. There can be no question either on the one side or the other of any depersonalising or reduction to silence. There can be no question of any neutralising of the distinction between Creator and creature or of the antithesis between the Holy One and sinners, nor of any establishment of the kind of equilibrium which may exist between things but can never obtain between persons, and especially between the divine Jesus Christ and the human person. Even as a child of God, and therefore in the analogy of his existence to that of the eternal Son in the flesh, the Christian is not what the latter is, and alone can be. His fellowship with the latter thus has and maintains the character of an encounter in which the grace of Jesus Christ in all its fulness, but His grace and therefore a grace which is always free, is addressed to him. Nor does this grace fail to include a judgment passed on man. It does not cease to demand that he keep his distance. In face of it even his supreme and most joyous gratitude must always have, and continually acquire, the character of adoration. It is also important to notice that precisely in this fellowship of encounter there is not merely safeguarded the sovereignty of God, of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit, but also the freedom of the human partner is preserved from dissolution. Indeed, it is genuinely established and validated. Unless we consider, safeguard and expressly state these things, we do better not to speak of "Christ-mysticism" when there is obviously no compelling reason to do so.

Having made this point, we may now proceed to state that the fellowship of Christians with Christ, which is the goal of vocation, is a perfect fellowship inasmuch as what takes place in it is no less than their union with Christ. The terms "attachment" and "co-ordination" are inadequate if they are not expressly understood in the sense of "union," i.e., the Christian's unio cum Christo. As we have shown, union does not mean the dissolution or disappearance of the one in the other, nor does it mean identification. It does not mean a conjunction of the two in which one or the other, and perhaps both, lose their specific character, role and function in relation to the other, the reciprocal relation being thus reversible. The union of the Christian with Christ which makes a man a Christian is their conjunction in which each has his own independence, uniqueness and activity. In this way it is, of course, their true, total and indissoluble union: true and not ideal; total and not merely psychical and intellectual; indissoluble and not just transitory. For it takes place and consists in a self-giving which for all the disparity is total on both sides. In this self-giving Christ and the Christian become and are a single totality, a fluid and differentiated but genuine and solid unity, in which He is with His people, the Lamb on the throne with the one who recognises in Him his Lord and King, the Head with the members of His body, the Prophet, Teacher and Master with His disciples, the eternal Son of God with the child of man who by Him and in Him, but only thus, only as His adopted brother, may be called and be the child of God. Like His own unity of true deity and humanity, this unity is hic et nunc concealed. It may be known in faith but not in sight, not by direct vision. The revelation of its glory has still to come. But even hic et nunc there can be and is no question of creating it or giving it force, but only of making definitively and universally visible its possibility, nature and reality as something incomparably great and totally new. This, and this alone, is what the whole of creation, with all men and Christians too, is waiting and groaning for. The purpose for which Christians are already called here and now in their life-histories within universal history is that in the self-giving of Jesus Christ to them, and theirs to Him, they should enter into their union with Him, their unio cum Christo.

For the sake of practical perspicuity in our definition of the Christian we first spoke of his humanity in common with all men, then of his divine sonship, then, in description Of his fellowship with Jesus Christ, of the relationship of discipleship, his existence as the possession of this Owner, and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit within him. It is only now that we have reached the heart of the matter in his union with Christ. In view of what we said about the problem of the ordo salutis in the preceding sub-section, there is obviously no question here of a description of the genetic sequence of the states of the Christian, nor is it to be assumed that in the unio cum Christo we reach the culminating point of such a sequence. Our present concern is not with the event of vocation at all, but with its meaning and goal. And our supreme and final definition of this as the union of the Christian with Christ describes the most essential element in it which underlies and comprehends all the others, so that from the purely material view we really ought to have put it first. This is what Calvin actually ventured to do (Instit., III, I) when he opened his whole doctrine De modo percipiendae gratiae with a depiction of this unio. If we have not followed him in this, and for the sake of clarity have thus departed in some sense from the matter, it is to be noted expressly that only now have we reached the central point which supports all that precedes and is tacitly presupposed in it.

If we are to understand the nature of this union, then, in relation to the emphasised independence, uniqueness and activity of Jesus Christ on the one side and the Christian on the other, we do well to begin, not below with the Christian, but above with Jesus Christ as the Subject who initiates and acts decisively in this union. We do well to begin with the union of Christ with the Christian and His self-giving to the Christian, and not vice versa. It is here that the union and self-giving of the Christian have their roots.

That Jesus Christ in calling man to be a Christian unites Himself with him means first from His own standpoint that He is unique as the One who in His life and death was humiliated and exalted in the place and for the sake of all, as the One in whom the reconciliation of the world to God and the justification and sanctification of all were accomplished. In all this He has no assistant nor fellow-worker to accompany Him, let alone any corredemptor or corredemptrix. He is absolutely isolated from all others. Without them, He intervenes for them. But as this One, when it is a matter of the revelation of this work as inaugurated in His resurrection from the dead and continued in the work of His Holy Spirit, when it is a matter of His work in its prophetic dimension, He cannot and will not remain alone, nor can He be solitary in the reconciled world on His way to His future, conclusive and universal revelation. He cannot and will not be the Master without disciples, the Leader without followers, the Head without members, the King without fellows in His people, Himself without His own, Christ without Christians. The fact that the One who is disclosed in His resurrection from the dead and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is really the omnipotent God who stooped down in unmerited love to man, the Lord who became a servant, has in the time which moves to its end in His final revelation a counterpart in the fact that as the Proclaimer of the act of God accomplished in Him, in His prophetic office and work, He does not go alone but wills to be what He is and do what He does in company with others whom He calls for the purpose, namely, with the despicable folk called Christians. He attests to the world the reconciliation to God effected in Him, the covenant of God with man fulfilled in Him, as He associates with Christians, making common cause and conjoining Himself with them. He does not merely do this ideally or partially, but really and totally. He does not merely comfort, encourage, admonish or protect them remotely or from afar. But as He calls them to Himself in the divine power of His Spirit, He refreshes them by offering and giving Himself to them and making them His own. That He wills and does this is ­ in analogy to the mystery and miracle of Christmas ­ the true ratio of Christian existence as this is celebrated, adored and proclaimed within the community of Christians in the common administration of the Lord's Supper, instituted to represent the perfect fellowship between Him and them which He has established ­ an implication which we cannot do more than indicate in the present context.

We now turn to what must be thought and said concerning this union of His with Christians from their standpoint. There is, of course, no one, apostle, saint or the Virgin, who can contribute in the very slightest to what is accomplished for all by the one Jesus Christ in His life and death. In relation to His high-priestly and kingly work even a Paul can only know what has been done for us by God in Him (I Cor. 2:12). But those to whom He reveals and makes known this life and death of His as the act of God for their salvation and His own glory do not confront this act of revelation, this work of atonement in its prophetic dimension, as hearers and spectators who are left to themselves and ordained for pure passivity. What kind of vocation, illumination and awakening would it be, what kind of knowledge, if they were merely left gaping at the One who discloses Himself to them? No, as surely as He does not will to tread alone His way as the Proclaimer of the kingdom, so surely they for their part must be with Him, companions of the living One who are made alive by Him, witnesses in His discipleship to that which He wills to reveal to the world as having been effected in Him, namely, to the reconciliation accomplished and the covenant fulfilled in Him. This is what He makes them as He calls them to Himself, as He does this really and totally, as He does not leave them to themselves, as He does not remain outside them, as He gives Himself to them, as in the divine power of His Spirit He unites Himself with them. That they may become and be those with whom He unites Himself by His Word; that they may be those who are born again from above by His presence and action in their own lives; that they may be continually nourished by Him ­ this is, from their standpoint, the ratio of Christian existence. Here again we are naturally reminded of the mystery and miracle of Christmas, and must make provisional reference to the Lord's Supper.

"I in you" (Jn. 14:20; 15:4). "I in them" (Jn. 17:23,26). "I in him" (Jn. 6:56; 15:5). According to Jn. 15:1f. He is the vine which produces, bears and nourishes the branches, or according to the even stronger expression in Jn. 6:33 He is the "bread of God which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world." He gives them His flesh and blood, imparting and communicating Himself to them, giving Himself to nourish them, in order that as He lives they also may and will live to all eternity (Jn. 6:53). The same teaching is found in Paul. "Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you? " (2 Cor. 13:5; cf. Rom. 8:10; Col. 1:27). He is the One who has apprehended the apostle (Phil. 3:12), putting His power in him (2 Cor.12:9), setting His truth in him (2 Cor. 11:10), speaking in him (2 Cor. 13:3), and always magnifying and glorifying Himself in his person (Phil. 1:20). And in relation to other Christians He is the One who dwells "in your hearts by faith" (Eph. 3:17), or who seeks to be formed in them (Gal. 4:19). Whether they are Greeks, Jews, Barbarians, Scythians, slaves or freemen, Christ is in them all (Col. 3:11). "Christ in you" is the great mystery of God among the nations (Col. 1:27). In the strongest possible expression (Gal. 2:20), Christ lives in the apostle in such a way that he has to say of himself that he no longer lives, i.e., in himself and apart from the fact that Christ lives in him, but that he now lives in faith in Him who gave Himself for him, this being his own most proper life to which, as one who still lives in the flesh, he can do justice only as he believes in Him. In Col. 3:4, however, "Christ our life" is also said in relation to Christians generally, and again in relation to all those who by the Spirit have been given to know what is given them by God there is made the immeasurable claim: "We have the mind of Christ " (I Cor. 2:12,16), i.e., in virtue of His life in us we have His reason.

It has always involved an unwise and, on a proper consideration, an attenuating exposition of these verses to speak of an extension of the incarnation in relation to the Christian's unio cum Christo and then in relation to the Lord's Supper. We are concerned rather with the extended action in His prophetic work of the one Son of God who became flesh once and for all and does not therefore need any further incarnation. We are concerned with the fact that He as the one Word of God takes up His abode in the called, that His life becomes their life as He gives Himself to them. This is the mystery and miracle of His union with them. Similarly, we do well to refrain from describing the Christian in relation to his fellows (Luther, De libertate, 1520, W.A., 66, 26), or, as Roman Catholics do, the priest in the mass in relation to other believers, as an alter Christus. In his perfect fellowship the one Christ as the only original Son of God, beside whom there can be no other, is always the One who gives, commands and precedes, and the other, the homo christianus, whom He makes His brother and therefore a child of God, is always the one who receives, obeys and follows. The former is the Word of God in person; the latter, like John the Baptist in the Fourth Gospel, is His witness. In this distinction, of course, neither remains alone. Both become a totality. For it is not too great or small a thing for Christ to give Himself to the Christian, to cause His own life to be that of the Christian, to make Himself his with all that this necessarily implies. This is the high reality of His vocation to the extent that this takes place and is to be understood as His union with the Christian.

In the reality and power of the union of Christ with the Christian, however, their fellowship has also the meaning and character of a union of the Christian with Christ. Their fellowship would not be complete if their relationship were actualised only from above downwards and not also from below upwards, if it were not reciprocal. A justifiable concern for the unconditional predominance of he freedom, grace and decision of Jesus Christ which establish the relationship should hot mislead us into suppressing or minimising the fact that His action has its correspondence in an action of the Christian. According to the guidance of the New Testament the declaration concerning the communication of Christ with the Christian necessarily includes a complementary declaration concerning the communication of the Christian with Christ.

That Christ links Himself with the Christian settles the fact that the latter, too, does not go alone. To do justice to Christ as his Counterpart he is not directed to believe in Him and to obey and confess Him on his own initiative or resources. He is certainly summoned to believe, obey and confess. And both as a whole and in detail this will always be the venture of a free decision and leap. It will always be a venture in which no man can wait for or rely on others, as though they could represent him or make the leap for him. Even in the community and therefore with other Christians, he can believe, obey and confess only in his own person and on his own responsibility. But does this mean on his own initiative and resources? No, for the act of the Christian is not to be described as a leap into the dark or a kind of adventure. We have only to consider what kind of a free decision or leap is involved to see that, if there is any action which is well-grounded and therefore assured in respect of its goal, it is the faith, obedience and confession of the Christian. The Christian undertakes these things as through the Spirit he is called to do so by the risen One in whom he believes and whom he obeys and confesses. And in the knowledge given him with his calling, he is not merely required but empowered to do it. In Jesus Christ he knows and apprehends himself as a member of the world reconciled to God in Him, as a man who is justified and sanctified in Him in spite of his sin, as a legitimate partner of the covenant fullilled in Him. Believing in Jesus Christ and obeying and confessing him, he simply does the natural thing proper to him as the man he is in Christ and therefore in truth. He simply realises his true ­ the only truly human ­ possibility. He simply exercises the freedom given him as the man he is in Christ and therefore in truth. The decision or leap of his faith, obedience and confession consists in the fact that he takes himself seriously as the man he is and recognises himself to be in Jesus Christ instead of immediately forgetting his true self (who and what he is in Christ), like the man who looks at himself in a mirror and then goes on his way (Jas.1:23f.). It consists in the fact that he begins to act on this basis, i.e., on the basis of Jesus Christ and as the man he is in Him. He believes, obeys and confesses as, now that Christ has united Himself with him, he unites himself with Christ, giving himself to the One who first gave Himself to him, and thus choosing Him as the starting-point and therefore the goal of His thinking, speech, volition and action, quite simply and non-paradoxically because this is what He is, because there is no other starting-point or goal apart from Him, because in truth he is not outside Him but within Him.

Here again, however, we must consider the opposite side and therefore add that as the Christian unites himself with Christ it is also settled that he cannot part from Christ. In his relationship with Him He alone is the One who gives, commands and leads, and the criterion of the genuineness of all the faith, obedience and confession of Christians will always necessarily consist in their allowing Him alone to be what He alone is, neither openly nor secretly trying to subject Him to their own dominion, in the exercise of which their faith would at once become unbelief, their obedience, disobedience and their confession denial. This does not mean, however, that they can refrain from immediately and directly recognising their own cause in His cause, i.e., in the occurrence of His prophetic work in the world. For as they recognise Him, they can and should recognise themselves in Him, what they themselves are in truth. Except by the self-deception of Jas.1:23f., how could they break their solidarity with Him? As those they are and know themselves to be in Him, as members of the world reconciled to God in Him as justified and sanctified sinners, they cannot possibly leave Him in the lurch instead of following Him. In the freedom given them as those they are, they have only one option, namely, to believe in Him, to obey Him and to confess Him, and in so doing, in making this movement, to unite themselves with Him as He in His turning to them, in calling them and making Himself known to them, unites Himself with them. Called, illumined and awakened by His prophetic Word, for this Word they can only be in truth the men they are. What other can they do, then, as those to whom Christ has given Himself, than to give themselves to Him, to exist as His, and therefore continually to seek and find their life in Him, in whom it is their truest life?

The New Testament gives us every reason to draw very distinctly this line from below upwards. For rather strangely, but quite unmistakeably, it is not merely no less but much more noticeable in the New Testament than the opposite line which is original and must thus be regarded as decisive in our description of the whole relationship. It certainly receives more frequent mention. While the authors of the New Testament presuppose the being of Christ in the Christian, with no fear of injuring the supremacy of the divine initiative they do in fact look more in the opposite direction, namely, to the being of the Christian in Christ. The whole emphasis of the speech concerning the vine in Jn. 15:1f. is obviously laid on the fact that, as the branches can bear fruit only as they abide in the vine, so the disciples, if they are to be what they are fruitfully, must abide in the One who speaks to them. This is brought home in many different ways, and it is impressively repeated in the First Epistle of John (3:6,9; 4:16). For "Apart from Me ye can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5). That they are called to abide in Him presupposes that the free and responsible participation of Christians in their status is envisaged in the description of the fellowship between Christ and them. It presupposes that they are already in Him, and obviously because first and supremely He is in them and has made their being a being in Him. "I in you" (Jn.14:20), comes first, but secondly and on this basis it must also be said: "Ye in me." That Christians are in Christ, that their Christian existence is everywhere realised in the fact that it unites with His in which it has its origin, substance and norm, is the insight which in the New Testament dominates especially the thinking and language of Paul, though it also finds expression in the First Epistles of Peter and John. The statement usually has an indicative character. But we have to remember that even indicatively it speaks of the history in which the union of the Christian with Christ takes place, so that we need not be surprised that it may become the imperative so characteristic of the Johannine passages. Christians are now quite briefly described as "those in Christ Jesus, or usually even more simply as "in Christ" or "in the Lord" (Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:13; I Pet. 5:14). And they are described in this way because they are in Him (este, I Cor. 1:30, 9:1, 2; esmen, I Jn. 2:5). And they are in Him because Christ has adopted them into unity with His being (Rom. 15:7), which means that in virtue of their baptism they have put Him on like a covering garment (Gal. 3:27), and must continually do so (Rom. 13:14). This historical being in Christ is decisively determined, of course, by the fact that first and supremely God was "in Christ" reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19). It is thus determined by their election made and revealed in Christ (Eph. 1:4, 9; 3:11), by their redemption accomplished and manifested in Him (Col. 1:14), by the grace of God addressed to them and recognisable in Him (I Cor. 1:14), by His love (Rom. 8:39), by His peace (Phil. 4:7), by the eternal life of which they are assured in Him (Rom. 6:23). As they are in Christ, they acquire and have a direct share in what God first and supremely is in Him, what was done by God for the world and therefore for them in Him, and what is assigned and given to them by God in Him. But their being as thus determined by God is a concretely active being. In the one reality "in Christ", God and man do not confront each other abstractly as such. On the contrary, there is a direct and concrete confrontation of the divine and corresponding human action, the former kindling the latter and the latter kindled by it. Conscious of being a "man in Christ" (2 Cor. 12:2), Paul is very definitely activated as an apostle. He can be absolutely certain of his convictions "in him," as in respect of the distinction of meats in Rom. 14:14. He can have "in him" the joy with which he confidently makes his request of Philemon 1:8). He can be sure "in him" of speaking the truth both from God and before Him (Rom. 9:1, 2 Cor. 2:17). "In him," too, he can be quietly confident in respect of His communities (2 Thess. 3:4, Gal. 5:10) and thank God that He always causes him to triumph in Christ and to spread abroad the savour of His knowledge (2 Cor. 2:14). Nor does Paul ascribe here to himself anything that he does not also basically ascribe both indicatively and imperatively to all Christians and to the whole community. "In him" he makes his boast in respect of them (I Cor. 15:31). Has not he Paul as an apostle begotten them again in Christ Jesus through the Gospel (I Cor. 4:15)? Called "in Christ," are not all Christians "in him" saints (Col. 1:2) and believers (Col. 1:4, Eph. 1:15), hoping "in him" (I Cor. 15:19) and "in him" called to obedience in their own particular situation (Eph. 6:1f.)? "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord who is the Spirit," without whom it would be impossible (2 Cor. 3:18f.). Hence Paul can see in one or another his fellow-labourer (Rom. 16:3) or fellow-servant (Col. 4:7) " in Christ," and in Epaphras his fellow-prisoner "in him " (Philem. 23). They are all light "in the Lord" (Eph. 5:8). They can and should all glory "in the Lord" (I Cor. 1:31, 2 Cor. 10:17; Phil. 1:26). They can and should all rejoice "in the Lord" (Phil. 3:1, 4:4, 10). The apostle greets them "in him" in his letters (I Cor. 16:19, Phil. 4:21). And "in him" he also admonishes them, here too presupposing that they are "in him," that as Christians they are within and not without, so that they have only to be told to continue to walk "in him" (Col. 2:6, I Pet. 3:16) and to be reminded of the mind which is self-evident "in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5) and of that which is "fit in the Lord" (Col. 3:18). To what can those who are in Him be meaningfully admonished, invited and summoned but ­ in a rather different expression ­ to stand as who and what they are (I Thess. 3:8; Phil. 4:1)? In relation to the historical character of this being of theirs, however, it is indeed meaningful to admonish, invite and summon them to do this. How could they be what they are in Christ if they did not continually become it?

This is not by any means a full list of the New Testament references to "being in Christ". To give such a list it would be necessary not only to mention and co-ordinate many others, but also to introduce a series which we have left aside, namely, the passages which, without any basic alteration of meaning, substitute "through Christ" or "in the name of Christ" for "in Christ". But we have certainly adduced sufficient to show what powerful witness there is in the New Testament to the union of the Christian with Christ which is our present concern.

It is perhaps relevant to our purpose to add a brief linguistic enquiry into what has been said both materially and in the biblical discussions concerning the two aspects of this union, i.e., that of Christ with the Christian and that of the Christian with Christ. What is meant by the word "in" when we say that Christ is in the Christian and the Christian in Him? Is this a mode of expression which demands demythologisation because of its evident localising? We may confidently reply that the word certainly has in all seriousness a local signification. If, in the fellowship between Christ and the Christian and the Christian and Christ, it must be maintained ­ for this is the limit beyond which there can be nothing more to demythologise ­ that we have an encounter in time between two personal partners who do not lose but keep their identity and particularity in this encounter, then the "in" must indeed indicate on both sides that the spatial distance between Christ and the Christian disappears, that Christ is spatially present where Christians are, and that Christians are spatially present where Christ is, and not merely alongside but in exactly the same spot. Hence we say that Christ is in Christians and they in Him. Yet while this is true, it has surely become obvious both in our material presentation and in our survey of the biblical evidence that in this context the word "in" transcends even though it also includes its local signification.

The first statement, namely, that Christ is in the Christian, has the further meaning that Christ speaks, acts and rules ­ and this is the grace of His calling of this man ­ as the Lord of his thinking, speech and action. He takes possession of his free human heart. He rules and controls in the obedience of his free reason (2 Cor. 10:5). As a divine person it is very possible for Him to do this in the unrestricted sovereignty proper to Himself and yet in such a way that there can be no question whatever of any competition between His person and that of the Christian, whether in the attempt of the latter to control His person, or conversely in its suppression or extinction by His person. It is very possible for Him to do it in such a way that the human person of the Christian is validated and honoured in full and genuine freedom, in the freedom of the obedient children of God. That Christ is in the Christian means, then, that as the Mediator between God and man He does not exist merely for Himself and to that extent concentrically, but that in His prophetic work, in the calling of His disciples and Christians, with no self-surrender but in supreme expression of Himself, He also exists eccentrically, i.e., in and with the realisation of the existence of these men, as the ruling principle of the history lived by them in their own freedom.

The second statement, namely, that the Christian is in Christ, has not only the local but also the higher meaning that his own thinking, speech and action has its ruling and determinative principle ­ and herein it is the work of his gratitude corresponding to grace ­ in the speech, action and rule of Christ. His free human heart and reason and acts are orientated on Him, i.e., on agreement with His being and action. In the power of the Word of God which calls him, and therefore in the power of the Holy Spirit, this orientation is his only possibility, already in process of realisation. Again, there is no rivalry between the human person and the divine. There is thus no danger that the former will be overwhelmed by the latter. There is no danger that it will necessarily be destroyed by it and perish. Rather, the human person, experiencing the power of the divine, and unreservedly subject to it, will necessarily recognise and honour it again and again in its sovereignty, finding itself established as a human person and set in truly human and the freest possible movement in orientation on it. That the Christian is in Christ means mutatis mutandis for him, too, that as one who is called by the one Mediator between God and man in the exercise of His prophetic office he cannot exist for himself and to that extent concentrically, but that, without detriment to his humanity, awakened rather to genuine humanity, he also exists eccentrically, in and with the realisation of his own existence, being received and adopted as an integral element in the life and history of Christ.

This, then, is the Christian's unio cum Christo. We recall that in this high view and doctrine we are not presenting a climax of Christian experience and development in face of which the anxious question might well be raised whether we have reached the point, or will ever do so, where in respect of our own Christianity we can sincerely say: "Christ in me, and I in Christ." On the contrary, we are presenting the last and most exact formulation of what makes us Christians whatever our development or experience. We have seen that Paul particularly in the New Testament does not think of restricting his insight in this regard to himself and a few other Christians of higher rank, but that as he speaks of himself he also speaks of the generality of Christians, not excluding the very doubtful Christians of Galatia and Corinth and not excluding the doubtful nature of their Christianity. If, as we have attempted in concentric circles, we think through what it means that the goal of vocation, and therefore of Christianity as divine sonship, is always attachment to Christ, coordination and fellowship with Him, discipleship, appropriation to Him with the corresponding expropriation, life of and by the Holy Spirit, then we are infallibly led at last to the point which we have now reached and described, namely, that a man becomes and is a Christian as he unites himself with Christ and Christ with him. And we remember that from the purely material standpoint this is the starting-point for everything else which is to be thought and said concerning what makes the Christian a Christian.

From: Church Dogmatics; Vol. IV, Part 3.2, "The Doctrine of Reconciliation." Edinburgh: T & T Clark. 1988. pgs 538-549.

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