Some people can talk all day and not say much, can’t they? A verbose speaker employing overblown rhetoric reportedly once inspired a humorous observation from President Abraham Lincoln. Henry Clay Whitney was a close friend of Lincoln’s. In 1892 Whitney published “Life On the Circuit With Lincoln.” In that book Whitney related the following. “There was a small merchant in Chicago, whom (to suppress his name) I will call Blower, and who sold out his store and embraced the trade, or profession of politics. Lincoln had great contempt for him, although he gave him an office; but he said to me one day, ‘That Blower can compress the most words in the fewest ideas of any man I ever knew.’ ” Most of us know a “long-winded” person or two who has the “gift of gab” – and as a preacher I’m sure I have been guilty of compressing a lot of words into a few ideas at times. But I resemble that remark!
Let me spring from these thoughts into an observation about the Bible. In great contrast to politicians and sometimes preachers and people in general, the Bible has a way of squeezing a lot of ideas into a very few words! Let me point to one specific Bible verse and expand from there. In Romans 8:1a the apostle Paul declares, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Some translations leave off part of this verse, but the New King James and King James translations add, “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” We don’t have space to dig deeply into all these words. Let us focus on the opening clause – “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” The first word, “Therefore,” jerks our attention back into chapter 7 where, in the last few verses, Paul makes clear he was lost apart from the saving work and initiative and ongoing influence of Jesus Christ in his life. Sin had done him in – so much so it caused him to cry out at 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Then in verse 25 he answers his own question – “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! There is a way out of sin – a living way! His name is Jesus Christ!
It is in that context we hear Paul boldly and confidently proclaiming the good news we hear in Romans 8:1a – “There is now no condemnation.” But note it – the spiritual standing of not being condemned is not for every person. Rather it is for a very specific and well-defined group of people – those Paul classifies as “in Christ Jesus”! Talk about a lot of ideas – very big ideas – compressed into a few words! Those three words “in Christ Jesus” and their equivalents “in the Lord,” “in Jesus Christ,” “in the Lord,” occur in a plethora of passages in the New Testament! And the little-bitty, two-letter word “in” represents a profound spiritual concept that is beyond the total grasp or mere human logic and reasoning power! Ephesians 1:3 states that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.” Revelation 14:13 states that even those who “die in the Lord” are blessed! In stark contrast to the multiple spiritual blessings “in Christ” is another spiritual condition described in Ephesians 2:1 as being “dead in trespasses and sins.” This is the antithesis of being “in Christ.” Each of us is either “in Christ” or has “no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Only two verses in the New Testament tell us how to get out of sin and into Christ. Romans 6:3 and Galatians 3:27 declare unambiguously we are “baptized into Christ.” A lot of truth compressed into a few words – “in Christ.” Are you “in Christ?”