My apologies for a lengthy post. I started writing and couldn’t stop.
Don’t waste your time comparing biblical Christianity to other faiths. You might as well get out a hammer and pound square pegs into round holes.
The Christian is “In Christ” and other faiths are not. By the term Christian, I mean not the person born in a “christian” family, but one who is truly born anew, that is to say he or she has a new life in Jesus Christ, the King and Lord.
There are many differences between Christianity and the other beliefs. On the other hand, there is enough similarity to cause religious confusion.
True Christianity is the resurrected life of the Lord Jesus Christ indwelling the believer. Other faiths, such as Islam and sub-christian cults, imitate certain aspects of Christianity, borrowing our religious terms and certain concepts from the Holy Bible. But these religions have altogether different ideas in regard to ultimate authority, the nature of God, and the way of salvation.
It is impossible to separate the Lord Jesus Christ from His redeemed people, and the reverse is also true. This is the essence of Christianity. Every aspect of God’s relationship to the believer is connected to an extraordinary relationship “with Jesus Christ,” our Lord and Savior. From the decrees of God in eternity past, to our fellowship with God in heaven in eternity future, and including every aspect of our relationship with God in this life – all has occurred in union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Other religions do not recognize any union with the Lord Jesus Christ in this way, and are therefore not participants in the Christian community or with our Living Lord.
Ephesians 1:4 says that God chose His people “in Christ” before the foundation of the world. It was “in Christ” that we were destined and appointed to live for the praise of His glory (vv. 1:11-12). God saved us and called us because of His own purpose and because of the grace which He gave His people “in Christ Jesus” before the beginning of time (2 Tim. 1:19). These verses indicate that God thought of His people being in a special relationship with Christ from eternity past. God did not first choose believers and later decide to relate His people to Christ. Rather, by choosing His people, He at the same time thought about Christians as belonging to Him in a special way, as being “in Christ.” Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and so on do not think of themselves as being “in Christ.” Rightly so because they are not in any such relationship, nor do they claim to be.
Throughout Christ’s entire earthly life, from the time of His birth until the time of His ascension into heaven, God thought of His people as being “in Christ.” Whatever righteous action Christ did in the earthly spheres, God counted it as being something we did too. Believers were not present “in Christ” in some mysterious, spiritual way as if, for example, the souls of all believers were somehow actually present in Christ’s earthly body during His earthly life. Rather, believers were present “in Christ” and were in God’s thoughts.
God thought of His people as going through everything Christ went through because He was, in fact, the legal representative of His people. When Jesus perfectly obeyed God for His whole life, God thought of those who belong “to Christ” as having perfectly obeyed too. By one man’s obedience many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19). It is by His doing believers are “in Christ Jesus” Who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Christians do not have a righteousness of their own derived from the law of God, but they are imputed with righteousness through faith “in the Lord Jesus Christ,” the righteousness of faith which comes from God Himself (Philippians 3:9). Because God thought of us as being “in Christ,” He also could think of our sins as belonging “to Christ.” God made the Lord Jesus Christ Who had no sin become sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). The LORD has laid upon Him (Jesus, God’s Suffering Servant) the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 2:24). The Christians’ sins were not yet carried out but God knew of them in advance, and thought of them as belonging “to Christ.” Jesus Christ came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Therefore it was the only right and expected thing to do that Christ should die for His people’s sins since He is their Head.
But it was not just the Christians’ sins that God thought of as belonging “to Christ.” It was the people of God themselves who belong to Him; they are His people for whom He gave His life, Who He thought of as belonging “to Christ.” When Christ died, God thought of Christians as having died too. The believer’s old sinful self was crucified with Jesus Christ on the cross. (Romans 6:6). The Christian, that is he or she who belongs “to Christ,” has been crucified “with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). Jesus died for all believers; therefore all believers have died with Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:14). Believers have been buried with the Lord through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of God the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life (Romans 6:4). Other religions have altogether different views of atonement, and they are false view. They are views that do not save sinners. Other faiths have a way of salvation outside of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not “in Christ.”
True believers have been buried “with Christ,” raised up “with Christ” in His resurrection, and are taken up to heaven “with Christ.” God raised His people “with Christ” and seated them “with Him” in the heavenly realms “with Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). When Christ was raised to heaven in glory all the blessings of salvation and a right relationship with God were earned for us by the Lord Jesus Christ. God thought of these blessings as belonging legally and rightfully to His people too – just as though we had earned these things ourselves.
The believer has tremendous blessing stored up in heaven waiting to be applied personally. God has caused His people to be born anew to a hope that is living and real through the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ who rose from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). Christians have an inheritance reserved in heaven, an inheritance which cannot waste away because it is protected by Almighty God Himself (v. 4-5). This promise applies only to the people who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, not to anyone else outside of Christ (John 14:6).
When those who are “in Christ” have been born and brought into this world, this special union “with Christ” can no longer be something only in God’s mind, conceptually speaking. Christians are brought into an actual and very real relationship “with Christ.” This relationship, broadly speaking called salvation, is applied to the Christian life through the power of the Holy Spirit at the time one is re-born through the Spirit of God, that is he or she is regenerated by the Spirit of God (John 3:3-8; 1 Peter 1:23).
The death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ now has real and visible effects in the lives of His people. Christians are buried in baptism “with Christ” and raised “with Christ” through a living faith, that is by the working of Almighty God Who raised Jesus from a lifeless death to a glorious resurrected life (Colossians 2:12). The Christians now lives based purely on the fact that Jesus lives (Galatians 2:20).
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful passionate desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:24). The Holy Scripture chastises immature Christians who submit themselves to vain and rudimentary and worthless religious tactics since God’s people – now reborn- possess extraordinary faculties, and are therefore instructed to live by the power of God (Colossians 2:20). Rather, God’s people are meant to live, and do live, in a newness of life wanting to serve God more and more.
We are now able to serve Him with greater power and much success as one who is “in Christ” than anyway we could outside of Him. The people of God are now alive “in Christ.” (Romans 6:11). Because we have died and rose “with Christ” we have the power to overcome personal sin in a way that was previously unavailable (Romans 6:12-14, 19). Christians have come to a fullness of life “in Christ” (Colossians 2:10). Christians have, in fact, become a new and special creation unlike any other (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Unfortunately, the people of other faiths, and all others outside of Christ, do not experience this new life in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6), but are greatly encouraged and welcomed to do so (Acts 2:14-36).