Throwback Thursday: Yes, I am “in Christ.” No, you’re not. Yes, I AM! No, you’re NOT!

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on September 30, 2016 and has been revised.


Last night, I was reviewing some discussions I had with a couple of Roman Catholics back when I first began this blog. The dialogue reached a point where the Catholics claimed to be “in Christ” just as much as I claimed to be “in Christ.” I was a Catholic for twenty-seven years; educated in a Catholic grammar and high school, and I’ve learned even more about Catholicism since I left that church and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior in 1983. I’m fully aware that Catholic parlance is filled with references to “Jesus the Savior,” “faith,” “grace,” and the like, but when Catholics use such terms, they mean something entirely different than what evangelicals understand.

In my exchanges with the Catholics about being “in Christ,” I said the term referred to a believer’s position before a Holy God; covered in Christ’s righteousness. I have no righteousness of my own. When I accepted Jesus as my Savior, His perfect righteousness was imputed to me. In Holy God’s perfect court of law, I stand completely condemned by my sin, but my Savior took my place and bore the penalty for my sin on the cross. I am washed and redeemed by His blood and I’m able to go free ONLY because of His righteousness.

In contrast, Rome teaches that God’s grace is infused into the Catholic through its sacraments, empowering them to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and live an increasingly sanctified life, enabling them to merit Heaven. So a Catholic faithful to their church’s teachings cannot rightly say they are “in Christ,” because their salvation ultimately depends upon how well they obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) right up until the moment of their death. Positionally before God, they are NOT “in Christ,” they are “outside of Christ” and still in their sins because they are attempting to merit their own salvation rather than accepting Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone.

My Catholics friends were quite taken aback that I would dare to suggest that they were not “in Christ.” Who was I to tell them that? Was I making myself out to be God Almighty by deciding who was going to Heaven and who wasn’t? How rude! How narrow-minded and judgmental!

But God’s Word says there is only one Way to salvation, and that’s Jesus Christ. Christ is either your Savior or He is not. It’s not enough to call Christ your Savior, you must be trusting in Him by faith alone. If you tell me that salvation is merited by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) through sacramental grace, as Catholicism teaches, then I can tell you with absolute confidence that Jesus is not your Savior and you are not “in Christ.”

To illustrate, let’s suppose you’re a passenger on a sinking cruise ship, and I show up in my rescue boat and beg you to get in. Praising and admiring the rescue boat for its wonderful qualities won’t save you. You have to abandon your ship and get into the rescue boat. You have to be in the rescue boat for the boat to save you. Likewise, gushing about “Jesus the Savior,” “faith,” and “grace” won’t save you when you’re still trying to merit your salvation by your own efforts. You’re not “in Christ,” you’re denying Christ and trusting in your own abilities and “goodness.”

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

In today’s climate of plurality, tolerance, and relativism, theological debates such as the one above are viewed as unseemly and repugnant and are to be avoided at all costs. The only requirement, according to Rick Warren and friends, is that we all nebulously “just love Jesus.” That’s a sinking ship, friends.

What does it mean to be in Christ?

25 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Yes, I am “in Christ.” No, you’re not. Yes, I AM! No, you’re NOT!

  1. This is an incredibly doctrinally sound post, Tom, as salvation is clearly laid out. If those we talk to can’t accept this sheer truth, that is their confession (unbeknownst to them) that they are not saved. May God open up the blind eyes of unbelievers to hear and accept such glorious truth!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, David. Many churches are moving away from clear doctrine, so if everybody “just loves Jesus,” that’s increasingly accepted as “good enough.” That doesn’t help the pseudo-Christian lost.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey, you never know! Over the years I’ve written many posts that attempted to explain the difference between the genuine Gospel and the Catholic false gospel without using a lot of heavy theological terminology as an outreach to Catholics, but also to educate evangelicals because many are being told from evangelical pulpits that Catholicism is “close enough.”

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  2. I was thinking about how often Catholics make it as its Evangelicals who are narrow minded; I was thinking of how Roman Catholicism with Concil of Trent is the one that condemns Protestants; so its not one way. Yet at the root of the issue is we must be biblical and uncomrpomising with the truth of the Gospel of how we are saved, which is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yeah, Catholic apologists like to point out that they are the magnanimous ones by granting that evangelicals are also Christians. Yup, the RCC has certainly changed its view on ecumenism since Trent although it officially does not disavow Trent. But either way, as you mention, no genuine Gospel in the RCC.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, SB. I see Armstrong was stumped by your very valid point re: RC-ism’s acknowledgement that Islam worships the same god.


      1. A friend of mine, who is an ex-Romanist but one Christian, and a part time apologist, debated Trent Horn recently. We were prepping together on this very issue and when he brought it up in his debate, Trent Horn was stumped too. I’ve talked to Priests before about this issue and they just seem to want to avoid it. 😉

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      2. I just finished a book by a traditionalist Catholic apologist who bemoans the RCC’s turn from militancy to ecumenism and interreligious dialogue at Vatican II. Most conservative Catholic apologists aren’t willing to concede V2 was a mistake.


      3. Dave Armstrong is really nasty though. Nothing of substance from him but ad hominems and boasts about his “50 books” and “4000 articles”.

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  3. What a great post and a great illustration, Tom! Praise God! It is a very difficult topic, as you know, because fundamentally whether or not someone is truly saved is something that can only be witnessed to from external indications (from our human vantage point), and I’m inclined to believe that everyone who is born into Christ’s kingdom starts out with a flawed theological understanding that in no way nulifies their salvation.

    That said, the Lord is faithful to lead His chosen out of error and into truth over time, in ways that are wiser than ours, so I always struggle when debates turn “personal” instead of focusing on the teachings and doctrines themselves. I’m glad when I hear of folks like yourself who don’t shy away from emphasizing the truths of the gospel and refuting error. You may be the instrument the Lord uses to lead His own out of error and into truth.

    You know, the argument you described above brought to mind the argument between Jesus and the Pharisees where Jesus concluded by saying “because you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Craig! It’s challenging to write posts that clearly differentiate between the genuine Gospel and RC-ism’s gospel without getting bogged down in theological academes. When people read theological terms, their eyes tend to glaze over (mine included). Praise God the Good News is so simple even children can understand! Thank you for the encouragement and support!

      Liked by 1 person

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