The Scriptures teach that Christians belong to Christ. He owns those whom he has bought with his own blood, and those who have believed in him are at home in His eternal family.
This reality is expressed in various ways throughout the New Testament, but one of the simplest and most comforting ways the Spirit describes Christ’s possession of His people is with the Greek words “those of Christ.” This phrase (and those like it) can be translated “those who belong to Christ” (cf. Gal 5:24). For grammar nerds, this is a Genitive construction which is often used to express a relationship of possession. For those uninterested in the nuances of ancient languages, the words remind us that we belong to Christ, that we are of Christ, and that Christ has laid claim to our total existence.
This theological fact that believers belong to Christ is one of the greatest privileges and deepest comforts that we possess. But what exactly does it mean that we belong to Christ? A look at the passages in the NT that express our “belonging to Christ” in various ways provides us with an understanding of what it means to be in the possession of the Messiah.
- Belonging to Christ means you were called by the free grace of God: “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:5–6, ESV).
- Belonging to Christ means that you are an heir in God’s kingdom according the free grace of God’s promise: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal 3:29, ESV).
- Belonging to Christ means that you are at the disposal of Christ in both life and death: “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom 14:8, ESV
- Belonging to Christ means that the Holy Spirit, not the flesh, is now the primary influence in your life: “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Rom 8:9, ESV).
- Belonging to Christ means that you were meant to bear spiritual fruit: “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God” (Rom 7:4, ESV).
- Belonging to Christ means that He will provide for you and He cares about your daily needs: “But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward’” (Mark 9:39–41, ESV).
- Belonging to Christ means that your soul will never be lost to hell: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:39–40, ESV).
- Belonging to Christ means that you will one day be resurrected with Christ: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor 15:22–23, ESV).
- All of these realities are true because, belonging to Christ means that you have been crucified with Christ: “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24, ESV).
When we belong to Christ through faith, we are identified with His substitutionary work, which means that His crucifixion becomes ours for the purpose of salvation and its benefits. Thus, to belong to Christ is to die with Christ; and to die with Christ is to die to the penalty and power of sin; and to die to the penalty of power of sin means we have the freedom to fellowship with and follow God. In other words, we are free because we belong to Christ.
With all this in mind, it is no wonder that the Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563, begins by reminding catechumens of the importance of belonging to Christ:
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong— body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
Paul Shirley is a graduate of The Expositors Seminary and has served as the pastor of Grace Community Church in Wilmington, Delaware since 2011.