“that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:19‬ ‭

This translation doesn’t even place God inside Christ but that God was doing the work through Christ.

Nonetheless in what sense is God in Christ to be understood?

Some variation

  • God was in Christ the person? Matthew 1:16
  • God was in a body called Christ?
  • God was in Christ who had a body? Romans 7:4
  • God was in the title Christ? John 10:24,30
  • God was in the mission of the Christ?
  • I’m not looking for an echo chamber. I’m just trying to figure out who exactly constituted Christ and in what way God was IN Him @Xeno Aug 24 '21 at 2:51
  • Chrysostom's commentary can be found here.
    – Lucian
    Aug 24 '21 at 16:20

The Greek of 2 Cor 5:19 might be rendered:

that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ

Note that "Christ" here is dative. The above rendering (or a slight variant) is that adopted by NIV, ESV, BSB, CSB, HCSB, etc. The next trick is to interpret the "ev" preposition.

According to BDAG, "en" in the Greek has at least 12 distinct meanings and many more sub-meanings. The one I believe is appropriate here is the the meaning associated with the instrumental or means to achieve something (#5). Thus, we might translate the verse as:

God was reconciling the world to Himself [en = by means of] Christ.

If this is true, it makes obvious sense and is perfectly compatible with the semantics involved. This is clearly the sense that is implied in the above translations. This also avoids the problem of deciding what "God in Christ" means as it is not the intended meaning.

Note the comments of Ellicott:

(19) To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world.—Better, perhaps, How that it was God who was reconciling in Christ a world unto Himself. Both “God” and “world” are, in the Greek, without the article. The English rendering is tenable grammatically, but the position of the words in the original suggests the construction given above. He seems to emphasise the greatness of the redeeming work by pointing at once to its author and its extent.

Barnes is similar:

That God was in Christ - That God was by Christ (ἐν Χριστῷ en Christō), by means of Christ; by the agency, or mediatorship of Christ. Or it may mean that God was united to Christ, and manifested himself by him. So Doddridge interprets it. Christ was the mediator by means of whom God designed to accomplish the great work of reconciliation.

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary also has

  1. God was in Christ, reconciling—that is, God was BY Christ (in virtue of Christ's intervention) reconciling," &c. Was reconciling" implies the time when the act of reconciliation was being carried into effect (2Co 5:21), namely, when "God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for us."

The Cambridge commentary reaches a similar conclusion.

  • +1 Exactly. Not the text for asking this question.
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 24 '21 at 12:50
  • I object not to this interpretation. It is however unlike how I’m seeing it being interpreted in other questions on this stack. I’ll await to see if they are willing to put forth their argument. Thank you Dottard. Aug 25 '21 at 1:33

that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s trespasses against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. ‭‭2 Cor‬ ‭5:19‬ ‭BSB

that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not reckoning their trespasses to them, and having put into us the word of reconciliation. BLB

What DO we know?

  • God was reconciling the world to Himself.
  • we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son Rom 5:10
  • All this is from God, who through Christ, reconciled us to Himself.

So God is the one reconciling, and it is through Christ - through his death.

The question was asked, In what sense was God in Christ?

Christ, Jesus, was doing things God could not do - like die. God needed a Lamb to offer for the sins of the world. His son, Jesus, was willing, but he could not do it alone.

Jesus stated that he could nothing of himself^. Clearly this needs to be clarified. He could do anything any other man could do, like lie, steal, murder. So what is it that he could only do with his Father's help?

God was always IN Christ via His spirit, holy at birth, given the spirit at baptism, and being 'heavenly' he was uncorrupted by sin and did not desire to sin, doing right and good was his default. However he still had his own will and this differed from his Father's will - noted in a few verses for our instruction. It was this difference that evil sought to exploit through persistent and extreme temptation.

So Jesus needed the Father's continual presence within him to avoid falling for any temptation - always, eventually, aligning his will with the Father's - not by a simple arbitrary decision, but in every need, he prayed for God's provision. His foe was spiritual and he needed the highest power in him to overcome the power of the world. Just as we do-

You, little children, are from God and have overcome them, because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 1John 4:4

So, we could understand the verse as -

God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself

or as the BSB has the focus already on what God is doing.

God was reconciling the world to Himself, in Christ

The verse in focus is not really about "God in Christ". It is firstly about what God is doing and then, who through.

This is no different to what we read of the logos. God created - through the logos. The logos does nothing on its own, just as Jesus does nothing on his own. God was IN both expressions of Himself.

God was IN Christ in every conceivable way - Jesus is God's logos! And Jesus, the human logos, allowed God to accomplish in him what could be done no other way. The fullness of God did indeed dwell in him.

[The noted ESV even has an appropriate comma missing. "that is, in Christ(,) God was reconciling the world to himself". I've no concept of what they mean by 'Christ God' - it is an unnecessary distraction.]

^ John 5:19, 30, 8:28


I suggest that the sense is gleaned by starting at verse 17, going through to verse 21, and considering the four times "in" is used.

Vs. 17 - Therefore if any man be in Christ....

Vs. 19 - God was in Christ...

Vs. 20 - We pray [you] in Christ's stead...

Vs. 21 - We might be made the righteousness of God in him [Christ].

The context is that those who become new creatures in Christ are given the ministry of reconciliation, speaking in Christ's stead (for he has returned to heaven), and through this ministry God reconciles the world to himself.

So, which people become "new creatures in Christ"? Those in whom the Spirit of Christ dwells - Romans 8:1-16 & 2 Cor. 13:5 (Christians are 'in the faith' IF Christ is IN them.)

So, was God IN Christ in that same sense, or was God doing something through Christ? Or, could both senses equally apply? I would suggest both apply and that it is a dire mistake to opt for one, or the other.

So, is representing Christ and speaking in his stead equal to saying God is beseeching people through these ambassadors? That's what the verse states. To speak for Christ is to speak for God. And when Christ spoke, he supremely spoke for God "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9).

So, is Christ being made sin for us the proof that God is in Christ? Again, that's what the verse states and, putting all those verses together, it seems to show a closeness that is beyond anything mere mortals are capable of either having or even understanding - until they are found to be "in Christ" as per. verse 17. Then they may begin to grasp the awesome nature of the relationship between Father and Son.


The Bible explains the sense of this in terms of "possession."

The Messianic prophecy of Proverbs 8 has this:

The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. (Proverbs 8:22, KJV)

During Jesus' earthly ministry many people were possessed of evil spirits, in place of being possessed by God's Spirit. We see a picture of what it means to be "possessed" through their example. Those who were demon-possessed would be controlled by that demon. Their words, their actions, their bodies were all subject to the demons' will.

Apart from having placed themselves where Satan could take advantage of them through some sin in their lives, the demons would possess someone against his or her will. But Christ voluntarily placed himself in subjection to the Father. He submitted to the Father's will, and obeyed His dictates.

Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. (John 14:10, KJV)

He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. (John 14:24, KJV)

Jesus even tells us that his words and works were not his own, but those of the Father. In the person of Christ were two natures: The Father's own divine nature, and Jesus' human nature. The exact manner in which these two natures were combined is a mystery which is not revealed to us and which should not occupy our minds. But the identity of those two natures is clear: one was divine (deity) and one was human (humanity).

Hebrews 10:5 describes Jesus' person as consisting of a human body prepared for the indwelling of the divine nature.

Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: (Hebrews 10:5, KJV)

Most of the confusion on this question centers on the fact that there were two separate and distinct natures in Christ. Some scriptures seem to address one nature, some the other, and there is always a question of whether one is addressing divinity or humanity with Christ. But, so as not to confuse us, the Scriptures consistently refer to Jesus as the son of God, rather than as God Himself. That should be clear enough to most of us, for we know that one's son is not the same as his father. If the father is "God" and the son is "the son of God," then the son is not "God"--for that is the Father. But that the Father was dwelling among men through the person of the Son is the clear teaching of the Bible.

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Matthew 1:23, KJV)

  • Stop arguing in the comments! Comments are for requesting clarification (you can include requests for more in-depth justification of claims in this), or pointing out factual errors. I don't want to see comments asserting other doctrines. If you think an answer is making stuff up just down vote it.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 24 '21 at 3:28

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