The Christian life is defined by the believer’s identification with Jesus Christ. It is not enough to know that Jesus died for us; we must also understand that we died with Him. Because we died and were raised with Him, the power of sin over us is broken. “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God,” explains the apostle Paul in Colossians 3:3.
We are “hidden with Christ in God” through the work of the Holy Spirit, who baptizes all believers into one body—the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12–13). At salvation, we essentially step into Christ. Our history becomes one with Christ’s history; therefore, we have died with Christ to sin. This truth is the basis for Paul’s teaching in Romans 6. Believers are hidden with Christ in His death, or, as Paul writes, “buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:4–7).
When we followed Christ in baptism, we showed that our previous way of life was put to death, buried out of sight—hidden with Christ in God. At the moment we were saved, sin lost its dominion over us (see Romans 6:9, 14). We are no longer obligated to submit to the control of our old sin nature. Now, we are both dead and alive all at once—dead to sin and alive to Christ. We are free to live a brand-new life in Christ (Galatians 5:1, 13; John 8:32).
The Christian life is Christ’s life. Real life for the believer is not about Jesus Christ; it is Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:4). He imparts God’s resurrection life to us. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25–26). Jesus is the source and center around which our Christian lives are oriented.
Being hidden with Christ in God means our previous history—the old life—is over and done, and the new life with an entirely different and glorious future has begun. Paul said, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, NLT). Our new future involves sharing in Christ’s glory (Colossians 3:4; Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2).
When God the Father looks at us, He no longer sees the old sinful self. The old you is now hidden with Christ in God. The Father ceases to count your sins against you because of your identification with the death and resurrection of His Son. In the eyes of God, you are changed into a new creation in Christ’s image and likeness (2 Corinthians 5:17), yet at the same time still being transformed (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:22–24; 1 Corinthians 15:42–49).
Believers immediately experience life in Christ but will fully experience its reality at His future unveiling (1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2). There is a balance between what has already happened and what is yet to come. This truth is proven in Paul’s exhortation: “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. . . . You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us” (Colossians 3:5–11, NLT).
The idea of being “hidden” with Christ in God also relates to the believer’s eternal security. Scripture often portrays God’s people as securely hidden in the “shelter of His presence,” concealed under “the cover of His tent” or “in His quiver” (Psalm 27:5–6; 31:19–20; Isaiah 49:2).
The spiritual life of a believer in God’s kingdom is, in a very real sense, a secret life (Matthew 13:11; Mark 4:11; Ephesians 1:9–10; 3:9; 1 Corinthians 2:7). Until we die (or until the Lord comes again in glory), the fullness of our inner life in Christ is hidden from the world’s view and sometimes even from us (1 Corinthians 15:51–53). But in the future God’s righteous redeemed will “shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43). Then, on that glorious, long-awaited day, those hidden with Christ in God will be given “the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award” to “to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).