Three things to know about union with Christ

Timothy W. Massaro: The phrase, “union with Christ,” has enjoyed a recent resurgence of interest. This important element of Scripture was something that I only came to understand in part within the last ten years of being a Christian. Until recently, it never really struck me how important this doctrine was for my whole outlook on Christianity, and especially how we as Christians relate to Jesus. Union with Christ represents the sum of our salvation, fellowship, and communion with Jesus. From the early days of creation, the goal that God had in mind was ever-deepening fellowship with his people. This communion is emphasized over and over again in the New Testament as what we now have through God’s Son. The Bible points to our union with Christ with the prepositional phrase “in Christ” (Eph. 1:4; 11; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 5, 6:1–23; 1 Cor. 15:35–58). Through the Holy Spirit who gives us faith, we are united to Christ like branches

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What Does It Mean to Be One with Christ?

Tony Reinke: The Christian’s “union with Christ” is the mysterious dark matter of the spiritual cosmos, so to speak. It is a kind of glue that holds us together with the constellation of salvation and sanctification and glorification in Christ. And it is very hard to describe and explain. How, then, can we talk about it? Is such a mystery too deep for words? Where do we begin — and where should we stop? And in our search to explain this new bond to Christ, can we use the language of mysticism? How much of our union with Christ is legal and positional, and how much of it is felt? With these important questions brewing, I called Sinclair Ferguson, author of the new book Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification. He has been talking about union with Christ for a long time and is as good a teacher as any on this vital subject. 1: Is union with Christ objective

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3 Things to Know about Union with Christ

Timothy W. Massaro: The phrase, “union with Christ,” has enjoyed a recent resurgence of interest. This important element of Scripture was something that I only came to understand in part within the last ten years of being a Christian. Until recently, it never really struck me how important this doctrine was for my whole outlook on Christianity, and especially how we as Christians relate to Jesus. Union with Christ represents the sum of our salvation, fellowship, and communion with Jesus. From the early days of creation, the goal that God had in mind was ever-deepening fellowship with his people. This communion is emphasized over and over again in the New Testament as what we now have through God’s Son. The Bible points to our union with Christ with the prepositional phrase “in Christ” (Eph. 1:4; 11; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 5, 6:1–23; 1 Cor. 15:35–58). Through the Holy Spirit who gives us faith, we are united to Christ like branches

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Radical, Ordinary, and United

Tony Reinke: One of the very best books of 2016 is a much needed new book on union with Christ, written by pastor Rankin Wilbourne. It’s titled, Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God (David C. Cook). Tim Keller calls it “simply the best book” for lay readers on the topic. I agree. Here’s one excerpt. The call to be radical can make you exhausted, but the call to be ordinary can make you apathetic. No one wants to pit these songs against each other, but how do we hold them together? Balance may not be the best word because it might suggest a 50/50 split; what we need is 100 percent of both. How can we hear both of these songs without compromising either? How can we sing both of these melodies full volume, in harmony, so that the resulting song is not a cacophony of competing strains, but a rich symphony? This became my overriding

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10 Things You Should Know about Union with Christ

  Marcus Johnson: 1. The Bible contains an astonishing number of terms, expressions and images that bear witness to the reality of our being made one with Christ Jesus. In the Newer Testament we find literally hundreds of references to the believer’s union with Christ. To cite merely a few examples, believers are created in Christ (Eph. 2:10), crucified with him (Gal. 2:20), buried with him (Col. 2:12), baptized into Christ and his death (Rom. 6:3), united with him in his resurrection (Rom. 6:5), and seated with him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6); Christ is formed in believers (Gal. 4:19) and dwells in our hearts (Eph. 3:17); the church is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 6:15; 12:27); Christ is in us (2 Cor. 13:5) and we are in him (1 Cor. 1:30); the church is one flesh with Christ (Eph. 5:31–32); believers gain Christ and are found in him (Phil. 3:8–9). Furthermore, in Christ we are justified (Rom.

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What Does it Mean to Abide in Christ?

Sinclair Ferguson: The exhortation to “abide” has been frequently misunderstood, as though it were a special, mystical, and indefinable experience. But Jesus makes clear that it actually involves a number of concrete realities. First, union with our Lord depends on His grace. Of course we are actively and personally united to Christ by faith (John 14:12). But faith itself is rooted in the activity of God. It is the Father who, as the divine Gardener, has grafted us into Christ. It is Christ, by His Word, who has cleansed us to fit us for union with Himself (15:3). All is sovereign, all is of grace. Second, union with Christ means being obedient to Him. Abiding involves our response to the teaching of Jesus: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you …” (John 15:7a). Paul echoes this idea in Colossians 3:16, where he writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” a statement closely related to his

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Our union with Christ is Trinitarian

To say that our union with Christ is Trinitarian means that by virtue of being incorporated into the life of Jesus Christ, we participate in the life, love, and fellowship of the Trinity. Because the Son is is one with the Father, our being joined to the Son means we are joined to the Father. And because the Spirit exists as the bond of communion between the Father and the Son, he brings us into that communion by uniting us to Christ. This staggering biblical revelation forms the personal foundation for all the benefits that constitute our salvation. Marcus Peter Johnson, One with Christ: An Evangelical Theology of Salvation, (Weaton, Ill: Crossway, 2013), p. 42

What would it mean if a child of God were finally and forever lost?

Sam Storms: Have you paused to consider what would be true were it possible for one of God’s blood-bought children to fall fully and finally from saving grace? Often I hear people casually speak of “losing” their salvation. But there would be far more involved were it possible for a justified-by-faith-alone-in-Jesus-alone believer to suffer eternal damnation. I was awakened to this yet again on reading Marcus Johnson’s excellent book, One with Christ: An Evangelical Theology of Salvation (Crossway). Here is how Johnson put it: “When God joins us to Christ through faith, he is making real in our temporal lives what he has already decreed in his eternal will and accomplished in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of his Son. To be severed from the Son would require that the Father rescind what he has already decreed and accomplished. Every benefit that we have received from being united to Christ would have to be undone. Having already justified us

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Union preserved through faith alone

Our only hope for living the radical demands of the Christian life is that God is totally for us now and forever. Therefore, God has not ordained that living the Christian life should be the basis of our hope that God is for us. That basis is the death and righteousness of Christ, counted as ours through faith alone. On the cross Christ endured for us all the punishment required of us because of our sin. And in order that God, as our Father, might be completely for us and not against us forever, Christ has performed for us, in his perfect obedience to God, all that God required of us as the ground of his being totally for us forever. This punishment and this obedience are completed and past. They can never change. Our union with Christ and the enjoyment of these benefits is secure forever. Through faith alone, God establishes our union with Christ. This union will never

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Which is better: Justification or Sanctification?

. . Mark Jones: . Why do we love justification and sanctification? And do we love one more than the other? . If you’ve ever been in a position where you think you might die, your theology really begins to matter, and you learn a great deal about yourself and what you believe. . A legalistic type of Christian probably needs to be confronted with the reality that he or she will die. When that reality hits, Christ’s righteousness and God’s mercy are no longer just doctrines to live by, but truths to die by. That is why justification by faith alone is a doctrine worth dying for: people need to die believing that truth. . The Puritan (ahem), Anthony Burgess, while vigorously opposing antinomianism, nevertheless suggested that the doctrine of justification, unlike any other, inclines God’s people to increased humility and self-emptiness, “for by this we are taught even in the highest degree of our sanctification, to look out

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Obedience flows out of union with Christ

  Doing what Jesus did is different from bearing the fruit of Christ’s righteous life. In fact, the most important things that Jesus did cannot be duplicated. Because he fulfilled the law in our place, bore our curse, and was raised in glory to take his throne at the Father’s right hand, we can have a relationship with him-and with the Father-that is far more intimate than the relationship of a devotee to a guru, a student to a teacher, or a follower to a master. Following Christ is the consequence, not the alternative to or even means of union with Christ. Even when Scripture calls us to follow Christ’s example, the relationship between master and pupil is asymmetrical. — Michael Horton “What’s Wrong and Right About The Imitation of Christ” (HT: Of First Importance)

Every Spiritual Blessing in Christ

  By God’s grace, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, believers are assured of “every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph 1:3). We are justified; that is, we receive here and now advance declaration by God of the verdict of his court on the day of judgment, that we are included among those whom we will declare righteous on account of our faith in Jesus and his obedience unto death. We are saved; that is, we are delivered from the wrath to come, rescued from the anger of God against all wickedness and rebellion. We are reconciled; that is, the enmity between us and God has been removed, because God himself bore our sins in the person of his own Son on the cross. We are forgiven; that is, God chooses to “carry” (the Hebrew word usually translated “forgive”) our sins, rather than repay them to us, because they have been “carried” by Jesus on the cross. They will never be held against us.

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One With Christ

  Selected quotes from One With Christ, by Marcus Johnson, compiled by Stephen Weaver: “To be saved by Christ…means to be included in the person of Christ. That is what salvation is” (12) The mysterious reality of our union with Jesus Christ, by which he dwells in us and we in him, is so utterly essential to the gospel that to obscure it inevitably leads to an obscuring of the gospel itself.” (16) “For Paul, our intimate union with Christ has both legal and transformative benefits. We are both justified and sanctified ‘in Christ Jesus’ in a way that answers both our guilt and pollution in Adam.” (73) “The theo-logic of the Reformation confession sola fide is not that faith itself is saving, but that faith joins us to Jesus Christ, who is our salvation. Thus, strictly speaking, we are not saved because we believe, but because we are united to Christ through faith.” (99) “…by virtue of our union with Jesus Christ,

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Spiritual life flows out of union with Christ

  “Spiritual life flows out of union with Christ, not merely imitation of Christ. When the full dimensions of God’s gracious provision in Christ are not clearly articulated in the church, faith cannot apprehend them, and the life of the church will suffer distortion and attenuation. The individual Christian and the church as a whole are alive in Christ, and when any essential dimensions of what it means to be in Christ are obscured in the church’s understanding there is no guarantee that the people of God will strive toward and experience fullness of life.” Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p. 74 (HT: Brian Hedges)

Union with Christ changes everything

“Faith . . . unites the soul with Christ, as a bride is united with her bridegroom. From such a marriage, as St. Paul says, it follows that Christ and the soul become one body, so that they hold all things in common, whether for better or worse. This means that what Christ possesses belongs to the believing soul, and what the soul possesses belongs to Christ. Thus Christ possesses all good things and holiness; these now belong to the soul. The soul possesses lots of vices and sin; these now belong to Christ. . . . Now is not this a happy business? Christ, the rich, noble and holy bridegroom, takes in marriage this poor, contemptible and sinful little prostitute, takes away all her evil and bestows all his goodness upon her! It is no longer possible for sin to overwhelm her, for she is now found in Christ.” Martin Luther, quoted in Alister E. McGrath, Christian Spirituality: An

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The Work of Union with Christ

Tony Reinke: Here’s one quote from what I think will end up proving to be one of the very best books published in 2014, Michael Reeves, Christ Our Life (Paternoster; September 1): When Christians define themselves by something other than Christ, they poison the air all round. When they crave power and popularity and they get it, they become pompous, patronizing, or simply bullies. And when they don’t get it they become bitter, apathetic or prickly. Whether flushed by success or burnt by lack of it, both have cared too much for the wrong thing. Defining themselves by something other than Christ, they become like something other than Christ. Ugly. Our union with Christ thus has deep plough-work to do in our hearts. It automatically and immediately gives us a new status, but for that status and identity to be felt to be the deepest truth about ourselves is radical, ongoing business. That is the primary identity of the believer,

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Union with Christ – the taproot of our entire salvation

J.I. Packer: “But the taproot of our entire salvation, and the true NT frame for cataloguing its ingredients, is our union with Christ himself by the Holy Spirit. That is, to be more precise, our implantation, symbolized by the under-and-up-from-under of water baptism, into the twin realities of Christ’s own dying and rising (see Rom 6:1-11; Col 2:9-12). In this union we have a salvation that is not only positional through the cross in the terms just stated, and relational through our sustained faith-communion with our Lord, but is also transformational through the regenerating and indwelling Spirit, who stirs and motivates and empowers us to express our new hearts’ desires in new habits of action and reaction constituting Christlike character (‘the fruit of the Spirit’ in Gal 5:22-23). ”Atonement in the Life of the Christian,” in The Glory of the Atonement, 417 (HT: Sam Storms)

More Blessed than the Virgin Mary

Justin Taylor: Can you imagine if you had been there? What would it have been like to be with our Lord Jesus face to face? To walk with him and to listen to him for hours on end. To hear the tone of his voice. To ask him any question you want. What if, instead of just being one of the disciples in the outer circles, you were one of the key players: Mary the humble mother of God; Peter the exuberant bumbler turned repentant leader; John the Baptizer, who leaped for joy at Jesus in Elizabeth’s womb and then was able to baptize his cousin and Lord. But if you are in Christ, the reality is that things are better for you know than it would have been to be any of these folks who knew Christ in the flesh. For example, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one

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Union with Christ

Justin Taylor: James S. Stewart wrote that “union with Christ, rather than justification or election or eschatology, or indeed any of the other great apostolic themes, is the real clue to an understanding of Paul’s thought and experience” (A Man in Christ [Harper & Bros., 1955], vii). John Calvin said that union with Christ has “the highest degree of importance” if we are to understand justification correctly (Institutes 1:737). John Murray wrote that “union with Christ is . . . the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation. . . . It is not simply a phase of the application of redemption; it underlies every aspect of redemption” (Redemption—Accomplished and Applied [Eerdmans, 1955], pp. 201, 205). Lewis Smedes said that it was “at once the center and circumference of authentic human existence” (Union with Christ [Eerdmans, 1983], xii). Anthony Hoekema wrote that “Once you have your eyes opened to this concept of union with Christ, you will find it almost everywhere in the

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Union With Christ as Assurance of Life

“I grew up in a common form of American Christianity that basically treated anxiety like a fruit of the Spirit. If you were not worried about your own holiness, something was wrong. In relation to this, Reformed teaching on the double grace and the will’s bondage is very good news: rather than being ‘tossed back and forth without any certainty,’ with ‘our poor consciences . . . tormented constantly,’ as the Belgic Confession says, we come to rest in Jesus Christ, knowing that new life is a gift received in union with him. In this way, we are freed to actually love and delight in God and neighbor. Otherwise, our praying, our acts of mercy, our evangelism, all are done to build up our own holiness — which blocks God and neighbor from being our focus. When both our justification and our new life are found in Jesus Christ, then this burdensome, disingenuous Christianity is replaced by Spirit-empowered gratitude.” – J.

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