“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)
“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
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,
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)
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
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
“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.
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 parallel
“If I am a new creature in Christ, then I stand before God, not in myself—but in Christ. He sees no longer me—but only him in whom I am—him who represents me, Christ Jesus, my substitute and surety. In believing, I have become so identified with the Son of his love, that the favor with which he regards him passes over to me, and rests, like the sunshine of the new heavens, upon me. In Christ, and through Christ, I have acquired a new standing before the Father. I am ‘accepted in the beloved.’ My old standing, that is, that of distance, and disfavor, and condemnation, is wholly removed, and I am brought into one of nearness, and acceptance, and pardon—I am made to occupy a new footing, just as if my old one had never been. Old guilt, heavy as the mountain, vanishes; old dread, gloomy as midnight, passes off; old fear, dark as hell, gives place to the joyful
Jonathan Edwards: By virtue of the believer’s union with Christ, he doth really possess all things. That we know plainly from Scripture. But it may be asked, how doth he possess all things? What is he the better for it? How is a true Christian so much richer than other men? To answer this, I’ll tell you what I mean by “possessing all things.” I mean that God three in one, all that he is, and all that he has, and all that he does, all that he has made or done–the whole universe, bodies and spirits, earth and heaven, angels, men and devils, sun, moon and stars, land and sea, fish and fowls, all the silver and gold, kings and potentates as well as mean men–are as much the Christian’s as the money in his pocket, the clothes he wears, the house he dwells in, or the victuals he eats; yea more properly his, more advantageously his, than if
Richard Gaffin: What characterizes the redemption of Christ holds true for the redemption of the believer. As the justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification of the former take place by and at his resurrection, so the justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification of the latter take place in his having been raised with Christ, that is, in his having been united to Christ as resurrected. This means, then, that despite a surface appearance to the contrary, Paul does not view the justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification of the believer as separate, distinct acts but as different facets or aspects of the one act of incorporation with the resurrected Christ. –Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology (P&R, 1987), 130-31 (HT: Dane Ortlund)
Jonathan Parnell posts a conversation between two of my heroes: Few people work faithfully for the same organization for almost 60 years. Yet it was 1955 when Jerry Bridges, a Korean War veteran, joined the team at The Navigators where he continues to this day. An author of several books, Mr. Bridges is a leading voice in explaining the significance of the gospel in everyday life, including The Discipline of Grace,The Gospel for Real Life, and The Pursuit of Holiness, to name a few. John Piper recently sat down with Mr. Bridges in Minneapolis to talk about life and ministry. In this 25-minute video, they discuss key issues regarding God’s providence, spiritual disciplines, and the Christian life.
“Union with Christ is not simply one step in salvation; it is the whole stairway on which every step is taken. Or perhaps it would be better to say that union with Christ is the prism through which all the other colours of salvation are refracted. Our election is in union with Christ, for it is in Christ that we were chosen before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4). Our regeneration is also in union with Christ, for the Scripture says we are created in Christ; and this re-creation is for good works, which means that our sanctification is in union with Christ as well (Eph. 2:10). In short, everything up to and including the doctrine of glorification is in union with Christ, for those who share in his sufferings will also share in his glory (Rom. 8:17).” — Philip Graham Ryken, “Justification and Union with Christ” (HT: Of First Importance)
By Chuck Colson: With Advent under way, our schedules rapidly accelerate with parties, school plays, church events, travel, and family outings. Frequently, the pace numbs our heart and mind to the good news we are preparing to celebrate at Christmas. We end up happier when Christmas has passed, because we don’t have to think any more about how the Grinch managed to steal it. Personally, it has been a help to meditate on this question in the middle of a chaotic Advent, “Why did Jesus take on human flesh?” Though the Bible offers many answers to this question, consider this: Jesus took on flesh in order to crucify our flesh. There is a range of meanings for “flesh” in the New Testament. Sometimes it refers to a physical body (ex. 2 Cor. 4:11) while at others it refers to our way of life, under the dominion of sin, prior to conversion (ex. Rom. 8:6-8). My answer plays on this range of meaning
Bryan Chapell, in Holiness by Grace: Delighting in the Joy That Is Our Strength (Crossway, 2001), 196, has a helpful chart looking at what does and does not change in the relationship between God and his children (lightly adapted below): What Can Change What Cannot Change our fellowship our sonship our experience of God’s blessing God’s desire for our welfare our assurance of God’s love God’s actual affection for us God’s delight in our actions God’s love for us God’s discipline our destiny our sense of guilt our security (HT: Dane Ortlund) These truths were wonderfully explored by the great Puritan theologian John Owen, who distinguished between our unchanging union with God and our changing communion with God. Kelly Kapic summarizes: It is important to note that Owen maintains an essential distinction between union and communion. Believers are united to Christ in God by the Spirit. This union is a unilateral action by God, in which those who were dead are made alive, those who lived in darkness begin
Publisher’s description: Paul and Union with Christ fills the gap for biblical scholars, theologians, and pastors pondering and debating the meaning of union with Christ. Following a selective survey of the scholarly work on union with Christ through the twentieth century to the present day, Greek scholar Constantine Campbell carefully examines every occurrence of the phrases ‘in Christ’, ‘with Christ’, ‘through Christ’, ‘into Christ,’ and other related expressions, exegeting each passage in context and taking into account the unique lexical contribution of each Greek preposition. Campbell then builds a holistic portrayal of Paul’s thinking and engages contemporary theological discussions about union with Christ by employing his evidence-based understanding of the theme. This volume combines high-level scholarship and a concern for practical application of a topic currently debated in the academy and the church. More than a monograph, this book is a helpful reference tool for students, scholars, and pastors to consult its treatment of any particular instance of any phrase
Timmy Brister: Tim Keller, in his new book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City, writes about the triperspectival New Covenant nature of Christians united with Christ. Jesus has all the powers and functions of ministry in himself. He ha a prophetic ministry, speaking the truth and applying it to men and women on behalf of God. Jesus was the ultimate prophet, for he revealed most clearly (both in his words and his life) God’s character, saving purposes, and will for our lives. Jesus also had a priestly ministry. While a prophet is an advocate for God before people, a priest is an advocate for the people before God’s presence, ministering with mercy and sympathy. Jesus was the ultimate priest, for he stood in or place and sacrificially bore our burdens and sin, and he now brings us into God’s presence. Finally, Jesus has a kingly ministry. He is the ultimate king, ordering the life of his people through his revealed law.
This powerful spoken word short film was made to engage people to think deeply about where they find their identity and the implications of finding our identities in Christ. For more information and to read the poem go here: thebranchcorvallis.org/heavenly-identity
C.H. Spurgeon on 2 Peter 1:4 To be a partaker of the divine nature is not, of course, to become God. That cannot be. The essence of Deity is not to be participated in by the creature. Between the creature and the Creator there must ever be a gulf fixed in respect of essence; but as the first man Adam was made in the image of God, so we, by the renewal of the Holy Spirit, are in a yet diviner sense made in the image of the Most High, and are partakers of the divine nature. We are, by grace, made like God. “God is love”; we become love—“He that loveth is born of God.” God is truth; we become true, and we love that which is true: God is good, and he makes us good by his grace, so that we become the pure in heart who shall see God. Moreover, we become partakers of the divine nature
Jerry Bridges: “Saint is one of the most widely misunderstood words in our Christian vocabulary. At some point in church history, people began to call the original apostles saints, contrary to the plain meaning of the word as used in the New Testament. So now we hear of Saint Paul, Saint Peter, Saint Andrew, and the like. In the Roman Catholic tradition, people of unusual achievement are sometimes designated as saints. Among evangelicals we often think of saints as exceptionally godly and holy people. The truth is, though, every believer is a saint. That’s why Paul’s greetings in his epistles often include something such as, “To the saints who are in Ephesus” (Ephesians 1:1, see also Philippians 1:1,Colossians 1:2). Even when addressing Corinth, a church that was all messed up both theologically and morally, Paul wrote, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. . . . (1 Corinthians 1:2). In