1) INTRODUCTION AND IMPORTANCE OF UNION WITH CHRIST
It is the chief blessingof the Gospel.
· “Union with Christ, not justification by faith, is the chief blessing a Christian receives from God. The believer’s union with Christ enables him to receive all the benefits of Christ’s work, including justification, adoption, and sancitification” – Beeke and Jones.
Why is it the chief blessing?
· Calvin makes clear that, “so long as we stand apart from Christ” none of the work He accomplished “can be of use to us” – Beeke and Jones.
· Similarly, Wayne Grudem argues that union with Christ is the fact through which “Christians receive every benefit of salvation” – Grudem.
· This is why Puritan Thomas Goodwin says union with Christ is “the fundamental constitution of a Christian”.
· And Puritan John Owen says union with Christ is the “principle and measure of all spiritual enjoyments and expectations”.
· He argues that, “union with Christ is the groundof the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers” – Beeke and Jones.
· Because, “we are united to Christ, His righteousness can be and is imputed to us by faith” – Beeke and Jones.
So to not be in union with Christ, is to be outside of Christ.
· It is to be outside all the blessings that come from the Gospel.
· It is to be outside of the very things that even make our participation in the Gospel – regeneration and justification – possible.
They mystery of Union with Christ:
· There is a great deal about Union with Christ that we simply can’t comprehend or understand.
· Colossians 1:27 (ESV) — 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
One of those mysteries involves the origins of Union with Christ both in time and action.
· Puritan Thomas Goodwin speaks of it this way:
· Union with Christ is “Christ ‘taking’ and ‘apprehending’ the sinner” – Beeke and Jones.
· “Before the new believer is aware, our Lord unites us to Himself and works in us. The Spirit then regenerates the sinner, who in turn exercises faith toward Christ and completes the union” – Beeke and Jones (summary of Goodwin).
“Before the new believer is aware”?
· How are we apprehended by Christ “before we are aware”?
Paul alludes to when this “apprehension” begins:
· Ephesians 1:3–6 (ESV) — 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoptionas sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
And Revelation hints at this also:
· Revelation 13:8 (ESV) — 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it [the first beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
There is something beautiful to consider at this point.
· Our Union with Christ can be traced all the way back through the OT to the moment of creation.
· If God did not choose to create, enter into a covenant with and show a rebellious people a never-failing, covenant faithfulness, there would be no Union with Christ.
· So when we begin Joshua in a few weeks, much of what we learn will be directly related to our topic today.
So we are apprehended by Christ (brought into union with Him) and His Spirit and made alive – regenerated.
· Because of this union/apprehension and regeneration, our faith is made possible.
· We exercise that faith and the union with Christ is complete.
· “With the union complete, the sinner receives from Christ everything that Christ merited” by His work on the cross – Beeke and Jones.
2) WHAT IS UNION WITH CHRIST?
What is it that we receive from Christ in our union with Him?
· What is it that Christ merited for us by being in union with Him?
One answer is really to say “everything”.
· “Union with Christ is an inclusive term for the whole of salvation” – Millard Erickson.
· To know the thickness and entirety of the Gospel is to know what unity with Christ is.
· But there are some specific things that receive emphasis in Scripture.
The most often cited are:
· (1) Union with Christ’s death.
· (2) Union with Christ’s resurrection.
· (3) Union with Christ’s suffering.
· (4) Union with Christ’s righteousness (perfect obedience) – justification.
Paul hits on all of these in Philippians.
· Philippians 3:8–11 (ESV) — 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my ownthat comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
More on or Union with Christ’s suffering:
· Romans 8:17 (ESV) — 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him[resurrection].
· Our union with Christ means that we are heirs of God and with Christ.
· But, there is a condition placed on us by Paul.
· We must also “suffer with him”.
· On account of our union with Christ, we must also suffer for the cause that he suffered!
o Gospel of Reconciliation
More on our Union with Christ’s death and resurrection:
· Romans 6:3–5 (ESV) — 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
· At conversion, “…the death of Christ becomes ours because we share the benefits of his death by virtue of our incorporation into him” – Schreiner.
· “Thus the call to live in ‘newness of life’ is grounded in participating not only in Christ’s death and burial but also in his resurrection” – Schreiner.
More on resurrection:
· 1 Corinthians 15:20–23 (ESV) — 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
Even more on resurrection:
· Romans 8:11 (ESV) — 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodiesthrough his Spirit who dwells in you.
More on our union with Christ’s righteousness:
· 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) — 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
· Like Philippians 3:9, this text speaks of our relationship to God’s righteousness.
· In union with Christ, we receive the righteousness “from” God (Phil 3:9)/the righteousness “of” God (2 Cor. 5:21).
· And speaking this truth to the world, the need for God’s righteousness, is a reason why we will suffer like Paul and like Christ.
· The world can’t stand the implication of God’s righteousness for the unrighteous.
Implications of this Union with Christ:
(1) Christ is also in us.
· Galatians 2:20 (ESV) — 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
· John 15:4–5 (ESV) — 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
· John 14:23 (ESV) — 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
(2) Our legal status changes.
· We are imputed with Christ’s legal status.
· “When the Father evaluates or judges us before the law he does not look upon us alone. God always sees the believer in union with Christ and measures the two of them together” – Millard Erickson.
· Christ’s works are seen as our works.
· (See union with Christ’s perfect obedience above.)
(3) Participation in the fellowship of the Trinity.
· John 17:20–23 (ESV) — 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
(4) New Identity.
· 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) — 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
· Galatians 5:24 (ESV) — 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
· Romans 8:9 (ESV) — 9 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.
· Ephesians 4:22–24 (ESV) — 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
And in a well-known sanctification passage, Paul freely intermingles the specifics of our Union with Christ and its implications.
· Colossians 3:1–10 (ESV) — 1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
So having quickly explored the huge topic of Union with Christ, a question comes to mind concerning our identity.
· Who are you in Christ?
Is the truth of your new identity grounded in how you feel?
· If not, what is it grounded in?
Importantly, is there ever a moment when you are not in Union with Christ?
· Is there every a moment when the thick foundation of the Gospel and all its blessings are not working in your life?