Union with Christ

Sermon notes from last Lord’s Day for those who missed.

Union with Christ

We are going to spend some time DOING THEOLOGY:  Lots of texts, insights from theologians, building categories by which to think and applying those truths to life.

Life is theology and theology is life.  What we know about God, that we know God, is what gives life its vitality and stability.

Knowing and applying theology strengthens our faith and gives us a worldview.

Not all theology is equally important.  I am quite sure that you can live and die happily without a thorough angelology.  But you cannot live and die happy without a solid, robust understanding of the person and work of Christ!

NT scholars and theologians have, for many years now, identified the concept of “union with Christ” as a or the centerpiece of Paul’s theology.

“Nothing is more central or basic than our union and communion with Christ. . .Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation not only in its application but also in its once for all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ.” John Murray

Union with Christ is the fountainhead from which flows the Christian’s every spiritual blessing – repentance and faith, pardon, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance and glorification. … The holiness of the Christian’s daily walk directly depends upon his union with the Savior” Robert Reymond (739).

158 times in the NT we have “in Christ” or some other related phrase.  Adolph Deissmann counted 164.

One modern writer says, “Union with Christ is at once the center and circumference of authentic Christian experience.”

Overview of Union with Christ
Union with Christ is viewed either before the foundations of the world, or redemptive-historical, occurring in past time/space or present, by virtue of the Holy Spirit.

Richard Gaffin, “These distinctions, it should not be missed, point not to different unions but to different aspects or dimensions of a single union.”

Union with Christ should be the foundational way we think of our relationship to God and the accomplishment and application of our salvation.

It should be the comprehensive way we view the Christian life.

I.      Union with Christ: Before Time
The fountain of salvation is election in Christ
2 Tim. 1:9
Eph. 1:3-4

“The Father chose us to be saved not because of any merit He foresaw in us but only on the basis of our predetermined oneness with Christ” (Hoekema, 56).

Those who were “in Adam” participated, by representation, in Adam’s sin, Adam’s fallen nature and Adam’s condemnation.  To be in Adam is to be represented by Adam in a way that we fully participate in all that he is and has done.

In election, God freely chooses those who are in Adam to be His own, to be His elect.  How?  They are represented by Christ in such a way that the Father sees them participating in Christ’s fullness.  They have not yet participated in His fullness (righteousness, obedience, merit and atoning death) in time, but the Father treats them as being fully represented in Christ and thus chooses them, not on our merit (we have none), but on Christ’s.

The Father views us, in His mind and His eternal purpose, as in Christ.  If in the purpose and plan of the Father, He sees us in Christ, represented by Christ, participating in the fullness of Christ, then there is a guarantee of grace in time.

        In other words, election in Christ, secures by divine decree, our salvation!

>>> 2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 1:3

II.     Union with Christ:  Redemptive History

United in Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and exaltation
Rom. 6:2-11
Eph. 2:4-6
Col. 3:3-4

“God thought of us as going through everything that Christ went through, because he was our representative.”  Grudem

So Christ comes and fulfills the Father’s plan, securing our salvation and guaranteeing grace.  So again, when Christ died, in the mind and purpose of God we died…. Etc.

III.    Union with Christ:  The Present (11 pts)

Until the Spirit unites us to Christ, by faith, we are not saved, we do not participate experientially in the benefits of Christ.

Calvin, “We must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from Him, all that He has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us.  Therefore, to share with us what He has received from the Father, He had to become ours and to dwell within us.”

A.      Union with Christ in conversion

Eph. 2:12
Rom. 16:7

                Eph. 1:7

        B.      Regeneration savingly unites us to Christ

Eph. 2:4-5

                Col. 2:11-13

        C.      Justification is in union with Christ
                1 Cor. 1:30; Rom. 8:1

The one who has been chosen in Christ, is united to Christ only by faith and the work of the Spirit.


Before conversion, we are not united with Christ, we are outside of Christ.
When the Spirit makes us born again, we are united to Christ through new life in Him, we are justified in Christ.

D.      A spiritual union

A.A. Hodge, “What is the essential nature of this union? 
On the one hand, this union does not involve any mysterious confusion of the person of Christ with the persons of his people; and,      on the other hand, it is not such a mere association of separate persons as exists in human societies.  But it is a union which, first,         determines our legal status on the same basis with his.  Second, Which revives and sustains, by the influence of his indwelling         Spirit, our spiritual life, from the fountain of his life… (483).

The bond of this union is the Holy Spirit Himself
1 Cor. 12:13
1 Cor. 6:17, 19
Rom. 8:9-11
1 Jn. 3:24; 4:13

Calvin, “The Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ effectually unites us to himself.”

                This results in other dimensions of this union…

E.      A mystical union

Eph. 5:32
Col. 1:26-27

                Jn. 14:23; 17:21-23

Murray, “On the highest level of being it is compared to the union which exists between the persons of the trinity in the Godhead.  This is staggering, but it is the case” (168).

Reymond, “This nonmaterial union with Christ is as real as though there were in fact a literal umbilical cord uniting them, reaching all the way from Christ in heaven to the believer on earth (738).”

More this coming Lord’s Day, morning and for the Lord’s Supper.