Our Union in Christ
This doctrine is one of the most neglected, yet it is the most important of doctrines. Strong quotes Dr J.W. Alexander as calling the doctrine of the union of the believer with Christ “the central truth of all theology and of all religion” Strong p.795. Speaking of this neglect, Strong writes, “The majority of printed systems of doctrine contain no chapter or section on our union with Christ, and the majority of Christians much more frequently think of Christ as a Saviour outside of them, than as a saviour who dwells within” (Strong p.795 ).
Since the people of God are united in Christ through the incarnation, and included in him as head, so we have been crucified with him, raised with him and seated with him in the heavenly realms. In other words, everything that the church should need is already purchased for her through identification with him in his incarnation.
In order to bring to pass that which had been planned in eternity, Christ became incarnate as the substitute for his people that he might merit all the blessings of salvation for them. He became united with us by taking upon himself our nature.
John 15; 1-10
It is interesting to note that Christ doesn’t say, “I am the root”. The branch is not something outside of the vine, which as to get nourishment out of the root, it is a part of the vine itself. In the same way we are vitally joined to Christ himself in the closest possible union. This is why it is called a ‘mystical ‘ union, because it goes beyond any ordinary earthly kind of union.
A. We are in Christ “ you are in me”
The believer is in Christ as one who perpetually surrounds him and from whom he draws his vital life as we do from the atmosphere all around us. The words “In Christ” meaning in union with him are two key words of Paul’s epistles and the whole NT.
B. Christ is in us “I am in you”
Christ lives in the believer living out his own life within him. So close and vital is this that Paul can say, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me”. We should not confuse this so as to mean that there is no distinction between the believer and Christ. Both are distinct but the union is one of very great intimacy nevertheless.
C. The Father & The Son are in the believer “ we will come to him “
We saw just previously that Christ is in the believer. But Christ in turn is in the Father “ that all of them may be one, Father just as you are in me and I am in you” (John 17:21), therefore wherever the Son is there also is the Father.
D. The believer has life with Christ in a similar manner that Christ has with the Father.
Christ does not hesitate here to compare our relationship with himself with his own relationship with the Father. We are so closely reliant upon Christ for our lives that Jesus speaks of feeding upon himself. This recalls something of the Old Testament sacrificial system where the worshipper would eat part of the sacrifice he had given to God – as at the Passover. In the same manner, we feed upon Christ through the work of his sacrifice on the cross. John 6:57
E. The believer partakes of the divine nature.
2 Peter 1:4
This does not mean that we become part of God in any literal sense but that Christ the divine saviour is indissolubly united with us and us through him with God himself.
F. The believer is made one spirit with the Lord.
1 Corinthians 6:17
This verse is better translated by the authorised Version here as “ But he that is jointed unto the Lord is one spirit”. This means that both Christ and the believer both enjoy the same principles of life, namely the Holy Spirit.
This union is mystical
It will be seen from the above that the believers union with Christ is unique to anything else in creation. It is a mystical union, meaning that it is so intimate and so transforming in the power of it’s influence that it surpasses any other union of souls that we know, and so it cannot be described or be understood by any earthly analogy. It is, the Bible declares, “ a mystery” …
This union is not a merely moral union, such as exists between close friends and was enjoyed for example, by David and Jonathan, of whom it was said. !
Read: 1 Samuel 18:1, Colossians 1:27
In distinction from any other sort of union or external influence, Christ works upon us not from outside of us, as one separated from us but from within us at the very heart of our souls and being. Strong remarks, “ Christ and the believer have the same life. They are not separate persons linked together by some temporary bond of friendship, - they are united by a tie as close and indissoluble as if the same blood ran in their veins” (Strong p. 802).
The Importance of this union
This union between Christ and the believer is the source and ground of all the other elements of salvation.
The entrance of Christ into the soul brings about the change in the ruling disposition we call regeneration
The union with Christ enables the soul to exercise its new- found powers, which we call conversion, involving both repentance and faith. Conversion is the human side of regeneration.
Union with Christ brings the believer into a new relationship with God, which involves justification.
The union also secures a continual transforming inner power of Christ working in the Christian. This continuing influence in the present life is called sanctification; the human side of this is called perseverance.
The believer is not only consecrated in the present, but also assured of a future for his body, which will be raised to be like Christ’s glorified body, and destined for eternity in heaven, which we call eschatology. It is the union with Christ, which the believer enjoys here and now that brings him into constant and living fellowship with his Lord.
Let Bunyan speak to us himself of his experience of this union with Christ: The Lord led me into the knowledge of the mystery of union with Christ, that I was joined to him, that I was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. By this also my faith in him as my righteousness was more confirmed; for if he and I were one, then his righteousness was mine, his merits mine, his victory also mine. Now could I see myself in heaven and on earth at once – in heaven by my Christ, my risen head, my righteousness and life, though on earth by my body or person (quoted in Strong p.808).
Scripture gives a clear and constant testimony of our union in Christ, for example it is beautifully outlined in Christ’s high priestly prayer in:
That they all may be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the Glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
There are various figures to express union with Christ.
A Ephesians 5:1-32
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church. Paul shows us the union between Christ and the Church. The union between husband and wife is a very intimate one, it is an organic one, and so is our union with Christ still more profound.
B. John 15: 1-5
I am the true vine, and my father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purged it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now ye are clean through the word, which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
C. The body joined to the head it is needless to say that there is the closest possible union between our bodies and our head; we cannot possibly be separated from either.
And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth in all.
Hosea 4: 6
Tells us, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge"
Joshua 1: 8
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate
Therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is In the law of the written therein: For then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good successbsp;
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth
In the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is
LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water, which bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his
Leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Colossians 2: 6,7-10
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him:
Rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught,
Abounding therein with thanksgiving.
And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power.
That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever
Believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 2: 27,28
But the anointing, which ye have received of him, abideth in you, and you need
Not that any man teaches you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all
Things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.
And now little children, abide in Him; that when he shall appear, we may have Confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at his comingIn All Thy Getting, Get Understanding Prov 4:7