Union With Christ

“Abide in me, and I in you” (John 15:4, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).

For the past couple months my family and I have been considering the steps in salvation guided by Part 5: The Doctrine of the Application of Redemption of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994) in our family’s after-breakfast Bible reading. Those steps are election, the Gospel call, conversion, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, death, and glorification. During the past week we read its final chapter, Chapter 43: Unity With Christ. However, as Grudem points out, rather than being an additional step in salvation, unity with Christ is a comprehensive concept which includes the whole of salvation.

Grudem identifies and considers four aspects of union with Christ: 1. we are in Christ; 2. Christ is in us; 3. we are like Christ; and 4. we are with Christ. Although my family and I read his whole exposition, all that I’m going to share from it here is a little of the Biblical evidence that he gives for the two aspects referred to in the passage with which I opened this post, our being in Christ and His being in us. I’ll also list some Scriptural illustrations of the union, some characteristics of it, and some of its implications for us from other presentations on union with Christ that I have.

We Are in Christ

Grudem devotes almost four pages to considering how we are in Christ. He shows that “in Christ” refers to our relationship with Christ in God’s eternal plan, during Christ’s life on earth, and during our present life and views our present life in Christ from four perspectives: we have died and been raised with Christ; we have new life in Christ; all our actions can be done in Christ; and all Christians are one body in Christ (the church). In his presentation, he cites numerous Biblical passages, including these:

(In God’s Eternal Plan)
– “He [God the Father] chose us in him [Jesus Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).
(During Christ’s Life on Earth)
– “Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).
(During Our Present Life)
– “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
– “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

Christ Is in Us

– “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
– “If Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10).
– “[I pray that God may empower you with His Spirit] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17).

Scriptural Illustrations of Union with Christ

– the union of a building and its foundation (Ephesians 5:20-22; Colossians 2:7; 1 Peter 2:4-5).
– the union between husband and wife (Romans 7:4; Ephesians 5:31-32; Revelation 19:7-8).
– the union between the vine and its branches (John 15:1-6).
– the union between the members and the head of the body (1 Corinthians 6:15,19; 12:12; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:15-16).
– the union of the race with the source of its life in Adam (Romans 5:12,21; 1 Corinthians 15:22,45,49).

This list is taken from Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology, Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1907, pages 795-97.

Characteristics of Union with Christ

– It is an organic union. Christ and the believers form one body. “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body” (Ephesians 5:29-30).
– It is a vital union. Christ indwells and animates us. “Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).
– It is a union mediated by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit originates and maintains the union. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
– It is a union that implies reciprocal action. The believer unites himself to Christ by faith, and Christ unites believers to himself by regenerating them. “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” (John 14:23).
– It is a personal union. Each believer is personally united directly to Christ. “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” (Galatians 2:20).
– It is a transforming union. Believers are changed into the image of Christ according to his human nature. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1).

This list is taken from Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, fourth edition, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1939, pages 450-51.

Implications of Union with Christ for Us

– We are accounted righteous. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
– We live in Christ’s strength. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
– We will suffer. “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20; Jesus to the eleven).
– We have the prospect of reigning with Christ. “if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12).

This list is taken from Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, third edition, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2013, pages 882-83. Those given by Strong (pages 802-09) and Berkhof (pages 452-53) are much different but also good.

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