Union With Christ: Necessity and Benefits Part 5

Key Facts From Part 4

A human nature includes a human body. A human person consists of a human nature plus a source of “I”. Another way to say this is that a human person consists of a material body in union with an immaterial soul. 

Scripture clearly indicates, that at mortal death, something recognizable as “us” survives the death of the body. That something is usually called the “soul” or “spirit.”

“Soul” and “spirit” are more or less interchangeable and represent that immaterial “thing” which survives mortal death. At mortal death, the soul enters God’s presence in a disembodied state called the intermediate state. In this state souls rest from life’s competition, sorrow, pain, and sin, they will see Christ’s face and discern what the other redeemed, the angels, and Christ have to teach them. 

They will perform a great variety of work as gladly rendered service. If you think souls without bodies cannot perform service, think about the angels – pure spirits without bodies – sent out by God to do service. 

Souls in the intermediate state truly live, not as shadows gliding by, but living and rejoicing in abundant, glorious fellowship with Christ and His redeemed. Whatever Christ has, He shares with them (Rev. 3:12; 3:21; 4:4; etc.). Finally, they reign, sharing with Christ in His royal glory. On Resurrection Day they will be united to a resurrection body, recognizable as their own, but greatly improved. 

A Quote on the Importance of Union With Christ

“Union with Christ is not to be understood as a ‘moment’ in the application of salvation to believers. Rather, it is a way of speaking about the way in which believers share in Christ in eternity (by election), in past history (by redemption), in the present (by effectual calling, justification, and sanctification), and in the future (by glorification).”

Michael Horton: The Christian Faith, Zondervan, 2011, p. 587

Paul on Union with Christ

Paul says “Union with Christ” begins in eternity before the foundation of the world when God elected persons “in Christ” to be holy and blameless before Him. “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, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:3-4). 

This is a mystery and we cannot understand all that is involved. Yet, it is clear that God anticipated the necessity of salvation, and salvation was always to be “in Christ.” Those to be saved were never contemplated by the Father apart from their Union with Christ. Everyone receiving salvation is “in Christ,” has been “in Christ,” and will be “in Christ” forever. 

Salvation Manifested in Individuals During Their Mortal Life

When the salvation planned by God in eternity is, by God’s grace, manifested in a particular person’s life “in time,” they are created spiritually anew. A person’s works and who they are contributes nothing to realizing their new spiritual reality. It is entirely by God’s grace.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”

Eph. 2:8-10

Not only is salvation “in Christ” planned by God in eternity, but when salvation is made manifest to us in time, it is in “Union with Christ.” Salvation was secured for us by Jesus’ salvation work. Believers are represented as united to Christ in His death, resurrection, and exaltation in heaven. 

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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.For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus”

Rm. 6:3-11

 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”

Eph. 2:4-7

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory”

Col. 3:1-4

New Life “In Christ”

In mortal life a believer perceives “life in Christ” as beginning when the Holy Spirit works faith in them. The new life continues to develop by virtue of the believer being “in Christ.” It is in Christ that a believer’s life and behavior as a Christian develop and are carried out. 

“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”

Rm. 6:4

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”

1 Cor. 1:3-8

“But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him”

1 Cor. 6:17

A believer’s new life “in Christ” is lived as spiritually one with him, enriched in every way.

Continued Life “In Christ”

In giving believers new spiritual life, the Holy Spirit works faith in them, thereby uniting them with Christ. That Union never ends nor does indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Being united with Christ, believers draw spiritual life from Him (Jn. 5:26: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” The bond uniting believers to Christ is the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s indwelling and the bond of union with Christ will continue into eternity. Because we are “in Christ,” because we draw our spiritual life from Him through the Spirit, it is impossible to be separated from Christ or to lose any part of salvation. Nothing can separate believers from the love of Christ (Rm. 8:38-39). 

Scriptural Evidence for “Union with Christ”

Scripture has much to say about union between Christ and His people. By “His people” are meant those given Him in eternity by the Father. As seen in Ephesians, Romans, and Colossians, Paul’s writings provide a rich perspective on Union with Christ. So do Peter and Paul. Here is a sample of references. 

Speaking of individual believers, Jesus says in Jn. 14:20, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:17, “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” 

Speaking corporately of the church as Christ’s “mystical” body Paul says Eph. 5:29-32, “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. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Union with Christ is the foundation of all the gracious actions of Christ in time and eternity, both corporately toward His Church, and toward individual believers. Union with Christ brings the many gracious gifts of salvation, but the greatest gift is Christ Himself manifested through union with Him. 

The vital importance of Union with Christ is clearly seen from the place it occupies in Christ’s High Priestly prayer in John 17. The center or focal point of Christ’s John 17 petition to the Father appears to be verse 22, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” Here, as in the immediately preceding verses, He expresses His supreme desire for the redeemed, the longing of His heart: John 17:20-21, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that 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.”  The oneness for which He prays is a oneness sustained by the Father and the Son dwelling in believers and believers in them. This is the highest status redeemed but un-glorified humans can have in life. Jesus ends His prayer by reinforcing His intent for believers and His union with them.

“I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

John 17:26

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