Here’s another set of notes. Just a reminder these were used in a discussion. We spent some time discussing when our Union began and even if this aspect of it is actually useful. A really helpful piece of writing on this is found in ‘Redemption: Accomplished and Applied’ by John Murray Part 2 ch 9. If our Union is grounded in an eternal reality this gives incredible security to the believer and should fill us with wonder and praise!
Reading – Ephesians 1: 1 – 9. & Romans 6: 1 – 11. ‘Union with Christ’
Who is this person we are in union with? Read Revelation 1: 12-18. Conversely, who were we in union with? And to some extent still are! 1 Cor 15: 22. We are here faced with a Spiritual Eternal reality and a space-time Historic reality.
It’s not called the Mystical Union for nothing. ‘Here we have union which we are unable to define specifically’ (John Murray) However, it’s not unintelligible – it’s possible to state even though we can’t get our heads round it!
In this respect it’s like the Trinity and the two natures of Christ – and can only be appropriated through faith, and that not of ourselves!
We commented last time about our Adoption in the planning stage – as it were – beginning before the foundation of the world and actualised in time at the New Birth. A Question then: When were we placed In Christ?
“The best proof that He will never cease to love us lies in that He never began. What we are for Him and what He is for us belongs to the realm of eternal values. Without this we are nothing, in it we have all.”
(Geerhardus Vos: Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, ed. By Richard B Gaffin, p.298).
And very closely related to this: When were we In Adam? Romans 5:12
There are indications that we have always been in Christ and the close ties to Election & Adoption are striking. I find this amazing, extraordinary & incredible yet mysterious, veiled & baffling. Let’s see if we can actually state it in doctrinal terms, and then leave the understanding of it perhaps for discussion or to faith in God.
If there is an order to salvation – perhaps this ought to be first, even before Election. Chosen in Him is a phrase that again will take some unpacking.
Eph 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
‘Before the foundation of the world – This is a very important phrase in determining the time when the choice was made. It was not an “afterthought.” It was not commenced in time. The purpose was far back in the ages of eternity. But what is the meaning of the phrase “before the foundation of the world?” Dr. Clarke supposes that it means “from the commencement “of the religious system of the Jews,” which,” says he, “the phrase sometimes means.” Such principles of interpretation are they compelled to resort to who endeavor to show that this refers to a national election to privileges, and who deny that it refers to individuals. On such principles the Bible may be made to signify anything and everything. Dr. Chandler, who also supposes that it refers to nations, admits, however, that the word “foundation” means the beginning of anything; and that the phrase here means, “before the world began” There is scarcely any phrase in the New Testament which is more clear in its signification than this.’ Albert Barnes Eph 1:4
(2Ti 1:9) who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,
‘which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began’; it is a gift, and a free gift, not at all depending upon any conditions in the creature, and entirely proceeding from the sovereign will of God; and it was a gift from eternity; there was not only a purpose of grace in God’s heart, and a promise of it so early, but there was a real donation of it in eternity: and though those to whom it was given did not then personally exist, yet Christ did, and he existed as a covenant head and representative of his people; and they were in him, as members of him, as represented by him, being united to him; and this grace was given to him for them, and to them in him; in whom they were chosen, and in whom they were blessed with all spiritual blessings. The Ethiopic version reads, “in Christ Jesus, who before the world was“; but without any foundation.’ John Gill.
Calvin: ‘For if God chose us before the foundation of the world, He could not have paid any regard to works for there were none and we ourselves did not exist.’ P. 297
John Murray wrote, “Union with Christ is the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation,” Quite a statement – what do you think?
Union with Christ (or the Mystical Union) firmly places Christ at the centre of Salvation and not us. It really is all about Him – and I for one a happy about that!
Someone else has said this is ‘An ocean into which all other doctrines (of Salvation) flow’
It’s illustrated in several ways: John 14:23, 17:21-23 – Trinity
Stones of a building and the chief corner-stone – Eph 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5.
Adam and all his posterity – Romans 5:12-19; 1 Cor 15:19-49.
Between the head and other members of the body – Eph 4:15-16 This forms His Mystical Body – The Church. More on the Church from Ian,
Last but not least – Marriage Eph 5:32
The illustration of marriage is a picture of our union with Christ. And this is why illicit sexual relationships, adultery, homosexuality and so on bring down the anger of God, especially when it involves the people of God. It’s a violation of the body of Christ. Our society – maybe no society – just doesn’t get this.
It’s a union that ought to express itself in the Church and between believers. Pastor Paul preached on this from Hebrews last week. We have no say in it – we are members one of another. Sometimes that’s not easy. We should forgive then as Christ forgave us – as part of the same body.
Our Union with Christ gives us incredible security as we heard on Sunday. To be forsaken by God is an impossibility because He would have to forsake Christ for that to happen. The Lord Jesus Christ paid the price of separation in order to bring us to God – amazing!
The Bible doesn’t speak of uncertainty – our Salvation is something that has been accomplished! Hebrews 9:12
What then, do we have In Christ? Confidence, Assurance, Security, Life, Fellowship, Suffering, Resurrection, Glory.
All wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption, holiness, love, grace, everything we stand in need of is ours In Christ! We need to try and understand that the things we cannot see are more sure than the things we can see. They are both real but the seen is dependent on the unseen.
In Christ – The shepherd’s scrapbook this guy helpfully gives several practical exhortations.
• Union with Christ means inclusion into His Body (the Church). This really gets at the heart of the main question: Is the theme of the believer’s union with Christ wed to the theme of union into the body of Christ (the Church)? Or are these separate and distinct unions? The simple answer is that it appears the unions are united in passages like 1 Corinthians 10:17 (see also 12:12–13 and Colossians 3:3 and 3:11–15). That is why I think Manton is correct in saying that “mystical union is the union of believers with Christ the head, and with one another.” Our personal union with Christ is the basis of our union into his body, the Church. Okay, so what are the consequences?
• Union with Christ, and corporate solidarity, are displayed in the Lord’s Supper. I don’t think we have a clearer visual picture of our union with Christ than in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (see Matthew 26:26–27 and John 6:41–56). With that in mind, the Lord’s Supper is where we show ourselves to be “one body” as we partake of “one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16–17).
• Baptism is a symbol of our union with Christ and our union with all those who are in Christ. The NDT states, “Baptism signifies union with Christ in his body, the church, for to be ‘in Christ’ is to be one with all who are united to him.” See Galatians 3:26–28 and 1 Corinthians 12:12–13 for this connection.
• Union with Christ is the context of our corporate maturity and growth. We are growing up, growing up together, growing up together “in him.” See Ephesians 4:11–16 along with Colossians 3:12–17 (in light of verses 1–4).
• Union with Christ is the basis of our mutual dependence. We are united to Christ, we are one body. Therefore, we need one another. This unity in Christ showcases the diversity of gifts and our need for one another in 1 Corinthians 12:12–31.
• Union with Christ is the basis for church membership. In the context of church membership, John Piper writes: “becoming a Christian means being united to Christ, and union with Christ expresses itself in union with a local body of believers. It seems to us that in the New Testament, to be excluded from the local church was to be excluded from Christ” (see 1 Corinthians 5:1–5). Union with Christ and church membership are seemingly inseparable. (This might seem a little controversial in some circles, but to say ‘there is no salvation outside of the Church’ is quite correct.)
Ultimately, the life and vitality of the church is directly connected to the life of the Saviour. Charles Spurgeon perhaps captured this point best in sermon #2653. I’ll close with a quote from it:
Union with Christ is essential to the life of his Church.
Men sometimes lose a, foot, or a leg, or an arm, or an eye, or an ear. It is very remarkable how a man may continue to exist after he has lost several of his limbs, but he cannot live if his head is taken away. Cut that off, and the decapitated body is dead in an instant.
So, brethren and sisters, the Church of God lives because Christ lives, and its life is entirely derived from him. If there were no Christ, there would be no Church; and if there is, anywhere, a body of professors without vital union to Christ, they are not a church. They may have the name of a church, but they are assuredly dead. The Spirit of God flows through Christ into the whole of his true Church, permeating every part of his wonderful mystical body.
Here’s a hymn that puts our Union with Christ very well.
Lord Jesus, are we one with Thee?
O height, O depth of love!
Thou one with us on Calvary,
We one with Thee above.
Such was Thy grace, that for our sake
Thou didst from Heaven come down,
With us of flesh and blood partake,
In all our misery, one.
Our sins, our guilt, in love divine,
Confessed and borne by Thee;
The gall, the curse, the wrath, were Thine,
To set Thy members free.
Ascended now, in glory bright,
Still one with us Thou art;
Nor life, nor death, nor depth, nor height,
Thy saints and Thee can part.
O teach us, Lord, to know and own
This wondrous mystery,
That Thou with us art truly one,
And we are one with Thee.
Soon, soon shall come that glorious day,
When, seated on Thy throne,
Thou shalt to wondering worlds display
That Thou with us art one.
James George Deck (1807-1884)
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