Our Union With Christ

 

Described

 

Our union with Christ can be described as the state in which our hearts are joined or united to Him.

 

Explained

 

The New Testament contains many verses about believers being in a state of union with Jesus Christ. Being united to Him is closely linked to the Biblical teachings on regeneration and the new creation. Galatians 4:6 refers to the Spirit of the Son of God dwelling in our hearts: “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Note the New Testament word “heart” includes our spirit, mind, will, emotions and conscience.

The expressions “in Christ”, “in Him” and “in Christ Jesus” are used many times in the New Testament. They relate to our union with Him and sometimes to certain aspects of our legal standing in Christ before God the Supreme Ruler and Judge.

John 14:16-17, Romans 8:15-16, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19, Galatians 3:2, Ephesians 1:13, 3:16 and 1 John 3:24 speak of the union of believers with God the Holy Spirit. God is one God manifested in three Persons. It is understandable then that John 17:21 and Ephesians 4:6 reveal believers are also in one sense in union with God the Father.

 

Abiding in God and Jesus Christ

 

Over the centuries, there has been many books written and sermons preached which have claimed there are two categories of saved believers. These books say that the first group are those super-spiritual Christians who abide in God and Christ. These books claim that the second group are those very unspiritual, extremely fleshly, supposedly saved believers who do not abide in Christ and who live wicked lives continually.

The Apostle John shows how wrong these ideas are. In 1 John 4:13, John teaches that all New Covenant believers, who have the Holy Spirit, abide in God: “By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”

In 1 John 4:15, John says that whoever confesses Jesus Christ is the Son of God, will have God abiding in him and him in God: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” Such confession obviously must be genuine and be an expression of true faith in Him. In Romans 10:9, Paul links saving faith and confession of Jesus as personal Lord. 1 John 4:15 does not teach it is only a small group of super-spiritual believers who abide in God and He in them.

In 1 John 2:27, John shows that his believing listeners has previously received the anointing of Holy Spirit. Then in 1 John 2:28, John commands the same believers to abide in Christ in an ongoing sense so they can in future have confidence and not be ashamed at His Second Coming. Those who do not continue to remain in Christ until death will not be in a state of salvation at Christ's Second Coming.

 

Being rooted and built up in Jesus Christ

 

In Colossians 2:7, Paul refers to our initial coming into union with Jesus Christ as being “rooted in Him”. In the same verse, Paul refers to the deepening of our union with Christ after conversion by the expression “built up in Him”. Colossians 2:6-7 says: “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith…” In the original Greek, the word “rooted” here is a form of the word “rhizoo” and is in the perfect tense and passive voice. The perfect tense here means all the Colossian believers had been rooted in Christ in completed actions which had continuing effects or they were already in the state of being rooted in Him. These completed actions occurred at their conversions. The passive voice signifies this rooting in Christ was done to these believers by Another – in this case God.

In the original Greek, the expression “built up” in Colossians 2:7 is a form of the word “epoikodomeo” and is in the present tense and passive voice. Because building on a foundation is a progressive process, the present tense here signifies all these believers were being continuously built up in Jesus Christ. The passive voice shows this action of building up believers in Christ was done to them by God.

The word “rhizoo” means “cause to take root (mostly figuratively), fix firmly, put on a firm foundation, be or become firmly rooted or fixed”. [1] “Epoikodomeo” means “build on something (already built or at hand), build up to”. [2] Therefore, in Colossians 2:6-7, Paul teaches that God firmly roots all true believers at conversion in Jesus Christ and then after conversion continuously or progressively builds them up on the foundation of Christ.

 

Growing in our union with Christ

 

In Ephesians 4:15, Paul teaches us about the perfection which our union with Jesus Christ will reach when we grow into perfect maturity in Him: “…may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ.” Such a level of perfect maturity in Him will only be obtained after we die physically. But note the above verse refers to us growing towards this.

After we physically die and later receive our resurrected bodies, we will be filled and in union with the Spirit of Christ in every part of our being. Because our mind, will, emotions and body will be totally surrendered or submitted to Jesus Christ, each of these parts of ourselves will be filled with the Spirit’s presence.

Prior to our physical death, we as believers can surrender our wills, thoughts, emotions and bodies to varying degrees. The degree we submit these areas of ourselves to Jesus Christ, will be the degree to which we are in union with and filled by His Spirit. God does not take away the freedom of choice found in the human will He has given believers. This is just as He did not take away Christ's will while He was here during His earthly life. But just as Christ submitted His human will perfectly to His Father’s will, so too must we aim for this.

Balanced Christianity

 

To be a Biblically balanced Christian, we need to:

 

·         continually think and speak about ourselves in terms of what the Word of God reveals our union with Him involves. We must believe with certainty what God says we are, we are.

·         also remind ourselves of what we were or would be without Christ in order to maintain humility and to remember it is only by His undeserved grace we are what we are in Him. We need to meditate on verses such as John 15:5: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

 

Errors about our union with Christ

 

There are a number of errors we must avoid in our attitudes to our union with Christ:

 

1.       The first error involves believing all humans, including unbelievers, are in union with Christ because He is present everywhere. Such ideas are common among mystical groups who try to incorporate pagan philosophies with the Bible. Many liberal Protestants also teach a version of this idea based on their false belief God is the spiritual Father of everyone including unbelievers. This view also sometimes involves a misunderstanding of Acts 17:28.

2.       Another common error occurs among those mystical believers who think their union with Christ is so complete that they and Christ are no longer two distinct persons. They say, “We are Christ” or “I am Christ”. Such attitudes easily lead to the same pride which destroyed Satan. The Biblical truth is revealed in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God…” Here we see our old “I” has been crucified with Christ and He lives within us. But we also see that the new resurrected “I” in Christ lives. It is not as though coming into union with Christ results in me no longer existing. Union with Him results in a new transformed “I” in Christ, not an annihilation of me and a replacement of me by Jesus. I am a son of God but I will never be the Son of God. But in union with Him, I will become more and more like Him through His Presence within me.

3.       Yet another error is the idea that trees, animals, other parts of the natural earth, the stars and the universe are in spiritual union with Jesus Christ and are manifestations of Him. Such ideas are based on various pagan Eastern religions.

4.       A common error is the liberal belief that union with Christ does not involve Him living in us but refers to Him merely uniting to us in purpose, ideas and love.

 

Bible Study Questions

 

1.         Describe what our union with Christ means.

2.         Do only very spiritual believers abide in God and Christ? Give Biblical proof for your answer.

3.         Does the New Testament teach that believers are already rooted in Christ or are rooted in Him as a progressive process throughout our lives?

4.         What does it mean to be built up in Christ?

5.         List some errors we may make in our attitudes to our union with Christ.


 

 

The New Testament concept of the “old man” or “palaion anthropon” in Greek refers to the pre-conversion corrupted fallen humanity, attitudes and actions of every individual in a collective sense. The New Testament teaching of the “new man” or “kainon anthropon” in Greek relates to the regenerated humanity of every individual believer in Christ in a group sense. In context, Ephesians 2:15 refers to the true universal church in Christ comprising all Israelite and non-Israelite believers in Christ as one “new man” or “kainon anthropon”. Romans 6:6 reveals the “old man” of all believers in a group sense was crucified with Christ on the Cross: “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him…” Our experience of the “new man” or “new humanity” in Christ begins when we are converted. But note by His grace, God pre-planned before the foundation of the earth and the Fall of the human race that believers in Christ would experience the “new man” or “new humanity” in Christ. 2 Timothy 1:9 partly relates to this: “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”

 


 


[1] Bauer, page 736.

[2] Ibid, page 305.

 

 


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