Union with Christ is Everything

The wonderful truth about Christians' union with Christ, and all that it means, is at the heart of Christianity spirituality.

What “spiritual value” comes from union with Christ? It is our position in Him that makes His death count for us and His resurrection mean our life (Rom. 6). Inclusion in Christ is the logic of salvation; when you exclude it from your picture of redemption (even with the intent of being more inclusive), you sever salvation from its source. There is no life apart from Christ.

 

As a missionary, my grandfather taught Greek and Hebrew at a seminary in Igbaja, Nigeria. He labored for years after on a cognate lexicon of New Testament Greek. Such interest in biblical languages may sound heady and high-brow, the sort of thing that wouldn’t have much connection with vibrant faith.

But nothing could be further from the truth. If you talked to my grandfather about Greek, you’d quickly learn that what he was most passionate about was what he referred to as the “identification truths”–the wide variety of Greek constructions that the New Testament uses to describe Christians’ connection with their Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

Believers are “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20, NIV), “raised with Christ” (Col. 3:1), “in Christ Jesus” (Php. 1:1), “baptized into Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:3), “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2), “circumcised by Christ” (Col. 2:11), and reconciled to God “through Christ” (2 Cor. 5:18). Christ’s disciples are related to Him as branches to the life-giving vine (Jn. 15:5). In Christ, believers receive “every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3), including election (v.4), predestination (v.5), adoption (v.5), grace (v.6), redemption (v.7), and the sealing of the Holy Spirit (v.13).

This is just a sampling of the Scripture’s teaching on the significance of union with Christ for believers. Recent years have seen numerous books tracing and expounding this biblical theme, a renewed focus on what has always been at the heart of Christian faith: the saving relationship that Christians have with their Triune God and Savior, found in the Father’s gracious gift of union with the Son by the Spirit. This is core Christianity, in all its warmth and wonder and power.

Christian life is life in Christ. The wonderful truth about Christians’ union with Christ, and all that it means, is at the heart of Christianity spirituality. We can probe it in reverent exegesis of the Greek New Testament and we can embrace it with the childlike faith of ‘receiving Jesus into your heart.’ One thing we cannot do is comprehend the totality of God’s kindness to us in Christ.

And one thing we must not do is downplay the significance of this majestic spiritual truth. But there are, tragically, some who call themselves Christians but seek to do just that.

Some months ago, in a bout of tweets responding to The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel, Union Theological Seminary expressed their rejection of Christ as the only way of salvation. They still claim to be Christians, but they deny that a relationship with Jesus is necessary in order to be saved. Instead, they say:

“We deny that salvation is only found through Christianity, that God’s salvific grace is exclusive to any single faith or religion. Moreover, in God’s eyes there is no difference in spiritual value or worth between those who are ‘in Christ’ and those who aren’t.”[1]

[1] Union Theological Seminary, via Twitter, @UnionSeminary, Sept. 5, 2018.

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