What the Bible Means When It Says We’re “In Christ”

Union with Christ represents the sum of our salvation, fellowship, and communion with Jesus

“The earthly analogies we have for how close we are to Jesus fall far short of the reality—hence the mystery. The closest thing we find is the intimate relationship of marriage, which, according to the apostle Paul, was created as an expression—or a sign post—of Christ and his love for the church (Eph. 5:22–33). In a mystical way, we are the body of Christ, and he is our head.”

 

From the early days of creation, the goal that God had in mind was ever-deepening fellowship with his people. This communion is emphasized over and over again in the New Testament as what we now have through God’s Son. The Bible points to our union with Christ with the prepositional phrase “in Christ” (Eph. 1:4; 11; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 5, 6:1–23; 1 Cor. 15:35–58).

The phrase, “union with Christ,” has enjoyed a resurgence of interest. This important element of Scripture was something that I only came to understand in part within the last ten years of being a Christian.

Until I started studying this important doctrine, it never really struck me how important it was for my whole outlook on Christianity, and especially how we as Christians relate to Jesus. Union with Christ represents the sum of our salvation, fellowship, and communion with Jesus.

This reality of union with God in Christ is not something we ever move on from. We only move “further up and further in” as we progress in the Christian life. The mystery of God’s grace as we are united to Jesus has only just begun in this life.

Through the Holy Spirit who gives us faith, we are united to Christ like branches to a vine (John 15:1–11; Gal. 3:14–4:7). Dead branches are now being grafted into a new, living vine. Being united to the first Adam who fell, we were dead in trespasses and sin. But now, we have been granted new life because of the work of Jesus, who is called the second Adam (Rom. 5). Knowing the following three aspects of your union with Christ is the first step to have more joy, hope, and confidence in your daily Christian walk as you learn to commune with God.

1) Our union with Christ is mystical.

The earthly analogies we have for how close we are to Jesus fall far short of the reality—hence the mystery. The closest thing we find is the intimate relationship of marriage, which, according to the apostle Paul, was created as an expression—or a sign post—of Christ and his love for the church (Eph. 5:22–33). In a mystical way, we are the body of Christ, and he is our head.

This is one of the great mysteries of the Bible. All that Jesus did and does flows down to us and benefits us. He is our mediator to God, and because of that we can stand in the shadow of his glory and never fear the wrath we justly deserve. We can expect God’s favor and love.

2) Our union with Christ is legal.

The original relationship man had with God required much of both parties, just like a marriage. Demands, promises, and curses were attached to the agreement (i.e., covenant) made with the first Adam. These obligations were broken, and the curses of the betrayal (like in marriage) had not only relational effects but legal ones as well.

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