Abide in Key Word Studies on Bible Doctrines
Biblical teachings for personal Bible study, daily devotions and sermon preparation with abiding principles and practical applications. Here is a dictionary of the rich terms used in the Christian vocabulary.
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Vital Union in Christ
"I in you and you in Me" is a dynamic living relationship with Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul testified, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me." The living Christ is the present spiritual life of the believer. Christ's life becomes the dominating principle with us whose source and author is the Holy Spirit. It implies a real connection with Christ, the Head of the Body.
Through the operation of God the Holy Spirit, there is constituted a union of the soul with Christ in which the human spirit, while then most truly possessing its own individuality and personal distinctness, is interpenetrated and energized by the Spirit of Christ, and is made inscrutably but indissolubly one with Him. Our union with Christ is with a personal, risen, living, omnipresent Lord.
Our vital union in Christ is begun in regeneration, completed in conversion, declared in justification, and proved in sanctification and perseverance.
A. H. Strong wrote: “'The Seven Togethers' sums up the Scripture testimony with regard to the consequences of the believer’s Union with Christ: 1. Crucified together with Christ – Gal. 2:20. 2. Died together with Christ – Col. 2:20. 3. Buried together with Christ – Rom. 6:4. 4. Quickened together with Christ – Eph. 2:5. 5. Raised together with Christ – Col. 3:1. 6. Suffers together with Christ – Rom. 8:17. 7. Glorified together with Christ – Rom. 8:17. Union with Christ results in common sonship, relation to God, character, influence and destiny."
John Owen in Communion with God writes: "Now, that we have communion with Christ in this purchased grace, is evident on this single consideration,— that there is almost nothing that Christ has done, which is a spring of that grace whereof we speak, but we are said to do it with him. We are “crucified” with him, Gal. 2:20; we are “dead” with him, 2 Tim. 2:11; Col. 3:3; and “buried” with him, Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12; we are “quickened together with him,” Col. 2:13; “risen” with him, Col. 3:1. “He hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places,” Eph. 2:5, 6. In the actions of Christ, there is, by virtue of the compact between him as mediator, and the Father, such an assured foundation laid of the communication of the fruits of those actions unto those in whose stead he performed them, that they are said, in the participation of those fruits, to have done the same things with him. . ."
Our vital union with Christ is illustrated in the Scriptures from the union of a building and its foundation (Eph. 2:20-22), the union between a husband and wife (Rom. 7:4), the union of the vine and its branches (John 15:1-10), from the union between the member and the head of the body (1 Cor. 6:15, 19; 12:12), and union of the race with the source of its life in Adam (Rom. 5:12, 21; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45-49).
Romans 6:3-5 tells us we have been placed into a vital union with Christ Jesus. The apostle is emphasizing the closest possible kind of union with Christ.
Paul is not saying in verse three the union with Christ was brought to pass by means of water baptism. "Baptism is the public proclamation of one's inward spiritual relation to Christ attained before the baptism," writes A. T. Robertson. In Galatians 3:27, "it is like putting on an outward garment or uniform." The believer has been baptized into union with Christ, and now he is clothed, so to speak, with the life of Christ Himself.
Our baptism pictures Christ's death, burial and our death to sin, and looks forward to Christ's resurrection from the dead and to our new life pledged by the coming out of watery grave to walk on the other side of the baptismal grave.
"A symbol is not the reality, but the picture of the reality," says Robertson. Water baptism by total immersion as the water closes in over the head is a beautiful and powerful symbolism of what it is like to die, be buried, and rise again. It symbolizes our identification with Christ in which the believer shares both in Christ's burial and in His death. We are so identified with Christ that Paul can say we "died together with Him." We have become just as though we were one person with Him.
Alexander Mclaren: "If we are 'in Christ,' we are like a diver in his crystal bell, and have a solid though invisible wall around us, which keeps all sea monsters off us, and communicates with the upper air, whence we draw the breath of calm life and can work in security though in the ocean depths. . . . How do we know that Christ has not departed from the world? Because He imparts to the soul that trusts him a power, a purity, a peace, which are beyond all that nature can give."
In Romans 6:11 the apostle Paul makes practical application of the great truth of our vital union with Christ. The believer is now "dead as far as the power of sin to control your lives is concerned," and now "you live your lives in order to please God." It is a life of fellowship with God.
Paul does not say that baptism makes one dead to sin and alive to God. Dying to sin and making one alive to God is a spiritual operation "in Christ Jesus." Baptism is only a picture in symbolic form of that event.
Baptism in Romans 6 is a picture of God introducing a believing sinner into vital union with Jesus Christ. Through our identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection the power of his sinful nature is broken and the divine nature implanted. We have a new relationship with God because we are now “in Christ.” God placed us in Christ when He died so that we might share His death and the benefits of that identification with Him. God sees us “in Christ” His own Son and treats us in like manner. We were placed in anew environment, Christ, so that “in him we would become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21, NET).
We now have a new source of ethical and spiritual energy imparted to us by God which enables us to live the Christian life. The believer derives his spiritual life from Christ. “Christ in you the hope of glory.”
Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; and 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, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me."
"In union with Christ Jesus," literally "in Christ Jesus," is a form of the expression of the apostle Paul "in Christ." This is the means by which the believer is alive to God through his union with Christ. When we say we are "alive to God" we are in a vital union with Jesus Christ.
Romans 6:3-11; Ephesians 5:30; John 15:1-11
Abiding Principles and Practical Applications
1. When we accepted Christ as our Savior we entered into a real identification with Christ. The only way we can possibly live the Christian life is to be “in Christ” and Christ in us. Jesus said, “I in you and you in Me.”
2. We have died to one kind of life and have been born again into a new kind of life that is pleasing to God. There can be no serious ethical change in our lives without this vital union with Christ. "Our old man was crucified with Him" (Rom. 6:6; Col. 3:9; Eph .4:22), not at baptism, but when "we died to sin" (v.1). Baptism only pictures what took place. By faith believers are made one with Christ and members of His Body.
3. The work of sanctification involves the entire person--intellect, affection, will, soul and body (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:19).
4. Since abundant fruit that is pleasing to God can be produced only as we abide in Christ we must make every endeavor that our hearts be in the fellowship of a living union with Christ (John 15:4; Galatians 5:22-23).
5. Our vital union with Jesus Christ secures and insures our eternal security (John 10:27-30).
For Further Study
Believer’s Vital Union with Christ
Message by Wil Pounds and all content on this page (c) 2005 by Wil Pounds. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent. Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible (c) 1973, and 1995 Update by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
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"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)