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Union of Believers in Christ

A. A. Hodge

Excerpted from THE CONFESSION OF FAITH
3 Murrayfield Road, Edinburgh EH12 6EL
1879 edition

 

 

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1. To whom are all men united in their natural estate?

To Adam. Our union with him includes,

1st, his federal headship under the covenant of works.—Rom. 5:12–19.

2nd. His natural headship, as per force of ordinary generation, the source of our nature, and of its moral corruptions.—Gen. 5:3; 1 Cor. 15:49.

But the law upon which rested the covenant of works, whereby we were held in union with Adam, having been slain by Christ, “that being dead wherein we were held,” we were “married to another,” that is, to Christ.—Rom. 7:1–4.

2. What is the general nature of our union with Christ?

It is a single, ineffable and most intimate union, presenting to our view two different aspects, and giving rise to two different classes of consequents.

1st. The first aspect of this union is its federal and representative character, whereby Christ, as the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:22), assumes in the covenant of grace those broken obligations of the covenant of works which the first Adam failed to discharge, and fulfills them all in behalf of all his “sheep,”“they whom the Father has given him.” The consequences which arise from our union with Christ under this aspect of it are such as the imputation of our sins to him, and of his righteousness to us, and all of the forensic benefits of justification and adoption, etc.—See Chaps. 33., 34.

2nd. The second aspect of this union is its spiritual and vital character, the nature and consequences of which it is our business to discuss under the present head.

3. What is the foundation of this union?

(1.) The eternal purpose of the triune God, expressed in the decree of election (we were chosen in him before the foundation of the world.—Eph. 1:4), providing for its own fulfillment in the covenant of grace between the Father as God absolute, and the Son as Mediator.—John 17:2–6; Gal. 2:20;

(2.) in the incarnation of the Son, whereby he assumed fellowship with us in community of nature, and became our brother.—Heb. 2:16, 17; and

(3.) in the mission and official work of the Spirit of Christ (1 John 4:13), through the powerful operation of whom in the bodies and souls of his people the last Adam is made a quickening spirit (1 Cor. 15:45), and they are all constituted the body of Christ and members in particular. 1 Cor. 12:27.

4. By what analogies drawn from earthly relations is this union of believers with Christ illustrated in Scripture?

The technical designation of this union in theological language is “mystical,” because it so far transcends all the analogies of earthly relationships, in the intimacy of its communion, in the transforming power of its influence, and in the excellence of its consequences. Yet Holy Scripture illustrates different aspects of this fountain of graces by many apt though partial analogies.

As,

1st, foundation of a building and its superstructure.—1 Pet. 2:4, 6.

2nd. Tree and its branches.—John 15:5.

3rd. Head and members of the body.—Eph. 4:15, 16.

4th. Husband and wife.—Eph. 5:31, 32; Rev. 19:7–9.

5th. Adam and his descendants, ill both their federal and natural relations.—Rom. 5:12–19; 1 Cor. 15:22, 49.

5. What is the essential nature of this union?

On the one hand, this union does not involve any mysterious confusion of the person of Christ with the persons of his people; and, on the other hand, it is not such a mere association of separate persons as exists in human societies. But it is a union which,

1st, determines our legal status on the same basis with his.

2nd. Which revives and sustains, by the influence of his indwelling Spirit, our spiritual lift, from the fountain of his life, and which transforms our bodies and souls into the likeness of his glorified humanity.

It is, therefore—

1st. A spiritual union. Its actuating source and bond is the spirit of the head, who dwells and works in the members. 1 Cor. 6:17; 12:13; 1 John 3:24; 4:13.

2nd. A vital union, i. e., our spiritual life is sustained and determined in its nature and movement by the life of Christ, through the indwelling of his Spirit.—John 14:19; Gal. 2:20.

3rd. It embraces our entire persons, our bodies through our spirits.—1 Cor. 6:15, 19.

4th. It is a legal or federal union, so that all of our legal or covenant responsibilities rest upon Christ, and all of his legal or covenant merits accrue to us.

5th. It is an indissoluble union.—John 10:28; Rom. 8:35, 37; 1 Thess. 4:14, 17.

6th. This union is between the believer and the person of the God–man in his office as Mediator. Its immediate organ is the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, and through him we are virtually united to and commune with the whole Godhead, since he is the Spirit of the Father as well as of the Son.—John 14:23; 17:21, 23.

6. How is this union between Christ and the Christian established?

It was established in the purpose and decree of God, and in the Covenant of the Father with the Son from eternity.—Eph. 1:4; John 17:2, 6. Nevertheless, the elect, as to personal character and present relations, before their effectual calling by the Spirit, are born and continued “by nature children of wrath even as others,” and “strangers to the covenants of promise.”Eph. 2:3, 12. In God’s appointed time, with each individual of his chosen, this union is established mutually—

1st. By the commencement of the effectual and permanent workings of the Holy spirit within them (they are quickened together with Christ in the act of the new birth opening the eyes and renewing the will, and thus laying in their natures the foundation of the exercise of saving faith

2nd. Which faith is the second bond by which this mutual union is established, by the continued actings of which their fellowship with Christ is sustained, and its blessed consequences developed.—Eph. 3:17. Thus we “come to him,”“receive him,”“eat of his flesh and drink of his blood,” etc.

7. What are the consequences of this union to the believer?

1st. They have a community with him in his covenant standing, and rights. forensically they are rendered “complete in him.” His righteousness and his father is theirs. They receive the adoption in him, and are accepted as to both their persons and services in the beloved. They are sealed by his Holy Spirit of promise; in him obtain an inheritance; sit with him on his throne and behold his glory.—Rom. 8:1; Col. 2:10; Eph. 1:6, 11, 13; Phil. 3:8, 9.

As Mediator, Jesus is “the Christ,” the anointed one, and the believer is the Christian, or receiver of “the unction.” —Acts 11:26; 1 John 2:20. His mediatorial office embraces three principal functions—

(1.) That of prophet, and in fellowship with him the believer is a prophet.—John 16:13; 1 John 2:27.

(2.) That of priest, and the believer also is a priest in him. Isa. 61:6; 1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 20:6.

(3.) That of king, and in him the believer is a king.—1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 3:21; 5:10.

2nd. They have fellowship with him in the transforming, assimilating power of his life, making them like him; every grace of Jesus reproducing itself in them; “of his fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” This holds true, (I) with regard to our souls, Rom. 8:9; Phil. 2:5; 1 John 3:2; (2) with regard to our bodies, causing them to be now the temples of the Holy Ghost, 1 Cor. 6:17, 19; and his resurrection to be the cause of ours, and his glorified body to be the type of ours.—Rom. 6:5; 1 Cor. 15:47, 49; Phil. 3:21. And thus believers are made to bear fruit in Christ, both in their bodies and spirits, which are his.—John 15:5; 2 Cor. 12:9; 1 John 1:6.

3rd. This leads to their fellowship with Christ in their experience, in their labors, sufferings, temptations, and death.—Gal. 6:17; Phil. 3:10; Heb. 12:3; 1 Pet. 4:13. Thus rendering sacred and glorious even our earthly life.

4th. Also to Christ’s rightful fellowship with them in all they possess. Prov. 19:17; Rom. 14:8; 1 Cor. 6:19, 20.

5th. Also to the consequence that, in the spiritual reception of the holy sacraments, they do really hold fellowship with him. They are “baptized into Christ.”—Gal. 3:27. “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ; the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ.”—1 Cor. 10:16; 11:26; John 6:51–56.

6th. This leads also to the fellowship of believers with one another through him, that is, to the communion of saints.

8. What is the nature of that “communion of saints” which springs from the union of each saint with the Lord?

See “Confession of Faith,” Chapter 26. Believers being all united to one head are, of course, through him mutually, related in the same community of spirit, life, status, and covenanted privileges with one another.

This involves upon the part of all believers—

1st. Reciprocal obligations and offices according to the special grace vouchsafed to each. Like the several organs of the body all have part in the same general life, yet each has his own individual difference of qualification, and consequently of duty; “for the body is not one member but many.”—1 Cor. 12:4–21; Eph. 4:11–13.

2nd. They have fellowship in each other’s gifts and complementary graces, each contributing his special loveliness to the beauty of the whole.—Eph. 4:15, 16.

3rd. These reciprocal duties have respect to the bodies and temporal interests of the brethren, as well as to those which concern the soul.—Gal 2:10; 1 John 3:16–18.

4th. They have fellowship in faith and doctrine.—Acts 2:42; Gal. 2:9.

5th. In mutual respect and subordination.—Rom. 12:10; Eph. 5:21; Heb. 13:17.

6th. In mutual love and sympathy.—Rom. 12:10; 1 Cor. 12:26.

7th. This fellowship exists unbroken between believers on earth and in heaven. There is one “whole family in heaven and on earth.”—Eph. 3:15.

8th. In glory this communion of saints shall be perfected, when there is “one fold and one shepherd,” when all saints shall be one as Father and Son are one.—John 10:16; 17:22.

Index to Series of Sermons on Our Vital Union in Christ 
Our Vital Union with Christ: The Application of Christ's Redemption . . . by A. H. Strong

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Title:  Union of Believers in Christ by A. A. Hodge

Series: Vital Union with Jesus Christ

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