“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Gal 3:27
It is important for God’s elect in the Gospel of God’s Righteousness that contains Jesus’ baptism, death and resurrection to know what it means to be in union with Christ. In fact, the subject is so frequently mentioned in Scriptures and so wide ranging in its application to the elects. Listed below are several things the elect should know about union with Christ.
The Bible contains an astonishingly number of terms, expressions and images that bear witness to the reality of our union with Christ. In the NT we find literally hundreds of references to the elect union with Christ. To sight merely a few examples, elect are created in Christ Eph 2:10, crucified with Christ Gal 2:20, buried with Christ Col 2:12, baptized into Christ’s death Rom 6:3, united with Christ’s resurrection Rom 6:5, seated with Christ Eph 2:6, Christ in us 2 Cor 13:5 and many more. Suffice it to say, union with Christ is an absolutely fundamental gospel conviction of the Apostles – dear to them because it was so dear to their Lord.
When we are joined to Jesus, we are included in the greatest mystery of the universe, the incarnation of God. The redemption, restoration, regeneration and reconciliation of sinners depends entirely on the union with Christ. By the Holy Spirit the elects are united to Christ to enjoy fellowship with the Father forever. This is eternal life. John 17:3
Our union with Christ is profoundly real and intensely intimate. Union with Christ is not a sentiment, metaphor or a doctrine. Nor is it a way of speaking about justification, sanctification, glorification or any other benefit of Christ.
Our union with the living Christ is the essential truth of our new and eternal existence.
In a way that gloriously transcends our finite understanding, elects are really and truly joined – spiritually and bodily to the baptized, crucified and resurrected Christ. There is no better good news than this.
It is because union with Christ is so central to the Gospel of God’s Righteousness, it has resonated in the teaching and preaching of the church throughout the ages. Our union with Christ is to be accorded the highest degree of importance . Why? It is because being joined to Jesus is the whole point of the Gospel Truth of salvation. For this is the design of the Gospel, that Christ may become ours and that we may be ingrafted into His body.
Justification is a magnificent benefit of being united with Christ. Elects are not united with Christ because we have been justified. It is quite the other way round. Elects are justified because we have been united with Christ, Who is Himself our justification 1 Cor 1:30. Elects receive Christ’s benefits precisely and only because we have been baptized, died and resurrected with Christ. Christ lives in us and whatever grace, righteousness, life, peace and salvation there is in us is all Christ’s, nevertheless it is ours as well by the cementing and attachment through faith by which we became as one body in the Spirit.
Sanctification is a magnificent benefit of being united with Christ. Christ is our justification and He is no less our sanctification. Thus, united to Him, elect is not only forgiven and accounted righteous but also transformed into His holy image. In giving Himself, Christ will no more leave us condemned and guilty (unjustified) than He will leave us corrupted and depraved (unsanctified). This is because Christ cannot be divided into pieces. Jesus is not a partial Saviour of a piecemeal Gospel. When elect is joined to Christ, we receive all of Who He is for us.
Baptism is God’s pledge to us of our union with Christ. In the witness of baptism, God impresses upon our bodies the truth and reality of our incorporation into the death, burial and resurrection of the living Christ. When John the Baptist laid his hands and passed all the sins of humanity upon Jesus at the River Jordan, we too have been laid upon Jesus with our sin, guilt and penalty. Faith in the Gospel of God’s Righteousness enables us to be spiritually baptized into Christ to experience the good news that we have been crucified in Christ’s death and raised to new life in Christ’s resurrection. Baptism is a mystery of our crucified and resurrected identity in Christ Jesus.