To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. – Colossians 1:27 (NIV)
For my last two messages we considered God’s faithfulness to David, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We wrapped up those two messages on Palm Sunday by considering how Jesus, God’s Lamb, went it alone through His sufferings and death. Not one stood with Him during the darkest hour of this creation.
For this message I would have us consider the saint’s blessed union with Christ. I doubt we will do it justice with a single message.
In Christ: An Essential Christian Teaching
MARCUS PETER JOHNSON wrote in the preface of his “One with Christ: An Evangelical Theology of Salvation” the following:
This book is concerned with repairing an ever-widening fissure in evangelical theology that threatens to put asunder what God has joined together. In far too many evangelical expressions of the gospel, the saving work of Christ has been so distanced from his person that the notion of a saving personal union with the incarnate, crucified, resurrected, living Jesus strikes us as rather outlandish. We are content, more often than not, to refer to the “atoning work of Christ” or the “work of Christ on the cross” as the basis for our salvation. Yet, as important as such expressions are for a robust evangelical soteriology (the study of salvation), we are in dire need of the reminder that Christ’s saving work is of no benefit to us unless we are joined to the living Savior whose work it is. When we entertain the notion—consciously or not, intentionally or not—that we can be saved by the work of Christ apart from being joined to him personally, we are deepening a fissure that, left unrepaired, will continue to move us away from our biblically faithful theological heritage.
If Colossians 1:27 does not humble you, if that word from God does not speak to your heart, if you’ve never known some sense of worth and the all worthiness of our God, then re-read it. Meditate over it. Feed on it. Swim in it. Delight in it. This is no ordinary word from God.
John Piper has said, “if you are `in Christ’ listen to what it means for you:”
- In Christ Jesus you were given grace before the world was created.
- In Christ Jesus you were chosen by God before creation.
- In Christ Jesus you are loved by God with an inseparable love.
- In Christ Jesus you were redeemed and forgiven for all your sins.
- In Christ Jesus you are justified before God and the righteousness of God in Christ is imputed to you.
- In Christ Jesus you have become a new creation and a son of God.
- In Christ Jesus you have been seated in the heavenly places even while he lived on earth.
- In Christ Jesus all the promises of God are Yes for you.
- In Christ Jesus you are being sanctified and made holy.
In Christ Jesus everything you really need will be supplied.
- In Christ Jesus the peace of God will guard your heart and mind.
- In Christ Jesus you have eternal life.
- And in Christ Jesus you will be raised from the dead at the coming of the Lord.
The theologian, John Murray said;
… union with Christ is ‘the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation.
The French-German theologian, Albert Schweitzer said;
This ‘being-in-Christ’ is the prime enigma of the Pauline teaching: once grasped it gives the clue to the whole.
Sinclair Ferguson distinguishes six categories of union with Christ:
- Union with Christ is federal or covenantal in the sense that Christ’s obedience is accounted to believers.
- It is carnal or fleshly in the sense that Christ became incarnate and thus became one with humanity.
- Union with Christ is also a faith union in which by faith Christians depend on Christ for nourishment.
- It is a spiritual union because Christians are united to Christ by the agency of the Holy Spirit.
- It is an extensive union in that Christians are united with Christ in everything he has done, including his life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and session.
- It is finally a union of life because Christ lives in Christians and he is visible in their lives.
The great reformer, John Calvin, argued that;
both justification and regeneration are the results of the believer’s union with Christ through faith.
During the era of the American Civil War, the Presbyterian theologian, Robert Dabney wrote;
the bond of the union (with God) is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
This is the teaching that frees the believer from the slavery of performance based religion. I have personally found the “in Christ” relationship to be the doctrine that continues to deeply encouraged my own heart. It just keeps on giving!
Of all the teachings of Holy Scripture, this doctrine is of greatest importance to God’s saints. It is the crown jewel, for we are the set apart holy ones of God (saints) because we are in Christ, and He is in us.
Where did these highly respected men of faith get this “in Christ” truth? Where else other than God’s Word? The challenge for us, is to prove from Scripture, what these teachers consider an essential and central truth of Scripture.
What has the apostle Paul taught?
Romans 8:10-11 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Ephesians 4:14-19 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Colossians 3:11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
2 Thessalonians 1:12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
What has the apostle Peter said?
1 Peter 3:15a but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
And what has the apostle John written?
1 John 2:5-6a but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…
1 John 4:3 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
When was this union Christ conceived?
Paul tells Timothy, God had His eyes on you before the world was created.
2 Timothy 1:9 “He gave us grace in Christ Jesus before the ages began”
Paul tells the saints at Ephesus that it was in eternity past that God Christ Jesus chose us before creation.
Ephesians 1:4 “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world”
To the church at Rome Paul wrote that in Christ Jesus the saints of God are loved by God with an unshakable love.
Romans 8:38–39 “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”
Paul has also taught, that through Christ Jesus, you were redeemed and forgiven for all your sins.
Ephesians 1:7 “In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses”
And to the church at Corinth Paul wrote that in Christ Jesus you are justified before God and the righteousness of God in Christ is imputed to you.
2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”
We also know that in Christ Jesus you have become a new creation and a son of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come”
How did God’s saints become sons of God?
Galatians 3:26 “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith”
On top of that we also know it is through union with Christ Jesus you have been seated in the heavenly places even while he lived on earth.
Ephesians 2:6 “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”
And if that wasn’t enough we are told that in Christ Jesus all the promises of God are Yes for you.
2 Corinthians 1:20 “All the promises of God find their Yes in Christ”
It’s also in Christ Jesus, and only in Christ, that you are being sanctified and made holy.
1 Corinthians 1:2 “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus”
It is also in Christ Jesus where everything you really need will be supplied.
Philippians 4:19 “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus”
Listen to this precious promise. In Christ Jesus the peace of God will guard your heart and mind.
Philippians 4:7 “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”
This next passage is perhaps the most popular. In Christ Jesus you have eternal life.
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”
Here is yet another great promise for you to embrace. In Christ Jesus you will be raised from the dead at the coming of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
John Piper says; “All those united to Adam in the first humanity die. All those united to Christ in the new humanity rise to live again.”
But there’s a question that need to be addressed.
How do we get into Christ?
At the unconscious and decisive level, it is God’s sovereign work.
1 Corinthians 1:30 “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”
Piper’s translation: “From God are you in Christ Jesus.”
But at the conscious level of our own action, it is through faith.
Ephesians 3:17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love.
This life we live in union with his death and life they…
Galatians 2:20 “…live by faith in the Son of God”
We are united in his death and resurrection
Colossians 2:12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Finally, What has Jesus said?
This is where you must begin. Christ must affirm this truth or it is but rubbish.
John 6:56 “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
John 14:20 “Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
John 14:23 (Jesus answered him,) “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
John 17:22-23 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Revelations 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
Take this truth to the bank. Union with Christ is the saint’s ground for their everlasting joy, and it is the Gift of God.
Where is all this taking us?
I hope and pray your heart craves for more of this great truth. Keith Getty and Stuart Townend put into words something of this wonderful truth of God. “In Christ Alone”
|In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
|In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.
|There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.