Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Union with Christ

"The heart of Paul's religion is union with Christ."

James S. Stewart, A Man in Christ, page 147.

"Union with Christ –- this is the sum and substance of the Christian's status, the definition of his relationship to Jesus, the large reality in which all the nuances of his new being are embraced."

Lewis B. Smedes, Union With Christ, page xi.

The startling language of "in Christ" -– we would never say we are "in George Washington" –- this startling language appears around 164 times in the writings of the apostle Paul, and it is not a case of mere verbal ingenuity. Paul can't stop talking about this, because it is a profound truth. Through the radical grace of God, we who were excluded and alienated and hostile have been so included that Paul has to invent a new way to say it: "You are in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor 1:30). We, the unclean, are not just washed; we are in the Holy One forever. We, the rebellious, are not just pardoned; we are in the King forever. We, the sad, are not just encouraged; we are in the Blessed One forever. We, the defeated, are not just empowered; we are in the Victor forever. We, the confused, are not just instructed; we are in the Sage forever. This is radical reconciliation, full provision, an astounding advantage. This is how the Jesus who lived 2000 years ago becomes our living Friend and Power today –- union with Christ. God announces to us that he has relocated us in his universe of grace. We are no longer outside Christ, and now not just before Christ or near Christ or beneath Christ, but in Christ. Let's inhale deeply from this new environment.