In the final analysis, we are greatly privileged and undeservedly blessed as Christians enjoying the benefits that we dearly treasure such as new life, forgiveness of sins, right to be called children of God, and many more. All of these blessing are ours only because we are in Christ, the spring and source of all these heavenly gifts.
Remember that we were conceived and born in sin (Psalm 51:5). We were dead in our transgressions and sin and by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:1-3). Some of us were sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers before God called us to Himself (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-10). We were outsiders, excluded from the people of God, “strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).
But now, because of God’s mercy and grace, we are “no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Eph. 2:19). We are now pardoned from all our sins, adopted children of God, set apart by Him unto Himself to live holy lives. We are now servants of the Most High and bound and destined to His glorious presence.
All these privileges are ours by grace through faith only because God made us one and united with His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is all the work of God. It is because of Him that we believers “are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom of God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:30).
Such life-transforming truth of the gospel of God’s grace is good news indeed! It is good news for us who were once separated from Christ but are now one with Him through faith. Theologians call this the doctrine of “union with Christ.”
“Union with Christ,” says Sinclair B. Ferguson, “is the foundation of all our spiritual experience and all spiritual blessings. These are given to us ‘in Christ’, and only those who are ‘in Christ’ ever experience them” (“The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction,” 97-98). Professor John Murray also writes, “Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation….It is not simply a phase of the application of redemption; it underlies every aspect of redemption….” (“Redemption: Accomplished and Applied,” 201, 205).
In the words of John Calvin, the doctrine of union with Christ and what it brings to us believers is beautifully described: “We must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us….All that [Christ] possesses is nothing to us until we grow into one body with him” (“Institutes of the Christian Religion,” III.i.1). Calvin Seminary theologian Anthony Hoekema also adds, “We are not saved until we have been made one with Christ, and we remain saved only as we remain in union with Christ” (“Saved By Grace,” 54).
The Apostle Paul can therefore say, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph. 1:3-4).
Vic Bernales is an ordained minister in the Pearl of the Orient Covenant Reformed Church. He pastors the Davao Covenant Reformed Church in Davao City, Philippines. He earned his Master of Divinity at Mid-America Reformed Seminary at Dyer, Indiana, U.S.A.