What it Means to be United to Christ

Originally published Saturday, 21 October 2017.

One of the joys of homeschooling my children includes teaching them the parts of our English language that, when strung together, make up a sentence. Both my boys memorized a list of prepositions in elementary school. Prepositions are important words because they help us understand the relationship between two things. Without them, many sentences wouldn't make sense. After all, what would "My pen fell under the table" be without the word "under"? 

My youngest especially enjoyed learning prepositions when I gave him an activity. His favorite activity involved a small area rug in our school room. I had him stand "on" the rug. He stood "beside" the rug. He put his foot "over" the rug and "under" it. Best of all was when I asked him to roll himself up "in" the rug—like a burrito.

The word "in" is a preposition used throughout Paul's letters in the New Testament. This two letter word is part of a crucial doctrine for believers. Over and over, Paul teaches us that we are "in Christ." Being "in Christ" is a reference to our unity with Christ. When God the Son left the halls of heaven and wrapped himself in human flesh at the incarnation, he united himself to us in our humanity. He then lived the perfect life we could not live and died the death we deserved. Through the gift of faith, we are united to him in his life and death for us. Everything Christ did becomes ours.  

I talk about union with Christ in my book, particularly in terms of what it means for us as believers to be united to one another through Christ. Today, I wanted to share some of the wonders of what it means that we are "in Christ."

*It began in eternity past when God chose us in Christ. “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Ephesians 1:4).

*In Christ, we have forgiveness. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”(Ephesians 1:7).

*In Christ, we are sanctified. “To those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2).

*In Christ, we have been given the Spirit. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

*In Christ, we are new creations. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

*In Christ, we are loved. “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” (John 17:23).

*In Christ, we are united with other members of the Body. “We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5).

*In Christ, we walk with Him. “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6).

*In Christ, we have been raised. “And raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).

*In Christ, we have peace. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

*In Christ, we have all we need. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

*In Christ, we were made for good works. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Being united to Christ, being "in Christ," is the basis for every benefit we have. It's fundamental to our faith and the Christian life. As I wrote in my book, Closer Than a Sister:

"In John 15, Jesus describes our union or connection to Him like that of a vine. ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing’ (vv. 1-6).

Only in union with Christ can we bear fruit. Only in union with Christ can we be His disciples. Only in union with Christ can we obey Him. Only in union with Christ can we do anything. Just as a branch receives its life and sustenance from the vine, we too receive our spiritual life and health from our union in Christ. We grow and bear fruit from the nutrients He provides. Our union with our Savior is our very life and breath. So then, if we are not united to Christ, we are not saved, we have no forgiveness, and no redemption. If we are not united to Him, we will not be sanctified or transformed into His likeness. If we are not united to Christ, resurrection from death is not ours. Apart from union with Christ, we are lost and without hope.[1] Christ is everything; therefore, union with Him gives us everything" 

When we understand this union, we realize its significance to our identity, to our growth in faith, to our sanctification, to our daily lives as believers. Take time today to dwell on the wonders of your union with Christ.


[1] Ryken, Philip Graham (Editor). The Communion of Saints: Living in Felowship with the People of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2001), p. 18.