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In Christ — Real or Imaginary?
1 Corinthians 1:30
We are told more than 100 times in the New Testament that God’s elect are “in Christ.” This union of Christ and his people is so real that the Holy Spirit tells us we are “the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:23). Yet, multitudes who should know better speak of our union in terms like this: “It is as though we are one with Christ,” “We are considered one with Christ,” “God looks upon us as one with Christ.”
That is not the language, or the teaching of Holy Scripture. Our Savior declares our union with him in these words, “I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (John 14:20). The Holy Spirit tells us that we live in Christ and Christ lives in us, that our life is hid with Christ in God, and that Christ is our life. Paul, writing by divine inspiration said, “Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20), and “for me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). Such language does not describe a legal fiction, or an imaginary union, but a real union, a union that is as vital to Christ’s glory as our Mediator as it is to our salvation in him and by him. Our union with our blessed Savior is the very heart of salvation in him. Without it, there is no possibility of salvation; and with it, there is no possibility of condemnation (Romans 8:1). There is nothing revealed in the Book of God more suited to give believing sinners confidence and strength, comfort and joy in the Lord than our union with Christ (1 John 4:17).
What a glorious union it is! We are one with the glorified Christ. Who can fathom the depths of the words our Savior used to describe this union when he prayed, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:21-23).
This is a glorious oneness beyond the comprehension of our puny brains, but not beyond the grasp of God-given faith. As the three Persons of the Triune God are equally, eternally, and essentially One, so are the members of Christ one with him, their living Head. Our union with Christ our God-man Mediator is just as real, just as complete, just as full as his union with God the Father and God the Spirit. This marvelous and mysterious oneness can never be fully known until we stand before him face to face and see all things in the light of his glory. Then we shall know even as we are known. As the Three Persons in the Godhead are One, so are the partakers of the new creation one with Christ. He appears in heaven for us, and blessed be his holy name, “as he is so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17) If we are one with him by his Father’s electing love, his own redeeming blood, and his Spirit’s regenerating grace, then his Father is our Father, his righteousness our righteousness, his nature our nature, his home our home, and his glory our glory.