This Sunday during our class (prior to the service) on The Doctrine of Christ, we will be covering the doctrine of our Union with Christ. I thought I would serve up an appetizer here, to curb the stinging hunger of those attending the class and to entice those who have not attended (some sarcasm intended). This brief summary from Jerry Bridges should do the trick.
Over and over again in Paul’s writings he uses the expression in Christ, in Him, and in the Lord. This is his way of referring to what is called our union with Christ, which means that in a spiritual but nevertheless real way we are united to Christ, both legally and vitally. Legal union refers to what we have already considered—that Christ was appointed by God to be our representative in His life and in His death. It is the basis upon which we can say that Christ lived in our place and died in our place as our representative and our substitute.
It is this legal union that the apostle Paul had in view when he wrote that we were crucified with Christ, that we died with Him, were buried with Him, were made [spiritually] alive with Him, and will ultimately be united with Him in His resurrection (see Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:4-5,10; Ephesians 2:5). In other words, all that Christ did in His life and death is effective for us because we are legally united to Him. Therefore, we can accurately say that when Jesus lived a perfect life, we lived a perfect life. When He died on the cross to suffer the penalty of sin, we died on the cross. All that Jesus did, we did, because of our legal union with Him.
This does not mean that Christ’s work is effective for everyone, because not everyone is in union with Him. We are united to Christ by faith—that is, by trusting in Him as our Savior. But the moment we trust in Christ, we become partakers of and beneficiaries of all that He did in both His life and death.
You may be saying: “wait a minute; you didn’t share with us what it means to be vitally united to Christ. You only covered legal union.” Well my friends, you will have to join us for our study on Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. We will explore more, our legal Union with Christ, as well as our vital Union with Christ. (Here is another blog post on this great doctrine.)