Union and Abiding
Last Sunday I had the privilege of preaching from the beginning verses of one of the grandest chapters in the Bible—John 15. Of course, that is followed by the equally grand John 16. And John 17.
That passage depicts the believer’s relationship to Christ as a branch is to a vine. The symbolism is all around us. We are ingrafted, united to Christ. And our calling is to abide in him; for apart from Christ we can do nothing.
Do you at times feel as if you’re spinning your wheels? Maybe accomplishing nothing? In those times, I’ve learned that the Lord is calling us back to himself, back to the basics. Jesus invites and desires us to be in union with him. We are IN him, and he is IN us.
Often, the New Testament speaks of this. Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” over 80 times and “in the Lord” another 40. Jesus also emphasizes this teaching in his own words: “you in me, and I in you” (John 14:20). Pastor Stephen Cole puts it this way:
This truth is central to Paul’s understanding of the Christian life (Col. 1:27-28). We have “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). God chose us “in Christ” (Eph. 1:4). “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph. 1:7).** “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance” (Eph. 1:10-11). In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. We have been made complete in Him (Col. 2:3, 10). The list goes on and on. As we learn to live in the reality of all these wonderful treasures that we enjoy in union with our risen Savior, we can do the greater works that Jesus promised we would do.
Commenting on this essential theme, Sinclair Ferguson’s In Christ Alone urges that we “grasp the sheer wonder of our union with Christ.” Admittedly, our union with Christ is grace-based, through and through. As Dr. Ferguson says: “We are actively and personally united to Christ by faith. But faith itself is rooted in the activity of God. It is the Father who, as the divine Gardener, has grafted us into Christ. It is Christ, by his Word, who has cleansed us to fit us for union with himself. All is sovereign, all is of grace.”
Our favorite contemporary Scottish preacher notes in this month’s TableTalk the importance of knowing our union with Christ. He begins by noting: “For the future has already begun in our history in the resurrection of Christ. He is ‘the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep’ (1 Cor. 15:20). His resurrection guarantees ours, just as the firstfruits guarantee the final harvest.” Dr. Ferguson nets things out well: “Because of our union with Christ—as Augustine noted—our Lord considers Himself incomplete without us. So, when He rose from the dead, we rose in Him; when we were united to the risen Savior through faith, we were joined to the resurrected One in such a way that we cannot but rise again one day. Indeed, so indestructible is this union that on the day ‘when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory’ (Col. 3:4).”
This is good news for the beginning of a new day. Sometime enter “Sinclair Ferguson Union with Christ” into any search engine and you will find a trove of great meditations (THIS ONE, for example).
Christ is amazingly gracious not only to come TO us but to live IN us. He makes his home in us, transforming us into his vessels, his neighborhood, his people. I pray that each of us will cherish being united to the True Vine. Few things could be more helpful, much less nourishing.