Union with Christ is becoming a fashionable term in church world. Some are recognizing the significance of the term, seeing it as the framework in which all of salvation theology makes sense. Others are using it because others are using it.
Yet the term is used in a variety of ways. Some will speak of an ecstatic union where the human soul ascends into some sort of beyond revelation intersection with an unspeaking God. Others will use union with Christ as a label for the legal position achieved by the atonement wherein the sinful soul is counted free and just through association with Christ. Still others will speak of a true union where the believer is truly united by the Holy Spirit to Christ in a marital relationship.
While the term may be used in these three different ways with varying levels of merit, there are actually three unions we should ponder biblically:
1. The union of God with God. The Bible gives us a glorious glimpse into the Trinity, the perfect union of Father and Son by the Spirit that overflows in creation. When the Fall follows we naturally ask what will this God do?
(The Promise – This God promises to defeat sin and death, to send a deliverer who is the Son, and ultimately to achieve a marriage-like connection with humanity.)
2. The union of God and man in Jesus. God sending His Son is the great hinge of history. The Son of God remained fully God, while becoming fully man. This perfect union of God and man in the person of Jesus means that he is fully God, fully man, fully one, forever. In this person we see humanity rescued and drawn to God at the cross of Calvary.
(The Promise fulfilled – God said He would deal with sin and death, and He did. So now we can experience the first phase of the fulfillment plan:)
3. The union of God and man in the Spirit. The Son of God didn’t just become one of us to die for us, He also became one of us to enable us to be united to Him in a spiritual marriage. Now we can taste something of the wonder of being made one Spirit by the Spirit – one with Christ. One day this spiritual marriage will be consummated at the end of human history!
When we preach, let’s not fall into a mere status presentation of the Gospel, nor a hypothetical ideal version of ecstatic union with God. Instead let’s keep front and centre this glorious progress of three unions that tell the wonderful story of God’s great plan.
Since this post made much of the theological theme of Union with Christ, I thought I’d take the opportunity to push your attention towards the growing resources available at Union. Please be sure to take a look at UnionTheology.org for some great resources, as well as Union School of Theology if you are considering pursuing further education.