Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Blue Collar Theology: The Box Illustration of Union with Christ

All believers are united with Christ. To say that a believer is united with Christ is to say that a believer is placed inside of Christ.

I frequently use the idea of a box to illustrate union with Christ. Imagine that Christ is like a box, We get put into the box, and whatever is done to the box is done to whatever is inside the box. If I carry the box to a different room in the house, or to a different house altogether, everything that is in the box also gets moved along with the box. That illustration is a pretty basic (and some might say “crude”) way to illustrate what it means to be “in Christ.” As both a teacher and a learner, I found it helped me to understand union with Christ better. Simple illustrations can sometimes make things more clear, and sometimes my muddy mind needs simple illustrations. 

No one illustration will tell us everything about union with Christ. We can always use more illustrations. Thankfully, the Bible gives several. They create pictures in our mind’s eye. Preacher and teacher John Murray listed several of these illustrations in a book of his. Union with Christ is like the following: 

  • The union that exists between the persons of the Trinity (John 14:23; 17:21-23).
  • The union that exists between Adam and all the human race (Romans 5:12-19; I Corinthians 15:19-49). 
  • The union that exists between man and wife (Ephesians 5:22-23). 
  • The relationship of the vine to the branches (John 15).
  • The relationship between the stones of a building and the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-22; I Peter 2:4-5). 
  • The union that exists between the head and the other parts of the human body (Ephesians 4:15-16).
Of course, the Bible uses each of these illustrations to shed different kinds of light on what union with Christ means. The result is that the teaching becomes rich with meaning. 

So how important is Union with Christ? 

All believers receive the benefits of salvation only through union with Christ. Without union with Christ, believers would not receive any of the benefits of salvation. If we are not in that box, we do not get what that box gets.

  • We get our righteousness by being placed inside that box. Christ lived the life that we could not live. Because we are placed inside of Christ--united with Christ--his righteous life is ours. 
  • We are united together with other believers in Christ to form the Body of Christ, the Church (Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4).
  • We also avoid eternal damnation by being placed inside that box. Christ paid the price that we should have paid. Christ became the sacrificial lamb that allows us to be passed over for judgment. 
  •  We died with Christ, but we also live with Christ (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6;1-14). That means that we are also sanctified through being in Christ--we walk in newness of life because Christ was resurrected. 
  • It also means that someday, our physical bodies will be resurrected because Christ was resurrected (I Corinthians 15:22). 
  • Someday we will be glorified because Christ was glorified (Romans 8:17, 29-30). 
  • And in some way that we do not understand, we sit at the right hand of the Father with Christ even now, because we are in Christ (Ephesians 2:6). This is only a partial list of the benefits of being united with Christ.

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