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United with Jesus: So much more than a mere declaration

Throughout much of my life, I had thought salvation was only about God seeing me differently than he had before. I am still the same sinner I was, but God has chosen to see me as righteous. I had focused only on what Luther called “imputed righteousness’ (see my last post if you haven’t read it).

For my quiet times in the morning, I do the Daily Offices from the Book of Common Prayer. These prayer times begin with an introductory Psalm. It is usually Psalm 95 or Psalm 100. At Easter season, we say a hymn called “Christ our Passover” instead of a Psalm. It is simply three bible passages (1 Cor 5.7-8; Ro 6:9-11; and 1 Cor15:20-22) strung together.

As I was reading the hymn, I stopped. Two words jumped out at me. I couldn’t shake them.

In Christ.

Those words jumped off the page. Is it possible that God means something so much greater than what I had seen there before? Is it possible that this is a literal union I have with Christ that goes far beyond the way God sees me and right to the core of my being?

I am firmly convinced that this is exactly what happens at salvation. At salvation, so much more happens than God seeing you differently. There is a change right in the core of our being.

So what is the change?

Paul says you are united with Christ. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body… Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor 14). At your conversion and baptism, you were made one with Christ. Do yourself a favor. Read that passage literally. Don’t think of the body as a mere organization that likes Jesus. The Body is the presence of Christ on earth. You are one with Jesus.

You are also a partaker in the divine nature (2 Peter 1.4). Wrap your head around that. At salvation, you become a partaker in the divine nature. You have God inside you. You are a living, breathing manifestation of God.

This leads us back to one of my favorite verses of Scripture, the one I pointed you to in my last post:

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

So what does it mean when it says, “we might become the righteousness of God?”

First, it means what I said in that post: that God sees us as righteous in spite of our sin. But it means so much more than that. It means that we become so united with Christ, that we actually become his righteousness. This isn’t just a change in how God sees us. It is a change in our core identity. It is a change so drastic that Paul can say our ‘old self’ died at baptism.

At your conversion, a lot happened. It was a lot more than God deciding to call an evil person righteous.

He gave you a new identity. He gave you a new life. He gave you a new nature. He made you new.

Please believe this: at the very core of your being, you are righteous. You are holy. You are united with Christ. You are a partaker of the divine nature. You are a walking, talking, breathing place where heaven meets earth.

God has changed you. You are new. That is the good news.



2 Responses

  1. “God has changed you. You are new. That is the good news.”

    Can I nuance? I would want to affirm that union is an essential part of God’s application of the benefits of salvation. However, I would want to reserve the “good news/gospel” that is declared by a herald (hence declaration) for the content of accomplishment. The essential question of justification is: By what criteria am I right with God? Is it the newness of my being? Or is it the sufficiency of Christ’s satisfaction and propitiation? I must find pardon. Christ taking on my flesh (his essential union with my nature) is to accomplish salvation outside of me so that I may be united with Him in His accomplishment (my union with Christ).

    Yes, I am made new. Yes, sanctification (and adoption and glorification) are mine in salvation as well as justification. However, to know the accomplishment made outside of me is what is truly the good news (declared to me before it is applied to me. The basis of my being made right with God must be finished in the work of Christ, not accomplished in the application of that finished work to me.

    There is an inherent analogy in 1 Cor 5:21, namely that Christ is made sin for us. Do we take it that Christ became sinful, that he was measurable in his sinful acts? Or do we understand it as Christ taking on sin, not in his being, but in his receiving of the wages of sin, even though Christ earned the wages of righteousness? In the same way, we are the righteousness of God. If the way you mean we become righteous, if applied to Christ becoming sin destroys Christ’s perfect divine nature, there is an error in the understanding of how we are the righteousness of God.

    So I would say justification and union and sanctification cannot be separated, but they must be distinguished. I believe Christ’s perfect righteousness must be our hope and assurance, otherwise when we look inside at our oldness, our darkness when it manifests itself, to what shall we look to know the thrice holy God is not ready to pour out justice on us? Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? [The answer is a Who, not a newness in me. Christ in His person and work is the good news]

  2. I probably disagree with you, Jared. However, so long as you recognize that you are united with Christ at the moment of conversion and that there is a fundamental change in your identity that goes far beyond God declaring the sinful person you are righteous, I think you affirm what I think is important.

    I’ll be off for a month, but thanks for chiming in. your blog looks cool. I glanced at it.

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