“Union with Christ is the ground of everlasting joy, and it is free.” – John Piper
Jesus in His death and resurrection fulfilled and therefore eliminated forever the old covenant requirements and the separation of people from their God. At the death of Jesus on the cross, the veil in the temple was supernaturally torn in two, from top to bottom, a clear signal that the purposes of our God no longer required a building. Why? Because, our God was moving into a new “building,” one not one made with hands. The new “temple” of our God is His church, and every believer in it. By His Holy Spirit, the presence of our God now is manifested in each true disciple of Jesus, and in the congregated disciples that is the church.
This major, kingdom-shaking shift in our God’s relationship with His people is why a new covenant is in place. Nothing about the old covenant could provide this kind of connection, access, or oneness between our God and us. The Kingdom of our God outgrew the old covenant, which has been rendered of no use no longer. Our God, through the Holy Spirit of Christ living in the individual believer and the church, has a new home.
The result is that we have a dual relationship with the Triune God in which we are placed into Christ, while at the same time we are now the dwelling place of the Spirit of Christ Himself. From this dual relationship comes all the promises and blessings of our new covenant relationship now and for eternity with Him. Understanding what we have in this new covenant relationship, this two-way union with our Lord will bring new richness to our living with our God every day.
The benefits of being in Christ are numerous, as can be seen in the more than two dozen references to such benefits in the New Testament. If we were not in Christ, we would still be blocked in our access to our God and our position in His kingdom. Only by being immersed into Christ completely can we gain His righteousness, His presence (see below), and all the other benefits of a disciple. Hence, this dual relationship with Christ Jesus is the central point and the substance of the Christian faith.
The two most central aspects of this dual relationship with Christ by His Holy Spirit are found in Jesus’ words in John 15:4-5 “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
What did Jesus mean when he said, “Abide in me as I abide in you?” As disciples of Jesus we have been placed into Him, what is referred to as “positional union.” Disciples are no longer independent beings, for they are united with Christ. This is what He is referring to when He instructs us to abide in Him. He is reminding us that we are already in Him and we need to think and live accordingly.
Our positional union with Christ is what makes the benefits and power of His death and resurrection applicable in us. Because we are “in Christ,” we are no longer slaves to sin. Jesus broke the power of sin by His death, and because we are joined to Him in the likeness of His death, that power is broken for us as well. These are the facts of our living in Christ Jesus. To “abide in him’ means to be conscious of these facts as we live each day, to order our thinking and choices in light them, and to live consciously connected to Him, consciously under His control and power.
There is more to our placement in Christ, and we will save some of that for future posts. The second part of our dual relationship with Jesus Christ is that He lives His life in us by His Holy Spirit. This is what He meant when He said, “as I abide in You.” When we truly yield control over our living to the Holy Spirit for His complete control, the He is free to live His life in place of ours. His purposes, His power, His love and so much more is brought to bear in our living instead of our own. It is this to which Paul refers in Galatians 2:20, “For I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God….”
His life in us brings to life the benefits of having been placed “in Him.” We no longer need religiosity or rules to make ourselves righteous and holy because it is no longer up to us. Our new life is quite straightforward, for all it needs is for us to deny our self-life, to consider ourselves to be crucified to our own control and agenda. It is no longer we who live but Christ who lives His righteousness, His agenda, His purposes in us.
This is the elegant simplicity of the Christian life. We cannot live it on our own, so every day we must die to self so the Spirit of Christ can live His life in place of ours.
“This ‘being-in-Christ’ is the prime enigma of the Pauline teaching: once grasped it gives the clue to the whole.” – Albert Schweitzer