Union with Christ

by Mike Ratliff

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9 ESV)

Here lately I feel as if I have been walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon. One false step and that’s it. I had a friend comment on my last post on Unconditional Election that by posting it I had taken on a Jeremiah type role. What was he actually saying? Isn’t it that the subject of that post was so controversial that I was bound to take many hits by upsetting many people? It was something like that. I posted it last night around 9pm CDT and I had my first comment on it before I even had a chance to relax for a few minutes. This morning when I logged into Possessing the Treasure there were well over twice as many comments ready to be moderated than I usually get on a post. As I started working my through them I noticed three different types. Some were adamant that I was wrong or there was something wrong with my research. Some were just a adamant that it was a good post that stated the truth. Lastly there were some who agreed with much of the post, but just couldn’t make that last step of belief into being part of the second group. This started me thinking. What of unity? Aren’t we supposed to seek to unity of mind? What’s wrong? Why is there so much animosity towards this subject? Should we seek common ground so that we can all just get along?

I’m sure you know my answer to that last question. No, that’s called compromise. Yes, we are commanded to have unity among the brethren, but that unity must be based on our union with Christ. Jesus prayed that His church would have unity through Him in John 17, but how does the Bible describe it? Here are a few passages. The first two describe union with Him as Christ being in us.

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV)

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:24-29 ESV)

This passage describes our union with Christ as us being in Him.

20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20 ESV)

How is this union with Christ maintained? It is maintained by faith.

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV)

It is maintained by us abiding in him and His word abiding in us.

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:4-7 ESV)

It is maintained by feeding on him.

56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. (John 6:56 ESV)

It is maintained by obeying him.

24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 John 3:24 ESV)

Let’s stop for now. What do we have so far. Those who will have unity of mind will also have union with Christ. That union with Christ is ONLY active and alive in those who are in Christ and Christ is in them. Also, these same people will maintain their union with Christ by faith. This faith is not simply believing and that’s it, but it causes those with it to live in the flesh but not be of the flesh. They have crucified their flesh and now live for their Saviour and God’s glory alone. They can keep this up consistently by abiding in Christ which makes them fruitful. They are strengthened by feeding on Christ and reveal there genuineness by obeying Christ in all things.

Those who are in union with Christ will have the mind of Christ.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV)

They will also be of one spirit with Christ.

17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (1 Corinthians 6:17 ESV)

They will also be in the fellowship of His sufferings.

10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11 ESV)

11 The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:11-13 ESV)

They will also have union with Christ in His death.

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:3-8 ESV)

They will have assurance in their Union with Christ.

20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (John 14:20 ESV)

What do we know so far? Those in union with Christ will have unity of mind. They will have the mind of Christ. This is His values and discernment. It is describing Christlikeness in believers. They will be in one spirit with Christ. They will not be doing things against what Christ or His Apostles taught. They will discern as Christ discerned. They will love as Christ loved. They will rebuke as Christ rebuked. They will abhor hypocrisy. As a result of this, they will experience suffering from those who think that Christianity itself is evil or their form of Christianity does not match their religious traditions. Some of the worst offenders are those who think they are pleasing God by persecuting those who are actually obeying Him. Those obeying God in the face of this persecution can do so because they have died to self. They are alive to God and dead to this world. No matter how much heretics and apostates attack them, those in union with Christ will not doubt, but will be even more assured.

That’s enough for now. Do you see that unity of mind among Christians is born from our union with Christ? Those who are false disciples or false teachers or false prophets will not be in union with Christ and it will cause conflict between the two. We must never seek unity on the basis of peace alone. Instead the unity we must have is that based solely on our Union with Christ.

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13 thoughts on “Union with Christ

  1. Mike,

    I don’t know that animosity would be a good way to describe the feelings. Determined to understand the true meaning. You know just 150 to 200 years ago almost everyone with the exception of Catholics were in agreeance (however you spell that). Now everyone has there own idea. I wish we could go back and see what they believed then. I don’t think it had changed much from when Paul was here.

    Philip

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  2. Philip,

    I don’t know how to spell it either. 🙂

    You are right, we have chaos now. It is horrible. However, I believe God is drawing His people into the light though. I hear from so many people who profess very similar restorations to the truth that I had back in 2004 and forward. I think we need to get back to becoming centered on God’s Word with unity in our Union to Christ. That, of course, means we must obey Him. That is where I see the division all around us. There is so much disobedience with little, if any, conviction among many professing Christian groups. I believe the faithful are being called out of those churches. What do you think brother?

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  3. Well,

    Your beliefs are very similar to mine. I am a member of a church that requires strict discipline. I think that is biblical. Matthew tells how to conduct discipline. We have a very basic worship in which no one who doesn’t have the Spirit would enjoy. Simply because we don’t do things that aren’t spoken of in the Bible like try to entertain people. We sing songs of wroship and preach and we believe that our doctrine was passed down from the apostles from one generation to the next unchanged. Now we also realize that there may be a few discrepancies but we use scripture only as our basis of practice and doctrine. I think it helps keep the human elemant out of it. I hate that there are so many divisions among us any more but we cannot take in the doctrines of the world.

    Philip

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  4. Philip,

    I have some family and friends that would not like your church, but I think I would like it very much. 🙂 I do pray that they will repent of their self-gratification bent, but I had to be delivered from that as well so I await God doing that in their hearts too.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  5. Well I grew up a Southern Baptist, I had two employees who were very different from the world and stood firm in their faith. They told me of some of things that they didn’t do and I thought they were crazy. I felt like the Lord led me here though and a wonderful relief it was to me to know that the salvation of the world did not rest on the shoulders of me preaching the gospel.

    Philip

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  6. Christian unity is found only in the gospel. We see in Romans 16:17 the admonition to “keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned and turn away from them.” The emphasis is on “the teaching which you learned,” which is the whole gospel. I can never call myself “calvinist” for it is not a biblical term and Scripture clearly shows that “if our message be hidden it is veiled to those who are perishing in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:3) When the gosple and Law is preached to an unsaved person, it is the “tutor that leads to Christ.” Our blindness is removed, we see ourselves as God sees us, not how we see ourselves, and now for the first time in our life we can make a “free” choice. Every other has been in the bondage to sin and blindness to our true spiritual condition. How else does one explain the parable of the sower and the seed, the true and false convert? Why are we told to “Test yourselves!” if there were unconditional election? Why is 1John written as a series of tests to see if one is truly in the faith, if what we call faith is saving faith? As I have said before, our unity is in the gospel, not in Armenianism or Calvinism or so other “ism”, and this is where we get into so much trouble. One only has to study the life of John Calvin and the atrocities he committed in Geneva during his reign there to bring into question his teachings. We need to look at his heavily Catholic background and influence of Augustine, who himself rejected apostalic teachings and added such things as regenerational infant baptism, sacraments, additional books in the Bible, among others, to seriously question the man. We need to look seriously at the origins of the Geneva Bible, it Vulgate origins, the errors in its development and the subsequent King James Bible ( See “What Love is This?” DAve Hunt among many sources) to really question this doctrine. Is there truth in much of it? Of course. Am I an Arminianist? No, but certainly not Calvinist either. This is where we get into trouble with each other and the world, when we lose sight of the saving power of Jesus Christ. The sad thing about Calvinism is that one can never be absolutely sure they are of the elect. It is an intellectual exercise, and perhaps we should spend our time reaching a lost and dying world instead. But then, if one is truly chosen of the elect before all time (and understanding God is not subject to time) why would there be any need to evangelize, even if out of obedience to Christ, if not all have the opportunity to experience the grace purchased on the cross. It just doesn’t make sense. Interestingly, most, if not all, who become of the Calvinist persuasion do not intitially when they are saved but only sometime later in their life. I prefer the childlike faith Christ calls me to have but I still love all my friends who call themselves Calvinist, for Christ tells me to do so.

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  7. I think the first thing is to identify what true Christian “unity” actually is before it can be attained. There is a big difference between “unity of the faith” (Christianity) and “unity of all faiths” (New World Order). At Pentecost you had the disciples in the “unity of the faith” and the power of God fell upon them from heaven, but at the Tower of Babel you had man in the “unity of the purpose and vision” and the power of man rose up from the earth. Second thing that must be understood is just who creates this “unity”? Is it our job to create the church through organizational structures (i.e. small groups) and reaching out with food, fun and fellowship to everyone to create this “unity”, or is it someone else that creates the true unity in the body of Christ? It just doesn’t get much simpler than this.

    Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, IS GOD; (2 Corinthians 1:21).

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  8. Hi MIke,
    Amen! Spurgeon said this and I agree 100%
    “Constantly we hear of proposals for union, and truly these are welcome where mere technical matters divide true Christians; but what is the use of pretending to create union where there can be none? There is another matter which needs to be thought of as well as union, and that is TRUTH. To part with truth to show charity is to betray our Lord with a kiss. Between those who believe in the eternal verities and those who constantly cast doubt on them there can be no union. One cried of old, ‘Is it peace?’ And the answer was a sharp and true one. We render it thus — ‘What hast thou to do with peace while departures from the truth of God are so many?’ The first question is, ‘Are we one in Christ?’ And are we obedient to the truth revealed in the Scriptures? If so, union will necessarily follow: but if not, it is vain to clamour for a confederacy which would only be an agreement to aid and abet each other’s errors.”

    Cristina

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  9. John F,

    I appreciate what you are trying to say, but your historical facts on Calvin are from sources that were hostile to him. He committed no atrocities. Can you show me where Augustine rejected the teaching of the Apostles?

    The scripture I used in this post shows that our unity is based on our UNION with Christ. I have good friends who not Reformed as I am. We are united in Christ.

    Also, Reformed Theology is not Hyper-Calvinism which is what you seem to be battling here. Genuine Reformed Theology teaches that what we shared here is true AND man is responsible. Dave Hunt is… never mind. 🙂 I think good examples of leaders who are Reformed that we may need to study are Charles Spurgeon, John Piper, John MacArthur, James White, and Al Mohler. They are and were Reformed and are all adamant about preaching the Gospel.

    What we cannot do is confuse what God does with what we do in our salvation. Reformed Theology teaches us how God saves us, but then our responsibility is found in books like 1 John.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  10. I would like to comment on what John F said if I may.

    You asked why preach the gospel if God chose us unconditionally before the foundation of the world. The gospel is preached to tell of glad tidings of good things. Romans 10:15. You culd also look at 2 Tim 1:10 notice that the things mentioned are brought to light through the gospel. A similar senario would be that if you had a debt say a credit card debt that you were doing all you could to pay off and were struggling to put food on the table. You were just barely squeeking by. What if some one else had paid that debt and didn’t tell you. You kept on suffering from that debt even though you didn’t really have it any longer. This is why the gospel is preached to tell people what the Lord has sone for them. Wow! What a relief it is to hear of what the Lord has done for you.

    Philip

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